Thomas Locher, whose work has been regarded as a seminal contribution to neo-conceptual art since the late 1980s, studies the rules that govern language and the complexity of its function. He examines semiotic systems and structures of communication in order to point up their political implications as well as their consequences for the community and the ability of the individual to act. His text-image constructions and installation situations build interconnections between images and verbal fields in order to reveal the structures inscribed upon language, qualify apparent universals and regularities, and show up alternative meanings.
Locher’s early abstract number pictures already articulated a critique of the ostensible univocity of systems of signification, by combining color fields and numbers so as to intimate a mathematical and logical system of reference without actually disclosing it. For Politics of Communication (2000), he arranged photographs of anonymous office spaces, standardized workplaces, and mass-manufactured seating furniture on wall panels painted in monochrome colors, linking them to text fields that interrogated the interplay between sender, receiver, message, code, and context. The attempt to trace their correlations gives rise to a polysemous and open-ended interactive process that reveals the uniformity of office communication as well as its hierarchical structures.
Locher’s more recent works have frequently addressed the connections between language and economic issues. The text-image series GIFT. TO GIVE. GIVING. GIVEN. GIFT, IF THERE IS ANY … (J.D.) (2006), for instance, consists of publicly available media images, most of which contain the motif of giving or handing over, the giving and shaking of hands, etc. Locher contrasts these pictures with handwritten pieces, adaptations of fragments from Jacques Derrida’s essay “Donner le temps,” where the philosopher discusses the gift as a paradoxical phenomenon.
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