Art, in general, is often said, is a verb. It makes a difference to the world and to our perceptions of it not by producing works, but by working in the world: where and as it can, pursuing and activating opportunities which lie close to life and discovering not what may, but what needs to happen. What happens when an artist succeeds in making nothing happen?
Pavel Büchler is a Czech born artist, lecturer and writer, living in the United Kingdom since 1981, where he is also a Research Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University. Summing up his own practice as "making nothing happen", he is committed to the catalytic nature of art - its potential to draw attention to the obvious and revealing it as ultimately strange. His subtle interventions and wry texts are concerned with revealing the accepted and everyday as ultimately bizarre. A key-operative mode in Pavel Büchler’s praxis is a reinvention of storytelling, long-time peeled away from the surfaces of modern and contemporary art or too often replaced by mere testimony. Büchler works with old technology, audio recording, light and the material and mental presence of texts in his installations that deal with the emergence of experience and meaning in art.
Büchler’s work evolves around two fundamental concerns: time and the manipulation of found materials. Concerned with the distortions of language, he gives a critical attention to the gaps in communication, fascinated as he is with the limits of the communicative properties of visual language. He often addresses the question of the legitimacy of communication in addition to its ephemeral and long-lasting nature. Diary 2001, (2003), is a single diary page on which the artist made entries for each day for a whole year, resulting in a surface that has become textured and bruised, full of unintelligible information.
In Live (2003), sounds composed from 351 'live' recordings in the artist's record collection, spanning a variety of musical styles from improvised jazz to rock, pop, folk and classical music, the artist brought together the sounds of audiences recorded over the last forty years in many parts of the world. In this way the concept of a live presence of the art audience was created in an empty hall from ‘nothing’. The artist is interested in such ghostly traces of life in audio recordings and photographs. Through the manipulation of found materials as he did in Life and Opinions (2004) - shown at the Kunsthalle during the exhibition Off-Key, 2005 - in which an intermittently flashing light bulb projected onto a page from Laurence Sterne’s 'Tristram Shandy', Pavel Büchler looks at how the convergence between the presence of the past (in photography) and simultaneity (in broadcast media) make our world a strange place.
Particularly interested in art’s old links to language and literature, Pavel Büchler’s show at the Kunsthalle Bern will mainly focus on a group of works he conceived over the years with Marconi Sound projectors from the 1920’s and text-to speech software to read a text. In this particular piece Büchler uses a quotation from Franz Kafka’s The Castle, a quintessential text about labyrinthine bureaucracy and its control systems. The short section chosen by Büchler recounts the resentment with which Josef K’s presence in the village is suffered by the locals. It includes the words of a village landlady: You are not from the Castle, you are not from the village, you aren’t anything. Or rather, unfortunately, you are something, a stranger, a man who isn’t wanted and is in everybody’s way...
The Castle is about the struggle to fit in and its failure. As a book it has, of course, many possible metaphorical readings, but here we can be specific. Booming out through the antique speakers, the text recalls old factory or street propaganda announcements, this one declaring that assimilation is impossible and the stranger will always remain on the outside. Büchler is particularly interested in the different resonances it can have in the different cities where the work is presented: in a city of migrants and Byzantine codes of behaviour like Istanbul, or in a more provincial old European capital like Bern.
This exhibition will travel to the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
The exhibition will feature a book in German, English and Dutch, published by the Kunsthalle Bern and the Van Abbe Museum Eindhoven