Friday, 20 April 2012, 24:00 | midnight

#33: Manuel Graf

In his computer-animated videos, Manuel Graf presents condensed versions of philosophical stories about time as a nonlinear continuum within which stages of development and innovations can be fast-forwarded and rewound. He camouflages complexity with naïve illustrations (the butterfly and flowers in Woher kommt die Kunst? oder: Die Blüte des Menschen, 2006) and technical perfection with analogue formats, such as his former teacher’s lecture in Über die aus der Zukunft fließende Zeit (2006). The teacher is explaining a theory proposed by the palaeontologist O.H. Schindewolf, who, drawing on measurements of human skulls from prehistoric man to homo sapiens and from children to adults, proves that the fundamental biogenetic rule and the theory of evolution sometimes turn into their opposites. Time flows in two directions, and so becoming older or younger is possible. Pictures of Fallingwater, a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and Ledoux’s lock supervisor’s cottage paraphrase the subject of progressive and regressive flow, as do Graf’s animations of skulls and trees reacting rapidly to the speaker. Buchtipp 2 (2010) again offers proffers missionary, if less frontal, instruction. On a monitor we see couples discussing Rudolf Steiner’s ‘Towards Social Renewal’ (1920), a book about the necessary development of the spiritual element in society that likewise relativizes the importance of Darwinism and sharply criticizes the primacy of economic forces. Graf himself has made the table, seats, and ceramic tea service, as well as the chic lace-up wedge sandals – these are not the products of alienated and cool manufacturing but an inviting place that allows for close study of Steiner’s ideas. Graf presents proposals on how to improve the world in theory and artistic praxis. His videos and objects are like animist tools on the way toward a different, holistic way of thinking and acting. In his highly allusive early videos, the artist used ancient, modern, and postmodern architecture as vehicles to signify social states: after modernity has exploded (Shulmantonioni, a work he created in 2004, while still in art school, that drew a lot of attention), after the modules designed by the architectural group Archigram have putrefied, the designs proposed by architects such as Robert Venturi and Léon Krier move toward the future by relapsing behind these earlier schemes. Using quotations from music, film, and pop culture, Graf deploys architecture both as utopia that has become reality and, inversely, as a space in which the ideas it contains in nuce first unfold. Now he, as an artist, creates this space himself, conceiving it, like all his works, as a model – but one whose radicalness does not remain without consequence for reality. – Rita Kersting

Manuel Graf shows:

Schulmantonioni, 2004, 3:00 min
Tausend Jahre sind ein Tag, 2005, 4:00 min
Über die aus der Zukunft fließende Zeit, 2006, 10 min
Woher kommt die Kunst? ODER: DIE BLÜTE DES MENSCHEN, 2006, 6:00 min
Qu’est ce que c’est la maturité?, 2008, 11:00 min
Buchtipp, 2009, 7:20 min
Mediterraneo, 2010


Manuel Graf  (b. 1978 in Bühl, Germany) studied at the Academy of Art in Dusseldorf. He lives and works in Düsseldorf. Manuel Graf has exhibited extensively including at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Museum Abteiberg, Kunstverein Nürnberg, Augarten Contemporary Wien, Etablissement d´en face Brussels, Kunsthaus Baselland, LCCA Riga,  and DeHallen Haarlem. He is represented by Van Horn in Düsseldorf.

See also Frieze Magazine on Manuel Graf’s exhibition Ils sont fous ces Romains! at Kunstverein Hamburg