»It is not enough to talk about it, or to promise, or consider, look at, hear, or receive it passively, to talk about it, or think of it, it must be done, in other words there ›must be practice.‹ Theory is not enough, there must be practice. But you can already see the difficulty of doing—a difficulty connoted by the expression faut le faire, which always means ›it’s not easy‹… —it still must be done and that’s the more difficult, that’s what is difficult«
Jacques Derrida, Theory and Practice, Übers. David Willis, Chicago 2019, 2.
Stefan Römer's exhibition and research project "DeConceptualize," which was made possible by the Berlin Artistic Research Grant Programme, uses photographic reproductions in the form of large-format prints, for example, to establish a connection to selected works from his time in Cologne where he initiated the art activist collective FrischmacherInnen in the early 1990s. The focus was on the criticism of anti-social developments such as exclusion, racism and pauperization, which were caused not least by the increasing economization of inner cities and found parallels in the institution of art.
The exhibition title DeConceptualize calls for a renewed critical recoding of established forms of representation and discourse of postminimalist and conceptual art in the present. The modes of presentation and use of image, body, space, and sound originally intended by conceptual artists to be epistemologically critical are today often suppressed or modified in exhibitions. Conceptualism originally understood itself as an artistic strategy of self-empowerment, but now finds itself arrested in academism and commercialism.
This process is signified by the sound of a "crackle and pop“, that occurs when you walk on a metal plate by minimalist artist Carl Andre. Römer relates this to the "crackling" of vinyl, which Mark Fisher made audible as a ghostly haunting memory of the lost popular modernism.
These noises denote here the openness and simultaneous urgency of the artistic inter-est and still-having-to-do (faut le faire) in a multiscenic existential and social crisis situation.
In his ongoing artistic research project DeConceptualize, Römer explores the connections of conceptual writings and diagrams with space- and time-based ways of working as well as with visual and acoustic media that aim at deconstructing the institutional administration of the conceptual in art and music. Römer describes this artistic practice as de-conceptual, which means that the respective work also addresses its own art-theoretical implications.
During his research project Stefan Römer wrote the book DeConceptualize - zur Dekonstruktion des Konzeptuellen in Kunst, Film, Musik (Hatje Cantz 2022); he further developed the experimental film cycle ReCoder, which deals with avant-garde questions of the collage-montage principle, and he produced three music albums that can be listened to in the exhibition.
Stefan Römer transforms the exhibition space of the kjubh into a spatial diagram by means of a monochrome grey, surrounding wall painting.
Site-specific ambient painting 1m floor distance, 1m wide and 0,03m around edges, color RAL 9018
Conceived as a spatial display, the grey painting presents prints of film stills taken from the film cycle "ReCoder," as well as photo-text montages and newly created music albums.
Photography, which today is no longer conceived of as an object but as a set of data circulating through several media, appears in the prints as a "transcategorical" artwork that, according to Peter Osborne, can reflect both the conception and realization as well as the documentation of the artwork itself-across material, medial, and spatial differences. Stefan Römer refers to his specifically developed combination of practice and theory under contemporary media surveillance conditions as Inter-esse. The book of the same name was published in 2014 and refers deconstructivistically to a text by Donald Judd.
poster design Dirk Lebahn and Tina Georgi
opening: 20.8.2021, Dauer: 21.8.–18.9.2021 kjubh Kunstverein e. V. Dasselstraße 75, 50674 Köln
19:30 talk & listening with Marc Matter about the album »Deconceptual Voicings« (Matter & Römer, 2019)
4.9.2021 20:00 talk with Dr. Doris Krystof (Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf)