An artist is first and foremost occupied with finding opportunities to communicate. Drawings are situated outside a discourse of representation and hence offer a high level of artistic freedom, which is also created by the low-threshold conditions of production: drawing is practical and cheap; drawings can be made everywhere and at any time. It is for that reason that people like to assume that drawings possess certain immediacy; they tend to psychologize them. Till Megerle’s works on paper appear to evade such interpretations, however. The artist’s drawings are on display in the 21er Raum of the 21er Haus from 29 October to 29 November 2015.
The medium makes it possible to adopt vocabularies to then formulate ideas in different ways. Till Megerle uses the resulting gestures like individual signs or letters, which—repeatedly pieced together anew—result in constructions that can be “read.” Yet he thwarts this interpretation by using styles like empty phrases and by exchanging them from drawing to drawing. Our reception is embroiled in a game of hide-and-seek between what we see and what we project onto those images; and it is made unstable by the concurrence of proximity and distance. In the early romantic period Friedrich Schlegel wrote, “In every good poem everything must be intentional and everything must be instinctive. That is how the poem becomes ideal.” Megerle also combines reflection and intuition—or the mind and the gut, distance and proximity—in his drawings in order to generate intensities.
Concurrence within a dualism is also true of Gnosticism. Between 200 BCE and 300 CE, various Gnostic teachings were based on their belief in a fundamentally malevolent, material world (humans—both body and soul—included) in contrast to a good, all-embracing god. However, as he is torpid, the malevolent gods are worshiped instead. “Thus the adoration of an ass-headed god (the ass being the most hideously comic animal, and at the same time the most humanly virile) seems to me capable of taking on even today a crucial value: the severed ass’s head of the acephalic personification of the sun undoubtedly represents, even if imperfectly, one of materialism’s most virulent personifications,” wrote Georges Bataille in his 1930 essay “Base Materialism and Gnosticism.”
Till Megerle appropriates the motif of an ass’s head for his series of drawings. He adopts the subject complex as an atmospheric picture that he finds interesting: this is a case of Bataille as a pop motif and not neo-surrealism. As Bataille observes, the donkey offers considerable identification potential. While the horse embodies an ideal of beauty, the donkey is its brother with lesser qualities. The horse represents high culture, the ass the circus: it harbours an element of subversion; it is the manifestation of unfettered, dark materialism.
The artist has drawn most of his donkeys in a caricatural style. The idea of caricature has always had a particular appeal for Megerle because it requires the artist to try not to be authentic, but rather to speak about objects in an artistic form. Caricature is not in itself a style of expression, but rather an artificial style that is distanced from reality to a certain degree and hence facilitates the creation of suspension between reflection and intuition. It is therefore unsurprising that Megerle draws on the caricatural repertoire of the 19th century—for example the work of Wilhelm Busch—in another series. Busch’s works can be read as amusing stories, but also as illustrations of Arthur Schopenhauer’s ideas. Among other topics, Schopenhauer’s philosophy revolves around will, the strongest manifestation of which being the only temporarily satisfiable sex drive.
We now come to the heart of Till Megerle’s works, whether they are photographs or drawings. It is not only the donkeys’ heads that deal with corporeality—or more precisely, corporeal complications—with physique in an adverse or unconfident condition. In his daily artistic practice, Megerle subsumes individual gestures into meticulous frameworks. Doubt is cast on the resulting constructions, which are reduced to only a few sheets. This distillate is succinct, but its few marks leave intact a space for discourse around body politics, sexuality, and interpersonal power structures, which is revealed between the lines of his drawings.
Till Megerle was born in 1979 and lives in Vienna and Berlin. Most recently, his works have been on display at William Arnold in New York (2015), at the Kunstverein Freiburg (2015), at Christian Andersen in Copenhagen (2014), at the Galerie Micky Schubert in Berlin (2014), at Diana Lambert in Vienna (2013), and at Center in Berlin (2012).
Curated by Severin Dünser.