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The Hirsch-Index "The Art of Quotation" an exhibition at ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art
A visitor observes the work 'Mandrian Boots' made in 1992 by Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury displayed at the Museum for New Art, (MNK) at the Centre for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany. The art piece is part of the exhibition 'Stagfactor. The Art of Quotation' that is presented between 22 October 2011 and 29 April 2012 in Karlsruhe. EPA/ULI DECK.

KARLSRUHE.- All cultural production, whether in art, literature, music or philosophy emerges from within the context of a tradition – even if they finally break with it. In their art, artists make reference to their own works, but far more to that of other artists. How, and in what form do such references manifest themselves, and what kind of ‘basic images’ flow into their artistic works? By way of a selection of characteristic works, the exhibition The Hirsch-Index. “The Art of Quotation” at ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art investigates the ways in which artistic creativity and strategies of artists have evolved over the foregoing decades.

The art of last century was frequently oriented towards the worldly connoisseur who would have recognized the artistic references contained in a work. Thanks to his education, he would have grasped the significance of the quotations employed, and thereby have his own knowledge confirmed in the work. During the 20th century, the canon of ‘quotable’ models was extended favoring a multiplicity of model quotes drawn from the full spectrum of the human life world.

“A picture is a tapestry of quotations from countless corners of culture.” (Sherrie Levine)

The quote may be seen as the most important form of appropriation in the artistic creative process, ranging from the subtle use of color or elements of form that have reference to a particular artist or work, through to Appropriation Art, which ‘newly’ creates already existing works of art. Here, the quote as a strategic device is to be understood as part of a critical examination in the historical reception of certain, often stylistically influential situations. What happens to earlier artistic, social or political ideas and objectives which connoted or still connote the work of art? The one or the other icon of modernity runs through several media until finally returning, once again, to the art context both in and with a new work. Here, irony and humor often accompany artists’ new, discursive orientations.

The discovery that “a picture already exists on the grounds of a picture” (Peter Weibel, 1995) had held an especially prominent position in postmodern art. Today, this insight signifies a self-evident source of artistic output. In this connection the ‘basic pictures’ derive increasingly from contexts far removed from art, drawn above all, from the spheres of consumption and design. The question as to models of style, form and motif is shifted to the foreground.

Here, the concept of the so called ‘Hirsch-Index’ in the title of the exhibition derives from science and research: named after American physicist, Jorge Hirsch, the index is calculated from the intersection of the total number of a scholar’s publications and the sum of the quotes from them. The ‘Hirsch-Index’ thus reproduces the scholar’s ‘value’.

However, in contrast to this method of scientific ranking, the aim of the exhibition is not concerned with investigating how often, for example, Kasimir Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ has been cited in art. The focus of the presentation is far more a presentation of the different modes of artistic appropriation of styles: forms of motifs, the use of materials, of models drawn from popular culture, from the world of commodities, from politics etc.

As part of the discourse on the claim to originality of works of art and the role of the author, numerous exhibitions took place during the 1970s that dealt with such topics as the original, the after-image, the quote and the copy. In view of a flood of images and the simultaneous intensification of the use of quotation in contemporary art, the ZKM | Karlsruhe offers unique and novel insights into this theme by way of a selection of significant works from and in cooperation with the ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art collection.

The exhibition is organized according to the sources of the quotations drawn from art, design, politics, religion, advertising and consumption, whereby, true to the nature of modern art, there are overlaps. So as to evade one-dimensional readings, the organizers have refrained from designating the various aspects comprising the exhibition. With The Hirsch-Index. “The Art of Quotation”, the visitor is given the opportunity to make new discoveries as well as to revisit familiar works among a fascinating spectrum of pictorial findings.

The Hirsch-Index. “The Art of Quotation” includes works drawn from the various institutions collaborating with the ZKM: the Boros Collection , the FER, Grässlin, the Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, VAF-Stiftung, Weishaupt and Collection Froehlich.

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The Hirsch-Index "The Art of Quotation" an exhibition at ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art

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