Jochem Hendricks

Jochem Hendricks, 1992
Jean-Christophe Ammann

Text for the catalogue „33“, Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt, 1992 / Jean-Christophe Ammann was Director of Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt until 2001

„One´s world is (…) segmented by an almost unlimited number of signs, signifying not only here-and-now things and qualities and actions but also real and imaginary objects in the past future. If I wish to catalogue my world, I could begin with a free association which could go on for months: desk, pencil, writing, itch, Saussure, Belgian, minority, war the end of the world, Superman, Birmingham, flying, slithy toves, General Grant, the 1984 Olympics, Lilliput, Mozart, Don Giovanni, The Grateful Dead, backing and filling, say it insn´t so, dreaming …“ (Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos – The Last Self-Help Book, New York, 1983, pp. 102-3.)

When, using a rapidograph, Jochem Hendricks drew his 33 logos and symbols in razor-sharp outline in 1985 he was 26 years old. The drawings are not pictographs taken at random but have been chosen, as the artist puts it, because in his eyes „they cover the world“. At the same time they rely on a typology, which is based on crosses, stars, rectangles and circles with a diameter of 7.2 centimeters.

If it is indeed the case that these 33 logos and pictographs cover the world, then the question arises as to where I am or which of the different logos I am simultaneously at home in or with. Jochem Hendricks answers this question by resorting to a fictitious card game which he has devised using the 33 logos. Irrespective of whether they are good or bad cards that you are dealt, or you play or lay down, you are both loser and winner at one and the same time.

On the one hand, this young artist´s view of things is depressing and, on the other, pragmatic. It is depressing because the issue of either/or is relativized to the extent that a sense of belonging specifically to one of the different logos unravels the personality of the individual. For each of these logos describes a set of intrinsic unique laws of its own which always comes into vigorous force when it triggers self-censorship. I have less some breaking of the defining bound of these laws in mind than the degree to which they are internalized. On the other, it is pragmatic because, by accepting that you belong to one logo or to another related logo, you also create a framework which determines the values within which there are only marginal differences in the possible scope you personally consider is open to you.

The fact is that these pictographs and logos embody quite different instances of topicality. There are those that are polyvalent and others which are obsolete, not to mention those that transport various different meanings depending on the particular combination involved. Some of them function as pointers („Men“, No Parking At Any Time)“, „Radiation“) others are abstract symbols (the sign of Venus). Within the overall context, these pictographs can also be interpreted quite extensively: as the world of men, or that of women, nuclear energy, as a code of conduct that says that only something that is not subject to prohibition is permissible. And, finally, there is the seven-pointed star with the sign for „infinity“, which is of the artist´s own making.
The 33 logos provoke a right question, a wrong question and a banal question. The question „Tell me, what you belong to and I´ll tell you who you are“ is taken up in the card game. The card game plays a key role here, as it were. It suggests an interference, a contamination and a fluctuation of powers, ideologies and interests. One way of putting it might be that with the world in flux the cards are shuffled and dealt anew. But appearances are misleading. Reading your fortune from the cards in the sense of what anybody would tolerate brings to mind Gabi Delgado´s „Ein bißchen Krieg, ein bißchen Frieden“ („A bit of war, a bit of peace“) a DAF (the acronym stands for German-American Friendship) song which topped the charts back in the early 1980s. Jochem Hendricks´ „World Map“ does not invite us to join in some adventure or whet our appetites for travel. If you do not know where you belong you fall between two stools.

„On a dark afternoon in March“, writes Reinhard Lettau, „in Erfurt we saw a convoy of US cars on the exit road for Gotha; they were painted olive green and with large foreign number plates and were driving past in the direction of Hochheim. Behind the steamed-up windows the people in them were smiling to the outside world while driving past and waving, although there was no one to be seen.“ (Zur Frage der Himmelsrichtungen, Munich, 1988, p. 72.)

It is perhaps worth mentioning here that Jochem Hendricks is fundamentally interested in areas of perception: having said which, he is more interested in the irony of feedback than in the object perceived. The physiology of the act of perception is overtaxed when, for example, he uses the most modern of technical aids to produce drawings solely following the movements of his eyes (1991-92). In 1989 he recreated the genetic structure of DANN molecule in monumental loops using Baroque angels, thus rendering the popularization of this insight into human life in a trivialized form which inexorably focuses on the surface – highlighting before our very eyes the gap between information and knowledge to be an almost unbridgeable abyss.

In 1991 – 92 he used ping-pong balls to construct precise macro models of the structure of viruses such as cancer, influenza, alfalfa dwarf disease, AIDS, yellow fever, polio and herpes. The ping-pong balls allude, among other things, to the medical expression „the ping-pong effect“, which refers to the spread of a virus from one human being to another. The cold dull aesthetics of the models, which hang suspended from the ceiling, is in violent contrast to the „malignancy“ of the viruses; the precision of the constructions to a certain extent with their surefire ability to infect. You are reminded of an astrophysicist who uses sober and often everyday terms to make our universe understandable, a universe in which, in fact „all hell has broken loose“.

Jochem Hendricks´ icy intelligence turn the words right around in our mouths, making us aware that we are at a loss for words when confronted with the changes which essentially occur in the world of microprocessors.