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10 Variationen zum Zahlensystem der Massai

Appelt, Dieter

Bielefeld. Edition Marzona. 1977
Dieter Appelt's portfolio box of photographs.

From the edition limited to 16 numbered copies signed and dated by Appelt.

A series of ten images of the hand and fingers illustrating the numbering system of the Masai people.

Zahlensystem der Massai (Number system of the Masai), stands together with other major photographic 'hand' performance pieces by Appelt, Die Befreiung der Finger (Liberation of the fingers), 1977-79; and Vergrasung der Hande (Weed growth of the hands), 1978-79.

In the attempt to purge himself of wartime childhood memories (after World War II, Appelt and his family returned to their farm to discover the bodies of soldiers decomposing in their fields), the artist modelled himself as a corpse-like figure: he whitened his body with marble dust and wrapped his hands and legs in linen, as if preparing for burial. Appelt was not only burying himself alive, as it were, but resurrecting himself, that is, functioning as his own Christ - or shaman, in the tradition of his contemporary Joseph Beuys.

In Number System of the Masai, Appelt signs with his fingers in the language of the African Masai people, but the expressive power of the gesture itself quickly overwhelms its meaning. Some fingers point, some are bent, creating a tension that, along with the grimy whiteness of the hands and the ropelike linen around the wrists, suggests a figure bound and tortured.
10 original silver gelatine photographs on card (each 12 x 11.6 inches), loose as issued in cardboard box. Each with progressive stamped number (1 through 10) on recto, the first photo additionally with title handwritten by the photographer. The inner lid of the box signed by Appelt in pencil and with stamped edition number. Printed descriptive sheet also pasted to inner lid. The outer lid has a title photograph pasted onto its centre, is stamp-numbered and again signed and dated in pencil by Appelt.