Ann Noël
Einzelheiten des Lebens
4 February – 6 April 2023

 ChertLüdde is honored to present a solo exhibition dedicated to the work of Ann Noël (b. 1944, Plymouth), a British-born artist based in Berlin since the 1980s. Bearing in mind the diverse components of subjects and interests at the core of the artist’s practice, the exhibition Einzelheiten des Lebens (Details of Living) focuses on Noël’s artistic upbringing as a graphic designer and printmaker adjacent to her connection to the city of Berlin and its community. 

The poetry behind little details of life, small everyday gestures, affections and friendships, connections and moments of disconnection frame this exhibition’s core elements, which begins with a constitutive symbol: a key. Initially created in 1989 for the exhibition REFERENZEN at Karo Galerie in Berlin, this collage comprises photocopies of cut-out silver keys belonging to the artist; all are small but significant objects from Ann Noël’s life. Keys to her old office at Harvard, her home, car, apartments left behind, lockers, suitcases and mailboxes – these places and entities are bound by their purpose as containers of life, of experiences and memories, precious fragments to be held. This emblem of opening and closing, of keeping near or locking away, stirs up the potential Einzelheiten des Lebens in our own lives, as the exhibition title suggests. Moving between fragments and memories, this exhibition is realized thereby through artistic and day-to-day articulation.

Principal in the show is the wooden triptych Freundeskreis, dated from 1990-1991 and reexhibited in Berlin for the first time since then. Commissioned by the Berlin Senate for the Weltstattberlin exhibition inside the Alexanderplatz underground, the work consists of handwritten texts by the artist reproducing the names of people encountered, places and events that occurred in her immediate vicinity during the year of the Berlin Wall’s collapse in 1989. A precise color code defines places from people and activities undertaken, resulting in a vibrant and abstract linear diagram.

The importance of this work comes from its place within a historical event that overturned global balances, as witnessed from the personal and individual perspectives of the people affected. Central to the research of Ann Noël is the social significance reflected in the intimate everyday, a notion which can be linked to her artistic ties to the Fluxus movement; accordingly, her work manages seamlessly to merge the spheres of life and art with harmony and charm.

Progressing inside the space, visitors are confronted with another critical work by the artist, YOU, from 1981. YOU is a work made from diverse graphic representations of the letter “i.” In a recent presentation at the ChertLüdde bookshop, Ann Noel spoke of these works as an act of ironic revenge against the prevailing chauvinist attitudes during her years at the California Institute of the Arts, where Noël worked as a supervisor for the graphic workshop.

“I did this project when I was in California, one because they are the most insignificant letter of the alphabet, is just a head and a body, but is also “I,” “me me me me,” all these art stars in California saying ‘I am the greatest,’ and I thought I would take them down from their pedestal, I would make them lower case…” (Ann Noël, 2022)

This work combines her passion for typography and graphic design, the artist’s intense participation in collective life and cultural development, her critique and fatigue towards male overrepresentation and pomposity, and the irony and lightness that characterizes her work. This selection of “i” comes from an original group of 406 drawings of the modest letter, styled in different typefaces using black ink on A3 paper. Installed in the space on wooden table plinths, the composition evokes the physicality of printing presses, the history of typographic design and Noël’s passion for different printing techniques.

All the works presented in the exhibition confront us with fragments, segments and moments shared with friends, artists and intellectuals of the Fluxus circle. For Noël, these very junctures and mechanisms are central to artistic creation; it is so that objects and memories, once imprinted on paper, become portraits, reminders of the people who speak or are spoken about, of the details of living that make art possible. 

 Born in Plymouth, England, in 1944, Ann Noël has lived and worked in Berlin since 1980. 

Her career began in 1964 at the Bath Academy of Art in Corsham, where she worked on projects with artists such as Ian Hamilton Finlay and John Furnival. After graduating with a degree in graphic arts and design in 1968, she was invited to Stuttgart, Germany, to work with Hansjörg Mayer, a former mentor at the Academy and one of the early publishers of artist books by Robert Filliou, Richard Hamilton, Dieter Roth, André Thomkins, Emmett Williams and many others.

In 1969, she moved to New York for a job as the assistant of Dick Higgins, publisher of the now-legendary Something Else Press, where she met the editor-in-chief (and her future spouse) Emmett Williams, as well as frequent press regulars such as George Brecht, John Cage, Allan Kaprow, Richard Kostelanetz, Daniel Spoerri and a host of other Fluxus artists.

In the 1970s, in addition to developing her own creative work, she was a supervisor of printmaking workshops at the California Institute of the Arts, professor of printmaking at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and a visiting artist at Harvard University’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. In 1987, she was a guest artist at the Machida-shi Museum of Graphic Arts in Tokyo.

Her work has been exhibited internationally and includes recent projects at the Venice Biennial, the Liverpool Biennial and the Lodz Biennial in Poland. Several of Noël’s works are held at Archivio Conz in Berlin, who also published her diary Noël Berlin Verona Conz in 2009, detailing an intimate account of her engagements and collaborations with Fluxus. She is also the author of six artist books published by Rainer Verlag, Berlin. A new catalogue raisonné of her work will be published in 2023 by Argo Books, Berlin.

Photo by Andrea Rossetti.