Nina Schedlmayer / ISBN 3-85160-035-5
“Everybody knows an opening provides works of art as a background for people to present themselves. They are not silent when they are doing this though, but animate each other into a kind of scenery of sound, which makes listening as difficult as talking. (…) An opening is not a party for Trappists. It provides an opportunity for relaxed communication with language and gestures. If somebody does not participate, he remains on the outside, an eccentric because of his silence. He forgets that, besides an interest in art, a readiness to chat is expected of him.”1 A readiness to chat is something which cannot be expected of the performers in Manfred Grübl’s Personal Installation. For the duration of an exhibition opening or an interval at the theatre, they remain standing in a space of social occurrence, permanently mobile in itself, and are static points and present-absent vacant positions similar the ghost-like manifestations in Malevich’s late work. Clad in discreet art-world black, they are object-like and sculptural multiplications of themselves due to their similar stature and pose. In accordance with Jean Alter’s definition of the function of theatre2, the performers are fulfilling their referential function in connection with the audience present in regard to their performance, their own (non-) action. Retiring into themselves, they stare indifferently into space, reject all contact with acquaintances and do not present their bodies to us obtrusively like Vanessa Beecroft’s equally bored as perfect models: they appear to be simply present. As a mirror of the spectator, they reflect a scenario which is not strictly pleasant: a loneliness in the midst of others, which throws itself back at the exhibition visitors. There are always eight people positioned in an orthogonal system and connected to each other through the direction of their gaze. Independent to the waves of arriving public, they form a grid, which represents a closed system, reacting with the architecture. Even when the Personal Installation extends beyond the exhibition space, as was the case at the Berlin National Gallery, it parallels the hermetic nature of the contemporary art industry. This industry’s complex structures are often difficult to comprehend and in an unpredictable way disregard a public which, irrespective of how it is taken, is equally involved as performers in the “art operating system”. Manfred Grübl’s provocative intrusion is an act of sabotage which uses an existing framework with an event character whilst slipping under its guard at the same time. No explanatory texts, no commentaries, no display labels – the institutionalised niceties of an art scene in need of clarification – provide information on the artist, the title and intent. Planned more or less in secret, the institutions concerned remain uninformed about Grübl’s happenings, information about them being spread by word of mouth. It can so happen that even one of the undisputed greats of the art industry helplessly has to ask for information from the first best who happens to be around. A different, informal network of knowledge is created, initially recruited amongst Grübl’s personal circle and then snowballing. Its unpredictable structure behaves contrarily to the strict grid of the installation. In this the artwork also withdraws from the conventions of presentation and mediation which aim to familiarise a mostly indefinable public with art in the most generally comprehensible way possible – an undertaking which is frequently doomed to failure. Grübl is therefore playing with an exchange of information between the initiated who are themselves familiar with the exhibition industry. When Manfred Grübl introduces his Personal Installation into a (semi-) public space during a public event, he is also raising questions about the public and the private spheres. The Personal Installation is not always seen as a welcome additional artwork to the art actually being celebrated on the evening and, although it does not move at the edge of the law (in contrast to the somewhat less ephemeral additions to Malevich’s painting in Amster-dam’s Stedelijk Museum) it does create uneasiness and the wish (naturally not publicly articulated) for policing measures in those responsible for exhibitions and openings.3 On the other hand, can people who are just standing around, be thrown out of a space priding itself on openness and tolerance, though? Can an autonomous, uninvited and undesired installation be permitted? And what will happen if Manfred Grübl lists these ‘afflicted’ institutions, alongside those to which has was actually invited, in his curriculum vitae – an important instrument in the network of relations between art producers, institutions, magazines, curators, critics and galleries? The subversive act not only affects the respective institution but also the artist’s own attitude towards his/herself and the method of self-marketing. The CV, which receives more attention, the more exhibitions, institutions and literature held for important are listed on it, is relativised as a means of assessment. In the long tradition of art critical of institutions, the impact and strength of Manfred Grübl’s Personal Installation is in its formal and reduced precision concurrent with its referential complexity. Or: the static is subversive.