During the 19th century it reached its heyday as an entertaining picture puzzle that could often be found in French and German magazines. This exhibition aims to show how the rebus advanced to the present day, serving as a catalyst for form, content and technique in the visual arts. Through 30 exhibits the rebus is revealed as a subject of language, hearing and vision.
The scope of the exhibition ranges from the rebuses that first entered mass media circulation through the Parisian satirical magazine Le Charivari, to the most recent attempts of encrypting abstract concepts within tangible objects, as demonstrated by the example of Avery Singer’s “Blockchain” – a brick, representing a block, and silver chain. Moreover, the exhibition brings together prints by Honoré Daumier,Théodore Maurisset, Cham, Friedrich Tschiersch, Alfred Le Petit and Émile Cohl, Marcel Broodthaers and Paul Rand; films by Paul Leni, Alfred Hitchcock/Salvador Dalí and John Smith; paintings by Gerhard Hoehme and Gunter Reski; a multiple by Arthur Köpcke; photographs by Annette Kelm, as well as installations by Alexandre Singh and Una Hepburn. In addition, it presents reproductions of the satirical magazine Berliner Wespen, a painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme, a readymade by Marcel Duchamp, five rebus-dessert plates, this year’s Eckstein-summer riddle from Zeitmagazin, and a rebus by Moritz Honert, editor at Tagesspiegel Sonntag.
The exhibition is concerned with the manifold references this specific picture puzzle unfurled over a span of 175 years – whether in lithographs or films, whether in letters or numerical combinations, whether for the purposes of infiltration or even critique of censorship, whether as a Christian motto or a digitally circulated abbreviation of written words.
The focus is on the question of how the rebus could unfold its influence, reaching from the entertainment culture of the 19thcentury to contemporary art. One possible answer may be that both the act of creating and the act of solving a rebus demands and effectuates a certain sensitization for images and language. The rebus presents spaces of imagination that can be used as a model for the potentials of interpretation, as well as for the significance of art.
The exhibition features a brochure with texts about the individual exhibits that were written by students of the Art History Department at Freie Universität Berlin.
Marcel Broodthaers, Cham, Émile Cohl, Salvador Dalí, Honoré Daumier, Marcel Duchamp, Eckstein, Sigmund Freud, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Alfred Hitchcock, Una Hepburn, Gerhard Hoehme, Moritz Honert, Annette Kelm, Arthur Köpcke, Paul Leni, Alfred Le Petit, Théodore Maurisset, Paul Rand, Gunter Reski, Avery Singer, Alexandre Singh, John Smith, Friedrich Tschiersch
compiled by Tobias Vogt