Lois Weinberger


At the last Documenta, in 1998, Lois Weinberger planted a variety of weeds near the abandoned railroad tracks in Kassel. Several years before, at the Salzburg festival, he broke open a section of asphalt on the street and left nettles, bindweed, and other plants to grow wild there. In Tokyo, he imported his own adaptable “wild plants” to the Watari-Um museum’s roof garden. Is this garden art? That would be too simple a reading. His theme is not botany but the activation of events in marginalized areas. Whether he deploys weeds or plastic bags filled with concrete (as in 1991 for the 21st Bienal de São Paulo), Weinberger sees his artworks as "poetic-political’’ actions.

The city of Schwaz is in Tirol, the artist’s native region, and here he abandoned the garden theme. “As Ever,” his recent show, was the continuation of a collaboration with Munich film director Markus Heltschl. The photographs, texts, drawings, and two videos on display were produced in large part during the shooting of the film Der Weg den die Augen richten (The path that the eyes point out; working title) in November and December 1998. Produced without a screenplay, the film records an aimless trip through Portugal; Weinberger improvises the part of the main character.

In “As Ever,” the photographs and texts, without any reference to authorship, yield a wall collage—a form that doesn’t claim to be conclusive but ascribes to the gaps the power of signification. Like Der Weg, “As Ever” leads to unarticulated “territories and the behavior portrayed within them which could lead to ‘other places,’” as Weinberger puts it.

The film’s shooting led obliquely through Portugal; the photographs render moments of it: illegal settlements, a countryside overgrown with weeds, muddy paths. Unattended places. The texts, some on the wall, others written across the photos and drawings, mix biographical reflections with other thoughts. The character’s memories of his attempt to kill his dog are juxtaposed with the phrase “instead of letting happen what would happen anyway.” In these words lies Weinberger’s principle, which rejects any ordering influence. The videos contain isolated shots from the film: Weinberger runs at a flock of gulls on the shore, then stops in silent contemplation of the sea; he slowly climbs a well-worn path with a young woman.

In appraising Weinberger’s work, one often speaks of the romanticism of ruins, of social themes such as migration, of the myth of nature. Such banal and concrete interpretations of his work displace one’s sense of its power: not to exclude but rather to make visible.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from German by Diana Reese.