VOL. 3

[...] Merging the position of the artist with that of the intermediary (who called institutional interpretative claims into question), the aim was in the process to render legible the mostly invisible aesthetic, institutional, social, ideological, geographical, etcetera power, categorization, and value systems.

Klaus Scherübel’s project Melvin (1993), named after a road movie by Jonathan Demme, provides an eloquent example in this context, for it seeks to anticipate the mechanisms of (art) criticism in the sense of value-generating legend formation. Conceived in the style of a promotional campaign for an exhibition project, with no information given about the show’s actual content, full-page ads were placed in the Vienna weekly FALTER thanks to an advertising exchange arrangement with the magazine, and posters and invitation cards were circulated. The latter comprised instructions that addressed the invited guests as participants in the spirit of a sociological experiment. They were, for example, requested to appear in “smart dress” on the evening of the opening, dubbed Melvin name-day, and to pay a fifty schilling entrance fee, a sum equivalent to the cheapest cinema tickets at the time. The socioeconomic parameters and barriers of the art business thus entered into play just as much as the mostly non-articulated distinguishing features. The only artifact in Melvin was the publication Melvin Cover, an A4-format envelope used to cover a series of catalogues produced by the gallery, which were presented on a bookshelf by the entrance as “display copies.” The conventions of the exhibition catalogue were linked directly here to the repetitive logic of corporate design. This also included a symposium, promoted with seminal and fictitious celebrities from the art and fashion world of the day—such as Robert Fleck, Kasper König, the invented collector couple Donald & Mary Valese, and Vivienne Westwood, as well as Klaus Scherübel himself. The discourse of the simulacrum, so characteristic for postmodern discourse of this era, also came into play for Scherübel appropriated the titles of lectures from previous symposia on posters spread around the city and had yellow strips of paper proclaiming “Postponed until further notice” stuck across the posters a few days before the date indicated for the event. Only one of the lectures announced was ever given, a year later in Paris, under the aegis of an event organized by Fleck and entitled Melvin’s Art—temporal dramaturgy that “historicized” this in the very moment that it became a “speech act.” [...]

From: Sabeth Buchmann, “Rules of the (Im-) Possible. On the Art Practice of the Late Eighties and Early Nineties,” in Matthias Michalka, ed., to expose, to show, to demonstrate, to inform, to offer. Artistic Practices around 1990 (Vienna, mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien / Cologne, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2015); translated from the German by Helen Ferguson

"Melvin Invitation", 1993. Offset print on paper, 29,7 x 21 cm
"Melvin Cover (Display of the Inspection Copies)", 1993. Offset printed dust jackets on various exhibition catalogues, bookshelf, dimensions variable. Installation view, Galerie Theuretzbacher, Vienna, 1993
"Melvin Cover", 1993. Offset print on paper, 29,7 x 21 x 2 cm
"Melvin Symposium (Poster)", 1993. Installation view, public space, Vienna, 1993
"Melvin Symposium (Poster)", 1993. Installation view, public space, Vienna, 1993
"Melvin", 1993. Series A: 1/2, 2 invitations, offset printing on paper, 29.7 x 21 cm and 9.9 x 21 cm, 2 advertisements in the weekly paper FALTER Nr. 3/93, January 22 until 28, 1993 and Nr. 4/93, January 29 until February 4, 1993, offset printing on newspaper, 35 x 27 cm each, 4 documentation photographs, pigmented ink-jet printing, 14 x 20 cm each, 1 dust jacket, offset printing on paper, 1 enclosure, Perspex, 29.7 x 21 x 2 cm, 1 poster with mounted paper strip, offset printing on paper, 84.1 x 59.4 cm, Generali Foundation Collection – Permament Loan to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg. "Melvin Cover (Display of the Inspection Copies)", 1993/2015. Offset printed dust jackets on various exhibition catalogues (selected by Matthias Michalka), bookshelf, total dimensions variable, display design by Ken Saylor. Installation view, "to expose, to show, to demonstrate, to inform, to offer. Artistic Practices around 1990," mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna, 2015, photo: mumok/Lena Deinhardstein