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‘State Your Position’: Dennis Loesch at saasfee*pavillon, Frankfurt
August 29 to October 10, 2020
Sign o’ the times: a review by Geoff Hands
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
The initial working title for this essay was ‘Meditation on a Cross’. The religious
connotation was tongue-
Switching to the times we live in, from a political perspective, I also considered
In a refreshingly modern and contemporary environment provided by the saasfee*pavillon
space, this body of new works from Dennis Loesch will surely feel at home. As an
important part of its remit, the saasfee* organisation provides an experimental platform
for music and the visual arts as an interdisciplinary meeting place. When I heard
that Loesch’s new body of work was to be staged there it felt appropriate, not only
because this is his home city and he studied at the Städelschule Academy of fine
arts, but also because of his personal interest in avant-
It’s a late Friday afternoon in early August, and Dennis Loesch and I exchange comments
on WhatsApp about his forthcoming installation at the saasfee*pavillon. I had not
seen him in person since we met with friends at the tayer + elementary ‘Evil Companionship’
event in London in February, which launched his limited-
I asked what would be in the show – “…all unique. 3 huge ones, 4 a bit smaller, 10
small ones… leaning, floor and hanging”, he replied. “X Cellant”, I respond, trying
be clever with the X from the English word ‘excellent’ (ausgezeichnet in his native
German). I don’t know if he got my reference to Germano Celant and Arte Povera; it
would have helped if I had spelled the Italian art critic’s name correctly. Not that
the use of ‘poor materials’ are especially featured in Loesch’s work, but there is
something of the everyday in his choice of subject matter (including digital artefacts
such as memory sticks and SD cards). As a contemporary artist with an attraction
to bright, vivid colour and graphical, geometric visual forms with Photoshop-
One of the larger ‘State Your Position’ (SYP) forms (measuring 210x135x4cm) has fascinated
me for several weeks. Not just as a visual artefact, but for the title too. Is this
a question, or an instruction? It could be a phrase requesting a point of view (as
in a debate or an academic essay) or it could be seeking a geographic location for
safety reasons (such as to an airline pilot or the captain of a vessel at sea). The
titles of artworks typically pertain exclusively to the subject matter, as in a portrait
or landscape work, but SYP purposely acknowledges the viewer, who thereby becomes
a more activated, self-
‘State Your Position’ presents seventeen ‘X’ forms in a configuration that will undoubtedly
engage the audience both visually and physically as they negotiate the gallery space.
Although for safety reasons none of the artworks can, after all, be positioned to
lean against the walls, using the floor as well as the wall space actively undermines
the pictorial notions that generally command wall-
When I first saw Loesch’s work in ‘Merge Visible’ at PM-
Despite being so skilfully manufactured with the aid of computer numerical control
(aka CNC) to control the movement of the cutter, and highly skilled technician assistance
in their completion, these ‘one-
As for the actual body of all of the artworks functioning in the saasfee*pavillon
space, the viewers might find themselves in a thicket of Xs purposefully displayed.
After all, X marks the spot. It’s a special place, a point of arrival -
Alternatively, Loesch might be playing with his audience, commandeering an innate
sense of humour that embraces irony. The X form, with all of its semiotic potential,
can mean anything between the poles of seriousness and triviality, sign and symbol.
Just how meaningful can a strong graphical and visual statement be? Placed in a gallery/fine
art context, do we assume profundity in whatever ‘message’ might be invoked by such
a simple form? Three of these SYP forms are almost larger than life size – wider
than stretching one’s arms wide, but about the dimensions of a grave (a sombre distraction
I cannot explain). Or is the artist undermining the hypothetical sophistication of
an audience that is attracted to contemporary art with a token of innocent banality?
Alternatively, art can be fun, like fashion clothing; at once visually entertaining
and pleasingly simple, reminding us to accept that, since Duchamp, fixed formulas
All of the SYP series are reproductions, but at the same time they are original pieces.
Each may also be a referent, a sign or reproduction of itself: a simulacrum. An original
facsimile, constituting a paradoxical state. Like language itself (any form of language
Unless the artist makes an honest statement of intent (and let’s hope he does not,
for the sake of the viewer’s imagination) it appears that a speculative environment
is made manifest by this assembly of Xs in the saasfee*pavillon space. After all,
despite the high-
Returning to the notion of audience, the context of the gallery/cultural space might
shift the balance of interpretation, from sign to symbol, in the SYP collection/series.
In Jung’s final piece of writing, aimed at a general readership: Approaching the
“… are meaningless in themselves, they have acquired a recognizable meaning through common usage or deliberate intent. Such things are not symbols.”
“What we call a symbol is a term, a name, or even a picture that may be familiar in daily life, yet that possesses specific connotations in addition to its conventional and obvious meaning... Thus a word or an image is symbolic when it implies something more than its obvious and immediate meaning. It has a wider ‘unconscious’ aspect that is never precisely defined or fully explained.”
Loesch’s SYP Xs might be playing with this definition. Can a sign, or an object, lack conceptual agency at a deeper level? Is nothing innocent or pure when considered by an audience? Can the limitations of the sign be transformed into symbolic agency, even more than the artist intends, by the audience? Arguably, whatever the artist’s intentions, the artwork (any artwork) becomes the viewer’s (singular) conception. Something as simple, apparently undemanding or even as gross as an X, is a magical sign that holds a potential for symbolism for the viewer.
I am aware that with the restrictions of the current pandemic, many visits will by necessity be virtual. If you, the viewer/reader, are experiencing ‘State Your Position’ via the internet, in what way are you at a disadvantage to the visitor to the exhibition who sees and experiences the work? You will, of course, miss the tactile qualities and the literal physical relationship (size) and the choice to look at the works from afar and simultaneously compare. Or to step so close you almost touch – and I suspect this might be too tempting for some visitors. Digital flatness and reproduction might be a ‘given’ now – but you have to see and to ‘sense’ these artworks for real.
Loesch’s adaptation of, and confident interest in digital processes and formulations confirm the position that he occupies as a contemporary practitioner. He accommodates the digital, while more than referencing the tactile visuality of form and the unashamed rapture of colour. One way to approach these works might be to follow Daniel Buren’s advice that “My painting, at the limit, can only signify itself… It is. So much so, and so well, that anyone can make it and claim it.”
Works transcend themselves and individual experiences let us know we are here: it’s a sign o’ the times…
Geoff Hands is an artist and writer living in Brighton, UK.
‘When Objecthood Turns into Subjecthood’ from The Return of the Human Figure in Semiocapitalism (Sternberg Press, 2011)
Karl G. Jung
‘Approaching the Unconscious -
“My painting, at the limit, can only signify itself,” he once declared. “It is. So much so, and so well, that anyone can make it and claim it.”