Galerie Fons Welters - Amsterdam

Rupers Worte, Davids Stimme

Berlin-based German artist Michael Kunze (1961) has created a rich, complex oeuvre in what he calls the anachronistic medium of painting. Painting’s anachronistic qualities are ideally suited to Kunze’s investigation of the hidden face of modernism. The official history of modernism, running from Cezanne through the avant-gardes of the 20s to the neo-avant-gardes of the 60s, interests Kunze less than its shadow history, in which images are not associated with clear concepts. As Kunze sees it, this side of modernity includes all motifs and historical references that serve to confuse and obscure our image of the world. It’s a sort of anti-modern modernity, a large, dark cloud of rich associations, extending from Nietzsche’s studies of tragedy to Lars von Trier’s Antichrist.

Kunze contrasts American-oriented pop culture, with its pragmatic, positivist outlook so typical of our contemporary world, with a continental European way that is more difficult, more esoteric, and all but forgotten in our daily lives. The latter, according to him, is an intricately interconnected reservoir of idealistic, metaphysical and sceptical approaches that call seemingly obvious facts into question. He emphasises the importance of ‘high’ culture, which provides thought-provoking challenges rather than popular entertainment.

For his show Ruperts Worte, Davids Stimme, Kunze has produced two series of works. The first is based on scenes from Hitchcock’s film Rope (1948) in which two men murder their friend David only for the sake of the perfect murder. Inspired by a former teacher, Rupert (and indirectly by Nietzsche), they believe that culturally and intellectually superior individuals are not obliged to obey universal moral laws. But the silent voice of the murdered David, whose dead body is kept in the chest that serves as the dinner table, terrifyingly penetrates the space and makes the idea of superiority seem ludicrous. The words of Rupert, who is invited to join the dinner and ultimately brings the murder to light, show the rational irrationality of human beings and their inconsistent expectations.

The second series shows monumental architectural landscapes with their own logic, breathtaking scenes in which viewers can lose themselves, because nothing seems real or predictable. They probably represent the inner world of the human being, a dark, complex labyrinth with explosions of blinding light in which illusion is part of reality. The illusion of progress and the impossibility of clear thinking are also the themes of the only sculpture in the show: a large tripod covered with fur. This device, used by photographers and land surveyors to provide a stable base, is used as a kind of signature in many of Kunze’s paintings. It is not only a formal gesture and an image of exactitude; more fundamentally, the artist presents this object in an ironic spirit, questioning the possibility of fixed points of reference for humankind.

[Marta Gnyp]