Via Lewandowsky

When the absurd is political - and vice versa

Works Bio

Within the Dresden group of the „autoperforation artists“ Via Lewandowsky once undermined the official art scene of the GDR with subversive performances. Since then he has been preoccupied with the question: what is appropriate for a specific society? „Socialism will triumph“ was an iron dogma in the GDR, but today this phrase is just ridiculous. The question „can that be done?“ remains on the agenda. A carefully prepared gas stove, ready for suicide: Can one present this as a work of art? Or slay a bird with a lump of paint? Well, violating taboos, ignoring the stop signs of political correctness can be quite liberating – and is thoroughly political.

Lewandowsky links the political to humor, satire and irony. Humorists know about the tragic side of man’s existence, the futility of our doings and the necessity to submit. The artist’s example: a large cabinet tries to cross a door and gets stuck inextricably (with the cabinet, not the wall, firmly on the ground). Deadlock is the appropriate word for this situation, it is a matter of life and death. Our laughter sticks in the throat.

The cuckoo clock, that releases a muezzin’s call, or writing that looks like islamic characters: theses are comments on present-day issues. In general, however, this work expresses trans-temporal aspects. Like all humorists and satirists, Landowsky is a pessimist, or a skeptic at least, and thus a philosopher. He answers the quest for the meaning of life (as in the movie The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) with the figure 42.

For the existentialist Albert Camus, man lives in a situation of the absurd, being trapped in the tension between the senselessness of the world and his desire for sensible action. Deadlock. Life is a maze, and it is easy to lose one’s thread – as it happens to Dad with his copper pipes. Or it is a fragile house of cards – like the one Lewandowsky piles up with exhibition walls. Life is a game, and sometimes you’ve simply got a bad hand. Tough luck.

This art is rooted in dadaism and surrealism, happening and fluxus. Yet of equal importance is its literary tradition, the works equal essays, reflexions and aphorisms. Like Machiavelli, they are brutal and without illusion, they are sympathetic like Montaigne, snappy like Jonathan Swift and elegant like Oscar Wilde. Even in the visual arts our search for precursors results in narratives: the modern moral subjects by William Hogarth. It is, one might assume, not without reason that the writer Durs Grünbein has been Lewandowsky’s closest artistic companion for decades. Within the œuvre words play a prominent role. Lewandowsky creates new terms and letterings and takes proverbs literally: he slices a canary cum cage in two halves and calls this „A pleasure shared is a fun doubled“.

Till Eulenspiegel’s emblems apply for this artist, too: The owl symbolizes his wisdom, in his mirror we recognize ourselves. The fool is a moralist, his wickedness accrues from his desperation about the state of the world. And the world is and remains full of riddles – which neither fool nor artist can solve in full.

For further information please visit the artist’s website.



1963Born in Dresden
1982-87Studied at the Art Academy Dresden
1989Moved to West-Berlin
2008-09Guest professor, Akademie der Künste, München
2013-14Guest professor, Universität der Künste, Berlin
Lives in Berlin

grants & awards

2011Villa Massimo, Rom
2009Villa Aurora, Los Angeles
2005Bejing Case, Bejing
German Critics Award
2003Artspace, Sydney
1998Botho Graef art award of the city of Jena
1997Kunstfonds Foundation, Bonn
1995Art Award, Leipziger Volkszeitung
1994Banff Centre for the Arts (Canada)
1991Grant of the Berlin Senate for P.S.1, New York


Via Lewandowsky has participated in a large number of group shows worldwide; his solo shows include regular presentations at Karin Sachs Munich, Martina Detterer Frankfurt on Main, Michael Schultz Berlin and Seoul, Ute Parduhn Düsseldorf, Arndt & Partner Berlin.

Institutional solo shows:

2017Murmur in sector zero, Schafhof – Europäisches Künstlerhaus Oberbayern, Freising
2016Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig
2015Hocus-pocus, Kunsthalle zu Kiel
2014Momentum, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Berlin
Casa di Goethe, Rom
2009Dortmunder Kunstverein
2008Haus am Waldsee, Berlin
2007Städtische Galerie Wolfsburg
2006Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin
Forum für Kunst, Heidelberg
2005Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig
2002Goethe Institut Rom
2000Deutsches Hygiene Museum, Dresden
Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover
1999Kunstverein Lingen, Kunstverein Rosenheim, Albrecht Dürer-Gesellschaft Nürnberg
1998Deutsches Museum Bonn
1995Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig
1991Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken
Goethe Institut Toronto
1989NGBK, Berlin

For a complete biography please see the artist’s website.