February 13, 2020 - Lenbachhaus Munich - Radio-Activity
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February 13, 2020

Lenbachhaus Munich

Max Radler, The Radio Listener, 1930. Lenbachhaus Munich. Photo: Lenbachhaus. © Max Radler or legal succession.

Radio-Activity
Collective Approaches to Art and Politics
February 18–August 23, 2020

Opening: February 17, 7–11pm

Lenbachhaus Munich
Luisenstraße 33
80333 Munich
Germany

www.lenbachhaus.de
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Radio-Activity
Collective Approaches to Art and Politics
February 18–August 23, 2020

Opening: February 17, 7–11pm

Lenbachhaus Munich
Luisenstraße 33
80333 Munich
Germany

www.lenbachhaus.de
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

“It is a very bad thing,”

Bertolt Brecht said in 1932 about the state of the then new medium of radio. “It was suddenly possible to say everything to everyone but, when you thought about it, you had nothing to say.” Radio was not a platform for a new political public: Instead of explication, one heard Viennese waltzes and recipes, instead of debates nice stories. Ten years after the first radio broadcasts, Brecht was disillusioned and proposed to transform the medium from an apparatus of distribution to one of communication. It should not only transmit but also receive, not only allow the audience to listen, but to make them producers. Brecht formulated his reflections on a “rebellion by the listener” at the very time when radio became nationalized in Germany and exploited as an instrument of Nazi propaganda.

Taking Brecht’s radio theory as a starting point, the exhibition Radio-Activity considers collective endeavors of the 1920/30s and the 1960/70s, who sought to create new channels of communication:

In the early 20th century, there were various attempts to rethink language and create forms of anti-national and international understanding. Paul Renner developed Futura in Munich: the first transnational typeface designed to lead into a common future, which established itself worldwide. In the 1920s, Esperanto—conceived in the late 19th century by Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof—became an instrument of left-wing political networking and was banned by the National Socialists. Argentinean artist Xul Solar’s Neocriollo was an auxiliary language intended for Latin America.

Members of the “Rote Gruppe” and the “Association of Revolutionary Visual Artists (ARBKD),” including George Grosz, and Rudolf Schlichter, produced political satires for magazines such as Der Knüppel, which placed workers’s concerns in a context of international solidarity.

In close collaboration with Helene Weigel, Elisabeth Hauptmann, Kurt Weill, Paul Hindemith, and others, Brecht examined the relationship between the individual and the collective in various textual and theatrical forms. In Lindberghflug (The Lindbergh Flight) and Badener Lehrstück vom Einverständnis (The Baden-Baden Lesson on Consent), both from 1929, he translated his thoughts on epic theater and radio into a musical-scenic “applied art,” which, in the sense of a collective artistic exercise, could only be realized with the participation of the audience.

Beginning in the late 1960s, Brecht’s radio theory was again the subject of heated debate. The basic idea of his critique was still relevant and coincided with a re-evaluation of Marxist theory: Who has the authority to interpret? Who speaks and to whom is spoken? The utopia of unbridled and authority-free communication electrified and inspired international movements such as anti-psychiatry and the Situationist International (SI).

In opposition to the exclusion of the “Gruppe SPUR” from the SI by Guy Debord, Jacqueline de Jong dedicated the first issue of her magazine Situationist Times to the Munich-based artist group. Dozens of artist friends, experts, and non-experts from around the world contributed to the magazine’s six issues. The SPUR artists dreamt of a utopian unity of the individual with the collective.

In 1974, the artist Ketty La Rocca protested: “It is not time for women to make statements: They have too much to do / and they would have to use a language that isn’t theirs, within a / language as alien to them as it is hostile.” The search for new forms of writing united artists like La Rocca, Tomaso Binga, and Betty Danon with feminists in the circle of art historian Carla Lonzi—very much in the spirit of Brecht:

"Art must set in where the defect lies."

With:
Assoziation revolutionärer bildender Künstler Deutschlands (ARBKD), Tomaso Binga, Cashmere Radio Berlin, Betty Danon, Isa Genzken, Gruppe SPUR, Kurt Günther, Wilhelm Heise, Ralf Homann/Manuela Unverdorben, Institute for Computational Vandalism, Jacqueline de Jong, Laboratorio P, Katrin Mayer, Stefanie Müller, Radio Papesse, Max Radler, Ketty La Rocca, Ruine München, Rudolf Schlichter, Xul Solar, Kurt Weinhold, Andreas Zeising, H. P. Zimmer

Curated by Karin Althaus and Stephanie Weber

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