Productive Image Interference:
Sigmar Polke and Artistic Perspectives Today

Sigmar Polke
Amerikanisch-Mexikanische Grenze, 1984
Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden
© The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

Fake news with manipulated images (even in high resolution), virtual reality, an infinite cosmos of increasingly widespread JPEG and GIF images: we have long lived with the awareness that we cannot trust our eyes and that pictures, whether produced manually or technically, do not so much depict reality as shape it – including transmission errors, degradation of quality, hacks, and other forms of interference. When Sigmar Polke was a student at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in the early 1960s, his interest quickly turned to images of his time that were widely disseminated in the mass media. The transmission, interference, the transformation, and recoding of these images, including their resulting or revealed errors, became a motif and early trademark in his raster dot paintings.

To mark the 80th anniversary of Sigmar Polke’s birth, the Anna Polke Foundation and the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf are realizing an exhibition project that juxtaposes works by Sigmar Polke with current artistic positions under the title Productive Image Interference.

Based on current research, which regards Sigmar Polke as a universal contemporary and a postmodern artist’s artist who makes use of a wide variety of visual and temporal contexts, the exhibition focuses for the first time on a specific approach that characterizes Polke’s oeuvre. Polke’s technique, his handling of different media, contexts, and materials, relies on the potential of the supposedly flawed, blurred, and mutable. His works play with the pleasure of the illusion of images and in so doing question the effectiveness of (manipulated) images in different ways and various media. This productive interference of images is also a central strategy for a current generation of artists. The selected works by contemporary international artists show new techniques and methods that illustrate how forms of visual interference remain a productive starting point for creative work today in the negotiation of cultural and political issues.

Participating artists: Kerstin Brätsch, Phoebe Collings-James, Raphael Hefti, Camille Henrot, Trevor Paglen, Sigmar Polke, Seth Price, Max Schulze, Avery Singer

The exhibition is curated by Kathrin Barutzki and Nelly Gawellek (both from the Anna Polke Foundation) along with Gregor Jansen (Kunsthalle Düsseldorf).

An exhibition catalog will be published in German and English with artistic and art-historical texts.

This anniversary project is under the patronage of Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen, Minister of Culture and Science of North Rhine-Westphalia.

As part of an international festival (25 to 27 November 2021) at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf organized by the Anna Polke Foundation, participants from different disciplines will address the themes of the exhibition. The origins, perception, and manifestations of the phenomenon as well as the productive potential of visual interference – then and now – will be discussed in theoretical and artistic contributions.


Max SchulzeDer Wunsch zu Verschwinden (Camopedia) No. 28, 2019Edelmatte Wandfarbe in Premium-Qualität auf Leinwand, 130 × 90 cm

Max Schulze
Der Wunsch zu Verschwinden (Camopedia) No. 28, 2019
Edelmatte Wandfarbe in Premium-Qualität auf Leinwand, 130 × 90 cm

Trevor PaglenDrone Vision, 2010Single-channel SD video, no sound, 5 min, 20 secondsCopyright Trevor Paglen, Courtesy of the Artist, Metro Pictures, New York, Altman Siegel, San Francisco

Trevor Paglen
Drone Vision, 2010
Single-channel SD video, no sound, 5 min, 20 seconds
Copyright Trevor Paglen, Courtesy of the Artist, Metro Pictures, New York, Altman Siegel, San Francisco

Sup­port­ed by

Ministerium für Kultur und Wissenschaft des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen
Kunststiftung NRW
Art Mentor Foundation