Consumer Realism

“Just listen, it tells you what to do“

After my return from "Bhirusi Institut of Modern Art", BKK, Thailand, in 1983, having given up “wild painting” (au revoir peinture) and undergone a seven weeks’ basic training in performance art by ‘-ΔT’, I turned to my old paper collecting mania.

For a long time I had collected a great variety of papers from all over the world, such as newspapers, brochures, documents, diverse kinds of packaging, etc..
Everyone, man and woman, has his own pattern. We live in these patterns. If we want to get out we have to understand them first.
I had this dream which kept repeating itself over three years and which Christoph Hölscher represented in a signet ring afterwards.
In 1981 I had started to make masks out of these papers.

Late in 1983 I met the American Fluxus and Happening artist Al Hansen. As art “was our business” and nothing happens just by chance, Al, as a specialist in consumer waste, sent me hundreds of papers from N.Y. (Zeitgeschichte aus dem Abfallkorb, Heike Hoffmann, p. 123, Al Hansen, An Introspective).
“New York is teeming with street paper and all kinds of fantastic, wonderful stuff. So I picked up two or fifteen pieces a day, being kind of choosy, not picking up everything. Some pieces talked to me, others didn’t say a word.”
Using this material I made an installation of 150 female and 150 male masks, part of which I showed at an exhibition with Al at Gracie Mansion, N.Y., in 1986.

“The Cologne artist I had the most fun with in N.Y. is Lisa Cieslik. She did an installation of her masks with a sculpture of mine at the Gracie Mansion Gallery on the Lower East Side in N.Y. in 1986. The floor was sea weed from Patchoque, Long Island. It was guarded by a little black mama figure from a Puerto Rican magic shop. She is called “Madama” and is a voodoo goddess.”

My interest in large surface installations was growing stronger. At the same time I was observing that people were invaded by large-scale advertising campaigns. There were broiled sausages, sardines in oil, etc. displayed on DIN A1 bright enamel posters. Front door areas were paved and letterboxes bursting with advertising leaflets. At the weekends furious house owners and occupants dragged heaps of consumer papers out of their letterboxes and threw them on the street. When it was raining it all turned into a sort of consumer paper mush.
It has always been a strong point of mine to make a virtue of necessity and keep things as simple as possible. I asked the Stüssgen company if they would give me their advertising leaflets in order to produce a big installation. They were very busy providing the Cologne citizens with leaflets designed in a creative style. But they said they couldn’t do it. So I went hunting in 1984. I deconsumed entire streets of houses, and later I had even larger hunting grounds. Diana and I had quasi become one. We had tied up.
Some time before I met Dr. Stefanie Poley. She wrote down a list of –isms from the area of art, which I called aloud into the audience during the performance, throwing consumer papers and transferring it to the respective artists, e.g.: Beuysism, Dalism, Immendorffism, Naegelism, Buthisms, Polkism, Dokupilism, Fluxism, Warholism, Cieslikism, Consumism.

This is what I called Consumer Realism. In 1992 I gave my first introduction of Consumer Realism during a Glasshouse Night action in the Artothek of the Bonner Kunstverein with Dr. Johannes Stahl.
It was the hour of birth of Consumer Realism. Al had said to me when I didn’t know how to go on: “Sit down and listen to yourself. ‘It’ tells you what to do!” And it had spoken!

In 1996 I was invited to a museum festivity at the Ludwig Museum. At that time the Pop Art section was located in the basement. It is reached by a wide flight of stairs and I planned letting three big medicine balls with the following inscriptions run down these stairs: Happening & Fluxus / Pop Art / Consumer Realism.
While doing so, I would call out:
My father’s name is: Happening & Fluxus
My mothers name is: Pop Art
My name is: Consumer Realism
In October 1996 I received a letter from Jeanne Freifrau von Oppenheim. “I am sorry to inform you that the program has to be reduced due to financial reasons and to the change of date forced by the sudden death of Prof. Ludwig.”

“A thing well done can’t be done quickly”, Klaus Steack said to me a few years later. So let’s go on!

Lisa Cieslik, Cologne / Germany – November 2006 ©