Friday, January 31, 2020

Peter Wächtler at Josey


THIS THEME OF OBSOLESCENCE and nostalgia runs through Wächtler’s entire practice, and not only on the level of narrative. [...] These works’ antiquated, low-tech quality and the artist’s conspicuous investment of long hours of manual labor contrast sharply with more zeitgeisty aesthetics, modes of fabrication, and artistic strategies. [...] The imperfections that mark the films testify to their maker’s stubbornness, blood-sweat-and-tears stamina, and, perhaps, hubris, while reminding viewers that these images have been produced by hand.[...]
Wächtler presents individuals moving aimlessly among an array of simulacral roles, which in turn are subsumed in a welter of images, aesthetics, formats, genres, and techniques that—like the various identities to which the artist alluded in his ostensibly autobiographical talk—all feel somewhat outdated and hand-me-down. Here and there, his protagonists cite particular culture-industrial templates to which they owe some portion of their self-conceptions.[...]
But for the most part, the figures of speech, metaphors, and character types that appear in Wächtler’s tales trigger only a vague sense of familiarity, suggesting that the artist is excavating psychic sediments left by repeated exposure to certain idioms, images, or aesthetics.[...]
AGAINST THE FOIL of current trends or problematic genre labels such as post-Internet, and in contrast to the attitude of elusive detachment so prevalent among younger artists (who endlessly repeat the studied gestures of supposed dandyism and ironic coolness familiar from the early 2000s), the pathos of Wächtler’s work, its embrace of craft, and its sense of personal investment register as idiosyncratic and even egregiously earnest, which may account for part of its attractiveness.[...]
Wächtler’s work articulates irony not simply by depleting forms of expression, nor only by inflating those forms with “subjective” content, but by doing both. The work vehemently amps up the sense of palpable investment—then punctures that impression at the points of maximum intensity, of which there are plenty. What is thus rendered ironic is not so much the notion that any actual artistic form could adequately capture the artist’s boundless subjectivity, but the inflated, idealized image of the artist itself. -Jakob Schillinger, Artforum