Stefan Brüggemann’s work is accessible, provocative and biting; a quick idea typically conveyed in text that, in the briefest of gestures, ruptures systems of efficiency and productivity, instills a crisis of knowledge and activates an atmosphere of enquiry between viewer and piece. “It’s like when you turn off the lights and you can’t see,” he explains, “but then,gradually, you start to see shapes of things.” Works that glow in neon or grace a wall in black vinyl lettering read as follows: (THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE) (2000); SOMETIMES I THINK, SOMETHING I DON’T (2001); I CAN’T EXPLAIN AND I WON’T EVEN TRY (2003). Although the familiarity of text offers an instant and alluring engagement, the pieces offer no sense of the artist’s personality or historicity. Instead, the act of viewing and questioning the work internalizes the viewer’s gaze, setting up a conflict between the textual and mental.
Turning objects, ideas and situations on their head are a common feature of his practice. In Reverse Mirrors (2008), he fixed mirrors to a wall backwards, rejecting the viewer’s gaze completely. Hotel Hotel (2009) is Brüggemann’s first self-designed concept hotel wherein the reversed titles of well-known paintings are carved into the hotel room walls, making the situation of guests staying in the room the actual painting. This Eulenspiegel-like quality, twisting ideas to disrupt the order of things, characterizes his practice as a whole. The ‘no’ becomes an act of creation. Resisting nostalgia, Brüggemann works with contemporary materials, rejecting the traditional studio format and embracing installations in provocative locations. The textual statements that make up the bulk of his practice may mock and dismantle trends and current thinking, but they do not attempt to do away with the contemporary, but rather reinstate it.
“I think that I reflect the system very well,” he argues. “I like to play with it, force it to the limits, like stepping on the accelerator pedal of a car to see how far it goes. I belong to society. And that is what really interests me at the end: society.”
“The work is about creating a contradiction, constantly shifting, both blind and lucid. It’s a very aggressive work, very nihilistic, about negation and about the capacity of not writing and then having it in a form that’s about seduction and celebration. And I think light.”
Stefan Brüggemann (b.1975) works between London and Mexico City. Recent exhibitions include TECTONIC, DIFC, Dubai (2013), Text Pieces, Obliterated Mirrors & Tautological Paintings, Parra & Romero, Madrid (2011), Untitled (Joke & Definition Paintings), Yvon Lambert, Paris (2011) and The World Trapped in the Self (Windows For Mirrors), German Pavilion, Barcelona (2011), Where Do We Go From Here? Bass Museum of Art, Miami (2009) and Social Sculpture, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.