Geniale Dilletanten: 1980s German Subculture comes to RMIT Gallery

Mathilde Weh, curator, Geniale Dilletanten, at the exhibitionat the Haud der Kunst, Munich. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Mathilde Weh, curator, Geniale Dilletanten, at the exhibition at the Haus der Kunst, Munich.

RMIT Gallery visited curator Mathilde Weh in July Munich at the Haus der Kunst to talk to her about the new Goethe Institut exhibition she curated – Geniale Dilletanten: Subculture in Germany in the 1980s.

A touring version of the exhibition will be held at RMIT Gallery from 13 November – 27 February 2016, with a local component – Australian Ingenious Amateurs – reflecting aspects of the Australian scene.

Mathilde Weh will visit Melbourne for opening week events at RMIT Gallery.

RMIT Gallery: So, you had a big opening night for the exhibition just recently. Tell us a little bit about the party, who played there?

Mathilde Weh, at the Geniale Dilletanten exhibition at the Haus der Kunst, Munich. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Mathilde Weh, at the Geniale Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich. 

Mathilde: There was a concert two days after the opening from the band Einstürzende Neubauten and it was a really great concert and I think Blixa Bargeld was in Melbourne very often because he played with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

RMIT Gallery: That’s right, so it’s very familiar to Melbourne audiences and a lot of Australian audiences who came of age as artists and musicians in the 1980s will find this exhibition really fascinating. Why did you decide to pursue this idea of German subculture in the 1980s?

Mathilde: We, from the Goethe-Institut, wanted to make an exhibition about subculture and then we decided to do it about the 80s because it was a very interesting time. The medias were mixed; music, painting, literature. It was a mixed-media time!

RMIT Gallery: That’s true also in Australia because we had so many people who were involved in the music scene, who were making films, who were painting. Australian musician Ash Wednesday who was a touring musician with Einstürzende Neubauten recalls the local ‘ingenious amateur’ scene, and that’s exactly what this exhibition celebrates, isn’t it?

Mathilde: Yes, yes. And the new possibilities to make films with Super Eight. And you have samplers and Casios and all the new recordings. This was a new feeling for musicians.

Casio PT-30, Casio Computer Co, Ltd, Japan, 1984. From the Geniale Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich.

Casio PT-30, Casio Computer Co, Ltd, Japan, 1984. From the Geniale Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich. 

RMIT Gallery: The exciting thing about this was it was a cheap technology for the time, and people could readily get their hands on it and it wasn’t complicated so they could all have a go. (Hence – Brilliant Dilletantes – the English translation of the exhibition title)

Mathilde: Yes, it was not too expensive and everyone could make a film. There will be many of these films in the exhibition not seen before by many people.

Geniale Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Geniale Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich. 

RMIT Gallery: So to be a ‘Brilliant Dilettante or Brilliant Amateur in this scene, you didn’t have to be a professional film maker?

Mathilde: Yes, yes. That’s right. And also many artists in the eighties didn’t want to be a rockstar, they didn’t want to play a rock show… not to be able to play very good instrument. That was okay.

RMIT Gallery: Can you talk about the intriguing home made instruments that were part of the scene?

Mathilde: The artists had self-made instruments, like a plastic box with lego, children play with it. You can make noise with it and other instruments. And this is the Robotron. I don’t know, it is an instrument that can make noise and they change it a little bit, edit and change. With Einstürzende Neubauten (Blixa’s band and he played with Nick Cave) the first time they played together they had no money and they sold the drums and they found things (hammers, electric drills, saws) and used it to play. In one legendary show, the music was recorded without an audience in the hollow interior of a motorway bridge shortly after the band performed. And it was a really small space, you couldn’t stand up but it was a big noise, strange noise.

Mathilde Weh with the Robotron, at the Geniale Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Mathilde Weh with the Robotron, at the Geniale Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich. 

RMIT Gallery: Politically, what was happening in Germany in that time in the early eighties? How did that impact the subculture?

Mathilde: Here were many demonstrations against the government.  It was an important time. The Berlin wall was still up, yes. And it was really a subculture.

RMIT Gallery will be showing a new movie as part of our public program events that explores 1980s German subculture of the time and the political climate. It is called “B Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin (1979-1989)”. Stay tuned!

RMIT Gallery: Can you talk about the paintings in this exhibition and how they fit in with the period.

Mathilde: Many of the painters made music too. Musicians and painters and film makers. Some of the pieces are very big – 28 metres. It was painted in three days, the exhibition lasted one day and then it was over. A little bit like a performance. And the base of the techno music was in the eighties with these bands.

Mathilde Weh, with group of Armchairs Dress (three part), Die Todliche Doris, Geniale Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Mathilde Weh, with group of Armchairs Dress (three part), Die Todliche Doris, Geniale Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich. 

RMIT Gallery: How many bands represented in this exhibition?

Mathilde: We feature seven bands from across Germany – Einstürzende Neubauten; Die Tödliche Doris; Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle (F.S.K); Mode & Verzweiflung; Palais Schaumburg; Ornament und Verbrechen; and Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (D.A.F.) They used German titles not English titles because suddenly in the beginning of the eighties the musicians were using the German language. Not the English language but the German language. This was new. I think many of the singers said they wanted to express the lyrics in their own language.

'Disco today, revolution tomorrow, a country outing the day after tomorrow,

‘Disco today, revolution tomorrow, a country outing the day after tomorrow,” poster from the Geniale Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich. 

RMIT Gallery: Have these bands and this scene had a lasting impact on art culture in Germany?

Mathilde: Yes I think so because now young German bands play music in the tradition of the eighties and use the sounds and equipment from the eighties like the little Casios. Also, very important in the eighties was the cassettes. CDs didn’t exist. Cassette recorders were very important because the bands were not with big, professional record labels. They had their own little record labels. Everything was self-made. It was also the time that music videos began to be bigger. Some bands had music videos but only in West Germany not in East Germany, it was not possible to make them.

Genial Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Genial Dilletanten exhibition, Haus der Kunst, Munich. 

RMIT Gallery: What’s really fascinating as well in this exhibition are the documentaries you have made with the artists and singers and musicians from the period, and their reflections on that time and the work they did.

Mathilde: Yes, I made two video’s, one is one hour and a short one, twenty-five minutes long, with the artists and some other people, with photographers and film-makers, not only the musicians and I think painters,  It was very interesting to me to track these artists down and speak to them because I know them from the stage and from the records, from the paintings.

Screen grab - documentary made by Mathilde Weh for Geniale Dilletanten. Photo: Evelyn tsitas

Screen grab – documentary made by Mathilde Weh for Geniale Dilletanten. 

RMIT Gallery: You have put together an interesting range of public programs and events for the exhibition in Munich.

Mathilde: Yes, there are concerts and artist talks at the Haus der Kunst.

RMIT Gallery: RMIT Gallery is going to have a similar range of public programs – with some big name German artists coming. Including yourself. We look forward to seeing you in Melbourne in November.

Mathilde: Thank you, and I am very happy the show goes to Melbourne. I will see you all there!

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On the move – Performing Mobilities takes to Melbourne’s streets

Brian Ritchie, Violent Femmes' bass player -  performing portable komuso temple compositions at RMIT University, in the laneway between RMIT Gallery and Building 8. Photo Evelyn Tsitas

Brian Ritchie, Violent Femmes’ bass player – performing portable komuso temple compositions at RMIT University, in the laneway between RMIT Gallery and Building 8. Photo Evelyn Tsitas

This week, RMIT Gallery becomes the staging point for PASSAGES of mobile performance projects as part of the Performing Mobilities exhibition. From Monday 5 October to Saturday 10 October, artists are offering ways to encounter art in various live and moving manifestations.

You might encounter a tour whose subject is the tours available in Melbourne; a woman repairing a bitumen road surface by hand; a VERY LOCAL RADIO broadcast operating from a shopping trolley; or a fleeting composition of space and sound enacted in a PORTABLE TEMPLE.

Numerous mobile performances invite you to walk with the artist, including Angela Kilford’s WALKING ON FALLOW LANDS #2, taking one foot after another into the way that first peoples of Melbourne and New Zealand value place and motion.

The 8 Tours listed all leave from RMIT Gallery. Please arrive five minutes before tour commences. All tours are free of charge. Wear appropriate clothing for walking and in hot weather, a hat and sunscreen are sensible choices.

1. PORTABLE KOMUSO TEMPLE COMPOSITIONS

PERFORMERS: 

WHERE: Friday 9 October 1pm between RMIT Gallery & RMIT Building 8.

DURATION: 45 minutes duration.

COMPANION CURATOR: Mick Douglas

This collaborative project of musician Brian Ritchie and architect Stuart Tanner acknowledges the Zen monk tradition of transitory wandering, whilst exploring contemporary instances of how space, sound, movement, and experience might poignantly intersect. Ritchie and Tanner share an interest in clarity and simplicity. Ritchie’s sonic pursuits are underscored by both the active directness that first propelled and continues to sustain his punk-acoustic group the Violent Femmes, and his traditional training and ongoing practice in the Shakuhachi, for which he is a licensed teacher/performer granted the name ‘Tairaku’, translating as ‘big music’.

2. REPEATING SILENCE

Performance - Chris Braddock (NZ) stands stationary with eyes closed slowly turning his head from side to side. Photo Evelyn Tsitas

Performance – Chris Braddock (NZ) stands stationary with eyes closed slowly turning his head from side to side. Photo Evelyn Tsitas

PERFORMER: 

DATES: Friday 9 October, 11.30am –1pm, RMIT Gallery (TRACES FLOOR TALK); 1-2pm

WHERE: RMIT Gallery

MORE:  www.christopherbraddock.com

COMPANION CURATOR: David Cross

In Repeating Silence, 2015, a performance with livestream video, Chris Braddock (NZ) stands stationary with eyes closed slowly turning his head from side to side in the institutions and busy lane ways of Melbourne’s CBD. While he is completely stationary and with his eyes closed for an hour at a time, he turns his head very slowly from left to right as if surveying the scene. Video images (from above and close up) are livestreamed to tablets in close proximity, lecture theatres and to christopherbraddock.com.

3. NOW AGAIN

Now Again: Deakin University dance students will take you on guided city tours during Performing Mobilities. Photo Evelyn Tsitas

Now Again: Deakin University dance students will take you on guided city tours during Performing Mobilities. Photo Evelyn Tsitas

PERFORMERS: 

  • WHERE: environs around RMIT Gallery
  • WHEN: Wednesday 7 October 9am; Thursday 8 October 10.30am; Friday 9 Oct 9pm.
  • DURATION: 1 hour. The performance involves simple participation.  Please bring earbuds and smart phone as internet access required.
    MORE: http://oliviamillard.net/nowagain/COMPANION CURATOR:  Meredith Rogers

 4. WALK ON FALLOW LANDS #2

New Zealand artist Angela Kilford at RMIT Gallery for her

New Zealand artist Angela Kilford at RMIT Gallery for her “walk on Fallow Lands #2′ tour. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

PERFORMER: 

DATES: Monday 5 October to Saturday 10 October

WHERE: Meet at RMIT Gallery foyer

TIME: 11:00 am and 1 pm daily

DURATION: 2 hours (Walk on Thursday 8 Oct runs for 1.15 hours).

The walk departs daily from RMIT Gallery to Flagstaff Gardens in Melbourne, progressing to the Birrarung (Yarra River).

BOOKINGS: Maximum 8 people. Bookings by email to: kilfords (at) gmail.com

COMPANION CURATOR: James Oliver

Take a tour - Angela Kilford heads towards Flagstaff Gardens with a participant. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Take a tour – Angela Kilford heads towards Flagstaff Gardens with a participant. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

  • 5. VERY LOCAL RADIO (IN FOUR MOVEMENTS)

    PERFORMERS: 

    WHERE:  midday Saturday 3 October departing RMIT Gallery; midnight Sat 3 Oct > departing RMIT Gallery (outside front entrance)

    DURATION:  2 hours. Limited to 3 participants invited to travel with each journey
    Listen at http://broadcast.sashagrbich.com

    MORE: http://broadcast.sashagrbich.com

    COMPANION CURATOR: Paul Gazzola

    6. TECHNOPIA TOURS – WORKING MELBOURNE

  • Technopia Tours - Working Melbourne. As part of Performing Mobilities, Kim Donaldson takes people on tours that reveal Melbourne at work. Photo: Vicki Jones Photography.

    Technopia Tours – Working Melbourne. As part of Performing Mobilities, Kim Donaldson takes people on tours that reveal Melbourne at work. Photo: Vicki Jones Photography.

  •  PERFORMER: 

    DATES: Tuesday 6 October; Wednesday 7 October; Thursday 8 October

    WHERE: Meet at RMIT Gallery foyer

    Tuesday 6 October
    12.15pm The Plumbing Tour. Visit Melbourne City Council’s Black Water Plant and see the plumbing underbelly of the Melbourne City Baths. 1.5 hours
    2.30pm The Working Building Tour. Visit an art gallery and the private work spaces of an artist, an animator and a milliner in the Nicholson Building. 2 hours

    Wednesday 7th October
    10.30am Early Bird Special. Meet on the steps of RMIT gallery. Visit the kitchen of the renowned restaurant ‘The Press Club’. 1.5 hours
    12.30pm Visit the State Library of Victoria where a librarian from their Photograph Collection will share with us some historical images of working in Melbourne. 1 hour
    2.30pm See the inner workings of the Grand Organ at the Melbourne Town Hall. 1 hour.

    Thursday 8 October
    11am See food scraps from the cafes of Degraves Street turned into fertiliser for the gardens of Melbourne. 1 hour

    BOOKING: Booking direct through the artist kimd@unimelb.edu.au

    COMPANION CURATOR: Meredith Rogers

Off to see the city: Technopia Tours leave RMIT Gallery. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

Off to see the city: Technopia Tours leave RMIT Gallery. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

PERFORMER: 

WHERE: meet at RMIT Gallery foyer

WHEN: Tuesday 6 October 1pm & 4.30pm; Wednesday 7 October 1pm & 4.30pm; and Thursday 8 October 11 am.

DURATION: 1.5 hours; Limited to 8 participants

BOOKING:  Booking is required email:info@billaitchison.co.uk

COMPANION CURATOR:  Fiona Wilkie

8. WALK WITH ME

UK artist Dierdrie Heddon takes participants on a guided audio-walk from RMIT Gallery. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

UK artist Dierdrie Heddon takes participants on a guided audio-walk from RMIT Gallery. Photo: Evelyn Tsitas

PERFORMER: 

DATES: Monday 5 October and Tuesday 6 October

WHERE: Departing from RMIT Gallery

TIMES: 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm daily – 30-minutes duration
Limited to 10 people per walk > Accessible to wheelchair users

MORE: http://walkinginterconnections.com/

COMPANION CURATOR: Fiona Wilkie

RMIT Gallery is open on Grand Final day – come on in!

Power to the People! Collect free color posters of Julio Falagán’s artwork. Photo: Vicki Jones Photography

Power to the People! Collect free color posters of Julio Falagán’s artwork. Photo: Vicki Jones Photography

Yes, it’s a long weekend coming up. Melbourne is a sporting city, and this Friday October 2 has been declared a public holiday, in honour of the AFL grand final. But wait – according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, going to cultural venues and attending sporting events as a spectator are all popular pastimes for many Australians.

So why not do both on the newly minted Grand Final eve public holiday.  RMIT Gallery will be open as usual from 11 am to 5 pm. And also from 12 noon to 5 pm on Saturday 3 October.

The AFL Grand Final Parade will take place from 12pm AEST. Marching bands and roving entertainment will join in from the Old Treasury Building to Yarra Park at the MCG.

The participation and attendance surveys conducted by the ABS indicate that people who participated in sport and physical recreation went to both cultural and sporting events, more so than non-participants. So, if you are in the city for the Grand Final eve festivities, come along to RMIT Gallery as well.

You can collect your free artwork at Spanish artist Julio Falagán’s exhibition Power to the People! The artist invites audiences to become art collectors by taking home posters of the five original works made through the manipulation of popular prints bought in flea markets.

Meanwhile, in Performing Mobilities, the majority of the new and experimental works invite you to engage in your own forms of performing mobility. A number of projects even invite you to leave the Gallery with a particular aspect of an artwork as part of participating in mobile performances.

Take a line for a walk! And then take a selfie. This work by David Thomas and laurene Vaughan makes visible the trajectories and duration of transition within and across place.

Take a line for a walk! And then take a selfie. This work by David Thomas and Laurene Vaughan makes visible the trajectories and duration of transition within and across place.

According to exhibition curator Mick Douglas, “Performing Mobilities invites us to challenge ourselves about the way in which we think about and experience mobility.”

“A number of the different artworks invite you to playfully engage with them, even to take the artworks out of the Gallery and interact with them in the city.”