Monologue of Trust (deutsch)

1,000 posters, 20 different subjects / Vienna, Graz, Linz, Innsbruck, 1995
1,200 billboards, 9 different subjects / Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, Essen, 1999

Similarity and Uniformity
The foregrounds of advertising posters always present the rival slogans of the respective companies – each one aimed at emphasizing the uniqueness of its advertising message, both in its verbal text and in its visual image. In our project these aesthetic constructs were dismantled and, in one double step, completely eradicated. Each poster was reduced solely to the name of the company wishing to advertise. But the company name, too, which normally appeared in public only in its representative form, that is, with its own specific design as an exclusive logo, was stripped of its typical graphical form. The visual image of each company’s logo, and with it, the formal identification of the company that had been established through years of public relations, was negated. Instead, the names were made part of a common communicative structure and were set, one and all, in the same collective print scheme. This made for an aesthetic uniformity of representation otherwise unheard of in this context.
For this project we had the alphabet printed in large block letters – one letter on each poster section – and used these to put the individual names together, without any consideration for readability, in the smallest possible norm formats for posters in Austria: 4 sections, 8 sections, 12 sections etc. In this way, the length of each company’s name determined the size of the individual posters. What at first sight appeared to be incomprehensible and arbitrarily placed word fragments could only be put together and identified upon closer observation. Thus the campaign took action against the discursive order of the medium und annulled its inherent aesthetic norm: diversification. The ostensible variability of advertising had been replaced by the minimal variability of a formal “game”. The discipline of diversification was counteracted and ironically reformulated into a new set of rules derived from the technical structure of the medium – the uniformity of sections and printed letters, the normed formats, etc. This new order was brought to bear at random on the long-established, typical images of the respective companies and brands – their “corporate identity”, the visual identity of each brand and its “aura”, in other words the entire advertising profile which every company develops at tremendous cost and then rigorously protects.

The imposition of uniformity in the campaign was the deciding factor for its effect and its significance. Reducing the advertising presentations of the companies to only their names, displayed side by side in a uniform format, divested the poster surfaces of the original competitive effect of their projected pictures, made the similarity of their objectives transparent, and revealed – aesthetically – in a selection of its representations, the monologue of the medium, which is otherwise aesthetically hidden. The project made art a “player” in a social context. A context which is a platform or a demonstration of power. In contrast to quite a few projects which have been subsumed under the catchword “context art” and which, while exhausting themselves in the self-contemplation of “art as an operating system”, have failed to realize their claim of being transferable to other social spheres, it seems to us that here the term is still appropriate: critically questioning a medial context from within, while looking at it from an unexpected angle.
In contrast, moreover, to most of the art poster projects of the nineties here in Vienna, in which the pictures were always linked with the logo of the respective sponsoring company – not seldom to the detriment of the import of their content – our posters never indicate a sponsor. Or, at the most, the first time a poster belonging to a new campaign is encountered it may seem to be ascribable to a certain commercial “sender”. In all our other poster campaigns which took the constitution of this medium as their theme, we continued to adhere to the aesthetic principle of imposing uniformity. All the projects that focused on advertising as an area of representation of certain firms worked with the same principle of homogeneity which, in the “Monologue of Trust”, was used for the first time as the most important element of this type of intervention: differentiation from the differentiation of commercial codes.

Monolog des Vertrauens

Ausgangspunkt des Projekts war eine medienbezogene Überlegung: Das Großplakat ist ein reines Werbemedium mit den Wirtschaftsunternehmen und ihren Produkten als einzigen Akteuren. Diesen Umstand reflektierte die Aktion, machte ihn zum Thema - alleiniges Sujet der Kampagne waren die Namen von Unternehmen. Die Namen traten hier aber nicht in ihrer sonst üblichen, repräsentativen Figur – als Logo – in Erscheinung, sondern wurden auf die reine Abfolge der Buchstaben reduziert und in einem einheitlichen und vorgegebenen, grafischen Raster aufgelöst. Dieser Raster wurde von der technischen Struktur des Mediums abgeleitet (ein Einzelplakat ist immer aus mehreren Bogen zusammengesetzt) und auch die jeweilige Plakatgröße richtete sich nach dem jeweils kleinstmöglichen Normformat der Plakatstellen (4, 8, 12 und 16 Bogen). Scheinbar willkürliche, auf den ersten Blick nicht verständliche Wortsplitter entstanden: Die mit den Logos verknüpfte formale Identifizierung war gelöscht. Die vorgenommene Uniformierung verhielt sich radikal in Bezug auf das Werbeumfeld, d.h. die gewöhnliche Nutzung des Plakatmediums, welche ausschließlich von der Werbestrategie der Unterscheidung bestimmt ist (ästhetische Unterscheidung eines Produkts vom Konkurrenzprodukt, Individualität der Logogramme etc.). Diese Kampagne dagegen unternahm, was auf den Plakaten sonst ganz unmöglich ist – die ästhetische Vereinheitlichung der Akteure und deren Einbindung in ein übergeordnetes, formales ”Netzwerk”. 20 Firmennamen wurden verwendet; die Aktion umfasste insgesamt 1000 Plakatstellen.