When Marcel Odenbach (Cologne, Germany, 1953) begins to exhibit his work in West Germany in the Seventies the art scene is dominated by American art, apart from the work of a handful of artists such as Joseph Beuys. Yet the work of Odenbach is based on different principles and has more experimental leanings with its use performance and audiovisual materials.
Odenbach analyses the advertising tools and mechanisms of persuasion of the masses in post-industrial society, attempting to find the point of convergence and dialectics between an introspective view and social influence. After 1976, he uses video and his work becomes a reference point within the discipline.
For the first time, this exhibition presents his work in Spain and also joins his video work with his drawings. This combination enables his output to be viewed from a more global perspective with a perception of how Odenbach applies the same processes to both mediums - he employs identical techniques through the use of montage and collage, though his video work uses moving images and his drawings static ones.
The exhibition is made up of five video installations and eleven drawings from his most recent work. Das Scheweigen deutscher Räume erschreckt mich (The Silence of German Spaces Frightens Me) from 1982 is an installation with two video images facing each other, created during a trip to Turkey. Furthermore, with two sources of images in dialogue with one another, Vis à Vis refers to two people, Jean Genet and Gilles de Rais, both residents in Fontevraud, the place where Odenbach is invited to work by a contemporary arts centre. On one of the monitors, sensual images interspersed with pornography, and on the other, two hundred and forty images of children's bones found in Fontevraud, the result of the wicked perversions of Gilles de Rais, governor and friend of Joan of Arc.
The exhibition continues with As if Memories Could Deceive Me (1986), produced in Boston for the Contemporary Art Television Fund. Set out as a triptych - a constant in Odenbach's work - three screens display images from the artist's personal repertoire, including the past and present in one shot, conjoined by symphonic music. Odenbach shows himself as both an adult and a child and poses questions about the inevitable end of the foundations of culture and the right of the German people to rebuild themselves as one.
In Paris Odenbach devises the video installation Dans la visión périphérique du témoin (In the Peripheral Vision of the Witness), another exercise in memory, where he chooses to place himself in a peripheral space as a witness to History. Out of all the video installations in the exhibition, this is the one with the greatest resemblance to film.
Exclusively for the exhibition, Odenbach realises a video piece inspired by one of Goya's engravings, Ya tiene asiento, from the Los Caprichos series, and the painting The Stages of Life (1835) by Caspar David Friedrich, where three generations observe the ocean together. Once more, he uses a triptych installation, applying a simultaneous montage technique to present what he calls “the sentimental education” of masculine attributes. To this end, he uses typically Spanish parables represented by the three generations: child, adult and elderly person, executing it by employing a selection of images from diverse sources, such as the National Film Library.
The exhibition is concluded with eleven drawings from 1982 to 1988 that often exceed two metres. These include Kurzer Aufstieg langer Sturtz (1987), Das Blinde-Kuh-Spiel (1984), Die Norm is geschafft (1982), Dreihändiges Klavierkonzert (1984) and 5 Säulen (1987-1988).
1 December 2023 – 10 March 2024
Ulla von Brandenburg
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Call It Something Else
Something Else Press, Inc. (1963-1974)
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Text and Image, a Perfect Symbiosis
José García Tella Through His Personal ArchiveLibrary and Documentation Centre