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If we are dead, so it is

"I prefer it if — for all their complexity — things progress smoothly." — Michel Majerus

In 2000, Michel Majerus created one of his largest paintings at the Kölnischer Kunstverein. Taking his lead from the architecture of the elongated, flatroofed building, the artist designed a skateboard ramp that filled the space. The ramp's convex surface became a 400-square-meter picture that surrounded the viewer, with no room left for getting out of the way or keeping one's distance.

During one of many conversations with Michel Majerus over the three weeks it took to install this piece in Cologne, the idea for a book emerged. A regular exhibition catalogue was not planned. It goes without saying that Michel immediately had ideas of his own. He soon began work on the layout and presented his finished design in 2001.

On the evening of the exhibition opening of "If we are dead, so it is" at the Kölnischer Kunstverein, BMX bikers and skateboarders rode through Michel Majerus' painting; and visitors were allowed to walk all over it for the duration of the show. Just as Michel layered and juxtaposed different motifs on his skateboard ramp, so this book now brings together photographs, slogans, designs, pictures, details, and installation views, offering us an insight into his anarchic artistic mind. Pictures of the skateboard ramp recur as a leitmotiv, with stills from a video of the opening, as well as Michel's own photos of the installation process spread throughout the book.

Michel Majerus died in a plane crash in 2002. Despite the brevity of his active life as an artist, he left behind a surprisingly extensive oeuvre and this unique book design. Before the book could be published, however, printquality images had to be assembled. It was possible to salvage the files on the hard drive of Michel's computer, but those he had only saved to his desktop were lost in the crash. In agreement with Michel Majerus' estate and with neugerriemschneider, it was decided to reconstruct the artist's original design as faithfully as possible. Good or excellent copies were found for most of the pictures. Only in a very few cases was it necessary to work with grainy screenshots. [...]

Michel Majerus had several preliminary ideas for the book's outward appearance, including his wish for a silver cover. As he had not yet chosen a title, the name of the exhibition where the book project began has been used: if we are dead, so it is.

Udo Kittelmann

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