Smooth. Shiny. Superficial. The picture dazzles me with its many forms and an indefinable number of colours and shades. The picture repels me and at the same time draws me under its spell. Painting. Collage. Photo. Writing. Sculpture on the surface.
What is collected here?
What connections should I become entangled with? What should I not see?
Should I see anything at all or should the irritating surface lead me to other perceptions and states of consciousness?
I can see something you do not see. Is that what the artist intended?
On first glance even my feelings become vague, almost dizzy
around the themes suggested. War. Slavery. Pain. Androgyny.
Friendship and love.
I feel invited to look more deeply. Yes, even compelled.
Something in my unconscious leaves me no rest.
The picture forces me into the depths of consciousness.
Is the smooth surface a trick? Is this trick meant to bring me to my own perceptions, however superficial my first look is?
Is the surface not smooth? Perhaps I, the quickly discerning person
of the 21st century, have become a surface myself through our
Resistance is aroused in me! I am not smooth. I am not surface.
I have learnt that I must see beyond the surface, even surfaces offered me. Under every surface, the depth of life, the depth of perception and consciousness is still there. The depths often slumber hidden behind numerous pictures, colours and movements. It is a matter of discovering it.
I think of the shark which I saw before I saw the first picture. The shark is the depths and the depths are dangerous, if we believe the myths. The depths are above all dangerous when we lose awareness. The wakefulness in interacting with each other and our environment.
When I begin at the surface, looking and taking my time, I can dip into many stories.
Suddenly the picture has the effect of a mirror, with its smooth, shiny surface. A mirror that speaks to me. It tells stories from my life in pictures. A mirror that speaks to me of my life and offers me pictures which I, in my superficiality, all too often overlook in my everyday life.
I can see my soul in the depths of the mirror picture. I try to defend myself and think that here, again, an artist has put too much biographical detail onto a panel.
However, my feelings take over and my thinking becomes friendlier, clearer. I become indifferent to the world of the artist.
I can see into my soul.
I can see the things that I am happy to overlook in myself and in my world. War is not far away. It is in me and what pictures do I have that are connected to it?
Slavery is not a thing of the past. I can see it and why do I look away when I meet it?
Pain is in me already. How can I accept it and how can I transform it into a strength that can help me?
Androgyny is at first a muddled brew in my soul. I am a man and see the woman in my reflection. That is not my wife. That is me and I am female. Will the other half of the universe open up for me if I discover the feminine side of myself and bring it to the surface?
How will my encounters change? Man and woman in our society, in one picture, equally visible and of equal significance.
Friendship is black. Friendship is recognition in the other, in the different and that was art in its original meaning. Do I really want friendship with the different?
If not, do I have friends or doubles of myself? What then do I know of the world? It becomes clearer and clearer to me that my mirror image can free me from my narrowness. I can smile.
Meeting myself in this reflection has overcome my spiritual confinement and this is happening in a pleasant way.
The energy of the picture, conveyed through forms and colours, calms me. Takes me into its arms. Embraces me.
The artist is generous. He wants me to look into my mirror and grow.
I see love and I see the power of loving in my mirror image.
I have to allow that. That is what the artist must have wanted and what art must allow, that it is a matter of love and love alone when we meet each other as people.
One task of art is to keep us looking at all the pictures and stories offered to us today.
We should not let ourselves be led by smooth surfaces.
We should use them as mirror images and discover in ourselves the pictures and stories which we see when we look for them and which allow us to grow.
Christian Jacobs, July 2006.
Like the lyrics to this standard torch song, the images of Udo Rein's latest mixed media images ring in one's head as an anthem to the remains of the day.
For no matter how invigorating the experience may have been, what is left in the end is the shell, the memory, the ghost of what was once so visceral and alive. An abandoned truck. A sexy girl. An empty bottle.
What was and what could have been, what will forever go unsaid, and what can never be said in words alone.
Technically, the idea of blurring the line between photography, painting, film and collage is nothing new under the sun. But Rein does it in such a way as to create flashbacks of what were once a heightened sense of awareness, a satori of imagery, vivid and yet otherworldly, however fleeting at the time, but gone now forever.
The artist is a philosophical cross between Henri Bergson and Marcel Proust, toying with the difference between what is past and what remains etched in one's mind forever, or at least on one's retina. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said "You cannot step into the same rive twice". Bergson's retort: "You can't step into the same river once" finds a home in Udo Rein's psyche, as he gives us snapshots from his panoramic nonstop journey through an 'elan vital' like no other.
And in a Proustian way, even though the medium is visual only, we hear the soundtrack in our head, smell the excitement and the perfume, taste the street food and the liquor. But the art of Udo Rein is not only meant to excite the senses, it is to confound the mind as well, for in the end, the carousel horses leap from their earthly bounds, escaping to greener pastures. The carcasses of vintage automobiles stare back as sentinels in a sacred landscape. The beautiful women nod seductively, with a homage to Botticelli. They say that an artist's job is to teach us how to look.
The camera sees images only. But Udo Rein looks at the world not only as a camera does, but as an X-ray machine or an MRI would, seeing beneath the skin, straight to the bones and the flesh, the healthy tissue and the not so healthy tissue. He knows where to put the frame as well.
Too wide angle and we miss the detail...too close up and we miss the context. So as life passes before us as on a giant movie screen, we have choices to make. We may choose to be actors or spectators, directors or producers, but we either accept our role or shake our fists at the sky in futile protest. In the end, we write our own script subconsciously enough, but choose the ending we deserve. The credits roll. The theme music plays...
"The Party's Over", but the highlights are embedded in our memory, etched in stone, or celluloid, or canvas.
Udo Rein, the impresario, doesn't give us the coming attractions. That would be too easy. He is more interested in the still shots that will live forever, plucked from the feature film of his life and perhaps everyman's. You may not be able to step into the same river once, but you can savor the moment forever.
So don't get up to buy any popcorn or soda. You may miss the best part.
Robert Levy, Los Angeles. Ca., USA, 2013
on the occasion of:
Udo Rein, Solo Exhibition "Carousel Tropez"
If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable, but for us who know even a breeze is precious.
(Rainer Maria Rilke)
Udo Rein’s work begins with a video documentation which is the result of several weeks, months and even years of work. He mostly films scenes from lost urban contexts, cities whose sadness he has been observing so as to find intrinsic similarities between them. It’s a process which takes place at different levels: from films to film stills and from these to collages, mostly on wood. The pictured subjects and the colours, along with their varying environments, are predominant. There’s not much hope in his telling, provided hope is meant as opening to a world different from the one described. Rein waits and observes with a low-profile glance asking himself and us what’s going on, never pretending to give a lesson or showing the way for the future. He denounces depressing socio-cultural contexts within degraded environments, like some modern traveller who’s searching for the tragic marginality of present day in different corners of the world. He investigates the underground and suburban world as an example of our society’s many contradictions. A way of redefining the border between a sustainable and unsustainable world as well as the difficult relationship between them. The mediation of filming, trough the use of filters and audio perception, lets the slow-motion sequences of people and places become the background of a temporality suspended between every-day drama and aesthetic stimulation. It’s an opening of emotions, both of memory and of illusionary transit, with signs of escape from reality re-processed without any polemical spirit.
The subject of the German artist’s search are the homeless, the maladjusted, the nomads with their way of inhabiting our time. It’s a world dominated by contrasts and distress. As for instance in Gazela, Belgrade, among the Sinti and the Roma, which have always been disliked and always lived in conflict with the surrounding world. The heresy according to which the Gypsies are a silent enemy, the only responsible of our society’s discomfort.
Udo Rein offers us the chance of a fascinating challenge, the one of giving up our commonplaces, overcoming our prejudice, thus approaching the only really global community, which tenaciously embodies values and relationships we have radically rejected.
The cages in which the Nomad camps are usually located lay in the city outskirts, industry zones or highway junctions, if not some land near waste disposal sites. Places in which, in the best case, you feel like a prisoner. Nobody is going to invest in such places or bring them out, nobody is going to fell free here. It is both sad and sweet to look at the Gazela market under the bridge, in the rain. A market where you can exchange almost anything. Old shoes, clothes, books, brushes, irons, rusty pots, mouldy sofas, broken toys. Even used beauty cream. It’s a condition of severe poverty and humiliation, which is endured with suffering and resignation. It will always be difficult for a Roma living in a camp to find a job, as it will always be embarrassing for a child or teenager to reveal where he/she lives, to become friends with other kids. The women and the kids are the true protagonists of Gazela. Not only in Serbia, but also in Italy and in the whole of Europe there are signs of intolerance against a world which is held as an example of the negative, upsetting our collective identity.
With this reconstruction, which differs from classic video documentaries because of its unique testimony and view, Udo Rein offers us the chance to overcome our indistinct silence and to witness the ambivalent and disturbing solitude of an entire people. The Rovereto exhibition includes, besides the film ‘Gazela’, also a comprehensive photo-documentation as well as several collages. Ljubav (love), Majka, Nada 2, Calle del Mando, Ciganski, Davo, Osveta, Gazela, Pepeo and others.
Franco Fadda, 2012
In his 2006 article about the works of Udo Rein, Christian Jacobs said: "Slavery is not something of the past. I can still see it, but why do I turn away my eyes every time I come across it?"
So, for a long time, this is what Udo Rein has been committed to (forty years ago we would have spoken about his engagément): to make us think and make us understand that modern Slavery exists, and that it might be worse than the historic one as it takes place within democracy but being caused by poverty, forcing people into boundaries which cannot be overcome because of our conformist society.
That’s how this search on a true ghetto called ‘Gazela’ was born. It is located in the outskirts of Belgrade, where a Sinti community lives (but we should say survives), alone against everyone. Udo filmed and pictured for days and days the Sinti-children of this pseudo-village as they are trying to make some money at a poor flea market, reprocessing then his photographic material with his write-and-paint.
He repaints but he also uses the collage technique, as well as graffiti, thus expressing rage, negative energy, the will to let everything explode ... but, after all, also expressing the poetry that there might be in a glance, in an tender gesture stolen from all the surrounding hate, refusal and oppression.
This goes beyond the sculptures by Jeff Koons or the artificial paintings by Kostabi. There’s no limelight here, no plastic smiles or silicon boobs. This is about flesh and blood, about children’s lives so poor that they can’t even be called an existence. Despite this, with all the possible and impossible gentleness (considered what a big man he is), thanks to his photography and his multimedia reprocessing Udo managed to let us catch both the atrocity and the love which coexist in this gulag of the contemporary.
This exhibition by Udo Rein, which takes place at the Bilblioteca Civica di Rovereto (Rovereto Town Library), confronts us with a ‘civil’ artistic experience, which is the result of a search about a world of marginalization and refusal, and which gives birth to an extremely captivating vision.
It is at the same time poetic and extreme, lyric and dramatic.
Rein sure doesn’t stay on the surface of things, as it is not only a journey for catching the contradictions of our economic system; and it’s not only an accusation of the power which ignores what’s going on in these places where men, women and children survive inhuman conditions.
It’s mainly an act of poetry, it’s the social and aesthetic commitment of an artist for making us a proposal and trying to change the social system.
It’s sure not the solution of the problem and it’s not only a denouncement: as a man of today, as a man of images, Rein carries along the burden of what he sees.
Fragments of lives and stories, film stills, moments which leave a mark and which Rein reprocesses and re-transfers to us as a call for the acknowledgment of poetry as the only and absolute value capable of guiding us in this chaos, in this scenario so full of contrast and incertitude.
Manager of the Istituto delle Arti di Trento e Rovereto
Director of the "G.Tartarotti" Rovereto Town Librar
"The 11th edition of the Music (Art and Short Film) Festival in Oristano and other centres of the region in the spirit of 'Clandestino' ('Clandestine') includes concerts, exhibitions, debates, screenings of short films and counts on the presence of important names coming from the world of music and art such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Roberto Fonseca, Keith Brown, Sabina Guzzanti or Udo Rein. The festival aims to unravel not only the social dimension of life as a clandestine, but also the cultural, artistic and creative aspects of it. For this occasion Michelangelo Pistoletto's 'Love Difference Table', a symbol of peace and cultural integration, will be exhibited at Oristano in order to host several meetings and debates, focusing on clandestines' role and influence in contemporary art."
The good thing about life is to be alive.
faces+places, film 2006
This quote from the film faces+places by Udo Rein, alias ReDo, comes from the context of the stripe series 2006. The statement, one of the few spoken in this film, seems to be characteristic of the mood of the film. The works of the stripe series 2006 show fragments of stories, experiences and scenes and a new juxtaposition of them creates new stories. The film and the panels take the observer off into complex structures and unknown stories.
The catalogue shows a selection of Udo Rein's stripe series 2006 and gives an insight into the working methods of the artist and the works themselves created in 2006. As in the past few years, the panels arise out of a kind of cascade principle: objects found and collected from journeys, memories and situations held fast by the camera in photo or film, are processed into a film or translated into panels, put together from sequences of film, notes and objects found on location.
The pieces on wood in the stripe series 2006 are connected to each other with vertical and horizontal stripes which firstly show how the panels belong to each other and secondly convey mood through colour. The collection of ideas for the panels was predominantly made in 2005; memories which the artist accumulated on journeys were translated into films and photos. The collage allows an assimilation of different materials and invites the observer to different levels of access through this creative transposition. The works, which describe a real or fictional situation invented by Udo Rein, are complete in themselves.
In this way Kim lost tells a story: of a picture of a woman, a pair of shoes perhaps left carelessly by their wearer in the grass, both included with a car door, a photo taken in Cuba and the rear part of a car whose wheel is formed from the repeated representation of the pair of shoes. Nothing is what it appears to be. Where is Kim?
The text in the picture is a quotation from Nelson Mandela and expresses the dramas which were happening in south African prisons during his time there: prisoners who were used to dry out the extreme dampness of the walls of the cell with their bodies and body heat.
A collection of vivid contrasts are represented in a complex way in this work, they arose from ideas whose source the artist found on journeys to Cuba and Ibiza. The quotation brings the merciless destruction of a country like South Africa to the forefront.
The film created within this series shows sequences from the journeys on four stripes which run parallel but in opposite directions. People on the move, walking, the parade of uniformed young men in Cuba returning from an early morning announcement by Fidel Castro, a laughing young woman in a night scene from Ibiza, a security man ... sequences which pass like the film of a life in strips. Before death, it is said, your life flashes before your eyes, high points and low points. Is it really true?
Contrasts are a main theme in Udo Rein's work. Opposites are placed next to one another and questioned. Juxtapositions with which the artist chooses to express his ideas could not be more contrasting: Cuba, Ibiza, power, decay, regime, dictatorship, desire, energy, facade, strength, worry, war, death are shown as social inclinations in all their possible and diverse variations. Intensity is strongly expressed. The awareness of his environment sparks off powerful impulses in him, as the artist says himself, and leads to new works.
Udo Rein's works pay attention to personal, fictional and invented, but also current inter-cultural, events of our time and puts them to discussion juxtapositions full of contrasts. It can be seen how close the themes lie to one another despite apparent discrepancies and on what a narrow line thinking and being sometimes move on. The works unmistakably emphasise what may be real, what apparent; their messages can even move us, painfully at times. War, death and dictatorship lie nearer to the modern societies of fun and consumption than we thought and also hoped.
The representation of a moment, a situation, a mood or even the telling of a story is what moves Udo Rein in the choice of his themes. Unexplained and also unsolved stories challenge the artist to seek an individual solution. The pieces of puzzle are thus put together into the own story or experience of the observer and become a challenge to take up or work on topics in a new way.
Such a lonely little girl in a cold, cold world
Falco, Jeanny (1985)
HF1G423, a sober series of letters and numbers, Ministerio de Justicia, HAVANA and MURDER. Above it, a vulgar open, female mouth, relaxed tongue against the teeth, erotic in its softness and yet strangely lifeless. On the right edge of the picture we can see the face of a young woman in various close-ups, dismembered and painted over, the dark curls, the unfocused eye and again the open mouth, painted red like that of a cheap slut. The fragments of the picture arranged in a circle seem to turn anti-clockwise; they drive the observer's gaze around. The eye jumps restlessly from mouth to nose, from mouth to eye and back again and like a projector puts the individual pieces together in a sequence of pictures. You feel reminded of the fast pace of a psycho thriller where the tension builds and the eye gazes full of horror on something incredible, in a flash focuses on it again and tries to take it in. The same principle of repetition is found in the left half of the 100 x 100cm picture. On the lower part of the picture the observer's gaze is directed into a great distance on two provocative pink-white shimmering stiletto shoes. They seem to have been left carelessly in the wet grass and, as if to emphasise their essential importance, we find them again further up on the right of the picture.
The shoes in the wet grass suggest an unexpected and unsettling find one morning, a remainder of the previous night that brings a subtle threat to daylight. A similar situation is found at the beginning of David Lynch's film "Blue Velvet" (1986) when Jeffrey Beaumont finds an amputated ear in the grass and is subsequently drawn further and further into a mad, never quite comprehensible story of brutal violence and sexual perversion. Of course, Rein's scene also poses the question of where the owner of the shimmering shoes is; perhaps she went home barefoot the previous night and, if so, why didn't she take her shoes with her? The idea that a few steps further, the woman is sitting in the grass, resting, will hardly occur to the watcher. The fragments of text repeated several times in the picture, Ministerio de Jusitcia/TRIB. PROV. POP./CIUDAD de la HABANA/MURDER/ R.M.T. TON. 4,/TARA 1.600 KS, include key words which could have been taken from a police observation reports. We are thus on the trail of a violent crime and find ourselves immediately in the role of Jeffrey, who, fascinated with the twilight of the underworld, becomes a detective.
"KIM LOST-WAR" takes up a classic theme in the history of art, music and literature: love and death. One of the most well known examples from music is Franz Schubert's (1797-1828) string quartet "Death and the Maiden" (1824-1826), in which death becomes a courting lover: Give me your hand, you lovely, gentle thing!/I'm a friend and have not come to punish you./Have courage! I am not wild,/you shall sleep softly in my arms! Today's pop music, too, occasionally touches on the theme of the fatal lover. The red mouth here stands, as it often does, for the erotic power of seduction of the woman. Thus, in Kylie Minogue's and Nick Cave's "They Call Me The Wild Rose" (2002) the murderer and victim join together in a duet full of seductive and morbid beauty. Here it is the red mouth of the innocent Eliza Day who arouses the passions of a psychopath. He proves his love for her in an oppressively romantic staged act of murder on the bank of a river.
A song which is a particularly good comparison with "KIM LOST-WAR" is Falco's "Jeanny!" (1985), which reached top places in the hit lists of 1986 and yet was extremely controversial, being seen as an understated aesthetic presentation of a sexual murder. Here is the red mouth again, which at the very beginning attracted the attention of the man: Your lipstick is smudged/You bought it and/And I have seen it/Too much red on your lips/And you said "Don't come on to me"/But I saw through you (...). At this place the distorted perception of the perpetrator becomes obvious; he interprets a clear rejection from the woman as a ploy. Afterwards you wonder mistrustfully: Why is Jeanny with this man at all? Why is she lying alone on the ground of an evening forest? And where is her shoe?
Jeanny, come, come on
Get up - please, you'll get wet through
It's late, come - we've got to get away,
out of the wood, you understand?
Where's your shoe, you lost it,
when I showed you the way.
Who's lost? Yourself?
Myself? Or, or, we, ourselves, both?
At the end of the song a newsflash is blended in, reporting the dramatic rise in missed persons. According to police information, the last missed person is a nineteen year old girl, who presumably has fallen victim to a crime. Although a name is not given, we assume from the context given that it must be Jeanny. Our suspicion that a crime has occurred seems to be confirmed when the newsreader reports: "JEANNY LOST". Yet, despite all, we never become quite certain, as is similar in Rein's picture. Our imagined picture solidifies merely through a certain conclusiveness of suggestive stimuli.
The highly emotional connection of "Sex & Crime", included in the sober records of an actual police report, is known to us from all kinds of news media, which must compete for the attention of its consumers every day: whether it's the sensational headlines of the tabloid press, the shimmering glossy magazine or the news magazines of private television and Internet companies. One popular method of creating tension in television news is the "breaking news", which burst with unmissable explosiveness over the current report. They satisfy the watchers' desire for sensation and therefore provide great entertainment value. They also give the impression of being constantly informed at once of all the important developments in the world. The competition between different strands of news, characteristic really of the information structure of the Internet favours however the distraction of the viewer rather than sustained explanation.
Rein's works have much in common with the picture language of film and especially with that of news broadcasts. In his "Stripe Series", which he has been working on since 2002 and which includes "KIM LOST-WAR" the artist analyses the language of colours in television programs and uses them as impressions of colour in painting. The red stripe found in the upper part of the picture of "KIM LOST-WAR" thus quotes the presentation of Breaking News in news broadcasts from CNN (Cable News Network). These are also inserted in a red stripe across the screen. In addition to this, the artist uses still scenes photographed from the screen of self-made sequences of film created on journeys all over the world. In this way, the stiletto shoes from the opening sequence of his short film "Stripe Series 2006" appear in scenes of people from widely differing places - Ibiza, Cuba, Valencia, Brussels, amongst others - in four horizontal, parallel stripes running opposite to one another and underlaid with original sound play.
Rein releases the individual pictures of the celluloid strip from their context, cuts them apart and mounts them in his painting to create a whole picture again. In this way he is basically adopting the working methods of an editor at the editor's desk. Yet while the latter divides the film strips of raw material for the finished film and puts them into a consciously decided order, Rein breaks up the chronological order and condenses the underlying order of pictures to the simultaneity of a single picture. Through the sequence of the process of his reception the observer again dissolves the simultaneity into sequences of movement and associative strands of stories. In this context the strategy of repetition is important; this plays an important role in quick edited films above all, to hammer home a certain message for the overwrought observer. Motifs like the red painted mouth or the high-heeled shoes thus become loaded with meaning.
In "KIM LOST-WAR", too, the observer finds it difficult to overcome the complexity of the picture. This lies not only in the carved up order of the photographic motifs but also in the high differentiation of the coloured surfaces. Rein puts different layers of paint over each other; they overlap in parts, the transparent allow the layers beneath to shimmer through, burst out, pearl away from each other and mix with each other again. Right from the undercoat acrylic and oil colour are mixed, they combine with each other at times, separate at others and thus give the effect of bursting out from one another. Over these lie sketches and collages of found materials, as well as lines of text, which emerge from the tangle of the surfaces and then disappear again like ideas from the depth of the unconscious. All these layers are finally sealed with a coat of yacht varnish or lacquer, which let the colours glow like those of a glossy magazine. The bar code in the picture, below right, is an expression of cheap mass goods and replaces the signature of the artist.
Some time of concentration is needed to reach a half-way stable ordering of the connections between the pictures. Only after some time do you recognise, on the left, a large drawing of a lorry which Rein made in Havana. It can well be fitted in to the existing constructed story of the murdered woman. Yet the lines written in charcoal seem to come from a completely different context; horizontally over the picture runs the text: IN 1964 WE FROZE, ask anybody, we froze as if we were in an/Icebox, from morning to evening./WE FROZE, FROZE, FROZE all the time/AT NIGHT WHEN WE WERE SLEEPING. The technique of repetition plays an important role here, too. It lends the text something insistent, yet without leading to a clarification of the mysterious content. We understand only that in 1964 some people must have been quite cold.
These lines of text are actually excerpts from an explanation exhibited in the museum of the former prison on Robben Island. Numerous political prisoners of the Anti-Apartheid movement were accommodated here, e.g. Nelson Mandela (*1918). Rein had photographed the text on a visit to the national memorial. One prisoner had made clear the harshness of conditions: The stonework of the cells was so damp that the inmates of the rooms actually "dried it out by living there". The fact that such accommodation is not only not particularly pleasant but also, in the long term, unhealthy, is obvious. The text thus tells of the suffering of physical violence in a political context. The aspect of the influence of physical violence again connects the report, as absurd as this may at first seem, with the red mouth and the shoes, as long as we remain here with the assumption of a violent crime. The coldness of the prison dungeon becomes an expression of a coldness in emotions and refers to a "cold", therefore cruel world, as Falco also uses as a metaphor in his ironic refrain - Such a lonely little girl in a cold, cold world. The overall view of contexts which do not really belong together and are heavily morally loaded relates also to the sales-promoting strategy of a news magazine which wishes to satisfy its consumers' hunger for sensation.
If war is understood as the prototypical form of physical violence, the title "KIM LOST-WAR" becomes an expression for a person who is fighting for her survival within the society surrounding her - and fails. This is a leitmotif in Rein's WAR pictures, which tell of people who suffer physical and psychological oppression, whether through the thought control of a totalitarian communist regime or through capitalist consumer forces and incapacitating overflooding of information. There is the thoughtful looking Cuban girl in "WAR-BUS" (2006), brought to Fidel Castro's speech at Revolution Square, whose cheerful national flag lies in the dirt in the bottom part of the picture, or the man in "SEPARATE-WAR" (2006), who looks like a comical Father Christmas, yet lives on the margins of existence and is almost swallowed up by the infernal black-red of the picture.
Beneath the smoothly varnished surfaces of Rein's pictures glimmers a nightmarish abyss, filled with the pain, forlornness and the insanity of human existence. This abyss can also be found in the reports of news magazines. Yet while the television viewer is largely at the mercy of a numbing flood of sensation and information, the observer of Rein's pictures can allow reflection on the strategies and the actual contents of what is shown and perhaps also the desire for the recovery of genuine humanity and personal empathy.
Dr. Eva Wattolik
from the German by Jeanne Haunschild
Although ReDo's world is at home in Germany, it is above all an American world and therefore Pop. Or rather is it Pop and therefore American? Inseparable, say, since the 1776 American Revolution, Pop and the U.S. belong together, in any case for ReDo. But why Pop 2002 in Germany?
ReDo, born in 1960 as Udo Rein, had his first sight of the world in the perhaps most important Pop decade. After first beginnings with figurative paintings, plaster and clay sculptures, light boxes with sharks and expressionistic color fields, ReDo finally found his own pop style during the 1990s in the so-called "decade of Pop Modernism" (Tempo) at the time when the pop concept exploded globally at an ever greater breakneck speed and was manifest in all art genres - from music via cinema and literature to theater - and at the same time penetrated the almost completely everyday aesthetics of media productions. Until also in Germany everything seemed to have turned Pop, from Guildo Horn to Guido Westerwelle. And then there's ReDo's birthplace in Heidelberg, Germany's hyper-romantic town on the Neckar, where on nearly every street corner a U.S. flag waves, there to remind us that Heidelberg only survived World War II almost undamaged thanks to the goodwill of tourist-interested US officers. Heidelberg, the European Headquarters of the US Army, here it was that the Geist or spirit of Eichendorff struck up a far-reaching liaison with the spirit of America almost 60 years ago. As is also the case with a grand-cousin by marriage, a GI stationed in Heidelberg, who took a grand-cousin with him to the U.S.A., whom, in turn, ReDo followed to Miami at the end of the 1970s.
And that's why Pop? In answer to our question of how he came to his pictures, ReDo answers: "I don't know myself..." And to the question why Pop Art of all things: "That's simply what was inside me." In short: ReDo's Pop Art does not come about in opposition to the American spirit but stems from it. Influenced, among others, by the painter Romann Feldmeyer (a friend of the family's whose sketchbook from Germany's Russian military campaign is now in ReDo's possession), ReDo perpetuates popular art and the American spirit in his painting via Expressionism and pixel aesthetics. Which is why, in the end, they can assert themselves also in the year 2002, that is, at a time when media art, on the one hand, and a repoliticization of art, on the other, has been the state of affairs everywhere.
A short excursion into the genealogy of Pop seems nonetheless helpful, so as to better understand the significance of Pop aesthetics in the year 2002 and perhaps also ReDo's art. Pop Art, this US urban phenomenon of the early 1960s, grew up under the capitalist and technological specifics of western industrial society, expressed itself at the first heyday of consumer affluence and very concretely reflected the American lifestyle of the 1960s. Pop Art thematized the close relationship between art and life, referred explicitly to its own historical present and, as a result, always believed euphorically in progress and was, at the same time, implicitly uptight and pessimistic, for the 1960s were - after the paralyzing climate of the 50s and especially in the U.S. - a turbulent decade: 1962 Marilyn Monroe committed suicide, 1963 JFK was shot in Dallas, 1964 the US upgraded its military commitment to the Vietnamese war, 1965 Malcolm X and 1968 Martin Luther King were assassinated, while parallel to all this the civil rights and protest movements gained in strength and expounded the very different concerns of blacks, Indians, women and students. Joan Didion, the famous representative of New Journalism, had in "Slouching towards Bethlehem" - a collection of essays published 1967 in the Saturday Evening Post on the hippies in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco - vividly captured the peculiar mood of the 1960s in America.
"The center was not holding. It was a country of bankruptcy notices and public-auction announcements and commonplace reports of casual killings and misplaced children and abandoned homes and vandals who misspelled even the four-letter words they scrawled. [...] It was not a country in open revolution. It was not a country under enemy siege. It was the United States of America in the cold late spring of 1967, and the market was steady and the G.N.P. high and a great many articulate people seemed to have a sense of high social purpose and it might have been a spring of brave hopes and national promise, but it was not, and more and more people had the uneasy apprehension that it was not. All that seemed clear was that at some point we had aborted ourselves and butchered the job, and because nothing else seemed so relevant I decided to go to San Francisco. San Francisco was where the social hemorrhaging was showing up. San Francisco was where the missing children were gathering and calling themselves 'hippies'."
In addition, in 1960 already 90% of all US households owned at least one television set, and the number of TV channels grew exponentially from six in 1946 to around 500 in 1960. Against this historic background, art developed a new objectivity, an intellectual clarity, a conceptual system and an impersonal depictive style. Artists were now occupied with consumer products and loudly professed the depersonalization and anonymity of art as well as of artists. Thus denying the artist within a mass society the status of genius.
Whereby Pop Art as a genuine US aesthetic in the 20th century was at first articulated not in America, but in England as a reaction to the postwar increase in Americanization. So it was that Eduardo Paolozzi in his 1947 collage "I Was a Rich Man's Plaything" first used the word "pop" in an ironic sense as shot or bang. This ironic but also fascinated coming to terms with the American way of life then took place in the 50s in England predominately within the circle around the painter Richard Hamilton, whose collage "Just what is it that makes today's home so different, so appealing?" contained the word Pop printed on a giant lollipop and was the title cover for the legendary 1956 London exhibition "This Is Tomorrow", considered a founding event in Pop Art. Then finally in 1958 the English art critic Lawrence Alloway coined the term Pop Art. When in 1961 the US artists Jim Dine, Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselmann and Claes Oldenburg exhibited their new, pop-type art in New York, the English word "Pop Art" was simply taken over for this new American version. What was or is crucial is that the stance so characteristic for English Pop Art of an ironic and critically distanced engagement with the phenomenon of the United States was negated, since "pop" had, or now took on, a different meaning in the US. Whereas "pop" in regards to American Pop Art can certainly be translated as "bang" and thus reflects the explosive mood of the 1960s, on the other hand in the US, Pop stands, above all, for an abbreviation of "popular", which means "well-loved" as well as "of folk origin".
The Munich scholar of American literature, Berndt Ostendorf - in his essay "Why Is American Popular Culture So Popular?"1 - has successfully dissected the complex nature of this pop culture and thus made a clear differentiation possible between the US and Europe. A differentiation that appears to be essential if Europeans want to understand the phenomenon of Pop.
On a semantic level, namely, the terms "popular" and "culture" have a completely different meaning in the US than they do in Europe. While in Europe "popular" has a traditionally negative connotation in the sense of "trivial" while "culture" is, on the other hand, understood as a "permanent mission, as the result of education, as an earned proprietorship that marks off the border to the lack of culture and illiteracy of the others", in the US, popular culture has from the beginning been seen as perfectly positive. The political order of the young American Republic is based on a "popular mandate", on the "popular sovereignty" of its citizens who choose a "popular government" in a free election. "Popular" has thus referred to the specific accomplishment of the American revolutionaries who in 1776 achieved political self-determination, thereby confirming the dignity and wisdom of the common man. And this was in no way meant as a class specification, since the educated people overall understood themselves to be "common men".
In the US, "culture" is likewise understood to be something very positive, though it is treated as something relatively informal: everyone has culture, if you understand it as that "pragmatic behavioral standard" that in principle all people - not only "citizens", but also Indians and blacks - have always possessed and always used as a natural resource. According to Ostendorf the term "popular culture" can be seen as a synonym for the "total design of a liberal American Utopia".
Accordingly, "popular culture" is THE culture in America; there is no other genuinely American one. And this pop culture is grandiose, for it is the culture of the free people of the United States. This freedom is one of the four central dogmas (next to active citizenship, populism and unconditional belief in justice). However "freedom" is meant here in more than one sense. Along with individual freedom and autonomy, freedom of speech and freedom to one's own opinion, it also means economic liberalism, which immediately, via services provided, assimilates every articulation of dissent - that as freedom of speech is an infinitely significant basic right of every American - turning potential criticism into affirmation at its earliest stage. This the critics gladly allow, since they, because they provide services as individuals among the mass, are deliberately courted. American pop culture is articulated perhaps out of a malaise and thus has a critical motivation, but it produces no real scope for development and has, above all, no power in the sense of a revolutionary, political potentiality that could seriously stand up to global capitalism. Instead it is an accomplice. At the same time American pop culture is incredibly effective worldwide, above all because it is so "sexy". It is the aesthetics of a presumed paradise, since the USA believes it is "God's own country", the promised land of universal affluence and of work-alleviating products. US Americans are born-again. On the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York is engraved: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." Pop culture is correspondingly an "authentic" formulation of this relief from oppression, in which anyone can assumably go from washing dishes to becoming a millionaire: Just do it! Andy Warhol, a classic personification of American Pop Art, very vividly brought to a head - in his book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) - the essence of such capitalism packed in an apparently "communist aesthetic": That's what's fantastic about this country. In America it is essentially the case that even the richest consumer essentially buys the same thing as the poorest. You see Coca Cola on TV and can be sure that the president drinks his Coca Cola, that Liz Taylor drinks Coca Cola - and that you too can also drink Coke! Coca Cola is and remains Coca Cola and for no money in the world can you get a Coke anywhere that's better than that which the tramp on the corner is drinking. It's always the same Coca Cola and it's always equally good. Liz Taylor knows this, the president knows this, the tramp knows this, and you yourself know it too.
However this traditional, American Pop concept has, above all since the 1960s, been opposed to the European, leftist, critical version expressed by Pierre Bourdieu or the Birmingham School, who stood for the position that Pop culture's destiny was to be deployed by the weak, the marginalized and the powerless as a means, via their cultural differences, to create free scope and liberating momentums within the politically and economically dominating system. That this has, since the 1990s, become less straightforward in Europe was noted in detail by the German Pop theorist, Diedrich Diederichsen, in his 1999 book The Long March to the Middle. The Sound and the City in the fifth chapter "The 90s, and Beyond Them Infinity - Is This Pop?"2 There Diederichsen differentiates between "Pop I (60s to 80s, specific Pop)" which was, in the end, somehow the better version, and "Pop II (90s, universal Pop)", which ousted Pop I. From the 60s to the fall of the Berlin wall, Pop I stood "for the renovation of the world that the youth and underground cultures envisioned, especially for that part of the reigning economic order that was manageable and usable: sexual liberation, English language internationality, doubt in the Protestant work ethic and the disciplinary regime it entailed, but also for minorities and their civil rights and the rejection of institutions, hierarchies and authorities. Added to this was a desire for new technologies and the cult of fame per se ('superstars'), especially when prominently staged by Andy Warhol as it had become possible under the conditions of the ever more densely woven web of the international media." Pop in the sense of Pop II, on the other hand, has become "the conceptual passe-partout of an ill-defined society ...whose invasion no terrain can parry," and which, above all, goes along with an "...inclusive but - via heterogeneous forms - ideologically homogenized, new public forum." After his very complex and differentiated analysis, Diederichsen comes to the conclusion, despite all his criticism, that "Pop II is neither good nor bad as such." His bottom line: "Although Pop as Pop II has penetrated all public communication forms, it has however done so only in the shape of a tendency, not as a new totality. What is called for is to become engaged with this tendency in its relationship to Pop I and the old public sphere and to study and reinforce oppositional effects at this new level. Which, however, is hardly possible from outside. There's nothing for it but to go along with Pop II. Never was the production of significance so important, as the raw material of the market as well as the ferment of society - accessible therefore in principle to a new politicization. Yet, at the same time, never was it so unimportant, so expendable, so fleeting, so without resonance."
It is exactly at this Pop cultural interface where the American spirit and European social criticism come together in the social immanence of the 90s as a decade of global players in a frenzy of fusion and a demand for thematic formulation and alignment, and it is here that ReDo's Pop Art seems to be at home. Breeching the gap between American Pop Art of the 1960s and a Pop Art of the globalized present seems to be what ReDo is managing to do in that he takes up, carries on and extends the thread.
At the time when racial unrest was almost driving the US towards civil war, Andy Warhol in 1964 raised Jane Holzer, a white New York girl from the scene and, at the same time, the protagonist in a Warhol silent movie, to the status of his first "superstar" - out of protest that the underground film could have no stars and in order to outdo Hollywood at least semantically. In the meantime, it is hard to imagine a Hollywood vocabulary without this term. And Tiger Woods, a golf player who is thought to be invincible and who apparently earns considerably more than the Bayern Munich football club and Michael Schumacher together, has long ago been called by journalists a "super-super-superstar": a black American with Caucasian, Indian, Thai and Chinese ancestors, brought up as a Buddhist, whom Nike immediately latched onto as a perfect global advertising figure, since he promised, like no one other, to win over the youths of all ethnic and religious groups to the "just do it" spirit. For this reason, Tiger Woods, like no one else, embodies in such perfection the up-to-the-end-of-the-90s transformation of the Pop concept. The first picture from ReDo's Time Panel series of the newsmagazine's covers that he worked into collages of oil and acryl onto square wooden panels was, significantly, "time tiger tale", a collage of a Tiger Woods Time cover.
ReDo takes up, carries on and extends. Instead of Warhol's superstars, ReDo envisions the super-super-superstar. ReDo can no longer produce the title image of a movement, but he can help himself to genuine covers and by this ingenious stratagem lead PopArt directly back to the heartbeat of our time. In the post-human world of a biotech era, ReDo brought to a head depersonalization and anonymity, especially that of the artist and, especially in his Time Panels, wrote his signature in bar codes cut from product packages.
At the same time, however, the American spirit is constantly present and ongoing, above all in the form of the American flag, which repeatedly turns up in ReDo's pictures from the past ten years. The flag has even reached Mars, as in the Time Panel "time invasion USA", although its red is surprisingly blurred, almost as if it had burst into flame... Even where ReDo has gone ever more into abstraction, as in "time cholesterol" or in the "stripe series", you feel inevitably reminded of it: action (or "Egg-tion") painting in red, white, blue and yellow - an exploded flag? And how far is it from the "stripes" to the "star series", which were done one after the other? Really once again the stars and stripes? It seems - not only for the viewer of ReDo's pictures - to be impossible to escape from the American spirit. But is it not the case that even after 9/11 we are living in the midst of US Pop culture, even if the center holds even less? We are made conscious of this fact once more by ReDo's reintegration of the American theme of Pop into an art context.
from the German by Jeanne Haunschild
What is the artist’s job? To find beauty? Sometimes, if we are lucky. To feed the soul? Maybe, if we can channel the sublime even for a split second or two. The argument could be made that it is more often than not to show us how to look, where to look and what to look at. Monet, when asked to explain his haystack paintings is said to have responded “Shadows aren’t always gray”. So what should we make of Udo Rein’s epic “Rest Area” project? Rein points out still frames and snippets from his epic journey along Route 66 and highlights them with mixed media in his trademark style. What is the fascination with these desolate places where lonely travelers pause to snack, empty their bowels and bladders and maybe grab a nap before continuing along the path to nowhere? Why rest areas? Because they are the pit stops in our race to some vague finish line? Because they are the pauses in between the action, like the pauses in between the notes in a Mozart piano concerto? Or is it the idea that the journey is it’s own reward? That the spaces are just as important as the quarter notes. That the “rest areas” of our lives are the markers along the way, dotting the landscape of our existence like sentinels on an abandoned battlerfield. Homer had it right. He gives Odysseus nothing but detours and rest areas so that it takes him twenty years to finally make it back to Ithaca. Udo Rein is our modern day Odysseus. He is on the journey back to Ithaca, his “Heimweg”, and it may take him another twenty years to get there, but the end is not his reward. The road is a thing unto itself, and so he points out the “rest areas” and says “Look here, shadows aren’t always gray”.
I'll be your mirror
by Christian Jacobs
The Party's Over
by Robert Levy
Udo Rein's Work
by Franco Fadda
by Maurizio Scudiero
Udo Rein at Biblioteca Civica di Rovereto
"11th Music (Art and Short Film) Festival in Oristano"
by Mirela Proska
by Eva Wattolik
Genealogy of Pop
by Ania Mauruschat
by Robert Levy