Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

    MUSEO 2021 — 2023 

    Authors know the fear of the blank page, the dis­ap­prov­ing blink of the curs­or, frozen in place. Paint­ers know it too, the hor­ror vacui, the pan­ic when faced with the empti­ness of a blank can­vas. Pho­to­graph­ers tend not to because there is always a counter-image in the view­find­er. It doesn’t have to be beau­ti­ful, but it’s there – unless of course, you for­get to charge the bat­tery or for­get the shut­ter cap. Of course, this would nev­er hap­pen to a ser­i­ous daguerreotypist.

    Oliv­er Mark is tack­ling exactly this blank­ness – and doing it in the midst of art’s holi­est temples, the museums and gal­ler­ies. The places where block­busters of art his­tory usu­ally hang exal­ted on the walls for pleas­ant con­tem­pla­tion. As a rule, the paint­ing is placed at the cen­ter of the van­ish­ing line, at eye level to the view­er, and typ­ic­ally in a heavy, dec­or­at­ive frame – as if the eye did not have enough visu­al guid­ance already. The paint­ing is forced upon the view­er. And like air­port archi­tec­ture, the visitor’s path inev­it­ably always ends up in the duty-free sec­tion of the can­on of art, the art­work itself filling the spec­trum of per­cep­tion. It can­not be overlooked.

    Mark, how­ever, does over­look it, he pos­i­tions his cam­era at floor level and takes pic­tures from a worm’s eye view, using only his wal­let as a tri­pod. The angle of the lens and thus the view field is adjus­ted by adding or remov­ing a few coins. If this is not a razor-sharp ana­lys­is of the art mar­ket and a bit­ing cri­tique of the inter­pret­ive sov­er­eignty of money, then I’ll eat a crit­ic­al com­plete edi­tion of Bazon Brock. Or, maybe Mark just stumbled and fell, or found him­self in the micro-world of the micro-verse like the phys­ic­ally shrink­ing prot­ag­on­ist in Jack Arnold’s clas­sic film about 1950s para­noia, “The Incred­ible Shrink­ing Man.” Or, maybe Mark’s back just hurts and he’s mak­ing the best of the situ­ation before get­ting to the osteo­path. But I digress.

    Regard­less of how he arrived at this view field, his pho­to­graphs alter our per­cep­tion. Sud­denly, oth­er details move into the spot­light: elec­tric­al out­lets, pro­tect­ive grilles, humid­i­fi­ers, fire hoses, emer­gency exit signs, base­boards, spacers, and empti­ness. The unex­cit­ing­ness of white­washed mono­chrome walls, cracked edges, or dark-colored walls that reveal only a small seg­ment of the paint­ing that the wall was built for. Instead of con­tem­plat­ing a de Chirico, I lose myself in the Capri blue of the wall paint dom­in­ant in the pho­to­graph. Just not acknow­ledging any­thing, just enjoy­ing the chill-out zone of the Pantone rave, ignor­ing the grav­itas of the paint­ing, tak­ing in the empti­ness with my eyes.

    This has more than a med­it­at­ive effect, it recon­tex­tu­al­izes the art. The moment you become aware of the sup­port­ing mech­an­isms of the present­a­tion mod­us – the mov­able walls, bar­ri­ers, motion detect­ors, benches – Benjamin’s aura of the ori­gin­al dis­ap­pears. The work of art appears as a com­mod­ity along­side oth­ers: here a sock­et, there a Renais­sance. One recog­nizes again that art func­tions sim­il­arly to paper money: Its arti­facts are charged with mean­ing, but their mater­i­al value is often rel­at­ively low. Their value lies in the com­mon agree­ment that the art work in ques­tion is of relevance.

    And in the angle of view. We are a visu­ally driv­en spe­cies. Out of sight out of mind does not only apply to small chil­dren. We con­struct real­ity through the optic nerve much more than through feel­ing or hear­ing. The Icon­ic Turn and all that. If you take away the icons from the Icon­ic Turn, would it still exist? Or does Wazlawick’s ver­dict, that we can­not not com­mu­nic­ate, also apply to art? You can­not not depict. Does that make Malevich’s Black Square nat­ur­al­ism, sym­bol­ism, abstrac­tion or a pre­lim­in­ary study for the col­or swatches in the print­ing industry? We are fas­cin­ated by the magic of the simple, sol­id tone. Our brain is always search­ing for recog­niz­ab­il­ity, and the absence of pat­tern is jar­ring. Star­ing at the wall: Oliv­er Mark has giv­en new mean­ing to the idiom – and has made me want to view everything from a cross-legged seated pos­i­tion the next time I vis­it a museum.

    Till Schröder, Edit­or-in-Chief of Mar­gin­ali­en and own­er of the Gretan­ton Ver­lag.