ROMAN PFEFFER - PETER DE MEYER
ICH & IK
Opening: Sunday 3 October from 2-5pm
Geukens & De Vil, ANTWERP
Exhibition > 01 December 2019
©We Document Art, 2019
In ICH & IK, Vienna based artist Roman Pfeffer (Galerie Raum mit Licht) and Antwerp based artist Peter De Meyer (Galerie Geukens & De Vil) find each other in an intriguing, multi-layered dialogue about the ‘I’ in its different appearances. This is not a coincidence: the field of action of both is situated between common life and art. In their artistic practice, they regularly start from everyday objects, ideas and situations that they subtly transform, place in a different context, correct, condense, rearrange, appropriate, destroy and rebuild. Through these shifts in context and meaning, they explore the complex process of observation and perception, playing games with collective memory and cutting across expectations and predispositions. Although their interventions are often invested with irony and a touch of humour, they always contain a strong (self-)reflective component. Hence, they regularly result in reflections on themselves, as individuals and as artists, and/or on their relationship to the (art) world. Regardless of their choice of divergent techniques and materials – classifications of measurement and language systems (Pfeffer) versus objects from different contexts (De Meyer) – ICH & IK thus shows the dialogue between these two individual artists both in introspects and self-portraits as in reflections on the individual in general. In this way the exhibition also transcends the individual; ICH & IK become a collective.
When entering the first room, the visitors are confronted with two different kinds of billboards announcing the exhibition in a twisted way. In De Meyer’s version, any form of advertising seems to be absent: at first sight, it is as if ich & ik (2019) consists purely of two white panels, since the keywords are hidden on the inside. Instead of shouting for attention, the work thus emphasizes the introspective character of the artists and of (some of the works in) the duo show. Pfeffer’s Ich (2019) is equally disorienting: in this wall of 32 panels, the artist has deconstructed the word ‘Ich’ by turning every second plate once. Hence, the visitors, used to the Western direction of reading, are challenged by the abstract image to make the individual choice of turning the panels back into the familiar order or further playing around.
In the bonbonnière the visitors find the central pieces of the exhibition, which reveal both the differences and the similarities between the two artists. The artist in a made-to-measure suit (2018) is a characteristic work by Pfeffer. In this sculpture with exactly his length and volume, the artist uses systems of measurement ‘to address and deconstruct the seemingly objective and universal validity of scales’ (Rosenberg 2017): according to Pfeffer, ‘the only valid scale for measuring the world is the self-reflexive subject that is calibrated to its own experience and that at the same time is constantly testing it’ (Ibid.). De Meyer for his part, choose to combine a static ready-made pole with his length and a playful party hat into his self-portrait (2019), both to tackle the idea of categorization – of artists and people in general – as to put himself into perspective – as an artist and a human being.
In the next room Pfeffer and De Meyer present two more, yet different self-portraits. For Myself as a circle (2017), Pfeffer has bent his own body length – in the shape of a metric wooden ruler – into a circle. Having no beginning or end, the ‘I’ thus becomes a parameter that cannot be measured by systems outside of itself. De Meyer’s 15 stone (2019), a typical Belgian boulder stone of 95 kilograms – as a reference to the artist’s body weight – on a springboard, refers to the inner struggle of someone who wants to move forward but at the same time holds himself down.
With the entire wardrobe of the artists and the shoeless gallery owners (2019) and hooked (2019) in the rooms at the back, the artists introduce to the exhibition the discussion on their position in the art world. Showing glass jars with the ashes of all items of clothing the gallerists and artists wore on a particular day, Pfeffer’s work reflects on the different relationship to that world from the gallerists on the one hand and the artists on the other. Whereas the ashes seem to indicate that there is no difference, the references to the brand names reveal the opposite: when moving through the art world, the gallerists and the artists clearly wear different working clothes.
The question is: who wears what; the answer might be different from any prejudices.
De Meyer’s fishing rod, attached to the ceiling of the gallery, focuses on the relationship between the gallerists and the artists from another perspective: the work represents the strong connection between both parties, the fact that they are hooked to each other by means of a thread like that of the Fates from Greek mythology. For the visitors, the question remains: who caught whom?
ICH & IK | 3 – 30 November 2019 | Galerie Geukens & De Vil, Antwerp |
IK & ICH | Mai – June 2020 | Galerie Raum mit Licht, Vienna |
Heidrun Rosenberg (2017). Roman Pfeffer. Thinking Things Through.