Alexander Kluge

in conversation with Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer - an exhibition


in conversation with Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer - an exhibition

in conversation with Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer - an exhibition

Press release

Opening: Saturday 20 July 2019, 2 – 5 pm
Talk with Alexander Kluge: 20 July 2019, 3pm

For this exhibition, the German filmmaker and writer Alexander Kluge will present a multi-screen video installation alongside a selection of his writings. Featuring some of Kluge’s characteristic montage films, this installation will be exhibited in dialogue with twenty drawings by Georg Baselitz, which have never been shown before, and two new paintings by Anselm Kiefer. Having shared a deep intellectual affinity with both of these artists for many years, Alexander Kluge pays them a cinematic homage which engages and further extends the intersection between their individual practices.
In both his writings and films, Alexander Kluge brings together disparate elements from the real world, filling the gaps with fiction, then cutting and pasting them together. He approaches the world as an archeologist, exhuming various fragments and then incorporating them in the open structure of his films. In his unpredictable cinematic collage he brings together paintings, photographs, and archival materials. Taking inspiration from silent film, Kluge uses intertitles as a means of commentary. By marrying various images, sounds, and texts, the artist offers a kaleidoscopic vision of the various undercurrents which have traversed our cultural history, inviting the viewer to make unexpected associations.
Following from the French translation of Alexander Kluge’s Chronique des sentiments (2016), the French philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman wrote in Le Monde: ‘Like Goethe, Alexander Kluge investigates as an archeologist, talking to people, taking samples, excavating archives with the patience of a philologist. Though he does not, like Goethe, work from a drawings notebook and an acquarella box, but with a camera: he makes an image out of everything he reads, and makes literature out of all he sees or glimpses into. Alexander Kluge, a true romantic, thinks that even his most outlandish associations of ideas can document an objective viewpoint of the world.’ 


Deeply influenced by the theories of the Frankfurt School, Alexander Kluge’s rhizomatic approach is profoundly marked by the catastrophes of our present day. His video installations – notably those conceived for the Venice Biennale (2015), the Prada Foundation (Venice, 2017), and the Museum Folkwang (Essen, 2017), are the result of a fruitful exchange with other artists, rendered in a myriad of constellations.
By confronting the works of Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer to his own visual universe, Kluge creates unlikely juxtapositions which associates their works with a symbolic array of images, engendering a ‘rubbing’, as the artist himself would describe. Kluge sometimes uses the artist’s canvas as a cinematic backdrop to overlay his own images, thus engendering an artistic dialogue within the material fabric of the artworks themselves.

Alexander Kluge and Georg Baselitz

Kluge filmed the installation of the stage set produced by Georg Baselitz for Richard Wagner’s Parsifal, which took place at the Bayerische Staatsoper in 2018. He overlays images from the operatic performance to other symbolical allusions conceived specifically for this exhibition. A close admirer of Baselitz’s oeuvre, Kluge is particularly interested in his sense of the grotesque helping to avoid any form of pathos.
A selection of drawings by Baselitz will be presented alongside Kluge’s films. Realised at the time he was preparing the stage set for Parsifal, the drawings represent some of the numerous characters featured in Wagner’s operatic masterpiece, including, for example, the seductress Kundry, and Klingsor the magician. The pictorial treatment of each character is reminiscent of his famous series of Heroes, executed in the 1960s, where he depicts the vulnerability and despair of resolutely anti-heroic characters. The artist admits himself having had ambiguous relationship to the Wagner’s magnum opus; ‘After a few agreeable acts, I end up feeling rather bored of the pathos of his operas. But on the other side, I could hardly ignore the importance of Wagner as a Saxon, as a German, and even, as a European.’

Alexander Kluge and Anselm Kiefer

Alexander Kluge’s installation also includes various extracts from his film Dancing with pictures (2016), realised from a series of interviews conducted with Anselm Kiefer during a period of several years. In this erudite dialogue, the two artists evoke elements from history, mythology, literature, poetry, music, philosophy, and science, freely associating artworks with each other.
In 2014, Kluge receives the Heinrich Heine prize. In his opening speech for the prize ceremony, Kiefer pays tribute to Kluge: ‘In your work, in your films, in your texts, in your television commercials, I see all the different artistic movements of the twentieth century be brought together in a marvelous way. Minimal art, Conceptual art, elements from Fluxus, surrealism, the montage-technique of Kurt Schwitters – all this is brought together with you under one artistic masterpiece [...] You are a particle accelerator. Your work is a strange sort of palimpsest of such a profuse spontaneity as I have never seen it.’
Two new paintings by Anselm Kiefer are presented alongside Kluge’s video installations. Their iconography is inspired by Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen [The Waves of Love and the Sea] (1831), a play by the austrian writer Franz Grillparzer, inspired by the myth of Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite, and Leander, her lover, who would traverse the Hellespont every night to join her, until he eventually drowned. The myth has inspired numerous writers and artists over the centuries, including Christopher Marlowe, John Keats, Peter Paul Rubens, and William Turner, but Kiefer’s reference remains suggestive. For Kiefer, the ocean conjures a primitivistic space, one which exists before language, with no beginning nor end, where time and space take a cosmological and existential signification.

Tribute to Alexander Kluge at the Grand Palais

This exhibition will take place concurrently with the homage to Alexander Kluge at the Grand Palais National Galleries, an event conceived in light of the 50th anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon, in 1969. On the 20th of July, following from an encounter with the artist at the gallery at 3pm, Alexander Kluge will be in conversation with the art critic and writer Jean-Yves Jouannais from 5 to 7pm, at the Grand Palais. The debate will subsequently be followed by a programme of projections entitled Of the blue moon and other serious subjects

About the artist

Alexander Kluge (b. 1932, in Halberstadt) is a German filmmaker, author and lawyer. He has been one of the leading figures of the literary, artistic, intellectual and cultural life in Germany for the past fifty years. His body of work can be regarded as a continuation in words and moving images of the critical theory of the Frankfurt School. Intentionally polymorphic, it touches on multiple themes and makes use of the technological and artistic developments of his time. Kluge’s practice is not easily categorizable and he often blurs the distinction between individual media, in a wide-ranging artistic practice which encompasses filmmaking, television production, as well as a large volume of writings, both in literature and in theoretical texts.  

Kluge initiated his career as a writer in the early 1960s, later developing an interest in cinema after working with Fritz Lang and discovering the French Nouvelle Vague. In 1966, he was awarded the Silver Lion in Venice for his first feature-length film Anita G. He was later awarded the Golden Lion for Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed in 1968, which propelled his celebrity as one of the leading figures of the New German Cinema. A prolific writer and filmmaker, Kluge is also a philosopher in his own right, close to the Frankfurt School. From 1987, he becomes a television broadcaster by establishing the DCTP taking part as well in cultural programs with the television broadcasters RTL and SAT 1. 
In 2000, Kluge publishes the first two volumes of his magnum-opus Chronicle of Feeling, a work which had been in process for over forty years, and is over 5000 pages long, later translated into French in 2016, and 2018, respectively. Kluge has also collaborated prolifically with other authors such as Ferdinand von Schirach (Die Herrlichkeit der Vernunft). He is awarded for the ensemble of his literary output the Georg Büchner price in 2003, the Theodor W. Adorno prize in 2009, as well as the Heinrich Heine prize in 2014. He has also written on various socio-political subjects, including, Public Sphere and Experience and History and Obstinacy, both co-written with Oskar Negt.
In 2008, Kluge produces the cinematic montage News from Ideological Antiquity - Marx/Eisenstein/The Capital, which is based upon the unfinished project by Sergei Eisenstein to readapt Karl Marx’s Capital in a cinematographic form. This film was later presented at the Venice Biennale in 2015.

Some of his most important exhibitions include: Rétrospective–Prospective, Odyssée Cinéma, Cinémathèque Française, Paris; Gardens of Cooperations, La Virreina Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona ; The Boat is Leaking. The Captain Lied with the participation of Thomas Demand and Anna Viebrock, Fondazione Prada, Venice, in 2017; Pluriversumau Museum Folkwang, Essen, 2017 and, at the Belvedere Haus 21, Vienna, 2018. In 2018-2019, the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation in Arles presented James Ensor & Alexander Kluge: Dark Centuries. The exhibition Pluriversum. Die Poetische Kraft der Theorie, is ongoing until September 2019 at the Literaturhaus in Munich, inviting a conversation between the photographer Stefan Moses and the artists Sarah Morris, Kerstin Brätsch, Anselm Kiefer, Thomas Thiede, along with other artists, filmmakers, and writers, curated along the principles of a ‘cabinet of curiosities.’
In October 2019, the exhibition Die Macht der Musik – Die Oper 'Tempel der Ernsthaftigkeit' will open at the Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart, at the Kunsthalle Weishaupt in Ulm and in Kluge’s birthplace, in Halberstadt. In 2020, an exhibition inspired by Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne-Atlas will take place at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, in Berlin, with the cooperation of the Warburg Institute in London.