Michael Müller

Das Scheitern der Oberfläche
September 10 − November 5, 2011

On Friday, th 9th of September 2011, from 6 to 9 pm, Galerie Thomas Schulte will be opening Michael Müller’s first solo show at the gallery. The artist, born in 1970, presents six new works in, Das Scheitern der Oberfläche (The Failure of the Surface): these works centralize around the systematic and structural phenomena in language and the dissolution or refraction there of.

Parallel to the exhibition in our own space, the Galerie Thomas Schulte will also be presenting Michael Müller at this year’s abc art berlin contemporary, about painting (September 7–11, Station-Berlin).

In six new works created especially for the exhibition, Das Scheitern der Oberfläche, Michael Müller seeks out systematics and structures in the subject central to his work, language: he orders and at the same time allows these systematics and structures to fail by revealing the irregularities, contradictions, and fissures that are fundamentally inherent to every system.

In the exhibition’s main work, Index der Willkür, unvollendet (Index of Arbitrariness, Incomplete), Müller attempts to organize the process of language development in the case of individuals who work with concepts of conveying content by way of text and language. 95 text panels are placed in chronological order along the walls in the main space of the gallery, and a portrait is placed on the opposite wall across from each. But as is always the case in Müller’s systematics, the regularity of the systematization is interrupted. Some of the portraits are abstract, while others are hidden behind tinted glass or are missing entirely. Each text panel, which features a source text by the individual portrayed, the name of the writing system, the initials of the individual and their date of birth, tells its own story of language development: for example, the story of James Dee, who developed a language to communicate with angels, or a poem by John Milton that was the first literary text to be translated into Braille.

Index der Willkür, unvollendet is interrupted in three locations by large aluminum Dibond slabs, painted white, reminiscent of an oversized open book. On the flat surface, traces of pencil are clearly visible: their content, taken from journal-like notes made by the artist, remain illegible to the beholder. As promised by the exhibition title, the surface fails as a foundation and in so doing rejects the beholder, as it were.

Tile is an important medium for Müller: its resistant materiality as a painting surface rejects the artist in a general way and thus allows him to fail. Alongside the entrance area, is located the spatial installation, XI. Gesang (At the Backside of a Gas Station in the Plain of Lethe), a room completely tiled in white industrial tiles, in which an emergency exit sign shows the ancient Greek word for “exit” while signaling in Morse code passages on the Visit to Hades from Homer’s Odyssey. The reference to the Odyssey as one of the most influential texts of Western culture makes a direct link to the artist’s search for ideal modes of expression and a way out of his very own past.

For the four-part work, Ghostwriter, the artist had by way of the Internet two differently priced – and thus qualitatively different – reviews of exhibitions written by providing the same twelve keywords to two different critics. The commissioned texts are accompanied by a handwritten copy made by the artist. The lines separating copy and original are consciously blurred and their significance reversed.

The sound installation, Confusio Linguarum, which is on view in our Corner Space, refers to the birth hour of languages. From a tower of speakers, recordings of the text passage Genesis 1.11 read in various languages can be heard, the story of the Tower of Babel. By overlapping sound passages, Müller reconstructs the Babylonian confusion of languages, and refers at the same time to a different failure, the failure to build the Tower of Babel.

A second sound installation is placed in the gallery’s main space, and immerses the visitors to the gallery with the sound of the so-called, Ich-Oper (Ego Opera), which was composed by Thom Willems and is performed by Kate Strong. In this work with the title, Weltempfänger: Ich-Oper (World Receiver: Ego Opera), Michael Müller is concerned with the dissolution of identity and explores language’s identity-forming function.