Sprache / language

Kunst für die Massen (en)

In 1991, in an exhibition at Museum Gelsenkirchen, Mauermann shows pictures from the series Kunst für die Massen. He has been working on this series since about the middle of the 1980s; this work is being continued.

from: Peter Friese, Der Bart ist ab / Chopped-off Beard
- on the works by Karl-Heinz Mauermann, catalogue Kunst für die Massen

...   At first, there are these conspicuously monumental silhouettes resembling a synthesis of a human upper torso and a cube. Or rather, they are giant busts with blockheads that reminds one of Bauhaus architecture. Their monumental size is both threatening and ridiculous.  For really they are but sham, cardboard-guys. Papered over with the cloudy back paper associated with office files, painted with greyish-blue fake-metal varnish, or even covered in shining black, tar-like colour.  As they stand about the room, or lean against walls, they look like some blown-up dummies of a monumentality intending to scare. Molochs waiting for their cue, in the stage setting of some futuristic play.

The blockheads have the characteristics of boxes, fridges, data banks, monitors.  They are deformed in a utilitarian sense, that is, adapted to their needs. As if a certain quality of thinking must necessarily result in an externally visible deformation of the skull.

However, I feel that in all this, Mauermann does not intent some commonplace sociologically motivated media criticism pointing out dangers we’re familiar with anyway, and have long grown accustomed to. The cubic monsters, for him and thus for us, the audience, are rather like thought images that we may handle playfully, that lose their frightening aspect as soon as we perceive their ridiculousness. An iconostasis introducing, opening, surrounding, defining that which is the main thing. Mauermann’s medium, as well as his message, are pictures and text from the pictorial media which he, for his own purpose, confiscates, collages, combines, re-words, and often re-orders, resulting in whole stories whose plots, in part, are quite absurd. In this, his method may be likened to that of a hunter-collector in the era of media. His hunting ground are newspapers, magazines, catalogues. And his passion for collecting is acted out on the Xerox machine, the keyboard, the monitor, the computer scanner. There, at the control board so to speak, his booty of pictures and texts is arranged, enlarged, made coarser, reduced, distorted, combined with each other or randomly, resulting in something quite new evolving from what has long been existing. Thus,  Mauermann constructs a new reality from the old.  He puts a cream curlicue on top of the already incomprehensible flow of information.



Mauermann’s picture and language combinations undauntedly follow the path of incipient creation, and thus find their way directly under the skin of audience or reader. Found fragments of language, photos, that mostly exist quite independently of each other, drawings, diagrams and tables are connected so as to result in a new sense, or occasionally in a superiorly reflected non-sense. Here, in the combination of heterogeneous elements, is also the realm of Mauermann’s sense of – frequently black – humour. Comic-like stories, whole plots, reports, even features one might call almost film-like, emerge that way. They are edited in the shape of brochures, mailed out, or else exhibited as a strange collection of pages. In the sense of their potentially endless ability to be reproduced and combined a-new, they are the originals. There no longer, so to speak, exists anything they intend to refer to, or to represent, outside their own existence. And yet they are not purely self-referential or self-satisfied constructions. Lacking the authority of the audience or reader, this system would not function. Their part is that of an actively involved party that, ultimately, can make the stories, pictures and texts come to life. The colportage, the combination, connection and superimposition of pictures, texts and drawings can not do without the infinite human ability to conceive analogies and, sometimes absurd, associations.


One example of the active involvement of the audience is a "rotating book": mounted on a stand, it may be read and looked at both forwards and back. In this rotation, one frequently comes upon references to what has already been seen, as well as what there is yet to be seen. In turning back and forth in this catalogue, one’s own motions of thought and perceptions become analogies of this turning back and forth. If, some years ago, Francis Picabia stated that a head was round to allow for the thoughts changing their direction, the works of Karl-Heinz Mauermann represent a serious attempt to construct a round, spherical room for these never-ending motions of thought.