Uwe Loesch: Nichtsdestoweniger

Plakate

Uwe Loesch: Nichtsdestoweniger; Plakate, 1997 | Titelblatt
Klappentext, bibliografische Angaben oder Entsprechendes

Anlässlich der Ausstellung im Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, vom 4. Mai bis zum 1. Juli 1997

Illustration: Uwe Loesch

Seite im Original: 88

Against the monsters of consensus – or: we must communicate because we are unable to understand one another).

Anyone looking into the subject of graphic design will come across the imputation, presented as a truism, that this well paid artistic activity must serve the interests of social and economic “communication”. Meaning that the design of advertisements, displays and posters, packaging and CIs, magazines and TV spots is aimed at ensuring that products find their buyers, books their readers, events their visitors and programmes their viewers. The tasks to be accomplished are clear and the means of accomplishing them tried and tested; conditions are plainly set out in briefings. And quality is easily verifiable (unlike the assessment of quality in graphic art): what has the profoundest effect on consumers, visitors or readers is good – the effect being measurable in terms of sales, attendance or audience figures. Why is this an imputation? Because it is based on the assumption that successful “promotion” renders the products, events, books or TV programmes themselves irrelevant. They can be functionally unsound, boring or badly made: as long as the advertising copy and design are right, success is assured. Which is as much as to deny that many unpromoted products are in fact bought – because they are cheaper? That many nameless TV programmes are watched – because they entail no express necessity for communication? That many unknown events attract visitors – because they are not the talk of the town and accordingly offer the bonus of exclusivity (which cannot be advertised without cancelling itself out)? And aside from this, there is to date no evidence at all that good advertising can really sell bad products (ie. on a recurrent basis rather than as a one-off deception). Nevertheless, the majority of clients pressure designers with assertions that the advertising is at fault for insufficient sales and consumer acceptance – not their products! Even the German government holds the PR and “ad men” responsible for the electorate’s rejection of its policies: they’ve just been badly marketed. If government propaganda succeeded in making people understand political decisions aright they would accept them because correct communication means correct understanding. And to understand is to accept. Because if the political decisions are right (and what government would want [to] make only wrong decisions?), then there [are] good and logical, ie. comprehensible, reasons for them. And if the electorate were brought by effective propaganda (political discourse) to an understanding of the government’s good reasons, it could not do otherwise than to accept and approve the decisions that had been taken: consensus would be achieved! An imputation – as has already been noted but an extremely widespread one. The notion of communication that lies at the heart of this imputation – is a dubious abstraction – as though it were merely a question of calculating means and ends, input and output, information and mediacy, intentions and their implementation. It is asserted that all communication is aimed at securing approval, a decision to buy, consensus. If this fails it must be assumed that the salesman/transmitter lacked enough good reasons for the buyer/receiver to approve. A breakdown of communication! As though hate were not a very intense form of communication; as though we were not constantly acting contrary to we what we think is right. As though we did not frequently reject what we only too clearly perceive as sensible and reasonable (“I’ll show him. Who does he think he is having better arguments than me, being more convincing, more imaginative and persuasive than I am?). As though we were not seized by the perversity of finding something interesting precisely because it is absurd, of wanting a thing because it is contrary to all reason, of doing something because it is forbidden or ought to be. Counterfactual behaviour of this kind seems to carry particular conviction in communication concerning religious or political issues. In communication the normative force of the factual is matched by that of the counterfactual: credo quia absurdum is just as powerful as intelligo quia relativum (“I believe it, hold it to be true, because it transcends all possibility of understanding” and “I understand, accept, approve it because I know the reasons for it”). I can understand as such even what is absurd, non-sensical or false – but there is nothing that I can do with this understanding. On the other hand, I can accept that everything that happens has a reason for happening – I just fail to understand the reasons (I understand the factual absurdity of ethnic purity as a counterfactual assertion – but can I approve of racism because I understand that I also think in racist terms? I agree that some products sell better than others even though the quality and price are the same – but I do not understand it.) Counterfactual assertions can be communicated just as well as irrefutable facts. They have the same normative force, eg. for the formation of groups of individualists (intellectuals/artists) or communities of criminals (in gangs). Is not the Mafia a prime example of a socially, ie. communicatively, stable community even though its members live by rejecting the stable, normative regulation of communities? (That could also be said of competing industrial or commercial corporations, for whose practices communication designers are supposed to obtain public consensus – something that will be understood but not accepted). The bottom line is that those who propound the counterfactual, the perverse or the nonsensical communicate just as well as their critics. Misunderstanding is mostly more productive for communication (as if it were avoidable anyway!) than understanding. Lies are just as capable of creating consensus as truth. In view of this, you can hardly propose to design communication in such a way as to create consensus in your favour through “understanding”. Communication is no more steered by understanding than the sea is steered by the rudder of a ship. Communication is not steerable – if it were it might go in any number of directions and, in the final analysis, nowhere. We would have no need for the criterion of success if success could be achieved at will by means of communication strategies. If everyone were able to achieve the same results by following the same strategies no-one would be successful. Communication is social reality. Recognizing it as such, as the sole reality, means abandoning the naiveté of imagining you could bend reality to your own goals and wishes. Anyone who aims to do that has to create his own reality. And despite all the propaganda put about by the radical constructivists that means taking leave of reality, finally bidding it farewell for the free play of power. Under such circumstances all design would be an act of self-declared wantonness, a perversity seeking the legitimisation of success. And precisely in that case design would cease to be a relevant factor. Have things already come to that, by and large? Not for a designer like Uwe Loesch. His work is directed at respecting communication as an independent factor in Man’s social existence rather than manipulating or instrumentalizing it (even though that means a mayor loss of pretension to stature on the part of the designer). Loesch aims at real experience, ie. at experience of the limits of what is designable. Not ubiquity and omnipotence (ie. design as pollution of the environment) but rather interruption, spacing, breaks in the constant assailment of communication – the powerlessness or poverty of design, the caesura and asceticism. The invisible but imagined image stimulates consciousness more strongly; the inaudible note in the silence awakens our feeling for the preciousness of sound. He calls this regaining our freedom of the senses, without which thinking, feeling and imagination is at the mercy of arbitrary communicative stimuli. In his work he gains or demonstrates the ability to resist notions of tailor made communication design, ie. to avoid aligning himself with consensus, acceptance, equilibrium and symmetry with the endless reciprocity of partnership. The dynamics of communication are dependent on asymmetry, disequilibrium and misunderstanding. Design that ignores these necessities attempts to reduce human beings to the status of performing animals, to dissect them and reassemble them as monsters of consensus and understanding. Such monsters are not only to be found in the uniform cry for “victory” and “salvation” [German “Sieg” -and “Heil” – trans. note] but also in the insidious cant of political parties and commercial products, TV-stations and citizens TV. Loesch’s work is aimed at restoring communication to its proper sphere rather than confining it in the creative straightjacket of fundamentalist consensus. He attempts to liberate products from their images and detach thought, emotion and imagination from their linguistic pass keys by radically magnifying the aesthetic discrepancy between essence and appearance, product and advertising – and that is most economically accomplished with the aesthetic instruments of inappropriateness, incongruity and deviation rather than the axe and dynamite of Nietzschean super-designers or the creative Dadaism of destruction. If language (words, images, sound etc.) is to have the power to facilitate our experience of reality rather than to conjure reality away, then it must be this difference between consciousness and communication – things which fundamentally cannot be merged one into the other. Language as a discrete medium incorporating the difference – neither consciousness nor communication – can only be shaped. Consciousness and communication are characterized in language, but only in the way that bodies are characterized by the space between them through which we can move – the articulate entity and the speaker. Design is this movement between consciousness and communication. The work of Uwe Loesch provides magnificent examples of this movement, shaping as hands might trace the contours of an empty vessel by drawing the boundaries of form. Retracing this movement in an exhibition has its own communicative conditions; but these, ie. a museum/art exhibition qua event, are not the issue. The horizons of consciousness of visitors to the exhibition should not he locked on to the expectation of works of art or communicative acrobatics either. On what then? On the example of a Laocoon confronting the monsters of communicative consensus. Bazon Brock