The Family An installation shot from an exhibition by Hermes Payrhuber.


By Vanessa Mueller

“Nonsense is that which does not make sense and, at the same time, opposes as such the absence of sense by creating meaning. And this is exactly what nonsense means.”

(Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense)

Language is communications; the written word is its material manifestation. However, at least since the arrival of symbolist poetry language departs from its concrete references. This is the beginning of open interactions between phonemes, the actual meaning of poetic dynamics of interacting consonants and syllables, between rhythm and sound. Even in its written form it departed from its conventional function and assigns its own function to typography that composes meaning since Mallarmé’s free-floating poetry, which defines the empty page of a book as compositional framework. The introduction of writing into the arts, however, accentuates not only its visual component, it elevates it to a special symbol that presents language as a material signifier that can be read while a peculiar abstraction appears due to its exposed visibility.

This is where language opens itself selectively in aesthetic disassociation to another auto-poetic and anti-teleological conception, which opposes the reduction of language to communication and rational argument. If it wants, it opens to the principle of délire as a link between language, nonsense and desire. Délire stands for unintentional talking during which the subject does not control its own production of speech, for the embodiment of language’s second aspect, the expression of instinctive desires that emphasizes the materiality of words and their connection to the subject’s desires. In this case language is expression; it is no longer clearly identifiable but polyvalent and changes its meaning. It no longer wants to be understood intellectually, it aspires to achieve intuitive understanding, which results from recognizing its underlying structure of an expressive wish for articulation. Délire is eminently subjective. It is not a public speech, does not aim for persuasion but verbalizes the suppressed, the unspeakable and the phantasmal. This proto-poetic language talks about the bankruptcy of communications that are reduced to information and pleads for sensual moments of meaning and desire. Conflict arises when these linguistics become language that turns into images and is exposed to the public realm. The Staccato installation uses exactly this conflict by translating opposing positions into choreography that derives its potential from dissonance.

Primarily, Staccato is a constructive, if not labyrinthine arrangement in space in the form of a course that regiments the subject’s movement in this space. A total of five wooden structures, which form a triangle, can be extend simultaneously and turned into barriers. It is a structure of the public realm, a police roadblock that was painted white and decorated with shimmering metal studs and occupies the interior as if it were camouflaged. Besides its function as a barrier, it also provides support for numerous sheets of glass, which lean against it and from behind which white panels with individual words, and fragments of sentences are displayed.

The Family No Comment – Blindfold *Anti Oedipus, 8 by 10 inch, glossy black surfaces.

The written word already becomes a sculptural work with this designated space. In turn, the glass and Perspex sheets originate from the same public realm as the barriers; they display partial traces of destruction in the form of cracks caused by, among others things, an attempt to smash a window display. The sentences themselves are formed by words, which were cut out of a historical issue of Interview Magazine. Its varying typography as well as the fragmented grammar of the original text and its intended typing errors interrupt the reading flow. But by dismantling them into their components, their morphemes and lexemes, their letters and syllables, the language achieves an unforeseen materiality – a presence beyond its intelligibility. The transference of the magazine’s page to the collaged text establishes a parallel to the Interview Magazine through its transcription of spoken language to edited text.

The term ‘staccato’ originates from the Italian verb staccarsi (‘to push (oneself) away’). It is also a type of musical articulation that signifies that a note has to be played shorter than her note value originally demands. Nevertheless, the note is still written in its full length. Therefore ‘staccato’ only manifests itself in its execution and deliberately deviates from the written notes. It develops its dynamics between its notes, meaning and musical performance. Staccato, as an installation in space and material volume presents fragments of a kind of speech that shipwrecked in our rationally structured world with similar dynamics; a different articulation that focalizes the interaction of a system that defines meaning and the radical alienation of the talking subject. The collages are presented between to sheets of glass respectively, in front of which further layers of Perspex and glass are positioned, opening further spaces of layering and references within the word groups that were strung together. Are there as many interpretations as there is layering? The literal meaning, in any case, distances itself from the metaphorical; the signifier emancipates itself from the significate.

Staccato unites two different works in a formal way: the text works titled ZipZap and a group of sculptures named Worktitle bond. Payrhuber dedicates this arrangement to Paul Schreber and his originally forbidden ‘Memoirs of my Nervous Illness’, this rare case of a description of complex psychotic delusional disorder compiled by the patient himself in stringent and coherent form. In turn, the text work ZipZap unites references to Vito Acconci’s installative performance Seedbed of 1972 – all the alphabetic characters originate from the issue of Interview Magazine which featured the interview with Vito Acconi regarding Seedbed – Schreber’s memoirs as well as Gary Snyder’s poem Riprap that already appears in the work’s title in alienated form. Entering the labyrinth of these words that were put to paper in a stutter-like manner from another zone of consciousness from which they flared up, provides a legible, but in its combination and recombination unsettling texture. The Bonds on the other hand develop a structure that forces one to decide whether one wants to walk within or without the course, whether one enters or remains outside, even though it changes one’s presence in space in any case. By interacting with ZipZap, it activates something by interacting that already exists but is hardly ever articulated.

The Family Installation Shot, 2010.

By using an elaborate metaphor, Gary Snyder’s Riprap raises the topic of reading poetry and the poetic creative process itself in terms of something material for which the written poem and its presentation establish a relationship that is comparable to the interpretation of the existence of human beings in the world and the search for their intended place. This kind of poetry is a rock fall on the slopes of metaphysics. Riprap talks about establishing a path and therefore a linguistic way that creates its verbal images from syntagmatic sequencing and metonymic substitution. The poetological constant of the rock fall is suggested in Staccato’s shattered sheet of glass but also its routing that can be followed in physical space and is equally defined and complicated by the expanding barriers. Additionally, Staccato provides a large number of references; however, they are not layered dissonantly, they lay out their respective traces, which can be recognized or remain invisible – just like Acconci below the gallery’s floor during his spectacular performance of Seedbed. The monstrosity of the hidden that executes what was never intended for the public realm – Acconci masturbated in his hiding place below the additional flooring while the visitors of the gallery walked across this ‘second’ floor – finds its expression in an installation that establishes its own logic of meaning through appearance and disappearance and generates a forgotten perception of the public realm. What can be seen between the lines is nothing less than a vision of a way of thinking that recognizes the schizophrenic moment of every possible ‘identity’, and a collective political will that is lost by now. Shattered like its sheet of glass, Staccato presents itself as a ruin of our public self that seems to have lost the urgency of Paul Schreber who could only survive the authorities through his recording system for his self plunging into chaos.

Staccato premiered at the Austrian consulate general in New York, as this venue combines official representativeness with the insignia of state representation in a genuine way. A private speech, a stuttering articulation that ignores the innermost core’s coherence of semantics is misplaced in a place like this in the most literal sense. Private talking creates an aversion here, resulting from the restrictive conditions of this resonating space. This is why a place of presentation like this is the perfect venue; it reminds us of the mandatory nature that should be inherent to the subject’s articulation while re-assuring itself constantly.

The Family Untitled #2, from the series There to Here, 2012, enlarged photocopy, 30 x 50 inches

This essay by Vanessa Mueller is an excerpt from Hermes Payrhuber’s recently self published edition T H I N G U M M Y, an artist book that brings together works from 2008 – 2012. Starting with “STACCATO”/”ZIPZAP” presented first at the Austrian General Consulate in New York, to “NO COMMENT-BLINDFOLD” Anti-Oedipus wall-relief’s (absolute surface), ending with the “THE PROPHECY OF THE LAKE” situation. Documenting the highly performative quality in both staccato and the prophecy (restoring the potlatch) with hundreds of B/W film-stills never seen before. The edition is printed on newsprint paper and perfectly bound in an limited edition of only 500 copies, mimicking the volume and size of a typically telephone-book. As you handle the book, the ink from the pages finds its way out on the cover of the book, increasingly showing its wear and its owners fingerprints over time.

’T H I N G U M M Y’ contains of 550 pages, full bleed images. B/W, softcover limited edition, numbered and signed. essays by Jaleh Mansoor, AA Bronson, and Vanessa Mueller. Order a copy from our shop.

The Family Letterpress prints for 0/ Divided/Defined, Weights, Measures, and Emotional Geometry.
The Family The Book’s Cover.
Spreads from the book A spread from the book.