A new exhibition by the German-Swiss artist Dieter Roth (1930-98) titled Dieter Roth: Diaries is set to open at the Camden Arts Centre 17 May – 14 July 2013. Roth worked with obsessive energy and his prolific output included installation, sculpture, drawing, video, assemblage and books. All of his work was a diary of sorts – a record of his relentless and impassioned engagement with life – and this exhibition takes his diaries as its central theme.
The exhibition provides an extraordinary insight into Roth’s life and work through his personal diaries. A version of this exhibition was shown at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh and this extended version now presents the diaries along with other works in London for the first time. These intimate books served as agendas, ‘to do’ lists, journals to recording past events, as well as more meditative reflections and the working through of his artistic ideas via drawings, photographs and poems, all teaming with graphic exuberance. The diaries demonstrate the indivisibility of his art and life, and his concern with authorship, self-portraiture and autobiography. The exhibition also includes three major installations and other series of works that act as portraits of the artist, as Roth’s shorthand for the passage of time and his journey through it.
Roth’s extensive series of works, Tischmatten (Tablemats) are added to the selection of works from the Fruitmarket Gallery. An extension of his diaries, the tablemats were also sites for impulsive mark-making – jotting down of urgent thoughts or ideas. A group of large-scale paintings, Kleiderbild (Clothes Paintings) made between1984 and 87 have also been added. Roth’s body was often obscured from his self-portraits and in Clothes Paintings it is absented entirely, circumscribed only by the garments he wore. Roth, a German-Swiss domiciled in Iceland, spoke of his sense of ever-shifting subjectivity. In his diaries, Tablemats and Clothes Paintings it was as if these traces of his existence were the best means to approach an elusive, unstable identity.
Flat Waste is a large installation of ring binders containing the detritus of every day life, archived by Roth with only one guiding principle: everything must be flatter than two or three sixteenths of an inch. It recorded the vagaries of Roth’s life – things ordinarily discarded such as old food wrappers, receipts, all traces of his daily activities. In its obsession with waste and decay Flat Waste underlines Roth’s attention to life’s inseparable forces: creation and destruction, life and death.
This theme is addressed most directly and poignantly in his final work: Solo Scenes. Arguably the most intimate self-portrait of all, embracing the medium of video as a diary in real-time, he captured the daily activities of the last year of his life (sleeping, washing, eating, making art) on 128 videos shown simultaneously on a grid of televisions. Roth died whilst this work was still being made.
Dieter Roth: Diaries was organised by The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh in 2012 as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival and has been reconfigured by Camden Arts Centre to include additional works. The Fruitmarket show was lauded by the critics who said:
Dieter Roth was born in 1930 in Hanover, Germany and died in 1998 in Basel, Switzerland. He lived in Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland and the USA. His work is exhibited widely internationally. He represented Switzerland at the 1982 Venice Biennale, and received numerous awards and prizes. The Dieter Roth Estate is represented by Hauser and Wirth
Dieter Roth: Diaries 17 May – 14 July 2013 Camden Arts Centre, Arkwright Road, London NW3 6DG