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„“ Hannes Norberg / Peter Roehr

Friday,  01.12. 2017, at 7 – 10 pm

Hannes Norberg (born 1969) studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy under Gerhard Merz and lives and works in Düsseldorf. For this exhibition, Norberg has selected works by the Frankfurt artist Peter Roehr, who has been interested in the Frankfurt artist since his youth.
Peter Roehr (1944-1968) died at the age of 23 and left behind more than 600 works of art.

The works:
A selection of Peter Roehr's film montages (6 min, 20 sec),
Buchstaben (2 minutes) by Hannes Norberg, 2017,
Myeong-dong I+II (HD video, stereo sound, 4:01min, 2017) by Hannes Norberg, 2017.



Seriality and Sequentiality

Hannes Norberg and Peter Roehr in the series " " of STUDIOSPACE at Lange Straße 31
by Angelica Horn

In his installation in the series of one-evening exhibitions curated by Carolin Kropff in the anteroom of the Gemeinschaftsatelier in Frankfurt's Lange Straße, Hannes Norberg undertakes to integrate works by another artist into his own work and, in this way to enter into a dialogue with them. In doing so, he uses the artistic process of montage, which this other artist, Peter Roehr (1944-1968), had also developed for himself in his work, albeit in a completely different way.

The viewer entering the small room sees a small monitor mounted on a kind of black-coloured, ornamental mural on which videos are running. He hears the associated sound sequences. The mural, clearly marked as such with a wide white frame left around the design, has the effect of wallpaper due to its ornamental structure, that is, a ground that both surrounds and underpins the objects mounted on or surrounded by it. The wallpaper, printed especially for this evening in an offset process, is based on a Korean floral pattern, as Hannes Norberg has also used it in two books that appear in his videos. Here now, it is wallpapered in an irregular sequence - also a montage.

The monitor shows three videos by Hannes Norberg and five film montages by Peter Roehr in a loop of 11:12 min. The videos by Hannes Norberg each show a self-contained action: turning the pages of a book. In the two-part video work "Myeong-dong" it is the turning of the pages of a book with the floral pattern, enlarged or reduced in even steps; the video work "Letters" shows pages with the alphabet and numbers, also other characters in different typography. The camera stands still, the view is completely concentrated on the action and the book. The films by Peter Roehr, which have been brought to video, present repeated film excerpts, one after the other, with the insistent movement of the respective person being filmed or of the film camera. Here they are strung together in a loop: "Turn 10x", "Hair Drying 13x", "P.C.V. 12x", "Skyscraper 12x", "Gulf II 9x".

Peter Roehr has become known and famous above all for his photomontages, in which he has assembled industrially prefabricated material, such as matchboxes, images from advertising prints, etc., in identical appearance and size to form a field, a whole picture. The principle of the sequence in horizontal and vertical means factually the repetition of the same in the seriality; in the perception, however, provided that the viewer can open himself to it, it sets free and represents its own movement and form of movement. It does not matter whether the same little image is at the bottom left or in the middle of the surface mounted by such tiny images. The repetition of the same is not egalitarianism. What counts more than the content of the small individual image is the form of movement that is given and set with it. The art consists of balancing content and general structure so that the aesthetic effect of a kind of overwhelming of the viewer is achieved - with the openings of reflection towards social reality and everyday life.

Peter Roehr also used this minimalist and conceptual radical seriality in his film montages from 1965. For example, the source material was American commercials, from which a certain sequence was extracted and strung together with the respective sound material in a certain number of repetitions. "Turn 10x", for example, "shows" the journey on a bridge, or rather the viewer sees the bridge architecture coming towards him and the driving surface rushing towards him and, as it were, disappearing under him, as well as the lettering TURN WASTE GASOLINE INTO EXTRA MILEAGE, which emerges from the bottom right and moves into the centre of the image, the whole thing underpinned by an insistent audio track. "Hair Drying 13x" shows a close-up of the face of a woman drying her hair with intensity and devotion, accompanied by the sound of a shampoo advertisement. The film sequences are chosen in such a way, the film material is interrupted in each case that the action or movement shown does not find a meaningful conclusion in itself but is broken off. The viewer does not become a spectator of a film but remains a viewer of a work of visual art or is constituted as such. The repetition of the selected film sequence enables the viewer to devote himself to it or to observe it, to make an effort, to observe details or the structure of its course. Before the devotion could be fulfilled or the observation completed, the number of repetitions is over. A tension and suspense relationship remain in the viewer, which is now not related to the advertised product but to the work and the art itself or to the self-relationship of the person observing.

Whereas Peter Roehr's artistic principle of montage is that of a radical sequence - one setting follows the identical next setting, which is then of course not identical - Hannes Norberg follows an integrative principle of montage, in which and through which something "other" or "foreign" becomes a part and/or also the object of a whole, without its otherness or foreignness thereby being annulled - on the contrary, it thereby becomes conscious as such. In his photographic works, for example, a large monotonously structured and monochromatic surface is placed in a room, which is then photographed together with the surface. The diversity and difference of the levels of reality are made apparent while a great calm prevails. Here, too, the viewer is "constituted" as a viewer of the image or can conceive of himself as such, asking about the reality and structure of the image seen. The question is how we perceive something and what perception is.

If the expressive content in Roehr's film montages is rather loud and aggressive, that in Norberg's films is calm, meditative or serene. The image of the video "Myeong-dong I + II" (2017) shows an open book, held by two hands, on the left only the thumb, on the right a little more of the hand can be seen, the open book pages each show the floral pattern. In the background is a cityscape, building architecture to be located below, and in the lower left of the picture moving very small people, moving crowd of people from this perspective. The viewer, who follows the turning of the page, also has the freedom of polar choices here, he can abandon himself to the turning of the page and the observation of the pattern, or he can observe or want to observe its structure and structural change. Added to this is the surrounding "arrangement", which also draws attention to itself, is it the quiet bustle down on the street or the architecture in its peculiarity. The meditative action of the constant turning of the pages keeps the alienation of the foreign at bay. "The simple still image design of the video and the regular rhythm of turning the pages of the book find a counterpart in the parallel running sound, which closely interlocks with the images: four wooden-looking muffled beats herald the respective turning of the pages, followed by a metallic cymbal strike. On top of that, two notes played pizzicato with a violin suggest a simple melody alternating between major and minor." (Hannes Norberg 2021 in an email). Such work on correspondence and correspondence relations of sensual and structural necessity achieves integration and integrativity, which can also be the result of a meditative exercise. The viewer is here directed towards himself in such a way.

The video "Letters" is connected with the sound of "Reflection Rag" by Scott Joplin, a cheerful, swinging piece, to which the shape of the individual letters, numbers, signs may correspond in their individual availability and their singleness and their coming together in the sequence of a typographic alphabet and the arrangement of signs on a page. Here, too, we see the action of turning the pages of a book, the pages are provided with various typographies, and this time there is a little more to be seen of the body and figure of the person turning the pages. In the background, which is more upstairs this time, we see a floor, which is probably a studio floor, and see four posters, which also have typographies on them. Here, too, the single still image counts as an image and has validity as such; it unfolds, as it were, in the temporal extension and elaboration.

The compilation of film montages by Peter Roehr and Hannes Norberg reveals a number of commonalities, despite all the existing disparities and differences. We deal with acceleration and deceleration, with intensification and integration, with interruption and continuity, with urgency and meditation. We deal with time and temporality, with human abilities and possibilities of structuring and rhythmizing time. Time is never external to the image; simultaneity and successiveness can never be isolated purely. In the inner dialogue of this one-evening exhibition, the logic of polarity and correspondence ultimately becomes clear, as it determines the human (and nature) in general.


Angelica Horn

© Frankfurt am Main 2021

Photos: Hannes Norberg

             Carolin Kropff

The exhibtion was kindly supported by Kulturamt Frankfurt and Nachlass Peter Roehr.

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