DRAF Study #20: Horst Ademeit by Rosanna Mclaughlin

DRAF’s Study Series are a series of focused case-studies of works from the David Roberts Collection. Each presentation centres on a single work or series. DRAF invites a writer to study the work in depth, from its technical and material history to its position in the artist’s practice and contemporary debates.

Rosanna Mclaughlin has chosen a selection of Polaroid’s taken by Horst Ademeit as the subject of this Study. Ademeit amassed an archive of over 6,000 images during the 90s and early 00s, of which 30 are in the David Roberts Collection. He was documenting, through images and expansive note taking in the margins of his Polaroids, what appeared to be unremarkable aspects of his hometown of Düsseldorf. However, as Mclaughlin writes in her opening lines, these diaristic recordings where made to keep track of a perceived threat to his environment:

“For at least the last twenty years of his life, likely many more, Horst Ademeit believed that a malevolent organisation was out to get him and the rest of the world. [. . . ] he suspected it of flooding the atmosphere with a pernicious phenomenon he called ‘cold rays’. He held the rays responsible for lowering the air temperature, interfering with brain waves and electrical currents, jamming the signal of his radio, even turning bottles of wine sour. (Clearly he felt the organisation was not above a certain pettiness.)” (Rosanna Mclaughlin, Study #20, 2020)

Mclaughlin deftly weaves together his theory on ‘cold rays’ and what it means to be branded as an ‘outsider artist’ with contemporary forms of paranoia or conspiracy theories, such as the recent burning of 5G phone masts. Read Study #20 in full.

The 2010 documentary ADEMEIT, directed by Michael Bauer and Marcus Werner Hed that Mclaughlin references in her text can be viewed here. It is a highly sensitive ‘portrait’ of Horst Ademeit, providing an extraordinary insight into his ideas.

Rosanna Mclaughlin is a writer, editor, and cultural critic. Her criticism has featured in publications including Frieze magazine and The Guardian. She is the author of the book Double-Tracking: Studies is Duplicity, published by Carcanet Press. She is an editor at The White Review.

  • Horst Ademeit, 4725, undated, inscribed Polaroid, 4 3/8 x 3 1/2in. (11 x 9cm.)
© The estate of Horst Ademeit, Delmes & Zander, Cologne.
    Horst Ademeit, 4725, undated, inscribed Polaroid, 4 3/8 x 3 1/2in. (11 x 9cm.) © The estate of Horst Ademeit, Delmes & Zander, Cologne.
  • Horst Ademeit, Untitled, 12 May 1992, inscribed Polaroid, 4 3/8 x 3 1/2in. (11 x 9cm.)
© The estate of Horst Ademeit, Delmes & Zander, Cologne.
    Horst Ademeit, Untitled, 12 May 1992, inscribed Polaroid, 4 3/8 x 3 1/2in. (11 x 9cm.) © The estate of Horst Ademeit, Delmes & Zander, Cologne.
  • Horst Ademeit, 4274, undated
inscribed Polaroid, 4 3/8 x 3 1/2in. (11 x 9cm.)
© The estate of Horst Ademeit, Delmes & Zander, Cologne.
    Horst Ademeit, 4274, undated inscribed Polaroid, 4 3/8 x 3 1/2in. (11 x 9cm.) © The estate of Horst Ademeit, Delmes & Zander, Cologne.