March 18, 2015 - Mudam Luxembourg - Franz Erhard Walther
March 18, 2015

Franz Erhard Walther

Franz Erhard Walther, Der Drehung entgegen, 1986. View of the exhibition at Mudam Luxembourg. Courtesy KOW, Berlin; galerie Skopia; Geneva, and Collection of the Franz Erhard Walther Foundation. © Photo: Rémi Villaggi / Mudam Luxembourg. 

Franz Erhard Walther
Architektur mit weichem Kern

7 March–31 May 2015

Mudam Luxembourg
Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean
3, Park Dräi Eechelen
L-1499 Luxembourg-Kirchberg

T +352 45 37 85 1
F +352 45 37 85 400
info [​at​]

Curated by Marie-Noëlle Farcy

Franz Erhard Walther’s concept of the artwork as such developed from the late 1950s, at a time when many artists were starting to question the parameters of art. Traditional forms of art were not capable of expressing Walther’s artistic aspirations at the time; he found it more interesting to examine material processes, action and even modes of exhibition as components in the definition of an artwork.

Thus, according to Walther’s concept, art had an immaterial, performative character and took place within the individual physical and mental processes enacted by those encountering particular works. The role of the artist shifted from being the creator of works with a particular meaning to becoming the mere facilitator of a conscious and personal experiencing of aesthetic phenomena.

This practice had already been adumbrated in early actions such as Versuch, eine Plastik zu sein (Trying to be a sculpture) (1958), and, after many years in which Walther experimented with a variety of materials, led finally in 1963 to the discovery of the technique of sewing, a working method that met Walther’s need for formal rigour. The works he produced up to 1969 using this technique were to be collected in the so-called 1. Werksatz (First work set). The 58 individual works sewn from sturdy fabric that comprise the 1. Werksatz, which Walther called “Work pieces” or “Action pieces,” were for him simply “forms” that prescribed concrete patterns of action and were reliant on being actually handled by one or several participants for attaining the character of an artwork, a character that remained bound to the action itself.

Walther’s 1. Werksatz, which was prepared and accompanied by countless drawings, of which a selection is shown in the exhibition, is mostly presented in a kind of “stored form” or as items that can be individually accessed and must be concretely activated before they take on artwork character. In 1972, Walther put together 45 so-called Schreitbahnen (Walking bases), a motif that he was consequently to try out in many variations. In 20 Schreitbahnen (1975–77) or in the Gesang der Schreitsockel (Song of the walking pedestals, 1975–77), as well as in the various works on the theme Raumformen (Space forms), which are also presented for activation either in “stored form” or individually, the focus is on the possibility of their being used, which in each case would lead to specific experiences in the space.

The fact that an action taking place only potentially or in the mind can be just as constitutive of a work as one that is actually performed was already embodied in the action pieces of 1962–63 and the radical 1. Werksatz. The work-actions and the “stored form” were always of equal importance. However, with the Wandformationen (Wall formations), which he produced from 1978, visual and architectural elements that no longer required physical activation to correspond to his concept of the artwork took on an increasing importance in his work.

The wall formations Statt einer Rede (Instead of a speech) (1981), Neuere Geschichte erweitert (Recent history enlarged) (1981–82) and Die Erinnerung untersockelt (Drei Zitate) (Memory put on a plinth [Three quotations]) (1983) are all works tailored to human measure, for each of which Walther saw three different possible positions for the viewer: “In front, close-up and within.” The active participation of the viewers increases according to their position, right up to their entering the work in a kind of “physical reading” that leads to its activation.

The Wall Formations were followed in Walther’s œuvre by a series of detailed wall works. In response to criticism of what was seen as a return to a conventional concept of art, Walther pointed to his enduring interest in the—only apparently banal—question that had centrally informed all the art of the 20th century: “What is an artwork?” And with these works based on the drawings and diagrams of the 1960s, he did indeed examine the aggregate state of an artwork: while some works intimate participatory possibilities, others, like Plastischer Text (Plastic text) (1987) and Formantwort 1 / 2 / 3 (Formal answer 1 / 2 / 3) (1989–90) explore the borders of particular genres (picture, relief, sculpture). Walther interrogated the different meanings they had in stored form and as a wall arrangement. He examined their spatial references and their “objectness” and ran through the different emphases of form and colour in a great number of variations.

Finally, in Raumabnahme BLAU (Hamburger Raum) (Space mould BLUE [Hamburg piece]) (1997–98) he comprehensively explores the pictorial quality of the space. The dark-blue reconstruction in fabric of his Hamburg studio, which is adapted to suit each exhibition venue, encourages the viewer to re-enact its directly visible process of creation.

The possibility of putting the created “forms” to use has always been inherent as an essential characteristic in Walther’s concept of what constitutes an artwork, a concept that has undergone continual development during his now more than five decades of artistic activity. Walther, who in this way shared the role of the “artist” with the viewers/users of his works, also used the processual nature of this concept to emphasise its open and unfinished quality; or, as he put it in the title of his 1969 exhibition in the New York Museum of Modern Art: The work can never be finished.

Franz Erhard Walther was born in 1939 in Fulda, where he lives and works.

Exhibition organised in collaboration with
The Franz Erhard Walther Foundation

Press inquiries
presse [​at​] / T +352 45 37 85 633

Also on view at Mudam Luxembourg
David Altmejd. Flux
7 March–31 May

Sylvie Blocher. S’inventer autrement
8 November 2014–25 May

Memory Lab – Photography challenges History
Memory Lab I : Ré-écritures
7 March–31 May

Franz Erhard Walther at Mudam Luxembourg
Mudam Luxembourg
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