Franz Erhard Walther (born 1939) participated in documenta four times in a row. Harald Szeemann (1933-2005) first invited him to the fifth documenta in 1972, which was followed by two presentations of his work during the sixth and eighth international art exhibitions (1977 and 1987) curated by Manfred Schneckenburger (born 1938), and an invitation to documenta 7 from Rudi Fuchs (born 1942) in 1982. Here he showed his work “Liegeform und Hängeform, quer/Lying Form and Hanging Form, diagonal” from 1980, the preliminary considerations for which have a particularly striking manifestation in documenta archiv’s files. In addition to correspondence between the artist and curator, numerous sketches and concrete instructions for hanging the work have been kept.


Franz Erhard Walther had already in the early 1960s begun creating objects made from cotton, foam, wood, and other materials that the public could “use”: they could unfold the materials and/or layer them, enter them, or use them to create geometric forms. These were followed by works conceived as “walking and standing pieces” in order to integrate the public in the process. In doing this, Walther turned against an outdated understanding of art as "finished" works on permanent display in museums, and instead formulated the idea of an immaterial art, which one encounters through participation and which he called "action as form.”


But how should these types of works be presented when they weren’t being used? What form could they take in an exhibition? Could they be hung on the walls and thereby “museumified”? As far as this was concerned, Franz Erhard Walther already had clear ideas. The page depicted here is a hybrid letter, instructions, and artistic sketch. The short question "Dear Rudi, have we talked about how the works are to be hung?" is followed by “if not:” with drawn instructions. With simple, precise strokes, the artist sketched how the work should be attached to the wall, even including measurements. He imagined hanging each element with “thin steel rods in the quilted strips sewn to the top,” which he emphasized with red pen markings.


The punched holes and date of receipt — June 8, 1982 — bureaucratically stamped on the page reveal that the recipient categorized the sheet of paper simply as a document rather than as an artistic product. Therefore, it wasn’t treated as a work of art and remained in the files, even though the sketches were created by Walther, a renowned artist who was the recipient of many awards, including the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2017.


Birgit Jooss