by Philippe Cyroulnik
This Monograph has been written in the wake of the Miguel Rothschild exhibition at Le 19, Regional Contemporary Art Centre at MontbÈliard. It will help the public to make an initial and overall approach to the work of this unusual and fascinating artist. From the 1989 portraits, which we saw in his studio in Buenos Aires, where he was living at that time, to the performances he put on in Germany, and more specifically in Berlin, where he set up home, then to the photos >discovering< paradise in the form of a place, a city, a railway station, a signpost, a shop or a shop sign, or the fleet-books in the >master man< series, auto-fictions in the kitsch manner of the photo romance, to his installations, Miguel Rothschild carries us off into a map of the land of love which resembles a way of the cross. By accepting with resigned cheerfulness the throes and pangs of his destiny, his >character< makes his way uncomplainingly through the stations of misfortune and suffering. But with such submission, such a surfeit of zeal in the ordeal and in this submission to the tragedy of the daily round, such a pathos in his >adventures<, such a naÔvety in the invariably dashed hope, that we move swiftly to the other side of the representation to end up in a world where the pathetic flirts with the burlesque. He borrows a tradition originating in the purest tradition of painting (depiction of suffering and wounding in religious painting) and in the mystic tradition (flagellation achieving ecstasy); but he does it all with the irony of an artist who is living in the age of general disenchantment. He knows that in this world of pervasive mercantile production and consumerism, History is divided up into little (hi)stories, the Passion into airport novels, Paradise into trademarks, and that even eternity has a use-by date.
If he borrows from the most classical of pictorial traditions, he tempers it with a healthy dose of the grotesque. He does not hate conceptual art, but seasons it with a zest of neo-dadaism. Driven out of Paradise, our bogus Adam is content with not very much, mortal remains as trophy, nightmare as dream, and the mawkish as marvellous. This is why signposts become signs, objects relics, and booklets the hints of this paradise lost. There is something of Don Quixote about him, and Buster Keaton, too. And to adopt the common formula, he has striven for the best only to know the worst, but as a good apostle he does not give up hope, but carries on with unwavering conviction along his disastrous track. As we well know, however, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Translated by Simon Pleasance