Hans- Peter Feldmann
Germany, 1941
For over a century, the use of found objects and images has played a fundamental role in art. Using such objects is an appealing strategy for artists because it allows them to combine a critique of authorship with the potential meaning that lies in an arbitrary assortment of objects. In the 1960s, Hans-Peter Feldmann started collecting photographs from a wide variety of sources and media, including magazines, newspapers, advertisements, snapshots and private albums. His first works were small booklets he called Bild (picture) or Bilder (pictures), in which he published series of pictures grouped by theme or subject: football players, mountains, women’s heads, and so on. Between 1967 and 1976 Feldmann published forty of these booklets, which he also presented in exhibitions, where they would be hung from the ceiling or displayed on tables. The pictures are laid out on the page without any hierarchy, pretence, or accompanying text or explanation. The grouping of the images creates a tension between their similarities and differences. The selection is deliberate but not systematic, inclusive but not encyclopaedic. Feldmann is not interested in what might make a particular image unique; his focus is on what he calls the ‘average value’. But his work should not be read as a critique of consumer society or its excesses. His use of photographs is unrelated to the conceptual practices that were commonplace when he first ventured into the world of art, and while his collections seem to reflect a certain archival impulse, they are not intended to be exhaustive or authoritative. In the 1980s, Feldmann stopped exhibiting his work but continued to collect images, which he started showing again in the 1990s. In recent years he has added sculpture and installation to his artistic repertoire, and his approach to these media is often based on the same premises that underpin his work with images. In Schattenspiel (2002) Feldmann extends his practice of collecting images to the installation format and uses objects instead of images. The artist places items of all kinds—toys, souvenirs, and an assortment of other objects—on revolving circular platforms that are aligned on a table. In a darkened room, lights placed behind the objects project their shadows onto the wall in front. Viewers stand in front of the table watching the show and, as in the case of his books of photographs, looking for possible relationships between the objects. Like many other artists of his generation who wanted to break away from the grandiloquence of modernism, Feldmann shifts his focus to the world of the everyday, to what has always been with us. Rather than creativity, originality and invention, his work is based on recycling, inventorying and collecting.
Neus Miró