Wolfgang Bethke

Galerie Luis Campaña

“(2) The purchaser shall ensure that the work will retain its current market value in any currency. (3) If in breach of clause 2 hereof the purchaser shall fail to ensure that the work retains its current market value, then the vendor shall be entitled to demand back the work and to receive from the purchaser the full amount of the work’s current market value.” These are two of six points in a contract, which together with a safe, constitute Wolfgang Bethke’s work, entitled Its Current Market Value, 1990. The theme is the distribution of art, and the conditions and systems that control the circulation of art. Here, the fact that both the economic value and the cachet of the exhibition site contribute to the artistic value of a work is foregrounded.

If on one level Bethke’s work examines the principles of artistic distribution, it also addresses the conditions of reception as well as the position of the viewer. In this show Bethke presented 32 Biographiekister (Biography crates, 1990) one for each year of his life. Modest and unpretentious, these vessels contain nothing; they are markers that aim not so much to satisfy, but to excite needs in the viewer. They function as receptacles for projections and desires to be filled by the viewer.

The final plane on which Bethke’s work functions is that of production. The means and conditions of production determine the subjective being, creating a space in which subjective activity is possible; Bethke describes his objects as virtual means of production. Also included here is a series of templates recalling the typefaces used in graphic design. These large-format “pictures” challenge the viewer to utilize a sequence of dissolved reproductions of dancing steps to create a picture. A floor plan of the gallery, which Bethke has produced as a multiple, foregrounds the experience of seeing in a gallery and the role the site plays in determining the meaning of the work, as well as the process of preparing the exhibition. Bethke neither represents the world, nor does he present it as a coherent structure of meaning; rather, his multileveled work initiates a suggestive system of connections.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.