Andreas Spiegl: The Unpredictable Individual

Liebscher Welt, Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg 2002

Take the simple mathematical equation: 1+1=2; somewhat more difficult: 1+1+1=3, or barely solvable: 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1=20, if I am not mistaken. What mathematics achieves here seems as easy as it is decisive: it adds the individual numbers to arrive at a total sum. But the sum itself also consists of numbers, which do not appear themselves in the arithmetical task: although we have only added „1s“, in the sums we suddenly find a 2 or a 3 or even a 2 and a 0 together. In this sense, the sum describes a transformation; it demonstrates that the addition of the same 1 allowed this 1 to become something entirely different. Each change in the calculation would thus have an effect on the sum and, with this, the final result. So far, so good.

Let us compare this with the idea, or better the ideology, which lies behind the concept of the individual. Every person = individual; that is to say an indivisible entity, such as, let us say, a 1. To socially record it, this 1 is then allocated 1 first name, 1 family name, 1 birthday, 1 passport photo and 1 gender, and recently even 1 fingerprint and 1 DNS code. Completely and utterly regardless of what this individual does, in the final analysis it is categorised according to its singular 1 – we can recognise this in its DNS code. Now let us suppose that this 1 individual also has 1 career, 1 family, 1 hobby, 1 wish and 1 small problem: that is to say, in total 1 more or less successful, normal and happy individual. Even the law and the administration of justice orientate themselves according to this 1, that is to say to this individual. But let us now assume that this normal, happy and more or less successful individual is so challenged in his 1 career that it overreacts or even becomes paralysed in its 1 family or relationship. Or let us assume the opposite, that this individual is so challenged in its relationship that it cannot summon up the expected totality of its investment for this 1 career and thus cannot keep its mind on the job at hand. As a consequence, it becomes faced with particular sanctions, be these of a legal, private or social nature.

Let us stick with the mathematics of the individual: The concept of the indivisible 1 presupposes that this individual, which possesses 1 career and 1 relationship and 1 gender and 1 name and 1 problem, still adds up in the end to only 1 individual. Thus, 1+1+1+1+1=1. The total sum always remains identical: 1 individual, who is condemned, desired, loved, rewarded or abandoned. With the ideology of the individual and the individualistic one associates an expectation, which demands of the individual that it produce increasingly more specific and unmistakable results, and to add these differences together without endangering the identical sum of 1 at the end. Those who cannot do this, who cannot finish off with this 1 at the end, who cannot produce this totality of the indivisible individual, has 1 problem, which can often be corrected with the help of sports, esoteric practices or a few psychotherapeutic sessions. Those who cannot be helped by this devote themselves to holistic medicine, the last bastion of the individual and its 1 – or to a work by Martin Liebscher. Liebscher adds differently, more mathematically. According to Liebscher’s formula, 1+1=2 Liebscher, or 20+1=21 Liebscher. In other words: the sum of the various demands made on the individual remains perceptible in the equation. In this sense, the additive process in his work is not only an expression of narcissistic self-reflection (a humorous reminiscence of a perception of the artist as the last para-individual), but also a reference to a policy of identity that bears witness to fragmentation and partialisation. Liebscher is the last bourgeois individual, who keeps a firm hold on his name and likeness, and the first who can no longer say who people are talking about when they talk about him. In a certain sense a child of set theory, unpredictable.

To the same degree that he doubts the individual, Liebscher also doubts the logic behind the notion that an object cannot be in two places at one time. The mobile telephone is one such apparatus, which has reduced this impossibility, or the suffering that results from this impossibility, by at least 50%. This suffering that results from this subsequently 50% reduced impossibility is based on the problem that the successive cannot be transformed into simultaneity. Mathematically speaking, the successive 1+1+1+1+1 etc. are translated into a total sum, which now expresses the simultaneity of the added units. In order that 1+1+1=3 can even be, the added 1s must simultaneously exist within the 3; were one 1 to come even just a little too late, then the sum would only be 2 or, depending on how long the delay of the 1 is, a 2 cum tempore, that is to say 2 comma… Art, which, since Wittgenstein’s treatise, maintains a schizoid relationship with logic, makes this possible. Liebscher’s summary image is thus by no means a logical and true depiction of reality, since it transforms the successive into the simultaneous, whereby it is indeed a depiction of a real existing situation. What appears as a result to be a paradoxical and utopian image has a valid foundation in everyday reality, in a desire that contradicts logic.

Let us take another example: Imagine a visit to 1 bar, which, with Liebscher, might be called „Mysliwska“. „We“ individuals are sitting in front of 1 glass, that is to say in front of 1 glass after many glasses, in a certain sense mentally adding the sum of many glasses, and we increasingly imagine a completely different space – the familiar settings of our home, a holiday resort etc., that is to say a sum of individual spaces – while we simultaneously observe the bar that surrounds us with eyes wide open. The individual sitting next to us talks about his experiences, while we simultaneously listen to the discussion of the next two individuals; in fact, we can even imagine participating in this dispute. This idea becomes even more schizoid when „we“ begin to consider which roles we could play in this ambience. The taciturn, the dreamer, the cool one, the gossip, the looser, the star, or all versions at the same time – depending on our states of mind on that particular day, and depending on logic, that is to say on the logical and the imaginable. With Liebscher, what appears imaginable becomes visible: a non-pathological, but rather arithmetically multiple personality, as the sum of a mathematics of the unpredictable individual. Only too consistently does this change in perspective also imply a multiple view of space. Here as well, Liebscher is once again thinking mathematically, and thus transforms the various and successive perspectives into a total sum of the simultaneous perceptibility of the shifted: thus transforming the imagination into an image.

That which, according to Wittgenstein, was reserved solely for art, does not in any way have be so for Liebscher, and is thus, by means of logic, in no way reserved solely for the artist. Especially when the knowledge, on which Liebscher’s unpredictable individual is founded, takes everyday experience into account. To make this experience and the knowledge of unpredictability and multiplicity accessible to other individuals, the artist has decided to share the bar mentioned above with other visitors, his viewers. Those who now stand in front of this life-sized panorama of unpredictability and multiplicity are not only photographed three times, but also, reproduced this way, integrated into the community of the indivisibly divided. If it remains unpredictable, just who will identify with this individual, it does indeed become predictable that the former uni-verse of Martin Liebscher will open up into a poly-verse.


Translated by Gérard A. Goodrow, Cologne.





Andreas Spiegl in:

Liebscher Welt

40 Seiten, 16 cm x 32,5 cm,

Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg 2002
ISBN: 3-933257-82-4