Artist’s Proposition: In Search of Friedrich Nichtmargen
Vassya Vassileva

In Search of Friedrich Nichtmargen/From Uncreative Travel Book XXIII
[Surface Area 510,100,934 km2 196.950.168 miles2 ]

I can imagine him in his incorporable standing with his glass in the hand between all the travelers, standing in this trouble movement – yes this is Friedrich.

—Boris Neislony

Perceiving and identifying Friedrich. Recognizing ourselves.

It is a busy Monday afternoon. The streets are all overcrowded. A girl is crossing the street. She goes to the local shop to buy a bottle of mineral water. In a distance you see a tall figure of a man slowly walking towards you. How do you recognize that is Friedrich Nichtmargen, the artist?

Me, Vassya Vassileva I am in search of the artist Friedrich Nichtmargen since Thu, 4 Nov 2004 14:42:37 -0800 (PST)(1)

Since I lost Friedrich I have been perseveringly looking for him. I cancelled my engagements in order to be able to search for all vestiges of evidence that Friedrich would inevitably leave behind himself. I am much grateful to all artists that support my effort to pursue the intricate working of Friedrich’s mind.

Identifying a concept

According to Friedrich Nichtmargen every declared identity is misleading, unhelpful and irrelevant. It is difficult to question the identity of a person who has always proved his considerable caution about his own identity suggesting that clearly stated identity is a pure diagnosis.

Who is Friedrich?

I do not now much of him. He has been always jostling out his own appearances. He postulates himself as a part of the so called art world but at the same time harshly distinguishes himself from that world. He has always been resistant to ideas, images and artistic strategies that most of the artists find so significant for their practices.

He states his art as something that must be called ART just because it could not be classified as “art”. He hides the concept of his being but nevertheless he provides clues that inevitably lead us to one possible concept of that being. Being aware that “presence is always mediated by what is absent” might not help us to identity a being that would never launch itself neither as present nor absent.

The fact is that we do not know much of Friedrich Nichtmargen. What we know for sure, though, seems to be sustained by many varied artistic concept of the same “thing”.

There are truly remarkable artists engaged more or less in unraveling the tangled story of one of the most unusual artist nowadays.

At the end that shall not be a Search that aims to classify the art of F.N or to grasp his personal idea of art and life. That shall not be an attempt to simply draw Friedrich’s world within our own either. That shall be a search that mediates between reality and illusion. But isn’t it that quest predestined then?

Geographical Twist in my Quest

I was told by the artist Hermann Hessler that Friedrich intended to go to the Canadian Woods in relation to “the indispensability of measuring the distance between certain kinds of trees”.(2)

I decided at once that the next geographical locality of my search shall be Canada and precisely Toronto. Why Toronto? Because I know the artist Paul Couillard who lives there and since we have exchanged mails about Friedrich and his artistic speculations I came to the conclusion that it is quite possible to find Friedrich exactly there – measuring the city according to his own particular systematic approach and landscape taxonomy.

However when saying Canada or even Toronto I am fully aware that this specification is quite insufficient in order to be able to localize geographically the area that should be scrutinized for such a short period of time. Therefore I need to continue searching for evidences that would allow me to narrow the geographical space of Friedrich’s possible appearance.

A Proposal for Fado Performance Inc. – IDea (2006-2007 season)

Location proposed:
Longitude: 79° 24′ W
Latitude: 43° 40′ N

Distance and Movement

During my stay in Canada I shall search for the artist Friedrich Nichtmargen. In order to prefigure his local appearance I shall strictly follow his own rules of mathematical formalization while measuring the distance by my own.

Facing each other geometrically

I will try to read the geographical space according to Friedrich’s own idea of human geography. I shall therefore suggest a strategy that constitutes an identity bases on particular encounters, a “virtual presence” that could only be mediated by the people of Toronto. I will also try to establish multilayered connections between people who are not co-present in time and space and by doing so to construct a socially interdependent “being” between all those people that have been engaged in the quest of Friedrich Nichtmargen. As I wrote before I believe Friedrich’s identity may be constructed only by the interrelated presences of many collective artistic efforts. However certain tension between the enframing discourses of identity and the “living thing” that is put into identifying seems inevitable.

Reading the geographical space

I will set up a temporary observation of certain places that might be insignificant for the city as a whole – these are – abject places, barrens, junk spots, geographical leftovers that have always been of special interest for Friedrich Nichtmargen. I will engage myself in direct observation and reports concerning the above mentioned places.
Following again Friedrich’s methodology I shall put into question historical notions like LONGITUDE/LATITUDE while roving the Canadian Woods.

Performance Search Forecast

The complexity of that quest inquires a rich variety of cognitive abilities and artistic strategies that would mediate the traces of particular encounters and memories of particular experience. However the discriminating scrutiny of the evidences as well as their representation as “art objects” must be avoided as a rule. This is a proposal that is not engaged in fixing one coherent piece of art as this proposal is much inspired by Friedrich’s words: “the identified notion of ‘something’ is nothing more then a failure to sense that life stores the whole of its meaning into our dynamical livings”.

Following the narrative of my journey I shall elaborate a description of my walk around the city. Everyday protocols are also needed in order to guarantee the remembrance of the searching experience. During these kinds of searching processes there are usually a huge amount of evidences, texts, notes, diagrams, drawings, invoices, entangled objects, documents, images etc. The Institutum Fridericianum where I am currently based is attentively collecting those traces related to Friedrich Nichtmargen in order to enhance the further quest. I shall alight on selected traces proposing talks (public and personal), actions, lectures, installations situated around the city, and a PRESENCE that aims to establish an ontological framework for the IDea of Friedrich.

When should the search stop?

The artist Friedrich Nichtmargen is gargling with his own IDea until the liquefied IDeal substance reached the most hidden depths of his throat. That could be envisaged as one possible end. When the gargling stops then it is going to be quiet. And I will be free of searching. Until the next gargling starts.
=Message truncated =
Vassya Vassileva
23rd of September 2005
The Institutum Fridericianum, Sofia


(1) Friedrich was that time engaged with the remarkable Summit of the Summit. He spent two weeks in Sofia. We climbed Black Peak together with the artists Justin McKeown on the 3rd of November 2004. Early in the morning Friedrich was doing his remarkable 5-day photographic action ‘L-r’ (left to right) exploring the manipulation of art history (as he put it in the official program).

For more information please visit: http://iapao.net/iapao/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=137&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

Friedrich’s behavior, though, seemed a bit mysterious to me. The next day he appeared early in the morning. That was the same day we were supposed to perform together. He was lingering over a pipe and speaking loudly about Jaspers and “Weltanschauung” while at the same time holding a needle in his right hand. Then he said he must leave immediately and swiftly disappeared. And I haven’t seen him since.

(2) In a conference held on the 2nd of November 2004 at the Institutum Fridericianum the artist Friedrich Nichtmargen also announced that he had his own particular system for measuring the distance between certain kinds of trees. Part of his documentation along with diagrams and texts are property of the Institutum Friedericianum. However we do not have permanent access to that information since it is kept into a wooden box labeled by the others: EGO FRIDERICUS. The box has been locked until now.

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