Juergen Klauke

Rheinisches Landesmuseum

Juergen Klauke’s series of photographs entitled “Formalisierung der Langeweile” (Formalization of Boredom), 1981, was part of the “Heute” section of the “Westkunst” exhibition in Cologne, and then went to Bonn. With it, the 38-year-old Klauke showed drawings, large-scale photographic works in several sections, and video tapes of his performances. The exhibition, covering the work of the last two years, was a high point in both the artist’s development and the current art scene.

Like earlier works by this artist, “Formalization . . .,” a photographic series in several parts, is based on performances. The separate actions shown are devoid of any ambience that even faintly suggests activity. Ordered in horizontal succession or in panels recalling medieval altars, the photographs are subject to a strict system of repetitive imagery. Panel IV of the series, for example, features pictures of: Klauke seated on a chair, a television beneath; a nude woman seated on the chair, the television beneath, beside her and with his back to her Klauke reading; Klauke reading, beneath him the television with an erotic scene, beside him a man standing with back toward the viewer; Klauke alone in the same position but not reading; the chair with the television; the woman seated on the television, her head buried in the lap of the seated Klauke, behind them the other man gazing into the air; and so on.

To some extent, this work constitutes a connection in the development from a primarily personal-subjective elucidation to an exemplary statement. Klauke’s earlier works—the diary drawings with texts, the performances, the photographic pieces—discussed, in an aggressively provocative way, the sexual individual who suffers from a false environment. Images of buyable sex were unhesitatingly used to fashion a scenic cult of sexuality outside bourgeois taboos. The challenge, almost of necessity, remained a surface one. The more Klauke freed himself from the excessive language of these accessories and action poses, the more the vulnerability and the woundedness of the individual as erotic creature became clear. Like a prism, the situations seen in “Formalization . . .” capture the lethal rays of alienation. The compellingly esthetic stylization of boredom in Klauke’s tableaux is a creative, subversive demonstration of the lack of erotic spirituality among people. Both the props and the poses of individuals are metaphors for the spiritual/erotic crisis of boredom. Chair, television, bucket, bags, revolver, bottles and instruments for infusions, dances, erotic games, people reading or just sitting around, the veiling of the head—all symbolize the unabating tension between the longing for pleasure and the awareness of death.

To have captured this in compellingly beautiful tableaux without resorting to any dramatic or pathetic gesture is exciting and relevant. Klauke, using the expressive means of the ’70s, has given form to the psychological depression of the early ’80s.

Annelie Pohlen

Translated by Martha Humphreys.