Herbert Schuldt

Portrait Herbert Schuldt
© Christian Winterfieldt

His skillful forgeries, it has been said, lend the world a new lease of life. His book »In Togo, darkly«, for example, presents accounts of expeditions into pre-1854 Japan, Africa, and the Amazonas jungle. Utterly incomprehensile encounters. The hilarious struggle to make sense of the weirdest things is the animating principle of this book. In the end it is the European who seems exotic. His absurd ideas and customs are hard to believe.

Schuldt does things with language that were never done before. He comes across as an aggressively witty scholar, a mad scientist, a linguistic constructivist. Some of his works are composed as though arising from a musical, mathematical or architectural way of thinking. But he usually executes them in a mean and grating realism. The same duality holds true for his giant pictures of Chinese writing on decaying walls that have been shown the world over.

For the last eight years he has been working on »Opprobrium«, a satirical-critical dictionary of current German, an epochal study of the language and ways of today’s Germany.

Schuldt, born in 1941, grew up in the raucous port city of Hamburg. His debut exhibition »of Nothing« caused a scandal all the way to Japan. He soaked up languages, living in London, Paris, Amsterdam, and in New York City from 1978 to 2000 before vanishing into the remote reaches of China for the better part of a decade. Since then he has written a few books elsewhere and is now back in New York City.