Thomas Locher/Hans Weigand

“I know that what I’m saying is wrong, but still I think it could be right,” reads the inscription on one of Thomas Locher’s chairs. It articulates the fundamental problem of the modern subject: it admits the inadequacy of language to grasp the world, yet sees in language the central mode of the cognitive process. But language is not just inadequate, it also falsifies until it is revealed to be ideological. Paradoxically, the only promising—because analytic—critical tool of such constructions is still language. Locher’s work is concerned with this split subject, who, without being able to discard his instruments must work with them. The schizophrenia of this consciousness is characterized by both a persistent adherence to the referential function of language as a system of signs, and a vehement defense against distortions.

If discursive representation seems to fail, can figurative representation be an alternative? This idea is at the root of the confrontation of Locher’s linguistic self-criticism with Hans Weigand’s large-format photographs. An image has the advantage of being closer to the subject and of being on a parallel perceptual level—the visible is presented as the visible. Weigand’s photographs show themes from his environment—his worktable, a houseplant, the view to the neighboring house. But there are fragments of words projected over the images. Their meaning cannot be reconstructed, and language forces itself between the subject and reality. As in Locher’s work, it doesn’t offer a satisfactory means of communication for either side.

Identity is the central concept for both of these artists. They present a critique of identity, in which suppression of the incomprehensible is responsible for the exclusion of the Other. Locher achieves this in an analytical, deconstructive manner, Weigand in an anarchical, subversive form. The difference between them is that Locher fights his enemies with their own weapons, while Weigand evades them in emptiness. Around the main gallery Locher installed a running band of text in which he analyzed the syntax of various sentences and added alternatives for their paradigmatic elements. The constructed character of a statement thus became visible while the alternatives showed just how one statement excluded the possibility of another.

In contrast to Locher, Weigand operates from a standpoint of denying language. In his objects the skepticism toward a systematic and binding communication of reality and consciousness is even more sharply formulated. Everyday objects are all treated in the same manner. They are covered with printed tape, and seem to resemble one another, thus relinquishing their original functional identity for a new esthetic identity. The obsessive rejection of individuality demonstrates the desire to conquer the world, and to subjugate it to one’s own projections. The paradoxical effect of Weigand’s singular treatment of all his objects is the threatening nature they acquire in their quasi-military uniforms. The attempt to construct identity from differences turns into its opposite since it provokes an almost organized resistance.

Christian Kravagna

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.