Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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My trip to Stuttgart wasn’t quite randomly scheduled. I wanted to have a look at the exhibition on pictograms (?, icons) they had in the Kunstmuseum there as well. That museum only opened recently and is situated in a modern glass cube right in the middle of the town. Nice one.

The exhibition featured the use of icons in art and communication starting with some Soviet booklets from the 1920s and progressing to modern times. Some of the older artistic takes went along the lines of repetition and used stamps, which I didn’t find entirely convincing. But which also highlights that just a few decades back symbols and icons weren’t as prominent and common as they are these days and that communication worked quite differently back then. (More text I suppose, but also less spelling out of things I guess.)

Graphic on the development of railways

They also had some info-graphics (with good and bad ones being in the same series) and the way to modern iconography with a bunch of possible lives of a little stick man figure being told entirely in icons. I thought that was pretty cool in showing both how powerful those icons are and how easily we deduce the whole narrative from a few simple images.

A life story in icons

There were also other works combining icons with photography (gorgeously huge prints, I am tempted to think that a 35mm negative wouldn’t have done the trick for those), examples of people trying to design iconography for communities (uh-oh!), some research work on the different icons used for the same purpose and a number of the somewhat famous icons of the 1972 Olympics by Otl Aicher.

Icons for ladies' toilets from different events

In the history section they also had some stuff on swastikas – and obviously how history changed their meaning in many parts of the world. And they had a small bit of ‘rebellious’ icon art. Both of those sections found a cool mix in this work (I love that it’s with hanging punctuation even – frequently ‘artists’ miss out on such details as far as I can tell):

Swastika made of Nike logos

We also discovered another bit of icon related ‘art’ where, again, a story was written in icons only. As an extra ‘cool’ bit in that they had a computer sitting there where you could enter your own sentences and let them be converted to icon-sentences. Unfortunately that was a complete piece of crap as the vocabulary of the machine seemed to be pretty much exactly limited to the story they wanted to write down. So, inevitably, the whole charme of ‘I type, you convert’ was turned into a mess of ‘I try to figure out what you can do and try to come up with a story in that framework, I type…’ which sucked. (I guess this could be seen as a piece of art trying to convey how badly software frequently sucks, but I am not inclined to be that generous.)

While we were there, we also checked out the rest of the museum. Once again I could confirm that I am neither a fan of Beuys nor of Rebecca Horn. Once modern art comes into play, pretty much every single museum feels compelled to have some Beuys on display, but I never liked what I saw and though it’s just pretentious crap (although I must say it’s a shame that the guy is dead already as I would have loved to see how he would have dealt with a whole generation of teenagers with their livejournals, web-2 wank and myspace pages taking over the world of mindless crap). And Rebecca Horn seems to be quite popular and her art follows me. Hardly can I go to a museum without one of her works having made it there before me. And whatever I saw so far left me mostly indifferent with a ‘so what?!’ passing my mind. I think I first saw some of her stuff 15 or so years ago in New York – it may even have involved mercury and at least looked cool, which couldn’t be said of the one I saw here.

Just next to it, however, was something simple and cool: The whole bit of ‘art’ consisted of an approximately 5m×3m ‘carpet’ of lavender blossoms (approximately 80kg they said). Not only did that look cool, it also smelled nicely. According to the ‘guard’ watching it, people quite like walking into it accidentally because it looks like a carpet. She even joked that she was lucky the artist didn’t place a sofa right in the middle of it.

Room with lavender blossoms on the ground

An opening of a new small exhibition was in progress as we were in there. We had actually walked past it just before we learned it was all new. And I was quite sceptical. For example it featured some three second films which looked like a simple QuartzComposer effect on a video recording. Yawn. It turned out that those were in fact hand-painted, but somehow that (and neither the whole conceptual setup of the thing) made it better for me. That exhibition also included a huge wall full of small portraits. Hm.

Finally, I also discovered some nice photo art. The type of thing I’d quite like doing myself, in fact. They had taken very similar photos of similar buildings. For example a series of photos of houses. I like it:

Nine similar black and white photos of nine similar houses - hung in a row

(This photo suggests that the geometric quality of my digital camera’s lens may be questionable. But that isn’t the biggest problem of the camera – seeing that it broke during the trip. For the third time. It looks like the screen is broken and I didn’t even treat it badly.)

February 17, 2007, 0:46


Comment by Dave2: User icon

Sweet! My kind of exhibit. I love iconography and symbols as art.

February 19, 2007, 4:11

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