View of “Thomas Locher,” 2015. From left: A–H, 2002/2015; A–G, 2002/2015.

View of “Thomas Locher,” 2015. From left: A–H, 2002/2015; A–G, 2002/2015.

Thomas Locher


View of “Thomas Locher,” 2015. From left: A–H, 2002/2015; A–G, 2002/2015.

As if to recall the consistency of his project over the decades, some of the works in Thomas Locher’s exhibition “Post-Information” were as much as twenty-five years old. Gestell (Frame), an aluminum shelf engraved with letters, numbers, and black rectangles, dates from 1990. A.1–Z.2, a wooden board on which horizontal black bars as well as letters and digits are inscribed, is even older, from 1989. On the facing wall were two reliefs, composed of rectangular panels of varying thickness painted in different colors. Each is marked with a letter. Insisting on their objecthood and defying any attempt to reduce them to an unambiguous interpretation, even embracing paradox, these vintage pieces feel astonishingly youthful.

Locher launched his career in the mid-1980s, when faith in the potential of communication had begun to crumble. The question of communication has preoccupied him ever since. Yet his works are not Conceptual or post-Conceptual disquisitions. Rather, they function like snares: A.1–Z.2 and similar pieces prompt us to look for a system behind the varying thicknesses of the rectangular panels and wonder how the letters relate to the shapes and colors—we might even recall Piet Mondrian’s geometric systems. And before we know it, we have become embroiled in communication.

That is exactly Locher’s purpose: to inspire reflections, questions, ideas through the interplay of formal and semantic elements and of aesthetic and grammatical rules while acknowledging the disenchantment concerning the impotence of communication. The works are designed to undercut any unequivocal proposition—what used to be called “message.” No system underlies the placement of the letters and the dimensions of the panels in A.1–Z.2. “Post-Information” means information that no longer moves along a straight line toward a fixed destination, as the theorists of the 1970s argued. In the real world, such a unidirectional flow of information is always an illusion.

And yet: There is such a thing as information, as five works from the six-part series “Politics of Communication,” 2000, demonstrate by combining pictures with excerpts from theoretical essays on communication. One bears the words THE CODE BELONGS TO ALL. TO WHOM BELONGS THE MESSAGE? next to pictures of office furniture clipped from architecture magazines or sales catalogues and sorted, in the manner of a sociological study, by quantity: individual chairs, chairs and tables, entire ensembles. The texts are held to the boards with magnets, so that the artist can rearrange them as desired.

Locher’s art lacks any systematic quality. However, the viewer may identify an implicit reference. The furniture, some of it created by renowned designers, and the texts, with their emphasis on efficiency in communication, point to Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello’s book, The New Spirit of Capitalism (1999), which argues that by championing authenticity and individual creativity, the “aesthetic critique” of capitalism has actually been complicit with the rise of neoliberalism. The charge surely cuts to the quick, and yet strikingly few artists have chosen to address it—as Locher suggested in conversation, the issue is so fraught that most prefer to ignore it. The primacy of efficiency in the design of the office furniture and the quest for efficient communication that animates the texts send a clear message: Boltanski and Chiapello may have a point.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from German by Gerrit Jackson.