Lisabird Contemporary in Vienna opens exhibition of works by Maximilian Prüfer

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Review by Sabrina Möller:

VIENNA.- Can earthly questions be answered through observing insects? Maximilian Prüfer dedicates his upcoming exhibition called Flug at Lisabird Contemporary to this topic and, thus, finds answers to such questions with the use of a unique and innovative printing system. 

Our history, as well as the history of the world was mainly unfolded through prints, marks and remains. Each creature leaves traces at some place, caused by its movements and, thus, delivers information concerning and answering questions on the past, as well as our own development. Not only a reconstruction of history can be deducted with the help of such research, but a certain pattern within the organisation, maybe already existing for millions of years and, thus, applicable to man and society, can be unveiled. Such instincts as the fight for survival and the creation of shelters are only some aspects that we humans share with other creatures. But these pieces of information and traces are partly subdued to a specific code system because next to visible footprints there are also sedimentations of materials and temporary traces of scents that can only be decoded with the help of a specific method. Yet, it can also be only a matter of size: What does the footprint of an ant look like? Which traces are left by a wasp’s wing beat? In how far can earthly questions be answered with the help of a close observance of primitive forms of life? Can, for instance, the corpse of a bird reveal some intellectual approach concerning death? 

Starting from these questions Maximilian Prüfer has been working on the development of a unique and innovative printing system: “Naturantypie”. Using a highly sensitive printing colour, Prüfer made it possible to displace the colour through motion instead of only subtracting it from the picture. A method that can also keep record of the footprints of ants or the wing beats of moths that are flying by. Thus, the documentation of the traces is not the superordinate aim of this experiment, neither the empiric analysis of the information gained through it. In fact, the conception and development of these processes shall be compressed, shall be made visible and shall be turned into experience within a two-dimensional picture for the eyes of the beholder, as well as delivering new intellectual approaches. Prüfer has a natural phenomenon at hand to deliver the answer to an earthly question: as, for instance, with the corpse of the bird that was already mentioned. In the upper part of the work In (2015) the imprint of wings and the corresponding body are visible, different structures and traces all around. Whereas some of them can immediately be identified as cat’s paws, other lighter parts are hard to codify. They stem from snails and flies that have approached the corpse and have fed on it. A corpse attracts various kinds of animals within the shortest period of time, thus turning into food and breeding grounds for other species. 

The moment that creates the picture, which is linked to motion and generally to human anatomy, is thus being transferred. Vermin turns into Prüfer’s tool, which leaves the construction of the picture controllable to only a certain extent. With the help of baits and provocations he can carry out a certain steering and limiting, as well as a certain defining of time frames: the human feet – the intruder into ant territory – is being attacked like an enemy (Enemy, 2015 ) and the wasps are baited with sugar cubes (Sugar, 2015). Naturantypie enables Prüfer to develop patterns and organised structures out of seemingly sheer chaotic states, which are also linked to the physique of the respective species. The creatures’ ways of organising themselves and their reactions to influences and objects is what turns into the factor that creates, composes and builds the picture. As well as human society organises itself into groups that follow one aim, also here single powers are turned into one. Mass is organised through that which mass generally desires. Normally. Also in the animal kingdom you find a certain form of egoism or will to survive: the traces around the sugar cubes shown in Sugar (2015) are proof. Sugary food is only useful to the wasp and cannot be used to be fed within the nest, thus, cannot be used for the group. And that sugar can be addictive to a certain extent is given proof by our society day by day by day anew.

October 30, 2015