Zvonko Makovic

Note for Darko Fritz
[on fax works . Error Reports]

In its most concise aspect, the latest exhibition of Darko Fritz could be described as an environment filled with verbal messages. The sole exhibits are long strips of telefax prints.The sentences which appear on these prints are simple, so simple in fact that they are reduced to a formula much like the messages commonly found on computers and other electronic devices: OUT OF MEMORY / UNKNOWN QUALITY / WRONG REVISION LEVEL / FLAT VOLUME / NO MORE LOCKS / CANNOT RENAME / VERSION NON POSITIVE / AUTHORISATION CONTINUE / ATTEMPT TO LOCK SOME OF AN ALREADY LOCKED RANGE. As a sort of explanation of the exhibited works, a NO VALUE print appeared during the opening from a fax machine installed in the space.

Although the words and sentences address themselves directly to the viewer very much like signals and are the most conspicuous characteristic of Fritz's exhibition, it cannot be denied that the long paper strips of telefax prints also have certain visual qualities. Moreover, it could be said that every sentence has a recognisible and individualised visual attire. Letters, as well as the squares on which the particular letters appear, vary from one print to another. This discretely enhanced visual, almost pictorial feature may make us think that these are in fact typographical images of some kind, But it would be naïve and entirely wrong to believe that the author uses a computer of a telefax modem in order to create images, These, or graphics in the conventional sense of the word, are very far from Fritz's mind.

When the computer entered daily life in a big way at the end of the 1960s many artists could not resist it. They found it a wity toy which could, albeit in a limited way, imitate their painting intentions. Drawings and paintings of utter conventionality, but created by electronic devices, could be seen at numerous exhibitions of that time. That computer age of innocence revealed a fascination with the technology and the utter naïveté of traditional artists quick to switch over to the new media. This naïveté was evident first in their failure to recognise and admit to both the entirely different logic and the range of possibilities inherent in the new media. Today's artist cannot be as fascinated with such ordinary applications as technology is. Aware of both their abilities and limitations and, above all, of individual particularities, they wish neither to compete with new technological devices nor to control them. A present day artist is interested in partnership, not competition or subjugation. The new media have authentic qualities which are to be drawn on, appreciated and assimilated into the individual experience of each and every artist.

Returning to the exhibition and the new works of Darko Fritz, let us start with elementary facts. The sentences we find here do not belong to the artistic context of the 1960s and 1970s, when words were introduced into the work of art as a valid means of expression, and when conceptual artists shifted the work of art from an objective to the linguistic level. Fritz does not use individual words to name things. That is why no relationship is established between the sign and the thing it signifies, but rather between the signs themselves. This results in "the signified being concentrated upon a strictly linguistic plane" (F. Menna).

Instead of words, Fritz uses sentences as a unified structure. These sentences are bared to the core and we comprehend them as naked signals. But he does not set these truncated verbal remnants on neutral surfaces nor does he render them material in the form of neutral letter designs. The sophisticated design of the letters and the surface they are printed on indicate a new context and we experience them as aesthetic facts: as works which do not exclude the notion of the beautiful, or at least carefully designed, work of art.

At no time does Fritz attempt to conceal or mask the elementary nature of his works. He is quite clear about this and we receive them just as they are: prints produced by a telefax machine, a kind of graphics. Both the paper and the designs printed on it could be seen as belonging to the graphic media, while bearing in mind that it is not the image (imago) which constitutes the main content of the print but the process itself. Here we can recognise the furthest shoots of an idea first articulated by Edward Munch at the end of the nineteenth century, then brilliantly reinterpreted by Kirchner and, in our times by Richard Serra. The growth rings visible on planks used by Munch and, later, in Kirchner's wood engravings, are no other than affirmation of the process of work. The physical state of the work becomes a relevant part of its content. Richard Serra's recent prints on paper or on huge linen canvasses demonstrate the elementary fact that these are simply prints; their imperfections are visible.

Darko Fritz's telefax prints show not only the process of thier coming into being but also physically wear out, in the literal sense of the word. Light corrodes the ink of the telefax machine and the print fades away with time until it vanishes. While it exists as a physical entity, Fritz's work acknowledges the electronic nature of its origin. At the same time there are words or, more precisely, letters, as the last residue of linguistic practice. Fritz believes the functionality of words to be the only relevant road sign pointing the way through the labyrinth of art. Here, the image is read. It demands our attention but it also leaves open a possibility. The words and the image merge with each other and form a unity. However, inasmuch as the author denies all connection with a possible real model, he does the same on a linguistic level. The words here have no foothold in things or objects. These words are figures without roots. Or, rather, their roots are in the language itself, where only "the mirror image of the world exists" (L. Wittgenstein).


published in 'Darko Fritz: telefax works 1991 - 1997', AGM, Galerija Nova, Zagreb, 1997

> see fax works