Michael Riedel's Internet-y Exhibit, "The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog"

Alex Chapman
Michael Riedel is a German artist who uses mixed media (Internet pages, in particular) as source material, exploring their various manifestations. That, or he just really likes to Google himself. With his most recent exhibition, "The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog," showing at David Zwirner through March 19th, Riedel uses bits and portions of Internet pages as source material to create abstract collage pieces. A highlight of the exhibit are Riedel's silk-screened "poster paintings," which are made from cut-and-pasted web texts about his art and career, a highlighted word on each canvas ("click," "type," etc.), referring to technological actions as well as the tasks necessary to produce the pieces. We recently chatted with the artist.
Tell me about the lecture you gave in 1997 where you wrote your name on a paper bag and put it on your head. Where did that idea stem, and what was the reaction?

The paper bag was made for a talk I held at the Städelschule while I was in college. The talk was about possibilities. In 1997, there were many slogans about possibilities like IKEA's Entdecke die Möglichkeiten (Discover the possibilities); Audi's Das Leben ist voller Möglichkeiten (Life is full of possibilities); and Toyota's Nichts ist unmöglich (Nothing is impossible). Increasingly, it was about possibility itself and existence failing because of the possibility to exist -- at least that's what it said in the talk.

At the end of the lecture, I pulled the bag with my name on it over my head said, "I'm Michael Riedel." Labeling is usually added on from the outside but in this case, it's me labeling myself. I started being the artist watching myself making art. In the talk, I showed a diagram on art history I had found in a book. It listed art movements from 1800 to the present. In this case, the present was 1980 and 1995 and I continued the writing of art history by copying the diagram to A4 and then A5 format and inserted it back into art history. That way, on the one hand, it was a statement about art history repeating itself in 1995 and on the other hand, it was happening at the same time somehow. But as a result, 1995 is also being repeated within this repetition and so forth, which sets off a perpetual motion.
Of this current exhibit, you have said, "I'm not just the artist making art but also the artist watching himself making art and perceiving this process as art." Can you elaborate on this?

I did a lot of works by labeling existing works. After these overwritings were made and exhibited, they appeared on the Internet in online reviews or interviews -- like the one we're doing now. Overwritten again -- descriptions, addresses, comments -- I took whole web pages that were mentioning works of mine to use them as backgrounds in my paintings.
 Your new work is ultimately based around material from the Internet. Have you always been fascinated with the Internet? What drew you to use website texts in this exhibition?

I belong to the first generation that digested the Internet. It's not a fascination; it's everyday life.
The exhibition's title is a "pangram" containing each letter of the English alphabet at least once. How did you come up with "The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog?"

A friend told me about this phrase. And I liked the fact that it's meaning is about how it was written.
What's your thought process behind using materials in your artwork, such as the Internet pages containing information, that are already an established product?
Reproduction must be read as production and not as a product anymore. With this change, the artwork became another artwork that's marking a distance from where it originally began. This might be seen as unusual material in contrast to other cultural efforts, but the material I work with represents the "nature" that's surrounding me.


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