Philipp Goldbach „Written Pieces“ (Schriftstücke) 4.9. –16.10.2021
Philipp Goldbach has been adding to his series “Micrographs”, which consists of handwritten copies of works in their original language, at irregular intervals since 2005. In a writing process that often lasts for months, Goldbach uses a pencil to manually transfer the complete source text to a roll of paper, with each letter having a height of just a few millimetres. The uninterrupted flow of text repudiates paragraph breaks and other divisions. Like a monochromatic sea made up of tiny traces of graphite, it surrounds and immerses viewers.
Among his previous “Micrographs” – as in the case of “South: The Endurance Expedition (Ernest Shackleton)”, 2020, and “Ad Dyonisium de Burgo Sancti Sepulcri / The Ascent of Mont Ventoux (Francesco Petrarca)”, 2021, both of which are shown at the exhibition – his selection of texts has been defined by a dimension of language that explores the world and reality and is shaped by humanistic ideals. By contrast, in a series of transcriptions of literary texts, which he has been working on since 2019, Goldbach has turned to works in which extreme psychological dispositions featuring pathological elements find expression. The group presented at the exhibition includes: “Berlin Alexanderplatz (Alfred Döblin)”, 2019, “Jakob von Gunten (Robert Walser)”, 2019, “The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)”, 2019, and “Les 120 Journées de Sodome (Donatien Alphonse Francoise de Sade)”, 2021.
At times, the concrete appearance and the handwriting of the original manuscripts already bear witness to the circumstances of their creation. Thus, in 1785, the Marquis de Sade composed his scandalous episodic novel in 37 days, during his imprisonment in the dungeon of the Bastille. Forbidden to write, de Sade developed this unfinished text secretly, in extremely small and barely legible handwriting on a roll that was 12 metres long. Between 1924 and 1933 Robert Walser, who was affected by a neurological condition throughout his life, noted down prose texts, poems and dramatic scenes in tiny letters of a now-antiquated cursive script that was considered indecipherable for decades.
Goldbach’s demanding as well as physically and intellectually challenging practice of writing also creates room for psychogrammatic traces and, through its extreme reduction in size, produces a form that runs contrary to the function of conveying a text. The handwriting asserts its own existence – in contrast to the purpose of legibility – as a freely aesthetic form whose all-encompassing monochrome places it in proximity to minimalist and conceptual drawing or painting. The exhibition’s title, “Schriftstücke” (Written Pieces), emphasises this physical reality of immaterial content and suggests the existence of an independent type of picture through its connection with the art historical genre of the “sea piece”.
The photographic work “Image Cycle”, which has been included alongside the “Micrographs” at the exhibition, presents a monumental sculpture that was made of numbered archive boxes and placed outdoors – exposed to the seasons and weather. Philipp Goldbach realised it the context of the project “Artist Meets Archive”, in cooperation with the Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln (Rhineland Photo Archive, Cologne), which he accompanied during the restoration and reorganisation of their photographic holdings. The film material of the collection catalogue, which had been archived on cardboard mounts and carefully labelled, was transferred into a new storage system. Goldbach then stacked 3,906 discarded archive boxes into a 22 metre long and 2.5 metre high block before regularly documenting the process of their subsequent transformation. The four triptychs that can be seen at the exhibition present the state of the piece in the autumn and winter of 2020 and summer of 2021. In a manner comparable to the “Micrographs”, the gaze is directed to the materiality of the emptied data-storage device or medium. Both works are stimulating on account of the way they withdraw content, but also on account of their production of a symbolic knowledge that is given substance through the memories and expectations of their viewers.
Bettina Haiss, August 2021