A permanent sculpture by David Bade for a public space is not exactly something one would expect. Not that his sculptures can not withstand being outdoors – on the contrary, he has frequently made them in situ in the open air.
Bade does not shrink from using even his most vulnerable works – his drawings – for these sculptures, thereby making it evident that permanency is rarely his ultimate objective. For instance, for the exhibition Among Others in Venice (1995) he stuck his drawings onto a wall of already peeling posters, hung them on rain-dripping walls or let them be blown about by the wind. The fact that they got damaged, torn or even disappeared left him unmoved. He even used the temporary nature of his outdoor sculptures as a visual device: what is ephemeral disappears and its disappearance and deterioration at the mercy of the elements and its treatment by the general public (touching, tearing or scratching) is all part of the work itself. The visible disintegration may be termed the poetry of aggression’. This metamorphosis by stealth is accelerated by Bade’s use of materials. He incorporates polystyrene, foam, wooden slats, wire netting and fabric into his outdoor sculptures as if they were enjoying the protection of a museum room. By these actions, Bade has taken up a radical position as one among a number of young artists in revolt against museums and their institutionalized codes and customs. Since he regards a public space and a museum space as being completely ‘equal’ and approaches them in the same way, the distinction between the two is removed. The quiet restraint of a museum space is absorbed by the uncompromising hardness of the outdoor space – and vice versa.
The inner and outer world flowing into each other is not only limited to the use of materials but is also evident in the content of his work. Bade mixes his personal thoughts with newspaper headlines and reports from the mass media as well as with slogans, graffiti and other sub-culture writings. By causing everything to intermingle his work becomes an alert, critical, mocking and unbiased personal message in a world largely characterized by self-interest, self-importance, hypocrisy and narrow-minded¬ness. “Principles are like farts – hold them in until you no longer can and then let them go with a bang”, is but one of his more trenchant messages.
What makes choosing a sculpture by Bade tricky from an official standpoint is that there is generally not anything to select. When you choose him, you choose an attitude rather than a concrete work of art. Bade does not conceive of a piece in clearcut forms. The work arises from the act of doing, the creating of it. This means paths can be followed which take the creator far away from his original starting point, but which in fact return him inevitably back to it. It is quite amazing to realize that nowadays we are suspicious towards this artist’s attitude. We have decided it is old-fashioned and see it as little more than a licence for unrestrained behaviour, where everything in theory is possible and artistic criteria and decisions are arbitrary and uncontrollable. We expect artists to work according to scale and to be able to show and explain what they do at the various phases of their development in a way that we are used to in our rational, calculating and product-oriented society.
In Bade’s artistic world the lost Utopia of the 1960s and 1970s rumbles on. That was the time in which the imagination could still be all-powerful, in which the statement by Joseph Beuys: “Everyone is an artist” hung on everyone’s lips, and in which self-expression prevailed over logical and objective thought. Where have these days of unashamed and impassioned naivety gone? In the subsequent big clean-up period much disappeared under lock and key which is now due for reconsideration at least, or even possible revaluation. The placing of a sculpture by Bade, an artist who in so many ways is indebted to those rich, fitful years, can be seen as a hopeful sign.
Bade did not have any detailed models of Anita for the commitee and the work underwent radical changes until the very last minute. For Anita he could not fall back on his preferred use of slum materials, since the sculpture had to be of a more durable nature. Using the technical know-how of a polyester company that usually makes sculptures and installations for Walt Disney – theme parks – could Bade have done any better? — the textures of certain materials were precisely and faithfully reproduced. The factory-workers nicknamed the sculpture ‘Horny Anita’ — something Bade appreciated. She rises out of a large industrial refuse bag — a Rotterdam Statue of Liberty, holding her satay skewer up high as a torch. The refuse bag used as a plinth makes a fantastic statement — therein the poetry of aggression is con¬centrated like the energy of permanent construction and deconstruction. The refuse bag on the pavement is the symbol of work in progress, of knocking down in order to build up again — it is the angular container of relentless change. Is there a better site possible for this sculpture than in this city of workers? Also in a sculptural sense the refuse bag is evocative. In it the surplus material was stored out of which Bade liberated Anita. In her rough design there is something inconstant about Anita. Her round, coloured forms are both sensual as well as injured and vulnerable. Within this disunity memories are fused together. She stands like a lonely Amazon, proud and at the ready, watching over the field for young skaters — a refuge on a narrow spit of land surrounded by the stream of city traffic. She stands there representing the imagination and freedom — of the artist, the city and its inhabitants. Certainly she’s frayed and damaged —but there is a promise of liberation in her critical imperfection.
Lex ter Braak
EXHIB. CAT. DAVID BADE, NEXT TO TEXT NEXT, NICE (MUSEE D’ART MODERNE ET D’ART CONTEMPORAINE) 1999