Timm Ulrichs at Kunstverein Hannover and Sprengel Museum Hannover

Timm Ulrichs. Works from 1960 to 2010
Kunstverein Hannover and Sprengel Museum Hannover
November 28, 2010 – February 13, 2011

Timm Ulrichs
Together, Kunstverein Hannover and Sprengel Museum Hannover present one of the most comprehensive overviews of the work of German concept artist Timm Ulrichs (born 1940).
The double exhibition encompasses early works from the nineteen sixties as well as new productions developed especially for this exhibition.

The conviction that art and life cannot be separated from each other forms the starting point of Timm Ulrichs’ multifaceted oeuvre: “The totality of life equates the totality of art.”
As early as 1961, he defined his living and work space in Hannover as the “Advertizing Agency for Total Art” including the “Room Gallery & Room Theater.” In 1966, he exhibited himself as the first living artwork, thus laying the foundation for a large number of works dealing with his own persona and the exploration of the self. At the core of Ulrichs’ oeuvre and its interdisciplinary approach is the analysis of the self as a productive reflection on human existence in general. “Total Art,” as Ulrichs characterizes his own art, “knows no boundaries as regards to genre and encompasses diverse disciplines that serve to get to the bottom of human existence.”

The unmistakable hallmark of Timm Ulrichs’ work is the extraordinary connection between lightness and intellectual wit combined with meticulous and analytical subtlety as well as the ingenious examination of language, its limits and logical misunderstandings.

The joint exhibition encompasses over 100 works in all media which are on show in the seven galleries of the Kunstverein and four galleries in the Sprengel Museum Hannover:
At Kunstverein Hannover, the presentation accentuates the diversity of Timm Ulrichs’ oeuvre: Starting with his beginnings as the first living artwork, an entire room is devoted to Ulrichs’ self-portraits that describe the artist’s self with sober objectivity. His “Durchsicht: durchs ich. Eine endoskopische Reise” [“Inspection: through the self. An endoscopic journey”] (1971/2004) features the images made by a camera swallowed by Timm Ulrichs, while the “autobiografisches Tagebuch vom 12.9.1972 (0:00–24:00 Uhr),” [autobiographical diary of 12.9.1972, 12 am–12 am] a book object containing 2.880 pages, reduces Ulrichs’ biography down to the actual signs of his life: It records his EEG, the CO2 concentration of his breath, his thorax movement and his ECG.

Numerous large-scale installations will be on show at the Kunstverein, two which have been produced for the first time for this exhibition. The installation “Von Null bis Unendlich” [From Nil to Infinity] (1975/2010) deals with the basic similarities between two of the most abstract mathematical concepts: The entwined and twisting metal structure continuously transforms itself from a zero into the symbol of “infinity.” The most recent piece in the double exhibition is “Wolf im Schafspelz – Schaf im Wolfspelz” [Wolf in Sheepskin – Sheep in Wolfskin] (1995/2010), and as is usual in the case of Timm Ulrichs, the piece provides exactly what it promises: a stuffed wolf and a stuffed sheep that have exchanged their fur stand opposite each other, thus questioning the sense or nonsense of a reversal of the biblical metaphor for an only ostensibly peaceable person (Matthew 7:15).

Less know are Timm Ulrichs’ atmospheric works such as the photographic series of “Landschafts-Epiphanien” [Landscape Epiphanies] (1972/1987), the seeming romantic sunset in which is revealed to be the only partially developed beginning and end pieces from 38mm film rolls.

Sprengel Museum Hannover brings together the objects and installations, including furniture and models, prints, photographs and videos, that examine art objects and everyday items as well as their perception. Essential aspects of Timm Ulrichs’ work in this area come to life based on the exhibited pieces, including his examination of identity and
people’s surroundings.

At the intersection of these dealings with the human being, its body, thoughts and feelings on the one hand, and with standard objects of our present-day society on the other, stand selected objects and installations from the group of furniture developed by Timm Ulrichs since the late nineteen sixties. “Der erste sitzende Stuhl (sich nach langem Stehen zur Ruhe setzend)” [The first sitting chair, retiring after a long time standing] (1970) presents a piece of furniture that virtually serves as a place holder for the human being.

In works such as “Bildrückseitenbild” [Image’s Reverse Image] (1961/1968), in which a photograph showing the reverse of a painting laid on photographic canvas and then placed on a stretcher exemplifies Timm Ulrichs’ work and pictorial concept and plays with contexts of meaning between support and reproduction. In addition, the Sprengel Museum Hannover presents a central but often overlooked group of works, namely the models he made in conjunction with his projects for public spaces. Embracing the assumption of a primacy of the artistic idea as formulated by concept art of the nineteen sixties and seventies, they represent an important intermedium with which the possible state in the realization of a work can be discussed.

The diversity of Timm Ulrichs’ work can particularly be comprehended based on his photographic series and videos, which are always the result of the artist’s intense examination of the respective media themselves, their modes of action, conditions and techniques. The photographic series “Checked Baggage” (1987), for example, is devoted to questions about daily media control that brings forth a “transparent human being.” The exhibition additionally encompasses documentations of Timm Ulrichs’ performances since the nineteen sixties, including the spectacular “Messerwurf-Portrait” [Knife-throwing portrait] (1978) for which he subjected himself to a knife thrower in conjunction with the making of
his “portrait.”