André Cadere

Kunstverein München

André Cadere, like Michael Asher, Marcel Broodthaers, and Daniel Buren, ranks among those artists who began to work in the ’70s and whose critical practice—and its relation to art world institutions—has become increasingly relevant over the years. The fact that Cadere never attained the degree of celebrity these other artists did is perhaps due not only to his untimely death in 1978, but also to the intimate link between his work and his own presence when it was exhibited.

While many associate Cadere’s work almost exclusively with his “Barre de Bois Rond” (“round bar of wood”)—a pole made of multicolored segments, each of which is the same in length as it is in diameter—what mattered more than the bar itself was how it was used in certain contexts. For this reason every posthumous exhibition that hopes to rise above mere documentation is a somewhat problematic undertaking; this show was no exception. The first room offered an abundance of historical photos and texts, these materials clearly demonstrating that for Cadere art corresponded to a certain mode of public action. In the main room, on the other hand, as many as fifty “round bars of wood” were arranged in various configurations that had never been presented in the artist’s lifetime. Though these arrangements, instead of reflecting the way the artist intended the bars to function, could be read as mere painterly/sculptural objects, they also raised questions about the intersection of painting and sculpture; and secondly, they demonstrated how Cadere used the self-enclosed system of the bars to comment on the self-enclosed system of the art world.

If one is to attempt to relate Cadere’s art to any one concept, it should be to the notion of “disturbance” or disruption. This applies both to the construction of objects and to their use, and it holds particularly true for the first years of his activities in Paris, when he would either show up, bar in hand, at various events, drawing attention to himself and provoking discussion—or else the bar would suddenly appear all by itself at shows in which Cadere had not been invited to participate. The flip side of this subversion of microsocial orders was the disturbance of an otherwise strictly logico-mathematical construction. All Cadere’s bars were painted according to a system of permutations, and all, apart from the earliest ones, reflect a disruption in this system. Cadere would start with eight basic colors—yellow, orange, red, violet, blue, green—adding three or four other colors as well as black and white. A bar—complete when the initial configuration had again been reached—would contain anywhere from 12 to 56 segments. Cadere would then introduce an error by switching two of the segments.

Like Buren’s stripes, Cadere’s works aimed to demonstrate independence from institutions and their power structures, by introducing an incongruous element—whence the necessity of inserting errors and of using different contexts. Cadere showed his work everywhere—in galleries and museums, as well as in bakeries, bus stations, or during the course of his frequent walks in various cities. Each presentation—even if it took place without the consent of the institutions involved—was announced with an invitation. Thus, there were two directions in the work that were complementary in content. One led away from the realms of power in the cultural establishment in order to enter into discussion with people. The other led right into the bastions of cultural power in order to resist them, and this was often followed by violent debates, by the disappearance of works or by their banishment to storage. Both movements followed the principle of “Établir le Désordre” (Establishing disorder, 1977)—a title Cadere used for one of his lectures/discussions. For many people—including those artists who may have had their show “stolen” as a result of his appearances—Cadere’s parasitic anarchism, which was so consistently and aggressively provocative, continues to be a viable strategy today.

Christian Kravagna

Translated from the German by David Jacobson