Artwork by Leo Zogmayer
Lives and works in Vienna and Krems an der Donau, Austria
Since Schoenherr’s Roadmap series was launched in 2007, every annual edition has included an artist’s contribution. Leo Zogmayer has made all of the Roadmap’s 2015 edition his very own specific art project, without limiting himself only to certain assigned pages. The articles of the various authors have to fit in a special classification system that has been developed by Zogmayer for Roadmap15. In essence, this system consists of a visual classification based on groups of black and white photographs of Zogmayer’s art studio, computer-based designs and drawings of his works, as well as a list of his works. Monochromatic colors – which Zogmayer uses for his glass paintings and wood objects – accompany and mark the individual fragments of Barbara Steiner’s text. Zogmayer worked together with designer Alfredo Suchomel in implementing the artist’s concept for Roadmap15.
“a) Animals belonging to the emperor, b) embalmed animals, c) trained animals, d) suckling pigs, e) sirens, f) mythical creatures, g) stray dogs, h) animals belonging in this group, i) those that tremble as if they were mad, j) animals drawn with a very fine camel hair paintbrush, k) etc., l) animals that have shattered the water jug, m) animals that, from afar, resemble flies”
This fictitious Chinese encyclopedia dedicated to the classification of animals may be found in the scriptures of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, as well as in the scriptures of the French philosopher Michel Foucault. Certain classifications seem unusual as they are based on unfamiliar criteria, while familiar classifications are very soon perceived as being self-evident. What interests Leo Zogmayer about uncommon classification systems is the fact that they can amaze people or make them laugh. In doing so, they can call into question one’s own assumptions and those things that first appeared to be self-evident.
Zogmayer’s interpretation of “Schön kommt von Schauen” (“Beauty comes from seeing”) evolves from “baren Schauen” (“Simply seeing/looking”). In addressing this issue, he takes into account that “simply seeing/ looking” from a purely scientific point of view does not exist, because each and every approach to looking is learned in some way or another. Nevertheless, simply seeing/looking, in the sense of unintentional, unbiased, and open means of seeing/looking that is placed somewhere between activity (looking) and passivity (seeing), may take place after all. However, those things that are previously known, cultural imprints, patterns, prejudices and self-limitations all too quickly muddy the simple act of seeing/looking, which – contrary to “purposive looking” – does not have “knowing” as its primary goal.
Works of art can raise awareness of “seeing/looking” and in doing so also encourage appreciation of “beauty” and/ or cause the conventions of perception to be placed under close scrutiny. They show the possibility of simply seeing/looking, a way of seeing/looking that raises the question “what if we could always look at things in this manner?” To see the “real” world or, to quote Zogmayer’s painting, THE WORLD AS IT IS, appears to be an act that is profoundly utopian and yet at the same time is expressed in a very tangible way – namely, in the sense of continuously striving to overcome a perception that is shaped by concepts and to free oneself from prejudices, patterns and selflimitations. To see the world as it is has been the driving force for many artists and philosophers for decades. However, the possibility or impossibility of doing so has been heavily debated not only in the neurosciences, in psychology and in cultural studies, but also in the field of arts itself.
Leo Zogmayer interprets beauty in his own way: “‘schön’ (beautiful) is based on ‘schauen’ (to see/to look), and indicates seeing/looking without assessing: everything (visible) is beautiful”. In these lines, beauty is linked with perception, entirely in keeping with the Greek sense of the word Aesthesis = perception. Linked as it is to sensual perception and feelings, beauty may thus be found not only in arts, but everywhere. With this point of view, Zogmayer vehemently disassociates himself from limiting the concept of beauty solely to art. Art may very well make people sensitive to beauty; however, the artist is concerned to clarify that beauty should not bind all attention to itself. Placing the painting “beauty”, a large-scale reverse glass painting, in different positions helps to make this clear: This fragile glass painting – which is perhaps as fragile as the realization of beauty itself – stands or lies on the ground and/or leans against a wall. Set up in front of a glass wall, it enables a look at another artist’s in-situ work behind it. In another installation, the glass painting is leant up next to a white pedestal, holding another one of Zogmayer’s objects named “layering” – which is indeed a “layering” of white veneered pressboards. While the layering, positioned on the pedestal, seems to be “elevated” to an extent, leaving its profane origin behind, beauty remains on the ground. In a third instance, beauty is lying on the magnificent floor of a city palace from the 17th Century – as if simply forgotten. In all of the three examples described above, the painting enters into a relationship with its surroundings – with the work of another artist, with the carefully layered pressboards, and/or with the majestic palace. Beauty is reflected in Zogmayer’s objects, in the works of others, in space and in materials that so far may not have been regarded on the basis of aesthetic criteria. Beauty “flashes” like an “elusive added value of the perceivable reality” (Zogmayer). This requires engaging oneself, letting go, letting things happen, seeing/looking and being astonished.
The Chinese languages knows the term 無爲 / 无为(wú wéi). 無 may be translated as “not” or “without”, 爲 as “acting” or “action”. The term does not refer to the entire absence of acting, but rather a limited form of it, which constantly adapts to situations in an intuitive manner. The characters 無爲 appear – somewhat paradigmatically – in a number of Zogmayer’s works. In addition to Taoism, the artist is fascinated by the open and “soft” character of the Chinese language. As a significant example, he points to the Chinese term 东西 (dong xi), a dissyllabic term for thing / object / matter. Dong xi consists of the characters dong = east and xi = west. The term thus links opposites within one term, making the individual character “ambiguous”. “The thing in this instance is not an object that has hard contours, is strictly delimited and ends at its edges. It seems to hardly have any substance. The thing, indeed every thing, every aspect of reality is seen more as a process, as movement, as open potential” (Zogmayer)
In his works, Leo Zogmayer intentionally creates gaps when it comes to the attribution of meaning – for example, through syllable divisions (FOR GET) – or inherent inconsistencies – such as through the mixture of contrasting terms (CHANGE / NO CHANGE). This approach helps create a space beyond the scope of discursive acquisition – or even more precisely, beyond the scope of conceptual delimitation. One could absolutely say that Zogmayer is applying linguistic means to cast out his skepticism regarding the verbalization of arts. This may well explain his appreciation of Heidegger, “to unlock language with linguistic means”. However, it is not only at a linguistic level that these gaps and contradictions may be found: The artist also links words/word order/ sentences and materials in a charged relationship, for example in a voluminous aluminum cylinder that reads “nothing is visible” on one side and “nothing is invisible” on the other. The titles of his exhibitions are also consciously used to create divergences between word/painting/ object: in the exhibition “The world is in order”, Zogmayer showed an arrangement of pictorial objects performing various variations of classifications. Moreover, the titles of exhibitions also appear as the titles for art works and for Zogmayer’s own texts – not least for the reason that this enables the artist to avoid a clear attribution of titles and art works and to succeed in creating relations between different works, times and places.
Roadmap15 does not show any single example of Leo Zogmayer’s work in an isolated way: Firstly, because there is an alphabetically arranged list of those of his art works that directly or indirectly appear in this edition; secondly, the photos of Zogmayer’s studio create visual relations between the works of art, but also to the working utilities, packaging and the room itself. The computer-based designs are drafts that were subsequently realized or that are still in the process of being realized. Accordingly, these drafts are in relation with their different realizations and do not exist independently from them. In the Roadmap itself, the individual pages are put into relation with one another, but also with the essays of the authors, who at the time they were writing did not know anything about Zogmayer’s contribution. It will be interesting to see where and how – by coincidence – contextual relations might arise, despite the fact that this might at the first glance not always seem likely between law, the economy and art. This continuous creation of interrelations is significant for Zogmayer’s working method. His works adapt to their respective architectural and social surroundings and communicate with them. Greatly reduced in color and form, transparent – translucent and permeable – they bind as much attention as necessary in order to be perceived as artistic composition, but at the same time as little as necessary in order to transfer the received attention to their respective surroundings.
The relationship between art and the economy is ever changing. In modern times, this relation was, at least in the western countries, initially characterized by distrust, even hostility. The claim that art exists in a space unrelated to economic considerations motivated the work of many artists over the course of decades. Ever since the economic potential of art and/or of alliances between art and the economy has itself become an issue, drawing a line between artistic and economic interests has become increasingly difficult. Nowadays, artists are more and more confronted with questions related to the appropriation and use of their works for purposes that might contradict the artists’ own intentions. However, opportunities also arise to redefine and sound out the relationship between art and the economy with the aim of encouraging mutual enrichment. Leo Zogmayer’s contribution to the Roadmap should be viewed as an attempt to introduce artistic considerations into the economic sphere and in related fields. Hence when it comes to sharpening one’s perception in general, becoming more open towards beauty in the sense of a “hardly tangible added value of the perceivable reality” (Zogmayer), this also includes the awareness of the ever changing relationship between art and the economy.
Leo Zogmayer was born in 1949 in Krems in the province of Lower Austria. He studied at the Conservatory for the Applied Arts in Vienna between 1975 and 1981. Apart from various exhibitions showing his work in the most diverse constellations, Zogmayer has been realizing public art projects since the end of the 1980s. One of these projects was, for example, the large-scale word sculpture JETZT (Vienna, 1999), or CONCRETE POETRY (Tübingen, 2004). At the interface to design, Zogmayer has also created various liturgical spaces. At present, he is working together with the architectural office Sichau & Walter for a competition regarding the St. Hedwig’s Cathedral in Berlin. Their jointly drafted proposal won first prize in the open competition for the realization of the redesign of the cathedral’s interior space. In September 2014, Zogmayer invited the art historian Barbara Steiner to write a text for his contribution to the Roadmap.
With her text, Barbara Steiner responded directly to the artist’s concept. Her contribution is an associative sequence of text fragments linked to each other by key words. These terms, which are significant for Zogmayer’s work, make it possible to approach to the artist’s oeuvre without any codifications. Barbara Steiner, who was born in Dörfles, Lower Austria in 1964, works as a freelance curator and author in a variety of settings; in 2014 those consisted of Vienna, Amsterdam and Leipzig. From 2001 until 2011, Steiner was the director of the foundation “Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst” (GfZK / “Gallery for Contemporary Art”) in Leipzig. Apart from monographs of artists, Steiner has also published various thematic books on museums, the relationship between architecture, design, art, between public and private, as well as between art and economy.