Maria Eichhorn’s artistic output often defies commodifiable forms by engaging in direct actions that subvert the logic of artistic and economic institutions. In earlier projects, she used exhibition budgets to acquire a plot of land in the German city of Munster, to fund the renovation of Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland, and to establish a joint stockholding company, the assets of which are to remain idle. The legal procedures involved in those actions were meticulously documented in publications and videos that the artist uses to disseminate her work and let it circulate in discourse rather than in the art trade.
Her project Curtain (1989–2014) comprises ten curtains produced for different exhibitions over a twenty-fiveyear period. While the artist established the colors and their order at the outset of the project, the opportunities to hang or install the curtains could not be known in advance. The work has therefore functioned as a timekeeper of Eichhorn’s life and career. As generic architectural interventions, the curtains activate latent qualities of their surroundings while they conceal others.
For Toile/Pinceau/Peinture, Leinwand/Pinsel/Farbe, Tela/ Pennello/Colore (Canvas/Brush/Painting), her installation at the Biennale di Venezia, Eichhorn invites visitors to make a monochrome painting in one of 176 preselected colors. The name of the painter and the date on which the work is produced is to be written on the back of each canvas. While the assignment appears to involve a purely mechanical task, the resulting paintings in previous iterations of this work reveal that many of the participants find a way to express themselves creatively within the narrow confines of the exercise.
Eichhorn also addresses the tension between mechanized and creative labor in her video Militant (2011), in which an American girl reads the chapter “Militant” from Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt’s book Empire (2000). The chapter elucidates the relations between capitalism, violence, and revolutionary struggle. In their book, the authors invoked the legend of Saint Francis of Assisi and his refusal of “every instrumental discipline” to sketch “the future life of communist militancy,” yet their insistence on creative resistance ultimately suggests an important political role for artists.