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WIELS Contemporary Art Centre announce Franz Erhard Walther: The Body Decides

WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels present Franz Erhard Walther: The Body Decides an exhibition on view 21 February–11 May 2014.

Franz Erhard Walther, Activation of Das Neue Alphabet – Form Z (detail), 1991. Sculpture. © Photo: Jens Rathmann. Courtesy The Franz Erhard Walther Foundation.
Franz Erhard Walther, Activation of Das Neue Alphabet – Form Z (detail), 1991. Sculpture. © Photo: Jens Rathmann. Courtesy The Franz Erhard Walther Foundation.
Franz Erhard Walther: The Body Decides is one of the largest retrospectives to date of this pioneering German artist (b. 1939 Fulda, where he lives and works), whose work straddles Minimalist sculpture, Conceptual Art, abstract painting and Performance Art. Taking its title from a line in one of the artist’s own drawings, and emphasising the participation and process at the heart of his practice, the exhibition at WIELS brings together key pieces from the late 1950s and early 1960s, the artist’s seminal First Work Set made from 1963 to 1969, as well as hundreds of sculptural elements, drawings and photographs that span the length of Walther’s more than half-century long career.

Walther first developed his sewn, padded, pleated and pocketed fabric objects while in art school in the early 1960s. It was then that he conceived of an art inseparable from the actions that can activate it and the participatory activities it provokes. He hardly had a name for what he was making, since neither painting, nor sculpture, nor performance adequately described his practice, in which viewers and their time and space became his primary medium. The resulting works were radical and influential, and unprecedented in their time. Having participated in Harald Szeemann’s legendary When Attitudes Become Form (1969) and Documenta 5 (1972) as well as the Museum of Modern Art’s landmark Spaces (1969–70), Walther’s coupling of elementary forms, conceptual rigour and a radical rethinking of the relationship between art and action, so influential to the contemporary practices of young artists today, deserves renewed attention. This exhibition and its accompanying catalogue aim to help reassess this uncompromising oeuvre and, with it, raise essential questions about the potential definition and role of art. For in their destabilization of the conventional idea of the art object, their transformation of the spectator into an active creator and their dissipation of the tradition notion of the author, Walther’s ‘instruments for process’ have served as a relentless inquiry into what art, in its most fundamental sense, is, and what it can do, into how, through its very material reality, an oeuvre can create the conditions through which both the artwork and a potential (unknown and unknowable) public might simultaneously be challenged and made complete.

The exhibition will be animated by several workshops and demonstrations led by the artist and supported by the Goethe-Institut, Brüssel.

The exhibition is co-produced with the CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, and made in collaboration with The Franz Erhard Walther Foundation. It travels to the CAPC from November 13, 2014 to March 15, 2015.

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