“Is it, I asked Riedel, a commentary on the human condition? Are we all just information addicts, churning out bad Xeroxes of something we once saw or heard? Or is the redoubled emptiness a more personal expression: the result of looking inside his own personal artistic soul and finding, well, nothing? … There’s no content being produced, because I’m in the first generation that grew up digital,” Riedel replied, “we are just transferring all the time: tape, CDs and now the clouds.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “The self-reference is because I am the system. The technique is mainly carrying something from here to there, sometimes with a car, sometimes by making a recording. . . .” And sometimes, as with the new HTML paintings, with the click of a mouse.” Adam Fisher on Michael Riedel, May 1, 2012.
“I am the system.” This is a long way from “I am nature.” We’ve known for a very long time now that the artist’s hand, the old ideas of abstraction, drawing and painting, can no longer exist as avant-garde forms. We are either critics or acolytes, and we’ve remained tied to our Modernist past through an end-of-history nostalgia. And that may be why there’s so much “expressionist” abstraction, provisional painting and zombie formalism clogging up the instagram algorithms. It’s difficult to believe any longer that we are “nature” and that what we paint is “natural” – especially when what we’re doing is a learned activity rather than one which we created – especially as we fling and pour and slather exactly like Jackson or Bill or Helen once did. But what does it mean to be the system? What does it mean to transfer all the time? What happens when the media we use is all the same code – one as good as another?
“Riedel has long used extant texts as material for his projects. For Frieze (CMYK)(2007) he reprinted the May 2007 issue of the titular art magazine in each of four standard printing colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). The four reproductions became limited-edition artist books, and were exhibited with related postcards and posters. Audio book (Meckert) (2010) is a recording of a text printed in another one of Riedel’s artist books, with every word rearranged alphabetically and spit back out in a computerized robot voice. “Text and image are the same to me,” he explained during a lecture at Zwirner on Feb. 2, “because both are made with a recording machine.” Leigh Ann Miller on Michael Riedel February 4, 2011.