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"Artists Instant Messages" and Media
one day workshop by Johannes Lothar Schröder [de] as part of PAS #20

During my lecture at PAS # 20 we visited the collections of the Hamburger Bahnhof as well as videos, films and pictures in the exhibition “Live to Tape”. The tapes have been restored and are now shown for the first time since the artist, gallerist and collector Mike Steiner donated his collection to the museum in 1998. This offered a good chance to discuss the musealization of Performance Art since Steiner got his first video in 1972. At that time the possibilities of documentation were improving by the emergence of the easy-to-handle Beta Cam in 1968. For the first time in history it allowed visual artists, who are used to working in their studios rather than performing publicly to produce performances there and to reach a broader public by later presentation of videos in exhibitions and in media.

Jochen Gerz pointed this out in an interview with Mike Steiner, which was executed for TV in 1985. He emphasized, that he always intended to do something unknown and risky in a performance, but he said: “I do not exhibit! and I prefer not to have a large audience and first of all friends, as it is important, that we create memories for ourselves to share.”

A very special relation between the common notion of an artist, an action of a contemporary artist and the museum is highlighted by ULAYs video of 1976. It documents the theft of “The poor poet” a popular German painting of 1839 by Carl Spitzweg, which is still present in the collective memory as an image of the life of an artist in an attic with a perforated roof, which is shown by the fact, that it has been a best-selling artists postcard until today. By bringing the painting into the flat of a Turkish family in Kreuzberg ULAY put into focus the contemporary life of outsiders and its romanticising. For performance artists it is striking to see that a previous attack on museology is incorporated by the same institution 20 years later. This fact was of high interest, as it shows that ephemeral work can be of a lasting impact as well as disappear.

Back in the Grimmuseum my question was, whether artworks have not always been an appropriate way to cast the ephemeral (stories, myths, happenings, battles etc.) into metal or to carve it into stone to make it lasting. The evocation of the Myth of Hercules brought the picture of the relief of Hercules and Kerkopes of the 6th Century BC into life again. It is the spirit of Renaissance bringing almost forgotten myths and ways of thinking into our minds again, and this could become a spirit of performances too, as performances are an ideal way to create fresh versions or actuations of images and stories, that in many cases have already drawn attention to people in other centuries and areas of the world. Some of them have been forgotten over spans of time for various reasons and then are brought to life again.

["Artists Instant Messages", This term dates back from Theo Kneubühlers essay on Happenings in 1971, in which he called it “Künstlerische Direktmitteilung”. Das Happening: Geschichte, Theorie und die Folgen, in: Werk #2, 1971, S. 116-124]

Johannes Lothar Schröder