Tuesday 17 March 2015

Margret: Chronicle of an Affair – May 1969 to December 1970 at White Columns


Günter K.s "Margret", untitled, Vintage Print,1970/11/04,10,5x 7,5, Courtesy Galerie Susanne Zander / Delmes & Zander

Organized in collaboration with Galerie Susanne Zander / Delmes & Zander, Cologne.
White Columns is proud to present in collaboration with Galerie Susanne Zander / Delmes & Zander, Cologne + Berlin, the American debut of "Margret: Chronicle of an Affair – May 1969 to December 1970", an extraordinary collection of found materials relating to a private affair conducted between a German businessman and his secretary in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

"Margret" chronicles a secret love story, which took place from May 1969 to December 1970 between the Cologne businessman Günter K., 39, and his secretary Margret S., 24. The exhibition – and a subsequent publication - consists of the photographs, documents and objects that were found three decades later in a briefcase abandoned in a German apartment. The archive consists of hundreds of color and black-and-white photographs showing the same woman (Margret S.) in various places and poses: sitting at a typewriter at the office, traveling, or in hotel rooms, undressing, changing, or getting dressed. In the archive, inscribed with dates, are samples of Margret's hair (from both her head and pubic region), her fingernails, and empty contraception packages, as well as a blood-stained napkin. Receipts from hotels and restaurants, as well as travel documents and tickets from theaters, reveal insights into the places the couple visited as well as acknowledging their preferences and interests. Personal notes and diary entries, mostly written with a typewriter, resemble official records. The focus of virtually all these writings is the sexual act, its frequency, its endurance, etc. - all factually underlined yet at the same time described in a coarse and often obscene language. In its conceptual denseness - resulting partly from the obsessiveness of the documentation - the collection seems to reverberate with the practices of artists such as Sophie Calle, where the viewer often finds themselves in a conflicted space, exposed to their own voyeurism.

In his introduction to the original presentation of ‘Margret’ in Innsbruck curator Veit Loers observed:
“In September 1970, the diary entries set in, with precise descriptions of what happens during foreplay and then of the sexual act itself, but also mentioning all kinds of things happening besides. All this is meticulously typed, in red and black ink, as by a bookkeeper of his own obsession. The couple go on "business trips" in Günter's Opel Kapitän, stay at spa hotels and visit the casino in Wiesbaden. Then the trysts begin to take place in an attic flat in Günter's store building. Nobody is supposed to know, but people must notice something. Margret prepares roulades and redfish filets with cucumber salad. They drink Cappy (orange juice) with a green shot (Escorial, strong liquor) and watch "colourful television." Margret dresses for him in the clothes he has bought her. He, the perfect lover, in truth is a macho man who wants to have everything under control. She enjoys his attention, his generosity, is happy to let herself be manipulated, is jealous, becomes pregnant despite the pills, and has an illegal abortion − for the third time in her young life. Just before Christmas 1970 the reports and photographs break off. The relationship appears to be at an end. Margret is scared. She tells him that "after Christmas the fucking will be over and you will not dance at two weddings anymore." He gets involved with other women. These are no love stories, though, just obsessive sexual romps, chronicled nonetheless in hundreds of grotesque documents testifying to the stuffy German milieu in the early years of the Kohl era.”      

The book ‘Margret: Chronik einer Affare – Mai 1969 bis Dezember 1970’ was published in German in 2012 on the occasion of exhibitions of this material at the Kunstraum, and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin.  The book is now out-of-print. The White Columns’ presentation of ‘Margret’ is the first presentation of the materials in a non-German speaking context. A selection of the translated texts are available at the gallery.

‘Marget’ is presented in parallel to the exhibition ‘System and Vision’ organized by Delmes & Zander at David Zwirner, New York. February 28 – April 18.

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