August 27 - September 23, 2011
Ulrike Gerhardt, Jens Mentrup
•NOTE ON a solid soul•
Whenever a person starts to read a novel, one begins inventing images. These images are mainly drawn from the past. They consist of places that the reader is familiar with or has seen before. When Friedemann Heckel (*1986) shows a postcard with a handwritten sentence saying: »Das ist das Haus von hinten und ein Stück Garten«, most immediately start to imagine a garden; transferring words and symbols into images is habitual. Vice versa, authors often need the idea of a landscape, architecture, or a garden where they can set and develop their stories. Although Friedemann Heckel’s postcard gives no more than a description: it is an old handwriting; neither the address is named, nor the author. The garden as a safe haven, a playground, a place for recreation, a hortus conclusus, or a lieu de mémoire has been a traditional subject in art, literature, medicine, and psychoanalysis for centuries.
The artist Friedemann Heckel works as a sculptor: a person that is used to create visual symbols. Does this anonymous card get hidden behind glass because there can’t be an appropriate representation beyond the simulacrum, beyond the mental image one creates? »I am Jesus Christ – risen from the dead!« was the Hungarian geologist László Tóth (*1940) shouting while he was attacking Michelangelo’s Pietà (1498-1499) on the 21 May 1972. One of the most widely known masterpieces lost its perfection in a few seconds. Friedemann Heckel shows an enlarged newspaper print of the incident’s aftermath supported by a walking frame on top of a fake marble pedestal. The image is of a middle-aged man, László Tóth, surrounded by a group of people carrying him away as if he were Jesus just removed from the cross. This document is of high significance since the Pietà’s damage is visible and it has captured Tóth’s ongoing thrill to destroy the portrayal of the virgin. This most violent attack in the statue’s history interests Friedemann Heckel because it shows the vulnerability of symbols, and a human whose body is filled with tension. Today Michelangelo’s Pietà is perfectly restored and enshrined in security-glass. Heckel’s idea of art is rather circular; most of his artworks are found objects, which he puts into a process of creation, destruction, recreation, and replication. What interests him is the way a work can easily change its face and meaning in a short period of time. That’s why Heckel’s sculptural work often functions like a pillar, a jail guard, a copy-cat, or an architectural housing for his found newspaper clippings, films, poems, and abstract drawings.
Another image, slung over an aluminum construction and onto the floor, is of two sportive women in a large poster print cut out from Sport Revue, a popular sports magazine from the former GDR. This image from the early seventies has remarkable stylized aesthetics. This bluely printed sports picture on yellowed newspaper calls to mind a scene from the pre-Nazi film Wege zu Kraft und Schönheit from Wilhelm Prager in 1925. The ideal of an athletic and perfectly shaped body goes back to the old Egyptians and Greeks while totalitarian systems often used body pictures to form the image of a superior human. In Revue (2011), Friedemann Heckel reinforces this women’s straight posing with the help of a strong sculptural display. The theatrically hung picture is like a hyperbole to the dry body exercises. This visual conversion of a picture’s significant motives is a strategy Friedemann Heckel is using to challenge and fool people’s desire for always seeking the key inside the picture. As we come back to the beginning, Friedemann Heckel knows that humans think within images. But where are they? His processual drawings consist of almost illegible words, language scraps and symbols. The excess of a predecessor drawing is composed on the paper and these geometrical figures remind on the sober aesthetics of architectural plans. This passion for abstract compositions, recombinations and the absentees goes together with his sense for loci. He intends to show that single writings, poems, and pictures can’t tell or prove anything; it is first and foremost their visual architecture which makes them comprehensible. So the colored costumes and spread bodies of the artists on the etching Scenes from Vienna from 1830 borrowed from an antique shop seem like ornaments from afar. Even on the DIN A4 paper with the excerpt of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Malte Laurids Brigge (1910) crossed with news from the Berliner Fenster, we can see how black and blue lines build horizontal stripes from a distance. Friedemann Heckel wraps a house and a garden around his objects, a visual space for thinking, which he would describe with a song text from Einstürzende Neubauten: »You will find me if you want me in the garden«.
 The GDR had the third place in the worldwide sports ranking, though its size.
 Lat. locus (plural loci) = place, locality
 Berliner Fenster: screens displaying news in the Berlin subway
Text: Ulrike Gerhardt