Eva-Maria Bechter / Humans as an art-passant / ISBN 3-9502072-1-X

It is neither physical actionist involvement nor conventional modelling that characterise the actions of the individual person in Manfred Grübl’s work. It is more the case of the art consumer crossing a threshold accidentally and becoming part of the art work.

In executor, activator and team player spectators allow themselves to be manoeuvred by Manfred Grübl’s works. The protagonists he engages exact a reaction from visitors or the public authorities. In Personal Installation Manfred Grübl places a certain number of people, dressed in black, in the public space of a museum. Their orientation creates a hermitic orthogonal network which is not immediately perceptible for the ‘normal’ visitor. The action takes place during an exhibition opening without forewarning the respective institution and subtly transforms art spectators into participants in a happening at the same time. If anybody rumbles what is going on, they will not get any explanation from the human statues as they have instructions to remain completely silent.

In his first solo exhibition at the lukasfeichtner galerie in Vienna, Manfred Grübl combines his five different work blocks with the integration of the spectator with his work. The role of the ‘executor’ is adopted in this instance by a wrestler, who throws everybody onto a mat who dares to enter the gallery and step onto it. Art has to be fought for, the way to the artworks is literally a struggle and involves ending up on one’s back. Just as shop mannequins lined the route to the image at a large surrealist exhibition in Paris in 1928, today it is a heavy-weight wrestler who blocks the path to more happenings whilst simultaneously opening another perspective as well. Manfred Grübl throws the whole culture and art scene to the floor. In a totally different way five people fight for the right to cross Red Square in Moscow wearing orange capes. A location under close surveillance. It is not the camera of institutional security staff belonging to a museum but the national department for high security. Manfred Grübl and his friends had four minutes to demonstrate with their capes – based on military uniforms – and transform them into tents. This casual stroll or consciously provocative happening is finally stopped by the police. Here it is not the individual gallery visitor that reacts to Grübl’s concept but the public political body. Yet he has shown that, even if it was for only four minutes, this security can be undermined subversively. The police and passers-by are all part of the documentation and unwittingly become part of the art work. The male inhabitants of Istanbul, on the other hand, are aware of the camera’s presence. Here again the work above all thanks to the fans … is to do with people. Whilst walking around Istanbul the artist noticed the social phenomenon football club allegiance. Public sympathies towards a certain club do not depend on age but do depend on gender. Passers-by, traders, taxi and bus drivers, and schoolboys all wear a club scarf as an everyday piece of clothing. An open avowal in the land of football. The work is intended to focus on the issue of fans in our times. Stars need audience ratings, spectators and mass crowds – all of them factors securing, in our case, the football player both financially and socially. This places the photographed Turkish fans on a different level: they not only represent an important element of football but are also team players in art. These people respond and make an important part of their lives public. The anonymity of Vienna stands in total contrast to this. How do our neighbours live? Are their apartments arranged like ours? How is it furnished? Questions which usually remain unanswered. Manfred Grübl reveals this secret by ‘candling’ various buildings. The camera moves from above to below and penetrates ceilings and floors. He focuses on the issue of the ‘concealed’ – while we are sitting at the computer in an office, residents are hanging out their washing above us and commuters are entering the underground below. The only work in the exhibition to function without depictions of people takes up the subject of space. Blinds, suspended from the ceiling, are set in motion by a motion detector and undergo random computer-controlled movements. Gently and harmoniously the individual slats move up and down, tip forwards or shut off the background. Positioned 40 centimetres from the wall, they provide an interplay between spectator and space and the space beyond. The issue of the concealed is only revealed sporadically. If they display any function, it is as a movable screen wall. Depth, spatiality and views are all referred to in this work, simultaneously unified and exposed. Manfred Grübls art is a conceptual one. His medium of expression is more often than not the camera and space. Issues focusing on art and its relationship to consumers are the main themes preoccupying the artist’s work. Yet the works are more than a purely intellectual playing field. Looking at a work by Manfred Grübl for the first time, it is the precision, aesthetics and calm of those components that immediately catch the eye. His photographs of the performances are also effective without requiring any knowledge of the concept behind them because they impress in their own right through the force of their expressiveness. Brilliantly conceived works make one curious, curious about the idea, the concept and the intellectual basis of Manfred Grübl’s art – although single work blocks appear to be carefree, there is always a keen critical eye behind their development.