Polke, Sigmar Telepathische Sitzung, 1968
lacquer on canvas, cords, 2 boards image measurements: 2 boards á 50 x 43 cm Courtesy: © The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015 Photo: Egbert Trogemann

About the work

"Parapsychology was popular in the 1960s and together with meditation, the media and drug taking was considered as a possibility to broaden one’s conscience. During the Cold War it seemed to promise a new form of communication, therefore psychologists, mathematics and the military researched it. […] Polke’s telepathic experiments resemble occult séances. At the same time the transmitter and receivers are connected to the loose cords that have been stuck into the canvases as if Polke’s mental, telepathic processes are wired with amplifiers. […] Several elements of Polke’s para-science are reminiscent of the 1960s computer technology: Developed in a military context these computers, which were now increasingly used in civil settings, were programmed using plug-in connections. The choice between “yes” and “no” resembles the yes-no-decisions, or rather bits, which since the late 1940s have been considered as basic information units of communication and information theory.”

Kathrin Rottmann: Polke im Kontext: Eine Chronologie, in: Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963 - 2010, Publisher: Kathy Halbreich/ Mark Godfrey/ Lanka Tattersal/ Magnus Schaefer; Tate Publishing 2014, p. 33

About the artist

Sigmar Polke
born 1941 in Oels
died 2010 in Cologne

After the displacement from Lower Slesia to Thuringia in 1945, Polke’s family fled from the GDR to West-Berlin in 1953 and moved from there near Mönchengladbach.

From 1959 to 1960 Polke completed a glass painter apprenticeship in Dusseldorf-Kaiserswerth. From 1961 to 1967 he studied with Gerhard Hoehme and Karl Otto Götz and Kunstakademie Dusseldorf. In 1963 he established together with Gerhard Richter, Konrad Lueg and Manfred Kuttner the new style of “Capitalist Realism” that stood for radical rejection of all established art forms and was the foundation of German Pop Art. From 1970 to 1971 Polke was guest professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste in Hamburg, where he taught again between 1977 and 1991. From 1980 to 1980 he travelled extensively across Papua New Guinea, Australia and Asia. In 1981 he moved to Cologne.

“In contrast to other artists that present themselves and their art form as the embodiment of a formal and conceptual ideology, Polke opposed such narrow definitions by aggressively and persistently experimenting with materials and ideas. Polke did not follow the trends of the moment but was an initiator and flaneur who took over and redefined the historical and contemporary heritage of abstraction and rejection, Pop Art, Minimalism and Concept Art. He applies the insights of these formal strategies in a subtle and humorous manner, with a strength that reveals its endless possibilities by always creating new meanings. […]

Polke’s oeuvre is ripe with historical references. Each piece is positioned in the present through an informed system of references that builds on an already established image repertoire. Polke quotes from art historical sources just as much as from consumer culture. Found fabrics with repetitive kitsch imagery and patterns replace the canvas as a background and in this way underline the surface smoothness. Printed images are warped, enlarged and distorted, all in the name of form and idea. Graphical forms, taken from all possible print media are positioned next to accidental drops, splotches and gestures of colour, which belies the deeper humour and the aim of Polke’s seemingly disrespectful approach to painting. He creates challenging, twisted plays on images which combine abstraction and figuration in unexpected ways."

Dinaburg Arts LLC; in: Sigmar Polke, Publisher: Arario, South Korea 2005, p. 14