by Sam Margevicius
Wolfgang Tillmans humongous show “PCR” is difficult to digest, until you realize that he’s just drinking tap water: so you do too; then it slips down your throat and tastes good forever. I didn’t even read the press release when I walked into the show, I’m interested by the cryptic vs. the accessible and wanted to see if I could put the pieces together myself. Walking around in a haze of inspiration, I wanted to run out the door, find some recent photos, print them huge, live with them, and smile. What difference between his work and mine, his work and anyone’s? We are always being told to think critically, so I stepped back and wondered…I wanted to believe that it was not art for art’s sake, that he has not been elevated due to longevity and social hierarchy. I wanted to remember that I am not yet fully formed, that I can reach some higher level of worthiness, that it will open up to me if I learn how to see it.
After the first visit I left with little more than a feeling of having been inspired. When I got home I didn’t print a photo so big that I would feel like a king, but I decided to go back less than a week later to look in books for a deeper key to Tillmans’ work. I stood at the bookshelf in David Zwirner, and read through his conversation with Hans Ulrich-Obrist (2007), until it led me to his own writing in “Manual” (2007). Tillmans in conversation with Obrist was all over the place, he could pick up any thread and apply it to his work. Tillmans’ own text was concise, some 300 words, but he spoke about the idea of truth. He said there are a few fundamental truths that he’s on-board with, but most other things considered “True” are difficult to reconcile. He believes that “homosexuality is a reality”, which feels a little bit like saying that alternate truths are true. Tillmans seems to refuse confining himself to a subject, he is completely open to what is.
Now I knew what was going on, I walked into the rooms and my jaw dropped in amazement. The tables he had used for “Truth Study Center” (2005) were now filled with blank pieces of paper differentiated by size and color tone. One of the biggest photographs was the most mundane, an outside flower pot with no flowers; I saw aging shrubbery getting browned, and ripe young stems working their way out of the indefinable darkness of the dirt. Then more tables, this time with photographs on them as well as text. “1969 was 24 years away from 1945, 24 years back from now is 1992.” This statement is unbelievably simple, the kind of sentimental feeling one gets on their birthday, the bizarre sense of the importance of this very present moment. Then on that table I found two photographs that spoke to me most of all; they were 4×6 prints, one above the other, each depicting an open book framed by a few centimeters of grass. The setting sun cast shadows of the blades of grass across the blank pages. This is it: the temporality of the moment, the sun is always setting, diary entries and notes to be remembered, bodies of light to play with, arrange, and create new bodies.