The large upcoming exhibitions in international museums which will in 2019 give the oeuvre of the German Conceptual Artist Charlotte Posenenske (1930–1985) a greater publicity is motivating me as the manager of her estate to stress some important aspects of her demanding concept, aspects which haven’t been highlighted yet or if so not sufficiently.
It has been often remarked that the installations of the „square tubes“ which count as the most important group of works in her ouevre shall be variable and continuable. But why? Why shall a formation claiming to be recognized as art be only allowed to be a provisional arrangement? Doesn’t the traditional notion of art attribute to the piece of art a perfection – „perfect“ literally means „finished“ – so that any addition or reduction, say variation would disturb the artwork severely?
Posenenske’s concept first published in Art International May 1968 – the so called manifesto – is claiming variability and continuity of her installations and is thus directly opposed to the traditional concept which declares the artwork to be a whole. But why?
In 1967 when the series D and series DW (i.e. the system of 6 differtent steel sheet tubes and the system of 4 elements of corrugated cardboard) were produced variability was the keyword in the critical discussions of sociologists and the student rebellion against the ossified society – similair to the notion „difference“ in the discussion on postmodernism. Everything should be changed, also human beeings. Petrification may be understood as the result of millions of corresponding single actions, a hard product restraining every actual action like a wall. Products form the end of any action, they are finished.
Finished like the perfect piece of art. Marx‘ sentence „labour disappears in the product“ at one hand describes a matter of fact, but on the other hand it stresses a problem: labour being a dominant expression of our creative vitality, a form of our life, has become invisible. Who claims variabilty is putting dynamic, the force of the visible vitality against the static, against that which has become hard. Variability can develop without any aim, in an anarchical and even destructive way, but also target-oriented. Such a variation is formulated in the title „the same, but different“ under which I arranged 3 exhibitions in gallery Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf, in the Hansard gallery, Southampton and the gallery Nelson Freeman in Paris. The titele fits, I think, precisely to Charlotte Posenenske’s work: the 6 respectively 4 different elements of the tubes may be understood as „the same“ because only these parts are used always while the extremely different installations with these elements may be understood as „different“.
Very late I noticed that with this variation of the elements the artist not only follows the industrial production (all cars have 4 wheels, while the rest is very different) but also the priciple of design in nature: all human beings have one nose, two eyes, two ears, two arms, two legs and two feet (= the same), but how different are these parts of the body (= different)
I want to stress once more that variability and continuity of any installation means that it has to be understood as a fragment which may be differently continued in space and time. The continuity is an option which may or may not realized in practize – materialiter – but in your imagination. Thus Posenenske’s concept is near to Umberto Eco whose book „opera aperta“ published in Italy in 1962 is the basis of reception theory. Posenenske read the book only many years later when she had already turned her back to art and studied sociology. She was very impressed by the fact that she had anticipated Eco’s theory. During our studies we read Wolfgang Iser’s book „Der implicite Leser“ („the implicit reader“) and then used the there developed notion „Leerstelle“ ( blank position) in our own texts, a space in a text the reader fills with his own imagination.