Michael Deistler


A.R.E. 1980/81

Michael Deistler, A.R.E. 1980/81, 1980/1981, Ball Pentel and polaroid on paper, 90 parts, Courtesy Michael Deistler & Dorothea Schlueter Galerie Hamburg, © Michael Deistler

In 1980, Michael Deistler was awarded a DAAD scholarship. He did not go to New York or Rome, but for a year to Egypt, instead. There he continued with the drawings which he had already worked on in Germany. Simple DIN-A4 sheets of paper and ballpoint pens are his materials of choice.

While traveling through the North African country, Deistler discovers old barracks that still show traces of the German Wehrmacht, including numerous swastika decorations. He uses the swastika symbol, almost in a manically way, to create ever new patterns, and combines the structures with provocative sentences. The patterns and typefaces are reminiscent of mosaics, carpets, or the aesthetics of teletext. He also does not shy away from using slogans from the vocabulary of the Third Reich: “Work sets you free” and “I am proud to be a German”. The artist ostentatiously endorses the shocking symbol. By overusing it, he counteracts the practice of tabooing Nazi ideology through mere repression and prohibitions. His messages to the viewer are not simple provocations, but rather challenges. They raise questions about one’s own values, boundaries, and taboos. The artist encourages objection. The work captivates through the clever combination of private disclosures and political agitation.

The aggressiveness of the statements contrasts with their ornamental quality, fiction overlaps with personal and private revelations. Especially the used photographs show the artist as well as various women from his social circle. Deistler refrains from any form of false harmonization, both regarding the structured layout of the sheets and the development of the contents. The works are rebellious and absolute.