Dieter Roth: Diaries

  • Art
  • Painting
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Dieter Roth Estate. Courtesy of Hauser & Wirth. Photographs © Alan Dimmick. Courtesy The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 2012
Dieter Roth, 'Solo Scenes', 1997-98

Our daily routines are logged in one way or another: through our Facebook status, reminders on our phones, touching in and out with our Oyster or physically scribbling down appointments and ‘to do’ lists. German-Swiss artist Dieter Roth took the process that one bit further by recording his existence on this planet with scrupulous candour.

Over the course of a year that turned out to be his last, Roth made 128 video tapes which recorded his comings and goings at home and in his studio. These ‘Solo Scenes’, shown here on a wall of monitors, would become the culmination of his relentless urge to document his life. Each film replays Roth’s actions, from getting into the shower, using the toilet, reading, working – even times he was inactive, such as when he was asleep. The daily chores that most of us would rather not think about, Roth emphasises as poetic ritual.

The tedium of the everyday is echoed through the repetitive installation of the works. Doodled drawings jut out from one gallery wall. The uniform hang almost suffocates their free-spirited execution – but then that’s the point. A regimented form of display is also used in ‘Flat Waste’ (1975-76/1992), Roth’s beautifully clerical ringbinders. Yet all 623 folders are basically full of unruly rubbish: plastic sleeves contain everything from dirty serviettes and dried banana skins to doilies and restaurant flyers, which were amassed on Roth’s travels.

Although he was conscious that his diaries and files would be looked at one day, Roth never succumbed to artful editing. He captures the transience of life with a precise formula that is joyously interrupted by his messiness.

Freire Barnes

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