First the Feet

By Roberto Ohrt. Excerpt from the book 'Kippenberger'

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The big egg that underlies the Portrait of Paul Schreber (p. 173) points to his identification with the case and makes the picture a kind of self-portrait; the network of colors and forms, as in a parallel trawl, also bring in the questions of painting. A gray grain, not entirely attuned to the oval of the egg, along with other imperfections in the projection, give rise to an unreal illusion of space, woven from glimpses and veiling, more gaps than connection. This false feeling of space is irradiated by the shimmering of the narrow strips of Plexiglas, on which are printed Schreber's curious sentences, which can only be read from close up, those fragmented witnesses to his father's mania for discipline, preserved in the fragmented language of the child. This iridescent and reflective varnish of Plexiglas and words surround the young Schreber in the middle, his gaze cast down and inwards, the picture of the man as a childhood picture. The story of Fred the Frog and the carver of crucifixes began a few years earlier. In the case of Schreber, all that was to be seen of the body was the shadow, the big egg, and within it a medallion, his head being a hole, the hole in the belly of the familiar Familie Hunger (p. 144/145). Fred the Frog showed the body beneath the skin of a mask and all the more clearly. To start with it was perhaps no more than a joke, a confusion between Jesus and Casanova or the nails in both hands and fucking in bed, that other nailing. Jeff Koons had immortalized himself with Cicciolina in this position, also made in the wood of Alpine craft, and Martin Kippenberger was doubtless reluctant to believe in such a naive Made in Heaven. In the Tyrol, where he was carved, the Frog caused a scandal, as might have been expected, whereby the joke in the title was an additional provocation. And yet he was an identification figure, an icon of the unsaved creature, of that Other under the skin, who is only waiting for a kiss.

The book accompanying the first exhibition with Fred is the most beautiful collection of texts that Martin ever published, poems that were spoken down from the Cross, in the final seconds, at the moment in which release or redemption only comes again in the familiar fashion. Incidentally, the Frog's cross is put together from pieces of stretcher frame for canvases, the Cross of Art, a cross for the skin of painting, and at the last moment - this is the second joke that was always told in Fred's honor - at the last moment he should have been liberated finally from his suffering on Golgotha. The rescuers approached. There he hung, set up with the Cross on his back, and still alive. They were already climbing up, and were already pulling the nails out, first the right hand, and then the left, too late for his request: Not the hands, please! First the feet!

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Martin Kippenberger, Return of the dead mother with new problems, 1984. Oil on canvas, 63 x 52 1/2 inches. (c) Estate of Martin Kippenberger