First the Feet

By Roberto Ohrt. Excerpt from the book 'Kippenberger'

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Also Null Bock auf Ideen has something of the imperceptibly double-faced sentence pictures so typical of Martin Kippenberger where two incommensurable signals come together and complete each other. While the sentence or expression veers towards the credibility of a coherent rhythm, the poison of dissolution presses in from the other side. Null Bock was a slogan of street punk. The "no-future" generation wanted everything possible, except a job or style for the up-and-coming in the world. They despised the world of Ideen; they never would have used the word Ideen. It came from the vocabulary of advertising agencies where "New Wave" was not only in demand, but in use, and where Null Bock said nothing.

Martin Kippenberger's art appears at first blush to have all of the signs of content; it is so highly charged with complex allusions, pictorial ideas and a glut of language that nothing explains its vehement rejection. Ideas were not the stock-in-trade of advertising agencies only; they were also part of a wish for creativity, and of an artist who wants to spread understanding or other good things with his ideas, and who is, above all, impressed by himself. This frontier was to be disappointed. So, not only did the Ideen have to go through the ironically set up Null Bock mill, they also had to be reduced to the simple colors of reality, right down to the sheer uselessness of their values, right down to the state in which words became unusable as a medium of understanding or for other forms of entertainment betting perhaps on the ordered arrangements of theory. In this respect the 1970s had brought about a number of modernizations, but writing and lecturing about art was still in the thrall of profundities and moralities.

When he expanded the theater of picture titles to a near autonomous medium, Martin Kippenberger was not after the added value of any wealth of imagination, nor proof of talent, rather detachment. The crowded and confused appendix of texts and letters signaled first and foremost that this art functioned according to different laws and codes, and could not be fenced in. It developed its own voice, organized its claim to competence in the sphere of language, and supported the autonomy of artistic initiative by throwing obstacles in the way of qualifications by the commentator. Just as catalogues and artist books interfere in the book theme Frauen [Women] for example, was produced by a publisher of theory, and comprised only photographs from first page to last without a single word), the word-rich titles were designed to create difficulties for the formalities of science and journalism.

Lines of cheap verse, observations picked up from the everyday world, headlines, personal sound, variations on hackneyed phrases, the melody of the rule of life, code words, abbreviations or letters ... picture titles armed themselves with varieties of self-evident assertion, and used every possible handle, right down to the secret formulae of theory. They parody the special magic of specialist terms and respect shown to that which is difficult to understand. Thus there arose a cycle of hints, translations, labyrinths and corrections, a zone of mediation that also played of course with references only friends and other initiates could understand. Everyone recognized the abbreviations ZDF, BWL or NPD [2nd German TV Channel; Business Administration; National Democratic Party] , but what on earth were: C.B.N., I.N.P. or S.H.Y.?
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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