URBAN SEMAPHORE: THE ARTIST AS TELEGRAPHER: Text for Raul Walch monograph

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I was commissioned by Lukas Feirreiss to contribute a text to the publication he edited about the work of artist Raul Walch, published by Kerber Verlag entitled Raul Walch: It’s a great pressure to be here.

Here is a short extract from the text, titled Urban Semaphore: The Artist as Telegrapher:

“The practice of telegraphy involves the transmission of information, usually across some distance, without recourse to verbal or audio means. It is a purely visual mode of communication that usually entails the decoding of a visual language such as that of flag semaphore used in maritime contexts. The practice of interpreting and decoding visual signals in real-time is one that inhabitants of urban environments undertake everyday – from the kaleidoscopic tapestry of advertising that is draped across the contemporary city to the municipal vernacular of street signage, along with more overt measures designed to control and demarcate urban space. Punctuating all of these are more ephemeral offerings, such as the layers and layers of marks left by graffiti artists and flyposterers or the accidental glimpses of what lies “behind the curtain” afforded by partially pulled back building hoardings.

 While the former, more “intentional” signposts are designed to inform or instruct, it is often those in the latter transient category that disclose more about the environment in which they are situated. With his frequent use, among other strategies, of coloured fabric within urban space, the work of artist Raul Walch can be related to the term ‘semaphore’ not just as a noun denoting the aforementioned visual flag system but also as a verb: ‘to semaphore’, meaning to send a message or signals. Already evidencing his own awareness of this correlative via the title of his Semaphore series, when his oeuvre is seen through the same prism the artist can be described as one who is effectively semaphoring the urban environment.”

Raul Walch is a sculptor and conceptual artist. Yet, in his site-specific interventions, he turns into a critical investigator, performer, and activist as well. Aside from being a survey of his artistic practice, It’s a great pressure to be here is a wry comment on the globalized present, the human condition, and contemporary societal issues. A topical glossary, encompassing inspirations, ideas, people, and places, scholarly essays, and an interview convey how artistic engagement can become instrumental in the examination and possible transformation of the given socio-political realities.

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