les presses du réel

The ridiculized snails

Magnus Schäfer
I, a Painter
(excerpt, p. 13)

If Michael Krebber's practice of the 2000s is about painting, it is not so much about producing paintings as it is about calling oneself a painter. Krebber stages this question of identification as a problematic one, acting it out as a conflicting relationship to painting. The concept of painting appears here less as a set of material and discursive conventions than of external and internal projections, expectations, and attributions, which someone who calls him- or herself a painter – or who is called a painter – is required to deal with. Krebber's way of dealing with this situation is to continually attempt to make himself detached by pursuing a mode of formal articulation that makes his relationship to painting appear ambiguous and allows him to continually re-position himself. The figure of the dandy, whom Krebber has invoked repeatedly in his work and writings, provides a model here, not so much in terms of a particular historical aesthetic as a paradigm for constructing an ever-shifting personality to work against predictability – that is, to work against attributions. The dandy's position is, as Oswald Wiener pointed out, one of defense, which involves a series of techniques to avoid lending oneself to a fixed definition – formal "tricks" to falsify whatever expectations the other (or oneself) may have. (1) Rather than a question of producing paintings, the question of calling oneself a painter then becomes one of how to act in a given situation.
In 2003, Krebber showed twice at the New York gallery Greene Naftali. After not having shown in the city for a decade, he first presented Flaggs (Against Nature): sixteen equally sized works with a limited color palette, all using factory-made fabrics mounted on stretchers like paintings, but without any paint on them. Some of the textiles featured various grid patterns, others the motif of a galloping horse in a moonlit landscape in slight variations. His next exhibition, Here It Is: The Painting Machine, followed about six months later. Again, Krebber used factory-made fabrics that were put on stretchers, but the variety of the textiles was greater and their colors and decors more exuberant and playful. And, perhaps most noticeably, Krebber had painted on them.

1. See Oswald Wiener, "Eine Art Einzige," in: Riten der Selbstauflösung, ed. by Oswald Wiener and Verena von der Heyden-Rynsch, Munich: Matthes & Seitz 1982, pp. 35-78 (Wiener, 1982). References to Wiener's ideas and terminology appear in a number of Krebber's own texts.

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