After Mary Bauermeister (b. 1934 in Frankfurt am Main) and Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) spent three labour-intensive weeks in Finland completing their score “Originale”, this key work of the 1960s avant-garde movement was first performed in October 1961 over five evenings in the theatre at the cathedral in Cologne. Only “originals” appeared on the stage, i.e.: the painter was actually a painter in real life - naturally Bauermeister herself - and one young man, who was referred to in the score as the action composer, was a young Korean - completely unknown at the time - named Nam June Paik (1932-2006), who threw peas at the audience and created minute, innovative sculptures out of shaving cream.
Given its multifarious nature, this was certainly the most impressive, unpredictable artistic theatre event at the time - one that can justifiably be regarded as one of the first ever “happenings”. We were later able to make the connection to Fluxus because in the previous year, Mary Bauermeister not only performed several works/actions by John Cage (1912-1992) in her studio in Cologne’s Lintgasse, but also the Cologne premieres of works by Nam June Paik, while the avant-garde in WDR radio festivals presented a more conservative vibe in contrast.
If one looks back at Mary Bauermeister’s work retroactively, the ideas behind Zero and Arte Povera, Land Art and individual mythologies, as well as paintings that erupt from the frame, sculptures that expand into the room and the incorporation of scientific phenomena and natural materials are just as similar as the ideas of her friends who were actually part of the Fluxus movement.
But the influence Bauermeister’s personality, activities and artistic works have had on the development of art since the late 1950s, i.e. on music, dance and performance art, even on the artistic climate in Cologne, has not yet been fully explored. What, for example, did Stockhausen learn from the artistic visions of a Mary Bauermeister and then implement in his own work?
A work like Stockhausen’s “Momente” (summer 1962) with all its actionism, the random inclusion of sounds made by everyday objects and all manner of vocal tones is impossible to imagine without Bauermeister’s motivation. Stockhausen’s and Bauermeister’s influence on Fluxus are just as unquestionable as the movement’s influence on them – the data and knowledge of those involved would have to be analysed on a monthly basis given how much give and take there was. What are some of the visible impulses that existed among artists in the Cologne scene, like director and thinker Arthur C. Caspari, Christo with his first wrapping project at the Rheinau harbour or Hans G Helms (1932- 2012) with his linguistic games “Fa:m Ahniesgwow” and Ernst Brücher, the courageous publisher of DuMont?
In 1986, I celebrated Cologne’s awakening in a large exhibition “Die 60er Jahre, Kölns Weg zur Kunstmetropole - Vom Happening zum Kunstmarkt” (Cologne’s path to art metropolis in the 1960s - From happening to art market) at the Kölnischer Kunstverein (Art Association of Cologne), selecting the challenging title: “Die Geburt der Kunst-Metropole Köln aus dem Geist der Musik” (The birth of Cologne as an art metropolis from the spirit of music) – and that was certainly the spirit of Mary Bauermeister’s studio.
The exhibition INTERMEDIAL at 401contemporary, Berlin, is meant to further explore this spirit. On display will be works by Mary Bauermeister, Sylvano Bussotti, John Cage, Hans G Helms, Joe Jones, Nam June Paik, Ben Patterson, Otto Piene, Takako Saito and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Text: Wulf Herzogenrath
SAVE THE DATE:
A sound performance by Mary Bauermeister and Takako Saito (*1929) will also take place on 14 May at 6 pm in the gallery, followed by a discussion between Wulf Herzogenrath and Mary Bauermeister.