Weaving from the WorldWideWeb: Margret Eicher - the contract thief

Lady Gaga, Lego soldiers, Joker - united in a frenzy of images, the whole thing a monumental, woven carpet.

Weaving from the WorldWideWeb: Margret Eicher - the contract thief

Lady Gaga, Lego soldiers, Joker - united in a frenzy of images, the whole thing a monumental, woven carpet. The 30 meter long media collage Battle:Reloaded by Margret Eicher can be seen in the Moritzburg Art Museum in Halle. ntv.de visited the conceptual artist in her Berlin studio.

She unabashedly steals digital imagery for her art. Targets the stars of pop culture and the media. Nothing that buzzes around you constantly and day after day in the news and the endless expanse of the Internet is safe from her. Margret Eicher reassembles these collected images on the computer in complex digital processes, thereby interpreting media reality and having surprising tapestries woven from them in Belgium. The artist calls herself a "contract thief". "I act on my own behalf. Unsolicited images flood me every day, I can't avoid them," she explains to ntv.de during a visit to the studio in Berlin.

It's in the middle of Berlin, on a quiet side street off Kurfürstendamm. She happily opens the door and invites in. Her studio is also her apartment, because a desk with a large computer screen is enough for her. The artist has been working purely digitally for twenty years and has taught herself the craft. "In the beginning I was pretty stupid and produced some nervous breakdowns," she says with a laugh. At that time she was still living in southern Germany and friends who had a communications agency offered her a job.

She now skilfully uses the "infinite cosmos" of digital image processing. Use it to transform your icons, heroes and pathos formulas from the web into irritating weavings. She is interested in the connections, the meaning of certain phenomena and the superficiality of the quick, profane consumption of snippets. Margret Eicher mostly stays on the surface herself: "I don't watch Star Wars or Lara Croft films," she laughs, "but the high level of identification with these characters is exciting. They are idols, just like war heroes in the past, princes or bishops. They are the modern day equivalent, most politicians are too mundane by comparison."

By adding the illustrations, her impressive art is created. And although the material she uses is so traditional and therefore imposing, it is not the textile material that appeals to her. "I'm only interested in the quotation of the pictorial form in the courtly tapestry. Back in the 16th and 17th centuries it was a communication medium at court. Just like the mass media, the press or YouTube are now for our modern, pluralistic society. I could too do a digital print of my work, but that's not enough. I want to make it clear what it's all about."

With the visually stunning collages, she holds up a mirror to media culture. Unmasks their empty icons and the supposedly salutary, virtual future. The highlight: in front of their tapestries, the viewers believe they are standing in front of historical tapestries for a split second. But before you look away, perhaps bored, there are suddenly armies of Lego men. In between there are Pokémons and Ninja Turtles. Isn't that Lara Croft? There Lady Gaga? Beyonce? Where is actress Scarlett Johansson or whistleblower Julian Assange looking? To the audience, to another life?

The figures of the digital world connect the past and the present with Eicher through their iconic potential. "For the viewer, the mass media giants become tradable objects. The collage is democratic and a medium that has come out of protest. In the end, I bring together an aristocratic image medium with a protest technique of the lower class," says the conceptual artist. She works on her collages millimeter by millimeter to take away their photographic effect. This is how the textile painting is created in the end.

Born in Viersen in the Rhineland, Margret Eicher already knew at high school that she wanted to be an artist. At the Düsseldorf Art Academy in the 1970s, as a woman and with her photo-realistic style of painting, it was not always easy for her. "I was surrounded by quite machos and daredevils. I learned more from the aura at the academy than from the conversations there. Snooty, derogatory statements sometimes haunt your head for weeks and in the end get you ahead," she reports with her soft Rhenish singsong in the voice. That 'Wow, you draw great' thing got on her nerves at some point. "I found this limitation to a gifted person very disturbing," she says firmly.

The way out was the 'CopyCollage' that she invented: She produced her pictures semi-automatically with a photocopier. And is successful - her works are bought and end up in collections. She furnishes entire rooms in museums with her ornamental patterns. Already here she extracts images from politics and advertising, deals with codes, norms and stereotypes. It is the power of the images that fascinates her and which she questions. In 2000 she finally dedicated herself to her media tapestry and the pixels. In the meantime, she has asked for coffee in her kitchen. Does she like tidy, structured work on the computer? "Look around, I don't find it difficult to create order. It doesn't matter whether it's about the structure of the picture or about life. Obviously I enjoy structuring and composing." Everything in the kitchen has its place.

On a several-week trip to the Loire in 1999, the artist was initially unsympathetic to the extreme density of medieval tapestries in the castles there. "The spontaneous impression is a bit stuffy at first. At some point I realized that what I do with my CopyCollages can also be found in the tapestries." She means the pattern as a principle, not the aesthetic, but the social, the prototypical pattern. It took almost two years for the first carpet to be implemented. Not only did she have to learn how to use the computer, she also had to find a weaving mill. One or the other in her environment advised her against her plan. But success came again - and stayed.

Margret Eicher used the time during the pandemic for an almost insane large-scale project: for a year and a half she worked on Battle: Reloaded, a 30 meter long and 1.2 meter high picture panorama. It is her paraphrase of the Bayeux Tapestry. The Battle of Hastings in 1066 can be seen on the original, which is more than 900 years old. Margret Eicher is currently showing her version of war, appropriation, violence, disharmony and dystopia in the Moritzburg in Halle. For her "cultural reportage", as she calls it, she mixes narratives from popular culture with quotations from art history. "It's the portrayal of setting out for a battle," she says. The original scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry run along the lower edge of the picture like a story.

But their stars are people with virtual reality glasses, King Kong, Batman and Joker, Lady Gaga in a teleportation device and Julian Assange. The Big Bang or Aztec castles appear, as do listening devices from the Cold War and the globe. Each viewer discovers and decodes something different. Margret Eicher directs her imposing, analogue work of art as personal self-assertion against the blind cult of images, imposed role models and distorted power structures in the virtual world.

Battle:Reloaded. Until January 8, Moritzburg Art Museum, Friedmann-Bach-Platz 5, 06108 Halle. For the accompanying program with public tours here.

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