Martin Kippenberger

Martin Kippenberger is, in his own words, a waster, an inciter, a pretender, and a trickster. In a corresponding manner, his art is preoccupied with unrelenting provocation and lightninglike illuminations. He says, writes, and shows all too often and all too clearly what his world view is: a program for playing, an absurd combination of beauty and threat, sanity and insanity, chaos and order, humorous paradox and moral effect. In a sense, this exhibition, entitled “Input-Output,” is a typical one for him, even if it is played in a moderate tone.

This exhibition was divided into two parts, both spatially and according to context. “Hamburger Hängung” (Hamburg hanging), in the entrance area of the gallery, consisted of roughly 90 small works, a combination of photographs, silkscreen prints, and objects. With the exception of one work from 1978, all were made between 1983 and 1988. The hanging was extremely dense, almost unbroken. One could not consider any of these works typical, so great was the variety of objects. Likewise, one could not view this part of the exhibition from an armchair: no theme, no single viewpoint came to the fore. Instead, one found a controlled chaos, a race being run according to Kippenberger’s dynamic system of here today, gone tomorrow.

In the second room, the race itself was transformed into a static systematization. On 57 similarly structured and formatted sheets from 1986–88—bar bills from a Spanish hotel, for instance— Kippenberger had rendered images in oilstick, pastel, watercolor, pencil, ballpoint pen, and white correction tape. “Input” became the subjectively localized, while “Output” represented Kippenberger as just one subject among many appearing in a temporal and spatial multiplicity. On several of the bills are drawn plans of the rooms the artist lived in when he was four years old. Forcing one to look at the bills in a different way is the final goal. A given piece is image and bill at the same time—art and life.

Kippenberger’s problem remains the art—artist-life constellation. He circles around the abundance, the reproduction of a single idea: psychic and physical self-analysis. Sometimes the result is amusing and stimulating, as in this exhibition. But the artist seems to be lacking his usual verve, his penchant for symbolic explosive effect. In “Input-Output,” a comprehensible and acceptable Kippenberger seizes the world, a little exhausted and lonely.

Norbert Messier

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.