Stephan Dillemuth (*1954) is an artist of many hats. He is a newscaster introducing a video by Stephan Dillemuth; a painter chain smoking while awaiting inspiration; Friedrich Nietzsche grousing about Richard Wagner; and—in his longest running role to date—a professor of art pedagogy at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.
The parts that artists play in society and the art system are the crux of the artist and teacher’s work who is based in Bad Wiessee and Munich. Employing an open-ended research method which he terms 'bohemistic,' he delves into various forms of artistic life including the German life reform movement, Munich's Bohemia of the penultimate turn of the century and the institution of the art school in order to unearth their meaning and potential.
When still an art student at the Art Academy in Dusseldorf, Dillemuth based his first paintings on regionally specific kitsch such as postcard motifs of couples and kids in traditional dress. The Gallery of Beauties of Schloss Nymphenburg in Munich, painted by Joseph Karl Stieler for King Ludwig the First of Bavaria and comprised of more than thirty portraits of “beautiful” women, proved useful for Dillemuth as well. In 1985, he repainted all of them under the auspices of punk and hence at a time when conceptions of what was beautiful or ugly were turned upside down. Juggling with these extant aesthetic categories, he chose a subject that had the attendant effect of deflating the pathos of male identity that German neoexpressionist painting had come to stand for.
Bavaria, as a biographical and historical source of friction figures repeatedly in the artist’s work. It was here that Dillemuth came of age and here as well that the nascent National Socialism found its most fervent support. Lion Feuchtwanger's “Success”, a key novel of the 1930s, motivated Dillemuth’s eponymous installation from 2007. In this book, Feuchtwanger, using the example of Munich during the Weimar Republic, depicts the apparatus of ostensibly incidental political decisions and personal sensitivities which helped pave the way for the National Socialists. It is in this installation that Dillemuth first introduces the cog wheel as a timeless metaphor for a system whose well-greased parts operate perfectly while running amuck. Creatures made of cog wheels and body casts also populate his recent installations, whose reflective surfaces—reminiscent of Baroque or Rococo halls of mirrors—propagate both the creatures and audiences in a narcissistic game of infinite regress. In a wider sense, Dillemuth regards these rooms as mirrors of a societal status quo which he dubs 'Corporate Rococo'—an untenable, yet all-encompassing moment of capitalist excess. The nagging question of how art and artists are to behave on Corporate Rococo's slippery stage is kept as uneasily as constructively open.
You can download Stephan Dillemuth's videos here.
Curated by Stephanie Weber