Adib Fricke

The artist Adib Fricke addresses the question, “To whom do words belong?” For the past several years Fricke has been pursuing a project called “The Word Company.” His recent show, “Bloody Idioms,” consisted of sentences (each of which could have been lifted straight from a marketing brochure) inscribed on walls painted monochrome colors. One terse communication read “Every Word has Its Day,” and another “In Words We Trust.” A third combined “Be the Slogan” with the declaration “Wordsucker.” All of the sentences appeared in the script-style type “Stone Sans Serif bold italic,” although Fricke had altered it somewhat using a computer. The walls were painted in chic orange and blue, so that the installation resembled an oversized flyer for a techno club.

One had the sense of having already encountered these texts in an ad somewhere. But Fricke’s skeptical stance toward labels, advertisements, and products comes into play here. For him, the ironic adaptation and transformation of logos in club culture is not really subversive; when he appropriates he doesn’t dissolve the connection to the original product. Instead, he notes, “The best thing that can happen to a firm that uses advertising is that the slogan becomes part of daily usage.” In December of 1996, Fricke invented a series of words that could only be composed of a few letters, calling these “Protonyms.” In this way, he emphasized both their autonomy and their possible integration into everyday usage. The phrase “Now, Cool and Smorp,” which appeared on a flyer that was offered to the public and gallery visitors in Oslo, incorporated one of these words.

Fricke’s art is reminiscent of the language paintings of René Magritte, which questioned the nature of representation through affinities and contrasts. Nevertheless, one can often envision a corresponding object, and one can even purchase Fricke’s products emblazoned with text. The sentences drawn on the walls, on the other hand, suggest—with cool irony—that words are owned by anyone who reads them.

Harald Fricke

Translated from the German by Vivian Heller.