ARTIST OF THE GALLERY
In his art Jos Diegel plays and entertains with themes concerning social-political questions and normative-narrative structures. To him his body of work is a happy and a-disciplinary experimental science, where he negotiates and constructs situations by means of film, installation, painting, performance and literature. Jos Diegel lives and works in Offenbach am Main and Berlin.￼
• HfG Offenbach am Main (2010)
2015 Theater – Young Artists in Residence Oldenburg/Flausen, Theaterfförderung – Kulturamt Frankfurt 2014 Project and travel grant New York Friedrich Ebert Stfiftung, Film Screenplay grant, Hessische Filmförderung (HFF) 2013 Bodensee Art Fund residency, 2012 grant of Institut für Alltagsforschung, Hessischer Film Award Feature Film Nominée and Medienboard Berlin First Steps 2012 Nominée, 2011 Residency at Theater Mannheim, intern. Summeracademy Salzburg, scholarship city of Salzburg, Invitation of Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, Art Award Frankfurter Künstlerhilfe, 2010 2nd Theater Award Theater Augsburg, Schrankstipendium, Offenbach, 2009 German Film Award Exp. Film Nominée.
EXHIBITIONS / PROJECTS / LECTURES / SCREENINGS (SELECTION)
2004 – 2015 exhibitions, projects, lectures and screenings at Paraflows, Künstlerhaus Vienna, Binghamton University, Binghamton, Arse Elektronika, San Francisco, Theater Gessnerallee, Zürich, The Lodge Gallery, New York, Werkleitz, Halle, Cabaret Voltaire, Zürich, Schauspiel Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Mousonturm, Frankfurt, Schmiede, Hallein, Galerie5020, Salzburg, Spark Contemp. Art Space, Syracuse, HfbK Städelakademie, Frankfurt, Ringlokschuppem, Mülheim a.d.Ruhr, Galerie KUB, Leipzig, Fife Maroc, Casablanca, Xin Dan Wei, Shanghai, Galerie Greulich, Frankfurt, Theater Augsburg, Augsburg, Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt, Kunstverein Frankfurt, Frankfurt, DokFest, Kassel, EMAF, Osnabrück, Berliner Kunstsalon, Berlin, Court Métrages, Clermont Ferrand, Berlinale, Berlin, Athens Video Art Festival, Athen, Full Dome Festival, Jena, Perspektive, Nürnberg, Filmfest, München, Frankfurter Filmschau, Frankfurt, Videonale, Bonn, Schauspiel Frankfurt, Visual Voice Gallery, Montreal, Art von Frei, Berlin, Week of Contemporary Art, Plovdiv and other, Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe, Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt
THE AVANT-GARDE IS ENORMOUSLY CONFUSED
The sensual exuberance, the lavish use of paint and the spontaneity of painterly gestures one first encounters in Jos Diegel’s art may well blind one to just how intensively he reflects on his role in society and on the relationship between art and politics. At first, his painting leaps out, although the range of media he uses is quite wide. It spans film, photography, performance and plays that he writes and performs.
Texts appear almost everywhere in his paintings, deliberately clumsy and large, written in paint directly onto the surface. They may seem like programmatic statements but are, nevertheless, hard to take literally. Diegel’s quoted or self-conceived declarations often refer to hackneyed clichés and ideas that relate mainly to the relationship between art and society.
“She has good legs, but she cannot paint”, for example, is a sexist attack on female artists who, unlike their male counterparts, do not display their sexual potency with the sweep of a brush. Diegel’s film title, “Größere Leinwände, längere Hälse” (Bigger Canvases, longer Necks) could be understood in this sense, even if it initially plays on the relationship between the film screen and the height of the viewer, and paraphrases Margaret Thatcher’s dictum, “bigger cages, longer chains.” This slogan for the collapse of protest movements has long since been promoted to a T- shirt motto. That all ‘stolen’ political statements are elsewhere utilised, even in contrast to their original sense, is so to speak the situation on which Diegel’s dealings with language are substantially based. How contemporary this is is all too clearly shown not least by Donald Trump’s election victory: political statements and media entertainment are hardly distinguishable from one another.
Whereas Jonathan Meese, for example, deliberately deflates the statements he often writes in his images through endless repetition and thereby heralds the ‘Dictatorship of Art’, which he apparently does not mean ironically, with Diegel it is never clear who the target of the statement is: “The avant-garde is enormously confused.” Thus what he apparently proclaims is always ambiguously questionable. Many images have several purely physical layers through multiple overpainting and overwriting. Or he paints over pictures that he has found on a flea market. And an extensive series of small-format images is painted on T-shirts that he had previously worn. The underlying text is undermined or simply negated, as is also done by sprayers and graffiti artists, whose creations are often at least outwardly similar to those of Diegel. He, himself, did not belong to this scene. His confrontation with public space and the artist’s role took place within art; he is no activist, but: “Ich mag Kunstwerke, die als Barrikaden dienen können” (I like artworks that can serve as barricades.)
This sentence, written large on a painting, is reminiscent of a political awareness directly bound up with artistic activity that one can also find in, for example, the Situationist Internationale around Guy Debord. Dada, Surrealism, Situationism and Lettrism are the four 20th century movements with which the artist feels most closely connected and which he lines up against each other in a kind of board game. Like the movable letters in Scrabble, they can deliberately create ‘false’ words, as did Lettrism, founded in 1945 by Isidore Isou, which was based on the production of meaningless, constructed words through swapping letters.
Jos Diegel sees himself in the Surrealist tradition that lived on in Situationism and Lettrism. Now and then, he also adopts examples from art history that are much older.
As the photographer, Volker Müth, was setting him up for the portrait series he was making of Frankfurt and Offenbach artists, Diegel suggested staging the portrait after Jan Vermeer’s “The Art of Painting.” Now, the model - a former model and friend of Diegel - sat at the easel while the naked artist took the model’s place. Afterwards, Diegel produced more images into which he set photographically staged, naked versions of famous men such as Yves St. Laurent and Burt Reynolds. The artist, however, is not giving up his role as a nude model, but all too clearly displaying the (male) narcissism of the artistic world.
Here, too, different layers are superimposed, albeit not physically or sensually manifested as in the paintings or occasionally in the films. Here, Diegel paints on or scratches analogue film material, or as in the exhibition’s film titled almost word for word with a Debord quote, “Boredom is counter-revolutionary”, the sound of a waterfall drowns out the text spoken by an actor, so the viewer has to read the subtitles. But do the texts reflect what the people say? Or are different layers also superimposed here?