[artinfo] Subculture in Germany in the 1980s

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Thu Jun 11 23:20:07 CEST 2015

Geniale Dilletanten. Subculture in Germany in the 1980s
26 June-11 October 2015

Haus der Kunst
Prinzregentenstr. 1
80538 Munich


Geniale Dilletanten was the term used to announce 
a concert held in Berlin's Tempodrom in 1981. The 
deliberately misspelled title has become 
synonymous with the brief era of artistic 
upheaval in Germany between 1979 and '84. 
Developed particularly in and around art schools, 
strong subculture scenes formed in many German 
cities. With their use of brute noise, 
provocative Super 8 films, cheap photocopied 
fanzines, independently produced samples, design 
that challenged "good taste," and a new, wild 
language for figurative painting and sculpture, 
these artists opposed the prevailing zeitgeist in 
Germany. Emphasis was placed on expression rather 
than technical perfection, artistic impact rather 
than skill. These players probed the 
possibilities of total opposition with the same 
vehemence they directed against official policy 
and the legacy of the '68 generation. Loud 
protests and deliberate provocation helped this 
alternative artistic scene gain international 
recognition before it petered out in 
commercialism as the Neue Deutsche Welle (New 
German Wave).

The broad range of the subculture is illustrated 
in the exhibition through works of film, art, 
design, fashion and portraits of seven bands:
Einstürzende Neubauten, Die Tödliche Doris, Der 
Plan, Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle (F.S.K.), 
Palais Schaumburg, Ornament und Verbrechen, and 
the duo Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft 

The movement's players met in clubs and venues 
such as the Ratinger Hof (Dusseldorf), the record 
store Rip Off (Hamburg), Kumpelnest, SO36 and 
Risiko (Berlin) or at the barber shop Penny Lane 
(Cologne) to play and listen to music, drink and 
dance, or develop new ideas.

At the same time, Rainer Fetting, Salomé, Markus 
Oehlen and Jörg Immendorff expressed in their 
painting the close relationship between the music 
and club scenes and the art scene. Markus Oehlen 
was also a musician and cassette DJ at Ratinger 
Hof. The painters intervened creatively in the 
events and also took advantage of such crude 
spaces in order to counter, by pictorial means, 
the music with something analogous. 

Helmut Middendorf, Walter Dahn and Elvira Bach 
also satisfied the then prevailing hunger for 
images and made direct references in their work 
to the music scene and individual stage 
performances. These paintings are included in the 
selection of works together with audio samples, 
magazines and billboards.

Geniale Dilletanten was designed as a touring 
exhibition by the Goethe Institute and has been 
substantially expanded for its presentation in 
Haus der Kunst.

Idea and concept: Leonhard Emmerling and Mathilde 
Weh of the Goethe Institute's visual arts 
Curator: Mathilde Weh
Assistance: Aline Fieker

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