Beyond Good and Bad


   Günter Thorn gründete  “Beyond Good and Bad” zusammen mit Amy Kaps als multimediale Pop-Band. (zunächst in New York, später in Köln) Die Mitglieder waren: Amy Kaps (voc, sax), Thomas Thorn (Keyb., sampler, drums),  Günter Thorn (bass, tapes, drums) und der Fotograf Theo Lustig, der während der Auftritte eine eigens dafür gebaute Maschinerie von Licht/Bildprojektoren auf und vor der Bühne bediente, die jedem Song der Band eine eigene visuelle Note  gaben.

on the run: Ana Motjér



Beyond Good and Bad            Günter Thorn, Amy Kaps and  Thomas Thorn, Cologne, 1988


amy170aw.jpg           Amy Kaps, Cologne, 1989 (earrings by Maria Motjér-Milanés)

Contemporary (1988) video scene in the Rhineland

In Cologne, Video Art has a very specific and independent development. This is due primarily to its relationship with new music which had its centre at the Studio for Electronic Music of the NWDR (Northwest German Radio) founded by Herbert Eimert in 1951. Among those working there were avant-garde musicians like Karl Heinz Stockhausen, Mauricio Kagel and John Cage. Music and the fine arts met in the Fluxus movement, and the combination of theatre performance, music, painting, sculpture and recitation developed into the breeding-ground from which emerged the television set and television as a subject of art, but also as a means of expression for art. The seminal collaboration between Cage and Nam June Paik also developed immediately after Paik’s move to Cologne in 1958. "Paik’s early television experiments are partly influenced by Cage but also show a keen sense of the importance of new technological developments such as laser, cable, and microwave television, videophone, video discs and cassettes."

That the birth of Video Art as Wulf Herzogenrath describes it should have coincided with an event entitled "Exposition of Music" is typical enough of the portrayed situation. It is striking that Fluxus events were often called Fluxus concerts although today we would be more likely to classify them as Performance or Happening rather than music. But the name makes it clear that noises and sounds played an important role. Terms like Performance or Happening were not yet established, and in view of electronic experiments in the area of radio, it seemed natural to extend these to television or to isolate parts of them and try them out in the context of exhibitions. At any rate, the subtitle of the 1963 exhibition "Exposition of Music" at the Gallery Parnass by Nam June Paik was "Electronic Television", where he presented his work "Zen for TV" in which he reduced the television picture to "zero" by means of a magnet. In so doing he formulated the principle that was to become a forming influence on Video Art in Germany up to the early eighties: The obliteration of the television picture is a precondition for the creation of art in television or by television, and therefore it is in a sense a precondition for the creation of Video Art.

In the sixties, Fluxus is generally the basis on which the young Video Art develops and at its birth, North Rhine-Westphalia was one of its centres. "In the phase of its emergence during the sixties, North Rhine-Westphalia became the geographical area with the most diverse activities with concerts and Actions taking place in Wuppertal, Düsseldorf, Cologne and Aachen where artists like Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, Nam June Paik, Thomas Schmit, Emmett Williams, Wolf Vostell and many others took residence."

Wolf Vostell’s "TV-Décollage Ereignisse und Handlungen für Millionen im Jahr 1959" (TV Décollage Events and Actions for the Millions in 1959) at his studio in Cologne marked the start. Unlike Nam June Paik, Vostell did not begin with the programme but with its reception and developed a concept for a television broadcast in which the television audience was able to participate. Although this does not imply any interactive influence on the programme, something that was technically not possible at the time, it meant planned actions relating to the broadcast intended to express both reactions to it and a departure from it. Wolf Vostell’s Television Décollage calls for a novel approach to television programmes and the television set, activating the viewer and making him a player in complete accordance with the concept of Fluxus. With his call that the viewer be made the décollagist of television, Wolf Vostell signalled the start for a critical approach to this mass medium that was confirmed four years later by Nam June Paik when he reduced the picture to a single line. In the same year, Wolf Vostell states his position in an even more radical way, shooting a running television set in a quarry in front of the audience during his Action "Nine De-Collages" in Wuppertal.

Wolf Vostell and Nam June Paik may well be regarded as the first and most influential driving force behind the artistic confrontation with the medium of television although they emphasised different aspects: Paik aimed more at the medium while Vostell was more interested in the communication process. What follows also explains that with his concept of décollage, Vostell largely kept to the path he had chosen from the start while as early as the seventies, Paik developed from the destructive concept artist into one producing videos, a fact already suggested in his acquisition in 1965 of the first Sony Portapak on the market.

A further step in the direction of the appropriation of television technology by art and hence towards the establishment of the field of Video Art was the foundation of the video gallery Gerry Schum in Berlin on the 15th of April 1969 that moved to Düsseldorf a year later. The years that followed saw the creation of the now famous tapes from his production such as "Land-Art" with Marinus Boezem, Walter de Maria, Jan Dibbets, Barry Flanagan, Michael Heizer and Richard Long that was broadcast exactly a year later by the WDR (West German Radio), as well as "Identification" with Giovanni Anselmo, Joseph Beuys, Aligiero Boetti, Pierpaolo Calzolari, Jan Dibbets, Gilbert & George, Mario Merz, Ulrich Rückriem, Reiner Ruthenbeck, Lawrence Weiner and Gilberto Zorio that was broadcast by the WDR in 1970. The same radio station had already caused a sensation in 1968 with the production of "Black Gate Cologne" by Otto Piene and Aldo Tanbellini. The exchange of views between Gerry Schum and Wibke von Bonin also led to the broadcast of Keith Arnatt’s "Self Burial" "in which for eight days, everyday at the same time a photograph of the artist sinking deeper and deeper was inserted during whatever programme was running at that moment", and to a regular broadcast of Jan Dibbet’s "TV as a Fireplace" which between Christmas and New Year 1969 concluded the programmes by showing a blazing open fire.

In 1970, Harald Szeemann’s exhibition "Happening & Fluxus" at the Kölnischer Kunstverein gave a first retrospective view of the intermedia aspect of the art scene in the sixties but only a few artistic contributions had video and television as their subject.

At the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, Gert Berghoff was instrumental in founding the Cinemathek Köln where members of the disbanded Arbeitsgruppe Film continued to work. In the following year, the group X-Screen, Studio Cologne for Independent Film organised a meeting on the subject of the "Development of the Computer Film". Unlike the course of events in France with Jean Luc Godard, however, the film scene in Cologne did not develop into a starting point or a discussion partner for Video Art. The fact that Video Art is rooted in the fine arts and in particular in Fluxus as outlined above, was the point from which the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum started to tackle Video Art.

The Wallraf-Richartz-Museum first got involved when it acquired Video Art in 1972 and laid the foundation for a video department with the acquisition of Gerry Schum’s video tapes "Land Art" and "Identifications". The collection was added to the sculptural department. In the same year, the new director of Kölnischer Kunstverein Wulf Herzogenrath, a committed advocate of young art and the new media, was taking charge of exhibitions. At the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, too, the commitment to the new media endured. Together with the Kölnischer Kunstverein and the Kunsthalle, "Project 74" was organised under the overall control of Evelyn Weiss. The exhibition was concerned with core aspects of the seventies and included a large section on Performance and Video. Again, it is characteristic of the contemporary video scene in the Rhineland that Video Art was not oriented on film and was not presented as a separate form of art but was firmly interwoven with the art trends of the early seventies. In every respect, the concept of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum did full justice to this situation. 101 artists were represented with several video tapes, and there were live shows by Vito Acconci, Joan Jonas, Claus Böhmler, Heinz Breloh, Douglas Davis and Ulrike Rosenbach and others. Furthermore, it included works by Dieter Campus, Valie Export, Frank Gilette, Dan Graham, Michael Hayden, Rebecca Horn, Allen Kaprow, Charlotte Moorman, Nam June Paik, Reiner Ruthenbeck and Peter Weibel as well as the Lijnbaancentrum, Telewissen, and Video Audio Medien (Futurekids). With this exhibition, the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum and its 20th Century department, the later Museum Ludwig, took a clear stance on contemporary art and made its mark as a house of the avant-garde.

Upon the appointment of Reinhold Mißelbeck in 1980, the Photo Collection of the Museum Ludwig became a separate department. But in the early eighties, it was the Kölnischer Kunstverein that first took the initiative for Video Art, promoting this art form with numerous solo exhibitions and presenting the comprehensive exhibition "Videokunst in Deutschland" (Video Art in Germany) in 1981. In the context of the exhibition "Deutsche Zeichnung der Gegenwart" (Contemporary German Drawing) of 1982, the Museum Ludwig presented design sketches and the video installation "Der Amerikaner, der den Kolumbus zuerst entdeckte, machte eine böse Entdeckung oder nicht einmal in Italien führen alle Wege nach Rom" (The American who first discovered Columbus made a nasty discovery or, not even in Italy do all roads lead to Rome) by Marcel Odenbach. 1984 saw the realisation of the first "Internationale Photoszene Köln", initiated by Reinhold Mißelbeck, which four years later also incorporated Video Art and Performance into its programme. In 1985, the Photo Collection of the Museum took charge of the Video Collection. Even before the inauguration of the new building, a Performance programme was initiated in the same year with contributions from Peter Gilles and Ulrike Rosenbach that was to enter a dialogue with the video programme. Egon Bunne shot a film documentary of the inaugural celebrations at the Museum Ludwig in Autumn 1986 in the new technique of Betacam. This production was to give the starting signal for future video activities in the new house. The planned installation of a production centre for video and the appointment of a technical director, however, fell through at the last moment due to financial problems. In parallel to the inauguration of the Museum Ludwig, the opening of the Klaus Peter Schnüttger-Webs Museum was presented as a fictive live broadcast by Ulrich Tillmann, Maria Vedder and Bettina Gruber in the museum’s new video library. At the inauguration of the Museum Ludwig, the first video sculpture found its way into the collection with "Shigeko Kubotas Buddhas" by Nam June Paik, a work that had been developed and produced by Paik especially for the collection of the museum on the suggestion of Wolfgang Hahn. It is the only work in which three figures of the Buddha are meditating before three monitors together with the fathers of the new art that are most important to Paik, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Marcel Duchamp. In an allusion to the relics of the Three Kings kept in the cathedral of Cologne, Paik originally wanted to call the work "The Three Kings", but then changed his mind in favour of the present title.

In the following years, the video library of the museum made it its objective to introduce selected video works from the collection in context with the photographic works hanging in neighbouring rooms. The result were presentations of the Land Art tapes from the video collection Gerry Schum, introductions of subjects like Body-Art Video and conceptual and minimalist works from the early seventies, but also monographic presentations with video works by Douglas Davis, Montanez Raffael Ortiz or Bettina Gruber/Maria Vedder. The Museum Ludwig began to extend its video collection and in the eighties and nineties, it acquired video tapes by Birgit Antoni, Rosy Beyelschmidt, Gabor Body, Sieglinde Bölz, Hank Bull/Eric Metcalfe, Egon Bunne, Kate Craig, Douglas Davis, Kit Fitzgerald/John Sanborn, Nancy Graves, Bettina Gruber, François Guiton, Barbara Hammann, Astrid Heibach, Mike Hentz, Kirsten Johannsen, Manfred Hulverscheidt, Dieter Kiessling, Morris/Trasow, Chris Newman, Marcel Odenbach, Montanes Rafael Ortiz, Jan Peacock, Ulrike Rosenbach, Joe Sarahan, Lisa Steel/Eric Tomczak, Maria Vedder, Klaus vom Bruch, David Vostell, Wolf Vostell, and the complete video works of Jürgen Klauke and Abramovic/Ulay. In addition to videos by artists, a further collection of films about artists like Gerhard Richter, Barnett Newman, Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Chargesheimer, Gordon Parks, Horst P Horst, Richard Avedon and others was established in connection with exhibitions held at the museum.

In connection with the International Photo Scene Cologne 1988, the Museum Ludwig became the centre of evening events revolving around Performance, slide projections, and Video Art. In "Circling", a coproduction of Douglas Davis, Maria Vedder and Hank Bull, video images were transmitted by telephone for the first time from Vancouver to the Museum Ludwig with the help of Sony. Birgit Antoni presented her video installation "Art et Technique", Meta-Ausstellung Karlsruhe showed digitalised pictures in "Meta Portrait", Waterfront presented a video programme from Buffalo, Hungary and New York State, Karin Hazelwander, Wolfgang Fürst, Leo Schatzl and Albert Winkler introduced the sculptural Video Performance "Die Theorie der Hora Z" (The Theory of Hora Z), and Vera Body showed Japanese Video Art in "Infermental VIII". At the same time, the video library of the Museum Ludwig presented its "Hommage an Gerry Schum" with works by Volker Anding, Jean François Guiton, Dieter Kießling, Marcel Odenbach, Kirsten Johannsen, Manfred Hulverscheidt, Llurex, Gabor Body, Astrid Heibach, Maria Vedder, Klaus vom Bruch and Ulrike Rosenbach. Once again, video did not take place in this programme in isolation from other artistic developments and techniques. In parallel, there were slide installations by Mischa Kuball and Delta Galerie Düsseldorf, a theatre performance by Franz Josef Heumannskämper and a performance of music and slide projections "Beyond Good and Bad" by Amy Kaps, Thomas and Günter Thorn and Theo Lustig.

In connection with the picture shows "Zeitprofile – 30 Jahre Kulturpreisträger der DGPh" (Profile of the times – 30 years of cultural awards of the DGPh) that were taking place simultaneously under the curatorship of Reinhold Mißelbeck, Maria Vedder presented her video installation about Walter Bruch, the inventor of PAL colour television: "PAL oder Never The Same Colour" which referred to the first PAL broadcast on the 25th of August 1967 and the humorous explanation for the name of the American system NTSC.

Because of preparations for the exhibition "Bilderstreit", the Museum Ludwig was unable to participate in the exhibition on Video Sculpture organised by Wulf Herzogenrath in 1989 and it therefore took place at the DuMont Kunsthalle and at the Kunstverein.

In connection with a presentation of conceptual photo works in 1992, the Museum Ludwig showed videos by John Baldessari, Richard Serra, Douglas Davis, Keith Sonnier and Paul Sharits. In the same year, Peter Ludwig acquired a large work by Nam June Paik that referred to the different living conditions in the west and east of Germany. "The Brandenburg Gate", a sculpture in the shape of the Brandenburg Gate covered in 200 monitors, shows scenes from politics, culture and sports in the FRG and GDR and is designed as a walk-in sculpture. The large installation "Bombay" by Fabrizio Plessi was mounted in the Hoher Saal of the Museum Ludwig in 1994. Long rows of rusty steel containers reflected video images of flowing water and of the activities of washerwomen which were also alluded to in twisted lengths of material draped across the containers. Viewed from above and from a distance as is possible in the Hoher Saal, the Installation offered a fascinating reflection of an everyday situation in Bombay. Following this exhibition, the Museum was given the video sculpture "Elektronische Ruine" on loan in 1995. A waterfall flows from eight monitors between artificial stone walls, a sculpture that, like the Installation "Bombay", illustrates the dialogue between reality and virtuality in Fabrizio Plessi’s work.

A further important work was added to the Museum Ludwig through Peter and Irene Ludwig in 1995, the "Begrüßung" (Greeting) by Bill Viola that had formed part of five works on the subject of "Buried Secrets" at the Biennale in Venice. In this work, Bill Viola is referring to a portrayal of the Visitation of Mary by the mannerist painter Pontormo. The greeting among three pregnant women in contemporary yet antique-style dress is extended from a 45 second sequence to twelve minutes by slow motion, imparting excitement and drama. The scene becomes a timeless metaphor, a sacred event.

In November 1998, the Museum Ludwig opened the exhibition "I love N.Y.". Referring to the young New York art scene, it is dealing in-depth with the subject of crossover and therefore video and the new media. In the Concept-LandArt-Happening-Performance-Video-Fluxus scene, crossover was not only prevalent from the start, it was a precondition for its existence. All these art trends were frequently pursued by the same artists and where this was not the case there was at least close contact and mutual inspiration. Using the new media and video as a matter of course, the artists of the nineties are once again plumbing the limits of the arts. After all, it is characteristic of present-day art that it freely makes use of history, mixing the material afresh from today’s point of view. Even though older art experts may occasionally be reminded of the sixties and early seventies, the scene is undoubtedly exciting again.