If the German artist titles his show “Erst die gute Nachricht, bitte!“ („The good news first, please!“), and focuses on deconstruction and fragmentation processes in the center of his artistic methodology, we do not want to follow the logical argument of this call. Rather, we must exclude the bad news from the implied train of thought and restrict ourselves to the good news and the motto: take what you need.
Only, what do you need to make art? Clemens Behr, who was born in 1985 in Koblenz and studied at the UDK in Berlin, does not need much. His works are characterized by an intense examination of the public space, equipped with a inclination for everyday materials such as wood or cardboard and a large talent for improvisation. In recent years, Behr has cultivated his preference for DIY (do-it-yourself projects) strategies and realised works around the globe—from Oslo to San Francisco to São Paulo. Flexibility, modesty (bordering on needlessness), intuition and the courage for appropriation and misappropriation are the characterological dispositions which characterize his artist profile.
Central to Behrs mostly site-specific works, localized in the indoor as well as outdoor spaces, is the principle of collage and its spatial unfolding in the assemblage. From found objects, remnants of social use, waste from the road, objects trouvés to generally recycled materials, Behr combines this myriad of materials in the manner of a bricoleur in order to create his high-relief oeuvres, free standing sculptures and all encompassing installations. Behr’s working with “whatever-is-at-hand“ is based loosely on Claude Levi-Strauss’s concept of “bricolage”, a non-predetermined process that combines elements of random chance and improvisation. The artist, who once compared demolition sites to a gold mine, creates his art from existing modules and objects. Behr sees himself as a free jazz musician who separates these objects into their individual components, generating a new aesthetical syntax, which „take and combine what is there“ so the here and now may unfold.
Behr builds his abstract geometric constructions out of recodified materials. Those creations tend to be ephemeral and based on intuitive decisions. They follow a tradition of dadaistic and cubist imagery and remind us of the apartment that Kurt Schwitters transformed into a work of art named „Merzbau“. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Merzbau was unintentionally destroyed in an airstrike during World War II. What is intentional in Clemens Behr’s work is his preference in the principal of deconstruction rather than construction and favor for the procedural work method over conservation and the value of eternity.
Text by Angela Stief