Anziehungskräfte. Das Weiterwirken der Body-Art

Die Ausstellung „OWL4 – Gegenspieler“ ist noch bis zum 1. Nov. im Marta Herford zu sehen.

Die Ausstellung, die im Titel zufällig auch ein Stück des Namen meines Blogs trägt, doch in Herford den Kulturraum Ost-Westfalen-Lippe (OWL) meint, ist mir ein Anlass über zwei wichtige Protagonisten der intermediären Kunst aus verschiedenen Generationen zu schreiben.

In den 1960er Jahren, als die Begriffe Intermedia und Body-Art in Deutschland nur geringe Resonanz fanden, war es eine gute Idee in die USA auszuwandern. Der in Herford 1935 geborene Hans Breder tat das, um seine Interessen nach dem Studium an der HFBK in Hamburg in New York zu realisieren. Als Assistent von George Rickey fand er seine eigene Interpretation des erweiterten Kunstbegriffs und prägte unabhängig von Dick Higgins den Begriff „Intermedia“ mit einem von Anthropologie und Körperkunst bestimmten Akzent.

Hans Breder: Body/Sculpture 6. Cuilapan Mexico, 1973, Vintage Silbergelatineabzug 19x19, Courtesy Hachmeister Galerie, Münster (c) Der Künstler

Hans Breder: Body/Sculpture 6. Cuilapan Mexico, 1973, Vintage Silbergelatineabzug 19×19, Courtesy Hachmeister Galerie, Münster (c) Der Künstler

Fotografien, die er „Body/Sculpture“ nannte, sind in der Ausstellung „Gegenspieler“ in seinem Geburtsort  zu sehen und bezeugen sein Interesse an surrealen Motiven. Die Arkaden, vor denen sich weibliche Schenkel und Hintern stapeln, verraten den Einfluss Giorgio de Chiricos und der Figuren von Hans Bellmer. Wo letzter durch Gelenke Schenkel, Hinterteile und Beine durch Gelenke grotesk verrenken konnte, verdoppelte Breder die Extremitäten durch Spiegel, die so geschickt in die Landschaften oder vor Fassaden mit Körpern arrangiert wurden, dass die gesichts- und rumpflosen  Wesen zu Vielbeinern und -füßern mutieren. Diese in Mexiko realisierten Fotoserien trafen den Geist der Zeit, so dass Breder, der 1970 das „Center for Performing Arts“ an der staatlichen Universität von Iowa mitbegründete, später dessen Direktor wurde. Berühmte Schüler waren Ana Mendietta und Charles Ray. Gut, dass Breder durch seine Verbindung mit der Universität Dortmund seine Auffassung der Körperkunst, wenn auch spät, schließlich in Deutschland propagieren konnte.

Isabelle Wenzel, Installation mit Fotos in der Ausstellung, Foto: johnicon, VG Bild-Kunst

Isabelle Wenzel, Installation mit Fotos in der Ausstellung, Foto: johnicon, VG Bild-Kunst

Eine weitere Künstlerin fiel im Rahmen der Ausstellung sowohl durch die Posen der abgebildeten Körper wie auch durch den zur Präsentation der unterschiedlich großen Fotos gebauten Käfig auf. Die Fotos von Isabelle Wenzel (Jg. 1982) waren außen – potentiell auswechselbar – an dem frei im Raum stehenden Körper angebracht. Die Gesten der Modelle und oft auch der Künstlerin selbst sind in ihrer Festigkeit beeindruckend. Das gilt besonders, wenn man weiß, dass die Künstlerin oft ihr eigenes Modell ist. Sie entwickelt für eine bestimmte Orte eine Bildidee, richtet die Kamera ein und muss dann die abgebildeten Posen in den wenigen Sekunden einnehmen, in denen der Selbstauslöser der Kamera läuft. Die Gesten und Posen beeindrucken wegen ihrer Originalität, die nicht den Vorgaben aus Mode und Werbung entsprechen. Eher erinnern sie an barocke Figuren und Bauplastik, die man weit oben an den Fassaden, unter Gebäudedecken oder hinter Altären aus ungewohnten Blickwinkeln zu Gesicht bekommen kann. Die Eigenheiten der Körpersprache könnte man auch von der besonderen Beziehung der Körper zur Gravitation her verstehen und beschreiben. Die Künstlerin hätte dann die Erdschwere als Antagonisten gewählt, dem sie sich hingibt, um die zeitgenössischen Einwirkungen von Maschinen und Verkehrsmitteln auf den Körper zu ignorieren. Sie verhält sich so, als würde man mit dem durch Body Art geprägten Blick die Schwere von Menschen fotografieren, die ohne maschinelle Hilfsmittel in Industrie und Landwirtschaft arbeiten.

Isabelle Wenzel: Field Studies - Wuppertal 2, 2015, Inkjet Fine Art Print, 100x133, (c) Die Künstlerin

Isabelle Wenzel: Field Studies – Wuppertal 2, 2015, Inkjet Fine Art Print, 100×133, (c) Die Künstlerin

Nicht, dass ich die Arbeiten der anderen Künstler übergehen wollte, die wie die Fotos und Videos von Jacqueline Doyen mit den an von ihr selbst entworfenen Geräten turnenden Modellen, einen Einblick in das Weiterwirken der Body Art geben, beschränke ich mich doch auf die genannten Beispiele. Weitere Künstler in der Ausstellung sind Renke Brandt, Andrea Grützner, Seha Ritter, Britta Thie, Michael Weißköppel und Suse Wiegand

(c) Johannes Lothar Schröder

 

Rethinking 100 Years of “KARAWANE”

– Ein vergleichbarer Text in deutscher Sprache wurde in diesem Blog im Februar 2016 zum 100-sten Jahrestag der Gründung des Cabaret Voltairs in Zürich veröffentlicht

– In an other text in this blog, which is about the first opening of the Cabaret Voltaire 100 years ago please find diagrams of the photographs.

Compared to the reproduction of a lost painting of Marcel Janko, which shows the interior of the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, some contradictions appear in the photograph of Hugo Ball receiting his poem „KARAWANE“ June 23rd 1916. So there is the question: What happened in the bar of immigrants around 1916 and what did artists when not performing there to make a living in these hard times and to reflect the situation?

Hugo Ball receiting KARAWANE, 1916 (Quelle: H. Ball 1886 - 1986, Leben und Werk, Pirmasens 1986, S. 134

Hugo Ball receiting KARAWANE, 1916 (Quelle: H. Ball 1886 – 1986, Leben und Werk, Pirmasens 1986, S. 134

Examining the picture of Ball in his costume we see the artist-philosopher standing on a carpet in front of an undefined wall. It looks provisory and seems to be from cardboard or plywood. The curtain could deliver an argument for the stage but one of the manuscripts on the music-stands is overlapping it. This set does not look very much like a stage in a cabaret. They might have had curtains but why they cover the wall and not the stage?

Curtains in front of walls however are common however in a photographer’s studios. And there is an other photograph showing Ball in front of a camera around the same year 1916. The picture shows the same carpet; however a person appears in a different costume, which hides the face under a roll of paper with a huge “13” replacing the artist’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth. That makes him silent, without sight, dump and unable to scent. Topped with a top hat it represents a bourgeois, not being able to open his senses for the situation full of innovations and chances.

Hugo Ball receiting KARAWANE, 1916 (Quelle: Raoul Schrott, Dada 15/25, Köln 2004, S. 54)

Hugo Ball and the poem 3 PIFFALAMOZZA, 1916 (Quelle: Raoul Schrott, Dada 15/25, Köln 2004, S. 54)

The way of innovations

The print of a lost painting of Marcel Janco of 1916 illuminates the space and the atmosphere of the cafe-house of immigrants with Dadaists performing simultaneously on a stage in front of a small space filled with an audience. Being aware of such a stuffed place filled with a smoking audience one may ask, where a photographer with a tripod would find a stand with a clear view during a life act on a small stage?

Marcel Janco, lost painting of 1916 (Vorlage: Arche Literatur Kalender 16.-22. Feb. 2015)

Marcel Janco, lost painting of 1916 (Vorlage: Arche Literatur Kalender 16.-22. Feb. 2015)

The observations on documents about the happenings at the Cabaret Voltaire and their quotations over the decades may lead an observer to reflect about the character of innovations. It is remarkable that artists and researchers have been attracted by the few documents about DADA, especially the rare ones about the short Dadaistic career of Hugo Ball, without getting to the crucial point in it. Finding the Dadaistic spirit in chaos and anarchy they missed the nicely planned and directed part in the work of Hugo Ball who was smart enough to consult a professional photographer and rehearse the visual part his performance in a studio. As the former dramaturge of the Münchner Kammerspiele he and the unknown photographer were able to produce the relicts of his ephemeral artworks for the future and to create an image, which looks as if it was taken during the performance. Taking that in account it becomes obvious that it is the un-authenticity of the image, which is responsible for the iconic character it has for DADA until today.

Also the typography of the poem is famous, although it is not fully understood either. We do not know how it sounded in 1916, but nevertheless we call it a sound-poem, as the changing characters give the idea of changing voices. Both of the documents of “Karawane” are “simulacra” in the sense of the “hyperreal” (Jean Baudrillard) that transform the surface of everything undergoing the forces of human activity, which is making everything “real” but destroying its metaphysics.

To give an idea of that, which is destroyed, Ball described the performance very precisely in his diary and called the reading of the poem different from the visual appeal of the poem in various types, monotonous like a litany. By giving it the appeal of a collective ritual in catholic churches Ball recalls the metaphysics missing today. It was not only stress that motivated him to leave the dada-circus shortly after that and beginning his study in the history of Christianity. He was a taboo-breaker and doing so he became aware of his time, which makes him after Nietzsche a protagonist in reflecting the trap of modernity.

Referring to Balls writings on “Byzantine Christianity” in the 1920s it becomes evident, that the “Bishop” of “Karawane” was one of the “saints” and “heroes” Ball was searching for, when he looked for ways to tame the “furor teutonicus”, which he was part of. At the outbreak of World War I Ball himself tried to become a volunteer in August 1914 however he was invalided out for health reason. It becomes obvious, that he worked on the attraction of war, which got so many artists and intellectuals, who – surprising to us –  were excited by war and numerously volunteered. Being aware of this we can see that Balls turn to his two iconic figures is a way to seek distance from that involvement and find out way he became intrigued into this. In unpublished notes for a foreword to his polemic “Kritik der deutschen Intelligenz” (Bern 1919) Ball states, that the gesture of “the rebel disappeared”. Instead he was seeking for ways to integrate the desire of the savage, which was another big issue of DADA.

@ Johannes Lothar Schröder

Reflecting the unvisible

(scroll down for german version)

Curtains are closed behind locked doors and windows of the houses, which Yoshiaki Kaihatsu photographed in 2012. The empty houses of Iidate do not really look like those in ghost-towns, as they are in good shape. However you cannot tell, what has driven the inhabitants out of their houses. You have to read the plates, which inform you about the breakdown of the atomic reactors in Fukushima, and Iidate is located in the decontaminated zone. The inhabitants had to leave their houses although the latter were in a proper condition. The citizens had no idea when they would get a permission to return home or could ever return at all. No reason is visible why nobody should live there. The whole situation seems eerie.

In contrast to this the series of photographs, which Kaihatsu took in Kesennuma City, show destroyed storefronts, and you can see that there was violent force at work, which made the people homeless. For a photographer the two types of destruction are quite precarious, as it takes into question the quality of visibility, which he refers to. Many contemporary crises, which the title of his exhibition “Naturkatastrophe Atomenergie Disput Terrorismus (Natural disasters, Nuclear energy, Dispute, Terrorism)” refers to, are like this.

Y. Kaihatsu: Iidate, Fukushima, 2012, courtesy of Mikiko Sato Gal.

Y. Kaihatsu: Iidate, Fukushima, 2012, courtesy of Mikiko Sato Gal.

Invisibility and Aesthetics

It is the crisis of the visible, which affects Kaihatsu as a specialist of visual arts. While his problem is academic the inhabitants of the contaminated parts of the province of Fukushima who have to live in camps, baseball-halls etc. without knowing whether they will be ever allowed to return to their houses are doubly traumatized by the disaster and by the uncertainness of living under provisional conditions. This motivated Kaihatsu to interview these people who cannot understand why they have to stay away from home, while the government pretends that the radiation is under control. There are a lot of areas, where helpers collected the soil in plastic-sacks displayed on the ground as far as your eyes can see. So they did something, which is visible, which signals that action has been taken. For most of the people it is not so clear that this is only provisional, just like the storage of the radioactive water in containers that are already rusty after 3 years, while they should be able to keep the water for centuries or millennia. The public work-force is waiting for new instructions.

Meanwhile Kaihatsu has been busy and has built a simple cabin, which is as wide as four tatami-mats. A wooden plate informs that this is a „house for politicians“. Until now he has invited 750 of them to spend some time in the hut, which is located right in the contaminated zone of Fukushima. Kaihatsu is sure, that a stay in the decontaminated zone will inspire politicians to find lasting solutions to solve the problem, which was not caused by the tsunami but by humans who assumed that atomic energy would be safe. Convinced of being able to control nuclear energy the Japanese Government has decided to continue using nuclear power stations.

Learning from Concept-Art

Kaihatsu is an artist, but why does he take over the initiative to build a log cabin?

This probably is a question of the achievements of modernism, which paradoxically can lead into chaos by using methods of rationality. The risks of our time are made by humans and have produced results which often exceed the destruction caused by natural disasters. During the last two decades culture has faced not only uncontrolled escalations of financial markets, nuclear energy and terror, but additionally we see climate change and possible totalitarianism developing from the global net, misused by governments, criminals and companies.

Kaihatsu’s use of photography by goes back to the pioneering work of Ed Rusha, who in 1965 pictured all buildings of the sunset Strip in Los Angeles, which he displayed in the form of a leporello.

http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/werke/sunset-strip/

The fixing of the status quo became also a sample of pictures which make evident, that the status quo is only temporary, as the quick change of things like buildings, fashion and cars in streets is under way.

The possibilities of conceptual photography have changed the way to prove something, what is visible. Traditionally the buildings of a street were checked by architectural maps and the land register, while today the visual media records information and later serve to realize the change. Paradoxically the use of the visual provides less and less information, as it is limited to optical phenomena, while advanced technology and the use of information become increasingly dependent on the use of  forces of the micro- and macrocosm, which are not visible at all.

Y. Kaihatsu: The House of Politicians, courtesy of Mikiko Sato Gal.

Y. Kaihatsu: The House of Politicians, courtesy of Mikiko Sato Gal.

That’s why existing habits of looking at things make it impossible to judge on the debris of atomic energy plants in Tschernobyl, Fukushima and other places. We are senseless for these hazards. Hidden beyond the capability of senses it is easy to forget the debris and chaos of modern culture. Are visual artists helpless though or are they able to widen their horizons and cope with the problems which civilization causes?  Kaihatsu’s idea to invite politicians to come and meditate in his small cabin is a step. But apart from politicians there are immense numbers of people who have to reflect the invisible, and should be invited for meditation to sharpen their minds to face and reflect upon contemporary conditions.

Johannes Lothar Schröder

Exhibition:  „Naturkatastrophe Atomenergie Disput Terrorismus“ in der Galerie Mikiko Sato, Klosterwall 13, 20095 Hamburg, until April 19th, 2014

www.mikikosatogallery.com