Feb 22, 2020 · 6:02 PM

Date 2014
Sheet dimensions 50 x 50 cm
Technique/material Lithography, printed by Steindruckerei Wolfensberger, Zurich
Credit Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by the artist
Inv. no. SK15014.01
Ingrid Isermann

ASK WHY

Unique lithography of a series of 25 copies in different colors
The culture journalist, poet, and language artist Ingrid Isermann (born 1943 in Hamburg, Germany) is the editor of the online culture magazine “Literatur&Kunst.” She also initiated the “Erster Zürcher Lyrik Preis Literatur&Kunst” [First Literature & Art Poetry Award in Zurich] in 2012. Her artworks are devoted to visual poetry. The words she writes are condensed and intensified with their meanings into colorful pictures in which she plays with formats and fonts. In one picture, she splits the word “viel/leicht" (“vielleicht” means “perhaps”) into “viel” (meaning “much”) and “leicht” (meaning “light”), inverting the meaning of the latter by printing “leicht” in bold letters. In another picture, she plays with the word “Anima” in bands of different colors. As is often the case in poetry, repetition is used here as an important element to emphasize a statement or create a new meaning. Sometimes Ingrid Isermann lets letters “dance” by raising or lowering them to create a vibrant pattern. This can be seen in the two lithographs “ASK WHY ASK WHY ASK WHY” in which this is repeated ten times in each line in pink lettering on a green, sometimes purple ground. The stress sometimes shifts from “Ask why” to “Why ask.” Isermann calls this method the “anatomy of words,” which is also the title of her publication from 2014.
Isermann takes words, letters, and punctuation out of their semantic context and turns their phonetic, visual, and acoustic dimensions into literary tools. Language no longer describes a fact, a thought, or a mood; it represents only itself. For this, she also relies on visual design. Isermann’s artistic practice puts her in the tradition of Eugen Gomringer, who coined the term “Konkrete Poesie” [Concrete Poetry] in the 1950s in analogy to the term “Concrete Art.” The core poetic act is thus the construction or the innovative arrangement of the individual language elements. Gomringer regards his poems, which he calls “constellations,” as the simplest possible way to create visual poetry. Through the text’s graphic arrangement, its content is thus underlined or questioned in an ironic way.
Gomringer has praised Ingrid Isermann’s work by saying: “Ingrid Isermann understands the great game of visual poetry. She sometimes comes dangerously close to legendary examples of this genre, but as an anatomist she unearths new good things. … armed with puns and semantic connections this poet has ascended to the Concrete pedestal.” (1)
The principles of both of these artists are a reaction also to the reduction of language as a result of ever faster growing communication in the 20th century.

Dominique von Burg

(1) Eugen Gomringer, “Visuelle Konkrete Poesie in Fortsetzung,” in Ingrid Isermann, “Die Anatomie der Worte,” Wolfsberg Verlag, 2014, p. 11.




With financial support by:

Lotteriefonds Canton of Zurich

Baugarten Stiftung
Ernst Göhner Stiftung
Dr. Adolph Streuli-Stiftung
Stiftung Kunstsammlung Albert und Melanie Rüegg



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Feb 22, 2020
6:00:00 PM CET