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Hans Peter-Feldmann - Finding Disorder in Order

Words:

Edd Norval
October 26, 2020

Hans Peter-Feldman uses the serialisation and quantification of people and objects to tell stories. He has collected photographs of people aged zero - 100 and covered an entire wall in money. Why? Through the normalcy of collation, he is able to challenge the underlying assumptions and ideas attached to that which he collects and presents.

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These projects are part art, part archive. By looking at things in such an ordered manner, he is able to understand various diverse and complex issues, much in the way a sociologist would by collecting and comparing answers to surveys or crunching quantitative graphs. 


A lot of the German’s early work was around the idea of collecting too. He would make books with themed images, like woman’s knees, or famous actors, without a caption, isolated on their own in an oddly abstract manner. These books were essentially collections for collection’s sake, leaving almost the entirety of the narrative creation - through its absence - up to the audience to infer. Three of his most iconic collections followed in the same vein.


A return to the art world after a ten-year hiatus to focus on creating his books proved to be an educational period, the influence of these pieces on his latter art is undeniable. In many ways, he hardly returned to making art as much as he began documenting things the same way that were slightly more conceptual.

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The aforementioned example, of capturing photographs of a person aged from zero to 100, is about reframing the commonplace, shining a light on something we take for granted or overlook. Titled 100 Years, the black and white photographs leave the person reduced to a name and an age - not much more detail is required for the project. Still, they become a representation of that age, a statement of and challenge to what that age should or could look like in our minds. 


Death and the passage of time might be something we think about regularly enough, but not necessarily the practicality of time as reflected on our physicality. There is no exploration of the mind in this project, at least not the participants. It’s all about the body and how we perceive it.


The theme of perception continues in the collection 9/12, a vast assemblage of newspaper front covers the day after the 9/11 attacks - a singular moment in history with repercussions still echoing loudly today. In seeing all the covers, presented page-by-page, the audience is in a unique landscape of history and memory, being taken back to that exact time, experiencing the feeling in the pit of their stomach, just as they did in 2001.

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Both what we think and what they, the media, think, is subject to bias, having since become defining of how each - individual and institution - acted in the wake of the event. Despite it being remembered feverishly, a larger-than-life occurrence, the collection is grounded in an unsettling sense of reality by showing us the newspaper covers, whose powerful and hyperbolic language seemed insufficient for understanding the event compared to now when, in a greater global context of conflict, it is an act of which sense has been made.


Besides time, memory and political events, Peter-Feldmann used an awarded prize to examine money and shine the glare back on the art world. Winning the 2010 Hugo Boss Prize of $100,000, the German was invited to exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum. He took the opportunity, developing on his recent victory, by cashing out his prize into single dollar notes, pinning them to the walls of the gallery in perfect rows - from floor to ceiling, for audiences to navigate around.


What hits first is the smell, that musky used-money smell, before the dizzying order of the whole thing, viewed from afar, is fully realised. Upon closer inspection, the money begins to tell its own stories. Some are crisp, others crumpled. Some are new, others old and defaced. As with the faces and the newspaper covers, there is a dual sense of chaos and order here. When viewed from afar as part of a system (like his organisational structure) it makes sense, but up close, there are too many variables for order to be anything more than a pipe dream. 

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