Thomas Locher

Galerie Tanja Grunert

A small group of cheap, wood-veneer furnishings set up in the middle of the large gallery: a bed covered with a white sheet, a night table, a dresser, two wardrobes, a table, and a chair. The forms of the individual objects are reduced to their barest functional necessity, unadorned, undecorated; they look austere, severe, and impersonal. They do not exactly entice us to make ourselves at home; indeed, their sobriety intimidates us. We are hesitant to enter the space between the individual pieces. We are also reluctant to read the countless sentences that are carved into the furniture’s wood veneer: “What are they trying to talk me into?", “What do they want from me?”, “Am I being misled?”, “How is this to be construed?” . . . . A total of some 450 sentences have been carved into the surfaces of the wardrobes, the table, the bed, and the chair. This is a flood of sentences expressing disconcertedness, endless questioning, an almost maniacal hunt for exegesis, an understanding, an appraisal of a situation.

For several years now, word and number, as the two basic signs of communication, have been the sources of Thomas Locher’s art. This most recent work, however, is the first to connect words—this time, whole sentences—with individual objects, indeed, with a whole environment, and this represents a step forward, for Locher’s previous use of words and numbers was exclusively on the pictorial surface. Now sentences pass across the surfaces of the furnishings, suggesting a space within which viewers, stimulated by the sentences, can follow the paths of their understanding. “What are they planning to do with me?” “Am I being misled?” “Have I grasped it correctly?”: rereading these queries, we determine that these are precisely the kinds of questions that automatically and quite unconsciously precede and accompany any interpretation of a sign or utterance.

Consciousness is not a primal phenomenon. If it were, we could fully explain the conditions of understanding on the basis of our consciousness. The world would be an open book, and every sign and every proposition would be unequivocal and instantly comprehensible to anyone. But the world remains as obscure and unintelligible as ever, and real communication is—in contrast to the wishful thinking of the many theoretical systems—open, infinite, and unverifiable. Ultimately real communication leaves each of us inside his or her own four walls, left to our own devices, lonely and skeptical—a mood that is accurately rendered in Locher’s installation.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.