Foucault, writing in Discipline and Punish (1975), came to analyse the 'body politic' as the 'totality of material elements and techniques that serve as weapons, switching stations, connecting paths and connection bases between power and knowledge that occupy and subjugate human bodies by making them into objects of knowledge'. So where does the body end and where do work, leisure, sexuality and fashion begin? Let us
look at fashion: Baudelaire saw it as a vehicle for the burgeoning Capitalist desire to create an artificial need for production. A century later, the sociologist Edmund Leach sees fashion and literature, art and architecture as variables within a fundamental cultural code regulating the relationship between the individual and the collective, between power and representation.
Regina Möller's work addresses this transformation of identity into a model, and of authenticity into reproduction. She adopts motifs from the worlds of fashion, work, comics and sexual identity, revealing how the techniques of the 'body politic' can be used to establish a norm by occupying the 'human body'. This is unwieldy, awkward and dry, and it has to be so: Möller doubly rejects the culture industry's demand we have been aware of this phenomenon since Marcuse and Horkheimer for sleek lubricants that allow the bourgeois ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity to be transformed into 'spiritual qualities'. Her exhibition is titled 'My work-place doesn't exist yet' and it comprises four separate works that are linked below ground level, and a video work with the same title. But her work-place certainly does exist: it is the Kunstverein itself, which she has turned into a production site.
The first thing you see on entering the exhibition is a panel displaying the title, the first sign that the art institution is being redefined as a world of work. A strip of fitted carpeting of the kind usually laid in offices runs through the Kunstverein. It is printed with the artist's staging-posts, with dates and details of the different areas in which she has worked: she has been a child model, a bilingual secretary and assistants in television and artists' studios. Patches, embroidered with roots of plants and sold under Möller's 'Embodiment' label (through which she also sells clothes and curtains), are appliquéd to the pieces of carpet. In one corner, seating is arranged around a display case of hydroponic plants, like a lawyer's or GP's waiting-room. Five photographs of indoor plants complete the scenario of a working world that is a powerful but unreal presence: its reality has been shifted. The video, a co-production with Roommade of Brussels, shows a secretary being appointed (Möller herself), overlaid with telephone noises and fragments of telephone conversations. Can the real world be documented, is it not actually a fiction itself?
Möller produced her second issue of Regina Das grosse Frühjahrsheft (The Big Spring Issue) for the Kunstverein in Munich, following on from the first edition of 1994, Das grosse Herbstheft (The Big Autumn Issue) produced by Ute Meta Bauer at the Künstlerhaus in Stuttgart. Regina is modelled on women's magazines like Brigitte or Petra and covers the same topics, such as fashion, leisure, travel etc. But the articles Marie-Luise Fleisser, 'Bitchy Bitch' cartoon artist Roberta Gregory, Ulrike Meinhof, AIDS, the image of women in Japan, hydro and club culture come together to create an image of reality that far transcends the usual media fog. Regina may be a women's magazine as fiction, but it is documentary fiction. The Embodiment label may be a fiction of work as Möller wishes to define it, but its effect is real enough.
One thing that cannot be overlooked in this exhibition is that Möller has already taken on many jobs to help finance her artistic production. This experience is clearly present in her work. But what that work really addresses is not the artist's biography, but the conditions under which contemporary art is produced. The worlds of art and work are no longer in conflict: one appears as a variant of the other. Möller calls the zone where life becomes an art production shop a 'grey area'. It is a finely hatched micro-site of hyper-individuality, shot through with socio-political connections, a fiction that has come true, dealing with the way in which an artist organises herself and a woman defines herself.