Hans Breder, Mass in A-Minor for Suitcases, 2000. Performance view, Sankt Petri Kirche, Dortmund, Germany.

Hans Breder, Mass in A-Minor for Suitcases, 2000. Performance view, Sankt Petri Kirche, Dortmund, Germany.

Hans Breder

Hans Breder, Mass in A-Minor for Suitcases, 2000. Performance view, Sankt Petri Kirche, Dortmund, Germany.

IN OCTOBER 1967, five years after Artforum published its first issue, I sat next to Marcel Duchamp (quite by accident) while Jean Tinguely presented his Rotozaza No. 2 as part of the Second World Congress on Communication in a Changing World at NYU. I had just created the first graduate program for the study of intermedia, at the University of Iowa. I remember being hyperaware of being in the room with Duchamp and Tinguely, two artists who embodied concepts that I wanted to imbue with new meaning.

My program conceived of intermedia not as an interdisciplinary fusing of different fields into one, but as a constant collision of concepts and disciplines. It was performance-oriented, and video was an inherent aspect. Although initially used in a documentary mode, video almost immediately became an integral aspect of many student performances and was soon used as a medium in its own right.

In my work, I was completely drawn to the world of new media. In Ursonate, 1986, I worked with the Apple II computer and a software program, Smooth Talker, to have the computer perform Kurt Schwitters’s 1932 phonetic poem of the same name. The video Under a Malicious Sky, 1987, and the intermedia performance Mass in A-Minor for Suitcases, 2000, are both performative, using multiple video sources and improvisational editing. In these two works, I used ethnographic elements from my childhood in World War II–era Germany as material for meditations on a historical moment of malevolence.

Digital technology allows me to excavate new worlds of microcosmic event horizons. In Herodias, 2011, I aim for a dematerialization of content by entering into the microstructure of sound and imagery; I seek the immaterial or what in physics people speak of as ephemeral phenomena that cannot be reduced to mere things. The radically microcosmic experience creates an effect that is at once both abstract and real.