Text for Endlicher's identical exhibition, 2014

It’s the poetry, stupid!

When talking about the art of others one needs to stand back, to change perspective, to step out of one’s own process of creating an image in order to create an artistic position which talks about the art of others, a strategy using words and texts which attributes something to pictures or which at least establishes a relationship with the art of other artists to be able to deliberate on it together.
All this is also the strategy of Michael Endlicher’s art. His work moves just within this triangular relationship: between image, text and language and their representative meta levels. A frayed out art in the words of Adorno. An art which no longer regards poetry and painting as two strictly separated fields, as Lessing still did in his essay entitled “Laokoon – or the boundaries between painting and poetry” published in 1776, in which he called them the two dissimilar sisters. That was a long time ago, but it is interesting to note that in arguing for a clear delimitation Lessing already dealt with the question of activity. Thus the focus is on an art whose issues have moved out of the two-dimensional, virtual space of painting during the last century, approaching step by step aesthetic questions of artistic sign systems in order to take a further step by broaching the issue of social and societal framework conditions of art and their mediation through artistic activities. In this way Endlicher’s work belongs to a tradition which today can be broadly defined as contextual.
It is interesting to note that in his work Michael Endlicher always hangs on to the image. Words that he has found, invented, partly stolen from art theory and formulated are confronted with an image or rather with at least an image medium, thus creating a visual conflict for the observer, a tension, a difference demanding a certain increased attention from the observing participant. Sometimes one only reflects on one’s own references and contexts by trying to decipher the basic formulas which Michael Endlicher packs in his pictures like small riddles, sometimes one can only stammer the typography which has been coded to the limit of legibility.
Being obliged to follow winding paths in order to experience a text also leads to performative actions and the involvement of one’s own body – as is the case with a text (extract) by Martin Prinzhorn on the relationship between text and image in contemporary art and their references in the work of Michael Endlicher. In Endlicher’s work theorising and thinking about art becomes an artistic action in itself.
Therefore Michael Endlicher’s pictures are not mere “talking pieces”, images talking as images as if they were provided with speech bubbles. On the contrary, the text is literally imposed on them. Embossed, stamped in, as into the so-called Metal Dramas. Or they are carved, scratched, burnt into the canvas so as to create holes and empty spaces. They are polluted with text, texted to no end with presumptions and self-attributions, which challenge for example the artist’s own identity and corporal integrity.
Thematically this question centres around Endlicher’s video works, in particular in LEIBHAFTIG PLURIFAKT (PLURIFACTUAL INCARNATE) and in the series L.P., associated screen prints on canvas. Watching this video, the white of the sheet, the naked human body, the movement and the symmetry of the setting evoke clinical associations like those that can be found in the area of medicine for example in computer tomography when scanning the human body. What is going on in the background of the screen is presented in a sensitive way. It is a particularly exciting game with what the cinematic apparatus calls the conventions of viewing. A form of voyeuristic attraction which is only possible in this way in a time-limited medium. The motive, the naked human body, slowly moves into the picture from both sides and is literally sucked into the screen once it has reached its centre. Only slowly the hidden genitals move into the picture and seem to be finally uncovered at the end of the loop when the last tufts of hair on the head disappear at the end of the loop. The question concerning the biological sex, the biological identity, which poses itself in a sensitive and profound way only in the observer’s mind, is harshly superimposed by the text in the foreground: the question concerning the social, the professional identification.
Endlicher works with double encodings. His artistic strategy consists in ploughing through art with texts to unearth the conditions of art.

Christoph Urwalek is visual artist and University Lecturer for Art and Communication, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna.