First the Feet

By Roberto Ohrt. Excerpt from the book 'Kippenberger'

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The artist did not depict himself above the Planschbecken as an architect, expert, inventor or engineer, roles which had been available to him since the Renaissance. He saw himself in this context more with shovel and wheelbarrow, mortar and water, trowel and tile in hand; he saw the matter from the viewpoint of the proletarian. For some of the paintings exhibited in Miete, Strom, Gas, Martin Kippenberger had used old photographic plates with pictures from the Soviet world of work as his originals. The politicized life after the Revolution, the better future of everyday life, and the proletarian protagonist, the latest figure in the exchange between art, utopia and reality, was staged in order to show the new man working with colors and shapes in the pictorial space. And the palette was then always mixed a little with the patina Ilya Kabakov later familiarized as the color of the ideological past. This was of course not true of the utopian who had found his happiness on the other side of the Iron Curtain and in the English-speaking world. Then The Capitalist Futurist Painter in His Car (p. 136/137) showed himself in the greatest imaginable prestige vision, whether in East or West.

The architectural views too wanted their building material to be seen from the workers' point of view, as a construct placed there by the bricklayer, the plumber or the ditch digger. Their technologies are present like a modern concept that puts across its purpose as an unfinished process, with showers that don't work properly, banisters that don't fit properly, joins that don't join properly, the center that isn't properly centered. The workers' hands were not consulted in the planning stage, and alone for the implementation. Now these workers' hands were also engaged in painting and drawing, in a job they only knew from a distance. Thus the panorama of Brittenau, done up in the colors of concrete, sums up the fine views of the modern movement after its rough and ready implementation. The picture does not betray the well-meant approach of the lost project, and the popularization of its utopias, but it does not seek to hide the fact that art here, while being "done by everyone", is being done without a revolution that removes poverty by socializing wealth.

More than other architectural views, With a Little Help of a Friend (p. 130/131) has the charm of a ruin or of a reconstruction project whose budget has run out after the first building phase. The association - the modern movement and the influence of the shell or the ruin - is incidentally not to be dismissed out of hand. The architect Philip Johnson for example is said to have discovered the design of his famous glass pavilion immediately over the razed foundations of houses remaining on the battlefield after the passing of the war machines. To this extent the outlines of the soldiers belong in this landscape, as does the little window above the Nazi shadows, for if it was once a swastika, it still functions very well With a Little Help of a Friend as the bars of a prison cell. In the area between the supporting frame and the remains of the new buildings, the picture anticipates two useless building projects - mildly adapted uselessness - the Tankstelle Martin Bormann [Martin Bormann Filling Station] , which Martin Kippenberger brought back four years later from Brazil, and the Modern Museum of Art, Syros, which he inaugurated in Greece in 1993.

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Martin Kippenberger at a concert of The Red Crayola, Cologne, 1984. Foto: Wilhelm Schürmann