'Telltale' has a variety of related meanings and can be translated in several ways. Telltale can mean a gossiper, a snitch or it can suggest that something is suspicious, revealing or has been exposed. It can mean a device or system which is an indicator, signal, or sign. "To tell a tale," means to narrate a story, one which could be a fable or a fairytale, perhaps even that the storyteller is pulling someone's leg. Questions therefore arise: What is the truth? What is fabrication? Are these differentiations at all important? Isn't a well-told tale more exciting than simple data and facts?
'Telltale? as a term is also reminiscent of "telling tall tales." Tall tales are an important element of American folk literature, beginning with the obviously larger-than-life bragging contests in the frontier west, several made famous by Mark Twain. These stories concern unbelievable occurrences, related as if they were true, yet told with a wink. The exaggerations make it clear to the audience that the supposedly truthful narrator knows that they know he is lying for entertainment value. This brings to mind the far more pernicious notion of 'fake news' being bandied about recently: lies spread in the media for propagandistic reasons, and even more appalling, the creators of those lies claiming them to be true while deceitfully claiming all actual facts and other opinions are the 'fake news.'
All of these meanings play into the artworks by Meszmer/Müller and Brandl.
Stories and history have been the center of Alex Meszmer and Reto Müller's art for years. The center of origin and vital reference point for the artists is the village of Pfyn and the house where the two artists reside; the house itself was built on the remains of the foundations of the ancient city walls of the Roman colonial castrum 'Ad Fines.' They live in a house surrounded, even supported, by history. The ask themselves: how is history constructed? Who makes history? And what will remain in the future from us and our culture?
For The Telltale Project Meszmer/Müller will further develop their installation No Fairer Land / Kein schöner Land. This an installation of found landscape paintings refashioned into pillows with a soundtrack of songs of their homeland hummed by people of various nationalities, i.e. 'Heimatlieder' as they are called in German. They will also be showing their Family Album / Familienalbum, comprised of manipulated photographs enabling different perspectives on gender relations or marriage for those in the past. Additionally, a video-installation of history and stories of Pfyn, Thurgovia will be in the exhibition.
Mark Staff Brandl's artwork revolves around a project concerning art histories (purposefully in the plural), their creation, reception and usefulness for us today. In performance-lectures and related installations and podcasts, he takes viewers and listeners on fascinating journeys through art and its history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically he analyzes, and discusses the reasons why a work of art is great, or through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history.
For The Telltale project, Brandl is creating a wall installation which centers on the history of art history. It concerns the often "missing" elements, people and cultures within it; and the creation of a more open, expansive, inclusive and self-critical model of art history and the teaching of art history. The piece includes two hand-drawn and painted visual compendiums of art history --- one the more-or-less-standard one, the other all and exclusively women artists, both prehistory through Postmodernism. It also contains a hand-drawn braid-like image of a complex, intertwined model of the art history time line; several additional related prints; a book comprised of drawings representing holes in art history discovered while teaching it; and a sequential, comic-like object, presenting a tale concerning contemporary art and art history drawn on the backs of entry badges for Basel Art Fair, documenta, the Venice Biennale and the like.
Several Artist Talks with the participating artists and a performance-lecture-evening will provide the public with a more extensive insight into the work of artists.