PRINT December 2002

Tom Holert


1 Marc Camille Chaimowicz (“St. Petrischnee,” Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich) An overdue homage to this Proustian master poet of vanity, memory, and loss. Chaimowicz’s subglamorous post-Pop scatter environments from the early ’70s (in which the artist served tea to visitors) raised questions about public/private dichotomies, art/design boundaries, and identifications based on gender. The highlight: the great installation Celebration ? Realife Revisited, part of the group show “St. Petrischnee”—an exhibition offering a trip through a particular past (and a particularly flamboyant one at that), populated by Chaimowicz, Gustav Metzger, Manon, Michel Auder, Yayoi Kusama, Hélio Oiticica, and Theo Altenberg, among others.

2 Andreas Siekmann A year to experience the ubiquitous output of this high-octane intellectual adventurer and Hogarthian draftsman from Berlin. Siekmann’s enigmatic-encyclopedic Aus: Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung made Documenta; a few months earlier he cocurated (with Alice Creischer) an exhibition in Vienna on art and militancy. Along the way he prepared (for Salzburg and Brussels) a variety of works on forces of exclusion and zones of repression. As always, politically loaded topics were approached with wit and plenty of weird associative logic.

3 Bureau d’études ( If you want to know how the global order really works you have to be able to spot (and resist) what the Bureau d’études calls the “industrial production of decoys.” The group’s ongoing “Wartime Chronicles”—an impressive cartography of global power networks—is just one example of its attempts to create a countercontext of “autonomous knowledge/power.” Based in Paris and Strasbourg, the Bureau d’études cooperates with similar organizations and initiatives, most of them (dis)located in Europe, and all of them self-consciously part of the “movement of movements.”

4 Adriana García Galán (Centre National de la Photographie, Paris) “The military is in love with sound,” writes Hanns Zischler. There’s ample evidence throughout the history of war, from the culture of marching music to the aural torture of drug lord Manuel Noriega (with Guns N’ Roses). In García Galán’s ongoing examination of the soundscapes of armed conflict, the Colombian artist works with the songs and hymns associated with the four military groups active in her South American home country, music found on the ELN, FARC, Auto-defensas, and state army websites—and on Bogotá jukeboxes. Her project reflects on the relation between listening and obeying in the spaces of psychoglobalization, where pop and war constantly intersect.

5 Frieda Grafe (1934–2002) “Since Technicolor withdrew from the entertainment industry, it prefers to do its research for the army and for NASA,” Frieda Grafe wrote in 1988—a line to be reread in Filmfarben (Brinkmann & Bose, Berlin, 2002), a collection of her essays and interviews on matters of color and film that reached bookshops a few weeks after her death in July. Grafe was the significant voice in postwar German film criticism, though her love for cinema (and her lovable prose) was largely incompatible with the discursive predilections of the film industry and the popular press. “If I like your films” she told filmmaker Heinz Emigholz in 1980, “you’re in danger that they won’t let you make any more.”

6 Justus Köhncke, Was ist Musik? (Kompakt) The persona of this Cologne-based musician’s musician oscillates between excess and exhaustion. The year 2002 saw his notion of Schlagertechno, a hybrid of German chanson and electronic dance music, materialize with his second solo album. Striking a confident gay posture clad in camou-wear, Köhncke militantly combines his talents as singer-songwriter and gifted house producer while further developing longtime obsessions with, among other things, Abbey Road, Hildegard Knef, Morgan Geist, and—probably most important—Chic.

7 Hans-Peter Feldmann (Fotomuseum Winterthur) An antiretrospective by this patron saint of conceptual photography. The beauty of homemade taxonomies and heartfelt skepticism. At moments the exhibit was almost too true to be persuasive (although “persuading” was never what Feldmann was about).

8 Zurück zum Beton (Kunsthalle Düsseldorf) The buried past of the West German punk era surfaced last year with Verschwende Deine Jugend (Waste your youth), an oral history of the late-’70s/early-’80s underground music scenes in Hamburg, Düsseldorf, and Berlin. Suddenly everybody and his/her neighbor was talking about Mittagspause, Malaria, DAF, Palais Schaumburg, Der Plan, and other period bands—and about subcultural politics in the time of RAF and AOR. An exhibition devoted to reconstructing this culture of refusal looked like the logical next step. The opening turned out to be a grandiose if double-edged event, hinged between sheer nostalgia and a reunion of the never united. A movie is in the making.

9 Mel Bochner (“Photographs 1966– 1969,” Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA) I didn’t have a chance to see the show, but the catalogue definitely made me want to hop the first plane. If only to observe the “lapidary clarity” (curator Scott Rothkopf) of Bochner’s early Conceptual images meeting a significant challenge in his great Transparent and Opaque, 1968/1998, a set of color photographs of Vaseline smears and shaving-cream curls, executed by a professional photographer and funded by E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology).

10 Protest Culture In Cologne an alliance of gallerists, artists, architects, and critics tried to prevent the demolition of the Josef-Haubrich-Forum. In Zurich the attempt to boot controversial theater director Christoph Marthaler from his office as head of the Schauspielhaus sparked comparable resistance. Memories of ’68: In Cologne, Rosemarie Trockel made a film of the protest, starring actor Udo Kier reading a manifesto; in Zurich there were street performances, panel discussions, and other evergreens of civic (dis)obedience. Naturally the high culture enragés were deeply committed to the cause—and took much pleasure in their commitment. Worse things can happen.

Cologne-based cultural critic Tom Holert recently coauthored Entsichert: Krieg als Massenkultur im 21. Jahrhundert (Triggered: War as mass culture in the twenty-first century) (Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2002).