In Observation Position Street cafés are a rendezvous and an observation post. You sit by yourself a while, begin to direct your attention to folk as they pass by, folk in motion. The manifold crowd of human profiles gradually merges into a single entity; and from the entity is coalesced the summary portrait of a speaking, silent, laughing - communicating - society.
That is the origin of the two vertical wooden columns that, as well as having provided the support material for the prints, now also stand as a sculptural installation in their own right.
The vertical stack of human profiles as a column formation is couched within a rhythmical flow of movement; the open mouths seem to be communicating both with the viewer and amongst themselves. This is not a work about individuals, but about abstracting the faces, the search for a universal and recurrent form as an embodiment of the mass.
That the individual prints should be so divergent in their characteristics points to the versability and susceptibility of the medium. What the figure profiles communicate will differ according to the background against which they are seen, quite as if the background corresponded to an indefinable context of communication.
The World of the Written Character Whereas the prints bear on narration and facial expression, it is to the birth of writing per se that Bernd Engberding turns in his four large wood sculptures. His is evidently a quest for the traces and signs of communication and therefore, for the origins of our culture. The preoccupation with symbols as the archetypal forms of our lettering is a constant in Engberding's choice of subject.
In many non-European cultures, visually articulated language has sculptural, rather than script form; here is the image as the origin of writing. The earliest Chinese characters combine the semantic content of a word with a symbolic shape, tracing the lines of the matter expressed.
The two abstract wood sculptures imitate symbols that, on this enormous scale, acquire a new level of meaning. Symbols are human products. They strike a link between cultures; they also open a path to our past. Culture and time are the determining parameters of these works. If the horizontal and the vertical axes are combined, the figure of the pregnant mother as the creatix of life stands at the zero point.
Accelerated Time Reviewing the developments of the past few decades, our time emerges as marked by the acceleration and reduction of our communications, encouraged not least by new media. In fact a whole media milieu has evolved in which the existence of the modern individual would seem unthinkable without the attendant Internet, television or mobile phone.
Engberding's recourse back to the archetypal signs could be a countermove. Reproducing them on an inflated scale in three dimensions takes the beholder back to the roots of human language. The gravity of the archaic recedes in Bernd Engberding's playful handling - the double diamond character as a wood sculpture or the multiple reproduction of the human face as a printing block. Language as the expression of our culture is very intrinsically the field in which these pieces operate, possibly as a critique of culture, a critique of communication between human and human with all its recurrent foundering.
Text by Adrienn Meszaros