20 August–15 October 201120 Aug–15 Oct 2011
German artist Peter Roehr died in 1968 aged just 23. During his tragically brief career, he produced a remarkable body of typographic, graphic, and film works employing appropriation and repetition. Holger Liebs argues, ‘His contemporaries did not immediately recognise the quality of Roehr’s work. Roehr’s series, with their dogged, tautological order, were in many ways so much in step with the trends of their times—among them the aesthetics of information theory, structuralism and minimal art—that their peculiarity long remained overlooked.’ Bridging the preoccupations of pop and minimalism, Roehr’s montage films, all made in 1965, looped short excerpts of found television footage: shampoo commercials, wrestlers, cars on highways, signs. Roehr wrote: ‘I change material by repeating it unchanged. The message is the behaviour of the material in response to the frequency of its repetition.’ Rhythmically reiterated, Roehr’s generic, anonymous clips take on a new affective scale; the contingent and banal becoming definitive and monumental, even mythic. On the one hand, Roehr’s films are frustrating, creating a sense time of attenuated or stuck; on the other hand, they foreground our pleasure in sheer repetition. Thanks to the Peter Roehr Archive, Berlin, and Museum of Modern Art, Frankfurt.