Konrad Balder Schäuffelen: language is a body, forsooth
Exhibition view »Konrad Balder Schäuffelen: language is a body, forsooth«
As part of the »Poetic Expansions« series
Thu, July 27, 2017 – Sun, October 22, 2017

From 1962 onwards Konrad Balder Schäuffelen (1929–2012) contributed visual texts, word–image combinations, and sculptural objects to seminal anthologies and national and international exhibitions of experimental art. The ZKM pays tribute to Schäuffelen’s rich and varied oeuvre with a retrospective made possible by a generous donation from his son Jakob. Since 2013 important works, particularly from the artist’s early and middle periods, have been part of the ZKM’s collection. The title of the retrospective, »sprache ist fuer wahr ein koerper« — language is a body, forsooth, is meant as a motto and also cites Schäuffelen’s eponymous solo shows 1976 in Munich (Lenbachhaus) and 1977 in Heidelberg (Kunstverein).

The distinctive character of Schäuffelen’s body of work derives from the poetic productive forces with which he handles language. From the multiple perspectives of a poet, artist, and neurologist and with the acute sensorium of a psychoanalyst, Schäuffelen explored and tested modes of intermediality and intertextuality as of the mid 1950s. Using wordplay and chance operations, as well as rigorous conceptual approaches, he took language out of the narrowness of conventional usage in order to underline its semantic richness.

Schäuffelen drew the material for his formal compositions from a wide variety of sources. He cites, segments texts down to the individual letters, combines and reforms the texts of canonical authors and philosophers, figures of speech and proverbial wisdom, newspaper reports and quotes from the tabloid press, as well as everyday conversations of his contemporaries overheard in passing. Whether meticulously crafted small poems, flat paper objects, word sculptures, talking books, emblem assemblages, or large multimedia environments, Schäuffelen’s artworks bear witness to his wide-ranging knowledge in many areas of various cultures. At first sight the appeal of the works inspired by Dada, Surrealism, and Lettrism may lie in their wit and humor; but, at a second glance, they reveal references to cultural and historical sediments. Konrad Balder Schäuffelen thus initiates analytical inspection of the fates of fixed symbolisms, ancient myths, as well as the insignia of religious and political power.

Exhibitions team

Technische Projektleitung: Henrike Mall

Organization / Institution
ZKM | Karlsruhe

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