Peter Mönnig

Andreas Weiss; Neue Gesellschaft Für Bildende Kunst

In two concurrent exhibitions, Cologne artist Peter Mönnig presented his sculptural principle of organized disorganization. His sculptures, following the exhibitions underlying concept, were always shown in related pairs—oppositional pairs, though this was not necessarily obvious on first view. The similarity between the paired objects resides in the more or less identical material used in their production, but it can also derive from a conceptual relationship between two sculptures.

Accordingly, although the works are very seldom displayed directly next to one another, each of the sculptural pairs has one single title. “Panik et circenses” [sic] addressed questions concerning similarity-between and similarity-within, self-referentiality and self-differentiality, modification and mutation. Mönnig’s concept here derives from the presuppositions of electronic production methods, such as the software that has revolutionized the fields of graphics, architecture, and engineering. The model of infinite variability and figuration that the computer is capable of visually presenting is the inspiration behind the artist’s binary concretizations. Within the context of a definition of reality that distinguishes between the real and the visible there can no longer be an up and down, front and back, left and right. Computer space—whose proportions are binding for Mönnig’s phenomenologically critical art—does not function analogously to sensual space; yet its formation affects our sense of space. Mönnig’s filigreed, floating sculptures are to be understood as explorations of computer space within sensual space. His works create a synergy between manual and machine activities and derive their punch from, among other things, the use of bizarre models of graphic illustration through which the artist humorously comments on the loss of a unified arena of action.

For the production of his sculptures Mönnig uses waste products from industrial and high-tech society, such as aluminum, chrome-plated iron, foil-backed glass, and plastic and copper scraps. For example, in the sculptural pair Claudiastrasse, 1990–91, the first of the two sculptures consists of the upside-down street sign marked Claudiastrasse, pointing diagonally into the room; onto it green-and-gold computer circuit boards have been loosely attached by a spiraling wire. The counterpart to this work is a large silver sphere, a ring of circuit boards, and smaller spheres that revolve around the center like satellites. The satellite spheres are made up of adjoined soup ladles. The central star is also provided with a handle so that it too looks like an oversized ladle. Claudiastrasse addresses concepts of space and architecture that are derived on one hand from traditional experiential modes—such as the circulation flow of a city as represented by street signs—and, on the other, from the functional model of the computer, which attains its power within the virtual space of electrical circuits, chips, and bits. Another oppositional pair, entitled Hoffnung auf Erinnerung an den Zeitpunkt eines Augenblicks des Glücks (In hopes of recollecting the point of time of a moment of happiness, 1990–91), consists of variously sized metal grates attached by wires to spindles, sponges, and copper spirals. The larger of the two works stands on the floor; the other hangs like a relief on the wall. While the metal grate of the hanging sculpture is square-cut, that of the floor sculpture has been crumpled by some massive force. Mönnig is playful and self- confident in his presentation of these two variations; there could be, however, an endless number of others. An important aspect of Mönnig’s conceptual method is his acknowledgment and use of the paradigm change, through which concepts like “originality” and “variation” are cast into doubt. He avoids both the oft-heard lament over the loss of culture in the media age and a purely positivistic adoption of technical means of image production. Through his sculptural principle, he enters the debate over the significance of art in the media age in a direct and reflective manner and refutes by the multiplicity of his sculptural inventions a central thesis of contemporary media theory, as articulated by Friedrich Kittler, that the inconsequentiality of art is grounded in the finitude of its esthetic code.

Peter Funken

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.