First point of contact with the Mondoshawans happens in 1914 at the antique town of Hegra in Saudi Arabia. An archeologist is about to unravel the secret signage inscribed in the walls of the ancient temple. 349 years later, at the year 2263 great evil threatens to destroy earth and only one thing can save us all: The 5th Element, as the story goes in the movie that premiered in 1997.

 

Strikingly similar the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg selected a type face for their exhibition publication “Frischluft – video art of the 1980s” in 1993 resembling closely that secret message on the ancient walls. The publication sticks out with its bright yellow back in between the other books in the section of the subject of new media art here at the art library of the documenta archiv. A closer inspection reveals a plastic video tape box containing a booklet and a cardboard block that is covered on one side with a mirrored surface reflecting the readers face. Both covers from the box and the booklet are designed in the shape of a video tape referring closely to its contents.

 

The yearly exhibition program of the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum in 1993 was orientated towards contemporary sculpture, particularly the expanded understanding of sculpture including happenings and performances, installations and new media intended to cater specifically to a young adult audience. Answers on finding the best approach were found via visitor surveys amongst other places also at the previous documenta in Kassel. These informed the selection of artists chosen to participate; namely Marina Abramović (born 1946), Christian Boltanski (born 1944), FLATZ (born 1952) , Cathérine Ikam (born 1942), Bruce Nauman (born 1941) and Bill Viola (born 1951), whose works resonate with the interests of young people by touching on current social and existential questions, the sense of life, violence, love and death. The art historian Bettina Ruhrberg (born 1958) mapped in her essay the limits of sculpture starting with environments and installations to the documentation of performances culminating in the actual video art. The title for the exhibition was taken from a sculpture by FLATZ, Frischluft - Physical Sculpture No. 2. Ten fans in a row with rotor blades shaped in the form of a swastika that blew cold air directly at the audience pointing metaphorically to a new formation of right-wing extremism.

 

As much as the zeitgeist of the 1990s is captured in the type face and the movie alike, Frischluft calls for a self-reflection, either through the works by the participating artists or simply through the reflection of one self in the mirror of the catalogue.

 

- Anja Ziegler