press release

respektive Peter Weibel
September 28, 2019–March 8, 2020

On the occasion of Peter Weibel’s 75th birthday, the exhibition respektive Peter Weibel at ZKM | Karlsruhe presents an overview of the entire oeuvre of this internationally significant media and concept artist. Based on his twenty years of activity as chairperson of the ZKM, the exhibition explores themes such as the mechanisms of perception and thought, the intrinsic world of the apparatus, the crisis of representation, and the operating system of art, and also the relationship between art, politics, and economics.

Against the backdrop of his curatorial and theoretical work, the exhibition demonstrates how Peter Weibel’s seminal works, which are today icons of media art, anticipated decisive developments in the art of the late 20th and 21st centuries—and radically challenged conventional notions of art. Under the conditions of the nascent age of media, since the 1960s Weibel has created an oeuvre that dares to conceive artistic creativity as an open field of action. Beginning in 1964, Weibel developed an artistic language based on his intensive engagement with language theory, mathematics, and logical philosophy, which initially led him from visual poetry and experimental literature to performance and the deconstruction of cinematic representation.

Already in his early work, Peter Weibel explored the entire spectrum of the apparatus-based arts, from typewriters to records to magnetophones, from photography to film to video, and posed the complex question of the ontological difference between image and reality. Anticipating today’s culture of selfies or augmented reality effects on Instagram and Snapchat, Peter Weibel’s early machine photos reveal the constructiveness of photographic self-representation and its possibility of slipping into fictitious changing roles. The author’s self-portrait therefore no longer shows an author, but only different representations derived from the cultural code.

From 1966, Peter Weibel applied participatory and interactive practices in his works, which in 1969 led to closed-circuit video installations, and in the 1980s to the first interactive computer installations, with which he thematized the relationship between media and the construction of reality. Closed-circuit video installations, such as Observing Observation: Uncertainty (1973), are part of a series of works that deal with cybernetic problems: the observer cannot observe its own observation. Thus, Peter Weibel points to the limits of the human apparatus of perception, but also towards the limitations of the perspectival camera system. In his interactive computer installations, the visitors act as an interface to Cyberspace. With these works Weibel points to the shrinkage of distances, the separation of messenger and message, the transcending of the body in digital space.

In the series Scanned Objects, on the other hand, principles of the media, such as the resolution of the TV image into scan lines, are transferred or translated back into the world of objects, thus turning the principles of the digital scanning process back into the analog.

As a political artist, Weibel takes a position in his work against the barbaric crimes of the 20th and 21st centuries and develops utopian visions of social and individual freedom on the basis of technical innovations.

The exhibition offers a comprehensive overview of the entire oeuvre of this nomad travelling between art and science who to this day consistently pursues his ways of looking at problems in various materials, forms, and techniques. With logical stringency, Peter Weibel as a constructor of worlds has created an artistic oeuvre that leads from critique of perception to critique of language and media to critique of reality. With his “faith in the healing power of logical treatment” (Peter Sloterdijk), the curator, theorist and above all artist Peter Weibel provides us with the tools to be prepared against any form of simplifying explanatory models of the world. Art with Peter Weibel is a process of cognition.

Curators: Philipp Ziegler, Judith Bihr, Clara Runge Szenography: Matthias Gommel