First the Feet

By Roberto Ohrt. Excerpt from the book 'Kippenberger'

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Naturally, at the time many tried to translate the sharpness of this attack to artworks and painting, not just performance. After all, there were plenty of artists in the scene taking shape in London, Leeds, Liverpool, Hamburg, Berlin and Düsseldorf. Clearly, as we have since realized, they were more intimately involved in the design of Punk than most of its adherents guessed or would have acknowledged at the time. A few painters made the shortest cut from music to pictures; they illustrated their relationship with their audience, and the broad public thanked them for their uncomplicated decision by distributing their motifs.

Martin Kippenberger integrated the negative impulse and destructive potential of the prevailing mood directly into the themes, materials, means and conventions of art, above all into painting. The mass-media domain and modern lifestyle appear in his picture series as if they had been attacked by a troop that strikes at multiple showplaces armed with the widest array of weapons. Each field is traversed more rapidly than the victim can grasp what has happened to his image after it has been treated and transformed into a portrait - pictures of simple wit, rather up-to-the-minute and harsh, more than balanced or correct, reminiscent more of tabloid headlines than of a Sunday stroll in a museum: Heute denken - morgen fertig, style as a trademark not in the program.

The twenty-one pictures of Bekannt durch Film, Funk, Fernsehen und Polizeirufsäulen [Known through film, radio, television and police emergency calls] are portraits at least but most other ensembles lack any overview or key as to how they should be read. At best, the sawn-up Ford Capri - Blaue Lagune (p. 82/83) - made clear that a standard format was being deployed in attack.

The only circumstance that unites the two series of Null Bock auf Ideen (p. 90 -92) is that in each of the ten concept- and riddle-pictures something is no longer correct or is broken. 1. The world of work in the condition of unemployment on toilet-paper and dry bread. 2. The celebrated Mr. Kneipp without cold water over his excessive waistline. 3. The broken thumb of still optimistically upheld deployment-readiness. 4. The fine stench of the family and the best room at cheese. 5. A fall from a horse in accord with the laws of gravity discernible also in the drops of the grass coming from the other direction. 6. The favorite car as a toy from the early days of the invention of the wheel. 7. The freedom of design of a pissoir for a child's butt and how the big delivery turns out half-baked. 8. The dear little dog on the first steps on the road to recovery after several broken bones and a visit to the vet. 9. The logic of bodily charms on a southern beach and in the sound of language. And, finally, 10. A modern picture in form and color, but what is it about: mathematics, metaphysics, the abstract squaring of a triangle? Moreover, it's called "Quark in the curve". Is this a slip, a problem of weight, a quantum leap, or simply nonsense for nonsense sake, a friend's standard remark on the unpredictability of the next moment?

To this add the most various stylistic quotations, which don't make orientation any easier - Photo-realism, Color Field, Collage, Experimental Painting, Abstraction. For example, Pop appears with Action Painting: on the bottom of the picture three new, colored plastic buckets and, above, the old ink drippings. That stance as consequent and palpable as young Titten and old Türme would need an invisible third term: Tortellini (p. 91). The titles do not correspond with the pictures in a fixed direction: they have no explanatory aim or other clear function, or self-evident purpose. The same is true of their internal logic.

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Martin Kippenberger on the balcony of his flat at Friesenplatz, Cologne, 1983. Foto: Wilhelm Schürmann
Martin Kippenberger with Marie-Puck Broodthaers, opening party of the exhibition Truth is work with the band Night and Day, Essen, 1984. Fotos: Wilhelm Schürmann