So far, the work of Austrian artist Peter Friedl has managed to elude stylistic classification. Investigating the social, political and cultural realities at work in institutionalized practice, his projects have been called “conceptual, aesthetic acts” – usually they are subtle forays into institutional criticism with political insight.
Four or Five Roses continues Friedl's exploration of the stereotypical language of the monologue genre. The book contains some 45 children's “monologues,” edited by the artist from numerous interviews and conversations recorded on playgrounds in South Africa. Faithfully transcribed and translated into English from different South African languages (Afrikaans, Northern and Southern Suthu, Zulu, Xhosa ...), the “edited monologue” then becomes a hybrid genre, both fictionalised speech and serious counter-voice. What is ultimately at stake is how discursive strategies operate as a political tool, endlessly reshaped and manipulated for the sake of persuasion. The texts are accompanied by color illustrations of the actual South African playgrounds.
Ever since Peter Friedl (born 1960 in Oberneukirchen, Austria, lives and works in Berlin and New York) first entered the international contemporary art scene in the early 1990s, his artistic practice has continually challenged the art world. As “conceptual acts,” his works take on the role of models: as exemplary articulations and solutions of aesthetic problems involving political and historical consciousness. With them, Friedl continues to transgress the borders of art, a process begun by the Conceptual Art of the 1960s, opening contemporary art to its social, economic, and institutional conditions. “Overcoming the dictate of visibility, without using text as a substitute,” is how Friedl outlines his artistic program.
Friedl has participated in Documenta X and XII (1997, 2007); the 48th Venice Biennale (1999); the 3rd Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (2004); the 2nd International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Seville (2006); Manifesta 7, Trento (2008); the 7th Gwangju Biennale (2008); the 28th Bienal de São Paulo (2008), and the Tirana International Contemporary Art Biennial (2009).
His solo exhibitions include “Blow Job” at Extra City Kunsthal Antwerpen (2008); “Working” at Kunsthalle Basel (2008); the retrospective survey “Work 1964–2006” at Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Miami Art Central, and Musée d'Art Contemporain, Marseille (2006–07); and “Out of the Shadows” at Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (2004).