09 December 2007

Paul Thek Project

(Thank you Ron Jones for this tip!)

This site is dedicated to the installation work of Paul Thek. It is an ongoing project to collect and contextualize documentary photography and other relevant sources around Paul Thek’s environments.

Various complex questions underlay the consideration and analysis of Paul Thek’s installation work, above all matters of authorship and reconstruction. Many of his installation works cannot simply be reconstructed as in its physical and ideal presence it was inextricably bound up with the artist, the co-operative and, above all, time. From a museological point of view the task to find a final home for the relics and to free them, at least temporarily, from their existence as mere inventory numbers in order to attribute them a function in the context of art mediation thus becomes all the more challenging.

From an art historical point of view other methods come up in order to collect and contextualize information which is the more important the less Thek’s environments can be brought back to life again. From a frank interest to bring to light what was hidden for so long, this website serves not only as a prototype for media-based art historical research, but also as a tool to contextualize Thek’s process oriented use of the mythological object.


Paul Thek at ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art

Paul Thek (1933–1988) is considered an artist with cult status. The hitherto most comprehensive retrospective of his oeuvre focused on the phenomenal effect of his work on contemporary art and established Thek's historical significance, from legendary outsider to the founder and center of an art movement. It has been possible to bring together more than 300 of Thek’s works, which are largely in private ownership and therefore only seldom publicly shown.

In their anti-heroic diversity and multimediality, and with their references to art, literature, and religion, his works (painting, photography, video, sculpture, and extensive environments) are among the central sources for the revolt and eruption of art in the 1960s. It is mainly for this reason that one of the early theoretical masterpieces of this epoch, Susan Sontag's »Against Interpretation« (1962), was dedicated to him. The mold castings, also those of his own body parts, wax replicas of human tissue, hair, teeth, and bones in Plexiglas cases, which he produced between 1964 and 1967 as »Technological Reliquaries,« in their mixture of desire and repulsion, decay and pathos, held up the truth of the body to the world of commodities and the transfiguration of the everyday, as well as the idealization and dramatization of corporative minimal art. With this, Thek influenced not only contemporaries such as Vito Acconci and Bruce Nauman, but also present-day artists. His obsessive, often mystical content, which made him the founder of Abject Art and Environments, or Ensembles, was presented in a formal way that opened the path for the mixture of studio situation and total spatial design, of private and general icons, of profane and religious objects, of everyday and myth, of damaged objects to fragmentary piles of found materials, as was continued by artists from Anna Oppermann through to Thomas Hirschhorn.


ARCHITECTURE REVIEW; Rem Koolhaas's New York State of Mind

Published: November 4, 1994
On a certain level, these buildings are about coping. Mr. Riley writes in the exhibition brochure that Mr. Koolhaas and O.M.A "perceive the city as a survivor." Survivors are not victims. They have earned the right to set their own terms. Cities shouldn't be competing with the suburbs by trying to become more like them. They don't have to turn themselves into theme parks. They have better things to do than indulge the fear that their best days are behind them by encouraging architects to design new buildings that look old.

Mr. Koolhaas is undoubtedly right to question current urban shibboleths. But are the terms he proposes the right ones for the city today? Essentially, Mr. Koolhaas asks us to believe that spectacular public buildings, or spectacular groupings of them, contribute at least as much to the vitality of the city as do the systematic designs of urban planners. Those who crave urban life, he insists, want something more than safe, clean streets, trains that run and contextual design guidelines for new development. They're looking to be part of a legend in the making. Just as it is the business of music, film and physics to produce spectacular singers, directors and theorists, so it is the job of the city to produce wonderful, fabulous places: buildings we'd walk blocks out of our way to see.