Magazine article Artforum International

Stefan Bruggemann; Kunsthalle Bern

Magazine article Artforum International

Stefan Bruggemann; Kunsthalle Bern

Article excerpt

I can't explain AND I won't even TRY. This polemically pointed statement, affixed to a wall in the Kunsthalle in big shiny black vinyl letters, read like a challenge to the critic preparing to review Stefan Bruggemann's show. This linguistic gesture of refusal--a 2008 work titled after its content--was only the beginning of a novel and utterly fascinating reflection on the current state of art. Bruggemann's turns of phrase are invariably meant to be taken literally, but they also form a carefully defined set of statements that negate and comment on one another in the context created by the show--as they do in Looks Conceptual, 1999; To Be Political It Has to Look Nice, 2003; Sometimes 1 Think. Sometimes I Don't, 200 1; and (This Is Not Supposed to Be Here), 2001. Bruggemann's word compositions enunciate simple, direct statements only to retract them on either semantic or syntactical levels.

Thus, it comes as no surprise when we see mere scribblings, the minute gestures of crossing or scratching out, scratched on neon tubes--one black, one painted various colors. These appealing wall decorations use black light to embody the notion of deprivation as constantly present seduction. The "conceptual look," which, ironically, points to the importance of chic and spectacle in intellectual fashion trends, is inflated in Bruggemann's piece Conceptual Decoration, 2008, where these two words form the typographical ornament on wallpaper that entirely covers a room. The gallery's most striking architectural elements--the wooden staircase with its intermediate landing, the curve above the entryway, and the three windows--here were left bare and carefully framed by the wallpaper, so that the space itself was exhibited as well. Bruggemann stages the work as a dynamic force that announces loud and clear, "Get me out of here! …

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