interviews, bibliography

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Aufbrüche. Abbrüche. Umbrüche. Kunst in Ost-Berlin 1985-1995, Eine gemeinsame Ausstellung der Stiftung Kunstforum Berliner Volksbank und dem Stadtmuseum Berlin, 2022, mehr Informationen hier.

Die an der Ausstellung beteiligten Künstler:innen Manfred Butzmann, Sabine Herrmann, Uta Hünniger, Klaus Killisch, Sabine Peuckert, Maria Sewcz und Berndt Wilde erzählen in Videointerviews von ihren Erfahrungen vor dem Hintergrund der rasanten Veränderungen der wirtschaftlichen und politischen Verhältnisse vor und nach der Wende. 

Interview mit Sabine Herrmann und Klaus Killisch

Lage Egal, Interview with Klaus Killisch / 2022

In your works you combine different techniques, collages, sampling, text, drawings. How would you describe the artistic process of bringing these techniques together? 

I started painting in the 80s in East-Berlin. It was the time of so called neo-expressionism. The 90s took a different direction with new impressions. I used 19th century patterns as a background for large paintings of 3 to 4 meters and filled them with found artificial flowers. Working with collage-like techniques often means working with unknown elements, when you bring them together in a painting, you have to react as an artist, learning the effect of each material and find a balance. In my work, I also often react to the zeitgeist of the moment, for example advertising, design and music. Currently I am experimenting with combining painting with LED-light, or trying to express the interior of buildings, spaces or studios in the paintings. 

To what extent does your work play with or relate to music? 

I like to listen to music while I experiment with the materials and techniques. The adventure of listening to music in the studio while making art is important to me. If I read a song title somewhere or hear a lyric that speaks to me, I make a note of it, that I might use at a later point, either for inspiration or titles. In the 80s I listened to a lot of industrial music, especially the album Halber Mensch or song Seele Brennt from the band Einstürzende Neubauten, the latter I took as a title for a painting of a man burning. The image was already there, but when you then synchronize it with the music that is heard at that moment, a certain composition emerges. For me, the title adds another layer and opens up a new context. 

This is then where the titles “Die Welt ist eine Scheibe” (The World is a Disc), “Woodstock”, “London Calling”, “Revolution of Sounds” come from? Not only can you find a strong reference to the music, but at the same time they off er an insight into important events in history. How did you choose these titles in the context of the works? 

The painting Woodstock actually has to do with Wood stock, we went there once to visit the area and at that moment there was an old Volkswagen bus with ticket sales. I photographed it and used the interior of the bus for a painting. The interior interests me a lot because it resonates with a state of mind, it somehow needs this narrowing, where things are placed in a certain place and order. The title Die Welt ist eine Scheibe (the world is a disc) I liked because in German they also say Scheibe (disc) to a record. The title has a double meaning, referring to both vinyl and at surfaces, which are also found in my works. 

Both your drawings and your paintings use abstract forms and collage-like techniques that are different from each other but still share a common aesthetic. What is the relationship between your drawings and your paintings? 

They somehow belong together through the way I approach my work. With drawing I don’t have this pressure like with the canvas, there you just try, throw it away, but it needs concentration, I can’t correct it. I get into an inner state, and that’s where surprises come from. The material I use in my drawings and paintings as a template also comes from fashion magazines or photos of bands. 
A painting is always something else. Painting means that I am constantly correcting it. Then suddenly something develops and I have to act on it. Something I always come back to is the use of vinyls (which I have been working with since 2000), and colors – there is a certain color palette in all my works. Now my focus is on light again, but I am trying it with LED and this works very well. 

You have a series of works that you call Remix, a reproduction of existing works that have previously been sold. The works are not only a recreation, but also play with the meaning of remix. Can you explain these works in more detail? 

This refers to the works I made in the 1980s, which are now sold and no longer belong to me. I loved these works so much because they are connected to the fall of the Wall and the 1980s in East Berlin. I started with the painting Seele Brennt and reinterpreted it freely, then I continued with other works. I listened again to the music I heard in the studio at the time, recalling memories of that period. Images are so memorable, for me they represent a certain time and a certain moment in my life. Through these remixes, I try to reactivate the moment when the works were created. The works do not look the same but have a similar aura. Someone told me by seeing a remix at an exhibit at the gallery Lage Egal, that he was flashed immediately. He revealed, 30 years ago he saw the original painting in a Museum show in Budapest. What a coincidence. This is what fascinates me. 

Miriam Bers GoArt! Berlin – studio visit and interview English / Deutsch / 2018

Stadtmuseum Berlin Sonya Schönberger im Gespräch mit dem Berliner Künstler Klaus Killisch. In sechs Interviews spricht Sonya Schönberger mit Berliner Künstlerinnen und Künstler, deren Bilder in der Ausstellung „Die Schönheit der großen Stadt“ im Museum Ephraim-Palais präsentiert sind. 2018

Muriel Resnik Interview Singulart Magazine English / Deutsch / Français / 2017


Some artists move through different styles without a visible trace of their earlier works, while other artist spend their careers working primarily within one mode. Klaus Killisch’s art presents another possibility: in each of his artworks, he seems to carry with him his previous styles and concerns. This layering technique is most profound in his recent works, like Trance (2013), where the layers of history and styles span several decades. As such, it is especially useful to see Killisch’s work alongside his earliest paintings from the 1980s.

This layering of history technique makes a lot of sense for Killisch. He has lived through and participated in enormous historical changes, and each of them has not only left an impression on his artwork, but each has had an accumulative effect as his many styles often appear in one single work. Killisch started his career in East Berlin and was engaged with the revolutionary activities leading up to 1989. This early work echoed the neo-expression style that was prevalent in an oppressed East Berlin and Leipzig. But after the wall went down, Killisch embraced his interest in pop culture: advertising, fashion, photography, vinyl LPs, plastic flowers, etc. started to appear in Killisch’s art. But even as Killisch’s themes started to evolve, the residual concerns and techniques from his earlier work continued to be present in the new work as well. He carries these recent decades of history–both personal and social–through each of his artworks.

The content of Killisch’s early work often include solitary figures in an urban landscape; this theme, more recently, has become increasingly complicated with single figures repurposed from advertising, film stills, or other iconic images that also point to the solitary figure as a trauma of identity, but now a more mediated and complex version. Not only do we see this update in his themes, but in the techniques as well. Killisch samples many materials and strategies including collage and photography. These shifts in an artist’s career are common; what’s unique to Killisch’s vision is how the earlier themes and styles explicitly appear and re-appear in his later works.

Trance (2013) is a brilliant example of this historical layering. The piece is centered around the solitary male figure that is common in Killisch’s work, but the figure’s head is replaced with a swirl of hair that appears to be collaged from advertising images (hair, as an important historical pop icon, appears in several of Killisch’s works). The crossed-arms of the central figure over his genitalia is a gesture that Killisch has used earlier, and the guitars that he is holding also appear as collaged photographs. The vulnerable male figure is consistent with his earlier works, but now the figure is complicated by the appropriated use of found images–the identity is problematized and mediated by these images of popular music and culture. And yet, the more painterly gesture of Killisch’s neo-expressionistic style can be seen in the broad strokes of acrylic paint around the hair collage. It’s a moment that best exemplifies Killisch’s brazen use of layering from several historical periods in one artwork.

In the case of Killisch, exhibiting his new work alongside his early art is not simply an exercise in tracking the developing of an artist: for Killisch we are witnessing an act of self-appropriation, self-collage. In so many of his pieces, there is thought-provoking evidence of pulling down or borrowing elements from one painting to the next, over a span of three decades. As such, the best way to appreciate this work is to see several pieces from different artistic periods, different historical moments… they are all present, all at once.

catalogue TRANCE, 2018

Christoph Tannert Guitar Barrage, Bass Boom, and Visuals

As part of the young scene in Prenzlauer Berg his pictures owed more than a little to cultural pessimism under socialist auspices. But over a colorful base of defiant melancholy and detachment a distinct position always radiated, a sense of “and yet…” Beyond any ideological accommodation, Killisch’s work vibrated with such a strong description of the state of being that whatever his pictures expressed was never plaintive, it always had a powerful resonance.

Klaus Killisch’s first solo exhibition was held in 1988 in Zinnober, the shop-front premises of the Zinnober theater group at Knaackstraße 45 in the Prenzlauer Berg district of Berlin. Organized by the writer Ulrich Zieger (1961–2015), the exhibition was backed by the team behind the underground magazine Verwendung. In perfect style the Lippok brothers’ legendary band Ornament & Verbrechen played at the exhibition opening.

Killisch’s strongest pictures in the period between 1987 and 1991 were rooted in demonstrative symbolism, easily identifiable references to rock music, and strong willful colors. This made them hard to exploit by the socialist establishment’s art business. Western radio and TV stations were easily accessible in East Berlin, keeping audiences in the eastern part of the city well abreast with their counterparts in the West. International trends ruled the subcultures. People dressed stylishly and surfed casually on the wave of big city philosophy, conversing rapturously about Heiner Müller and texts by young poets. Bonjour Tristesse. Numerous “alternative” bands made noisy sounds against the limits of the system in cellars, clubs, and churches, proudly holding their own with bands in the West. Punk, New Wave, dilettante attacks and robust, defiant attitudes set the tone. Killisch’s pictures, not overtly intellectualized and not overly anti-cultural, were the right kind of background for this fractious rebellion. They shared common ground with the paintings and photographs of Wolfram A. Scheffler, Gerd Sonntag, Thomas Florschuetz, Klaus Hähner-Springmühl (1950–2006), and Trak Wendisch, the sculptures of Frank Seidel and the performances of self-piercing artists.

The moods of Killisch’s pictures matched the zeitgeist and spawned cognitive associations. 5 nach 4 (5 Past 4, 1988) felt like a Tom Waits pose, while Seele brennt (Soul Burning, 1989) was a dialogue with the West Berlin band Einstürzenden Neubauten. Wanderlust became political in Mauerdurchbruch (Wall Breach, 1987), Bellevue (1988) and Mann vor Mauer (Man Before Wall, 1988). By then, incidentally, fewer and fewer pictures in East Germany focused on the Berlin Wall at all. The majority of East German artists blended out their own imprisonment and that of the mass of East Germany’s population. A deep fear of reprisals haunted the state governed by Stasi surveillance. Still, the Wall didn’t succeed in dimming the golden age of TV. Killisch’s works Das Mondgesicht (Moonface, 1987), Teutonisches Bild (Teutonic Picture, 1989) and Blue Velvet (1989) feel like mystery thrillers and aim for a tongue in cheek, detached attitude toward the dangerous urges and chaste paranormal romances from Hollywood.

Killisch saw the surfaces of his pictures as a realm of surprises from the very beginning. With his usual lively awareness, after 1987 he focused on incorporating the advertising design of enamel panels from the prewar era that he found in a Berlin cellar into his works. This was followed in the 1990s by the traditional silk artificial flowers from Sebnitz, to which he gave a key role in his pictures for some time. When Killisch presents illusionary spaces today, fitting his pictures into pictorial wallpaper, when he combines disc covers, poster motifs, magazine photos, song texts and sounds that illustrate, concentrate, and explain his personal perspective, he arranges all the cited components in order, and even repositions them in a way that hints at interpretation. A concept like this is cheerful cultural science and openly combative painting at the same time. It makes sense that Killisch’s concept for the Cottbus Diesel Power Station Art Museum is also a spatial installation.

Killisch is a modern interpreter of sounds and psychic textures of his generation. As a painter and musician he combines his own story with world and pop history. He synchronizes his everyday life as an artist and family man with rock music, and searches for clues in areas relating to the interplay of the culture industry, the media, and social dynamics. In this orbit Killisch presents complexes of high culture and counterculture that allow him not only to emancipate pop but also to confirm high culture in its own language. Killisch acts like a translator who can layer cultural meanings on top of each other in a kaleidoscopic way. If you float along with Killisch on his image trip you meet The Doors, Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, and other cult pop icons. Yet if you look closer you can also detect Killisch’s acknowledgement of 19th-century artists: Blake, Füssli, and Moreau. Killisch keeps all his options open with his non-linear montage.

While preparing an exhibition in Kunstpavillon Heringsdorf in 2011 Killisch discovered a kindred spirit, the Lithuanian composer and painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis (1875–1911), who tried to achieve a synthesis of the two forms of art. It is no coincidence that Killisch felt close to an artist like Čiurlionis because he was also a border crosser – but in a different age. In Čiurlionis’s case it was the tendencies of nihilist philosophy, folk songs and romantic symphonies, the literature of classic authors, and esoteric influences that fascinated him and inspired his creativity. Killisch, on the other hand, is interested in popular song-making of our times: rock and pop since the late 1960s, as well as present-day sound developments from post-rock, the spirit that speaks out of the echoing swirling sounds of the Hammond organ or makes use of totally freaking-out guitars. Čiurlionis was a genius with dual talents. He painted what he composed and composed what he painted. He is famously quoted as saying, “I imagine the world as a painted symphony.” He described pictures as sonatas or preludes and piano pieces as “symphonic landscapes.” Killisch, by contrast, offers us the reproduction of his own artist’s studio as a space for creation and dreams in montages, collages and samplings.

The story of the discs began in the Bar Ambulance, which became an adjunct in 2002 of the bar-restaurant Silberstein on Oranienburger Straße in Berlin-Mitte. The owner, Sangare “Oseno” Siemsen, originally a painter and a key figure in the era around the end of the Berlin Wall, was a friend of Klaus Killisch. He asked Killisch to design a ceiling picture – including all the discs “Oseno” himself had played as a DJ. The finished ceiling covered over twenty meters and stoked up the feeling of life and those times back in the wild 1990s. Since then Killisch has experimented extensively with lacquers and has deliberately tried to insert LPs complete with their sleeves into his pictures as radical constructions that fit turntables.

In his pictures Killisch tries to process our exciting, confusing world. He takes the evident idea of using sound documents literally and collages the sound media into his pictures. The painting surfaces can but don’t necessarily create correspondences to the sounds that can actually be heard on the LPs. The pictorial elements illuminate snatches of rhythm, wind-borne voice fragments, and the sound surfaces that sometimes race by, sometimes flicker and sometimes swirl, depending on the musical style.

It makes no difference whether the sounds on the LPs are catchy or accessible at all. It is irrelevant for the picture because it is not about a translation from sound into image. It doesn’t matter whether the black vinyl discs contain melodies that offer clues – every picture by Killisch develops its rhythm according to visual criteria. Killisch doesn’t pick his favorite discs or those he would regard as somehow relevant. They are usually discs he gets by the boxful from DJs who get them as promos from the music industry. He seldom deliberately buys an LP to put it in a picture. And yet the repetitive circular element of the disc repeatedly creates the structure in the artistic sense, and pasting the album cover into the picture gives a signal that reminds us of a specific style at a particular time.

Connoisseurs who remember the songs from the LPs in the pictures will enjoy this all the more because the beats triggered in their inner ear will not get lost somewhere in infinity but to some extent will provide the sound setting for the picture, or Killisch’s visual idea will illuminate the sounds to be remembered and will mingle with stimuli from all areas of life.

In the first place, then, a Killisch picture with discs is an aggregate that bundles diverse energy currents. A mix of different visual elements, it strains its viewers’ attention span. Every LP and every other identifiable pictorial detail offers an isolated statement that is rounded off by the whole composition and reinforced by the picture title. However, this relative isolation of visual passages that can be augmented by other not clearly identifiable particles of samples and collages such as LP covers and/or enlarged copies of magazine photos is only partly artificial or artistic. It corresponds to everyday experience. Our reception of a work like this is determined by the duality of what flows in and what lingers as an echo. The details of the picture are added up, dramatically reinforced and projected outward like good vibrations. They are the signs of a desire that appears to us visually in a splintered and thus open structure. The LPs (that can obviously be heard anytime via archive sources) tell us in audial terms, and the color and structural patterns tell us in tactile terms what is actually happening in each of the artworks. Whatever happens on this aesthetic double-track in the minds or hearts of the hearers remains on the level of meditation, offers neither solutions nor explanations, but creates a free space for associations and, at best, develops the audience’s area for experience and language.

We don’t know what the painter Karl Hofer (1878–1955) was listening to when he painted the picture Mädchen mit Schallplatte (Girl with a Gramophone Record) in 1941. Was it classical music? Was it a banned Swing disc? The painter had already made a pencil sketch on the theme in 1939. A lost version of his painting Mädchen mit Grammofon (Girl with a Gramophone) is thought to date from 1928. By 1954 at the latest, Hofer had painted three pictures around the same topic and further sketches, watercolors and prints. Similar pictures show female figures holding a triangle or a guitar.

Whereas Hofer’s pictures use music and sound in trying to sample the grooves of yearning in our happy and fulfilled existence as human beings, Killisch firmly believes that humans “can’t make a system out of authenticity, but can only collect,” as Alexander Kluge tells us in Chronik der Gefühle (The Chronicle of Feeling). One of Killisch’s recent titles for a series and a picture is Die Welt ist eine Scheibe (The World is a Disc). What happens in Killisch’s spaces actually makes us realize that every perception is synesthetic, that people not only hear but also generally see and feel as well in the process, and that space can transform into sound by physical laws that not everyone understands. A delusional world grants us a Delirium in Hi-Fi. The artist’s intention now is to maximize the accessibility of this realm of imagination that, due to its subjectivity, is delimited by the guitar barrage and the bass boom.

catalogue BONJOUR TRISTESSE, English translation: Karen Margolis

Prof. Dr. Brigitte Rieger-Jähner, A LONG STRANGE TRIP

Arbeiten von Klaus Killisch lernte ich 1989 in einer Ausstellung der Leipziger Galerie EIGEN ART kennen. Seither ist die Verbindung zu diesem Künstler nicht abgerissen, da seine Bilder, Blätter und Installationen mich immer wieder überraschen und die Neugier an der Auseinandersetzung mit dem Gezeigten wach zu halten verstehen.

Dieses anhaltende Interesse ist schon etwas Besonderes, scheint in der Kunstgeschichte doch nun wirklich alles in kaum noch zu übersehenden Variationsbreite gesagt. Von Killisch jedoch werde ich immer wieder eines Besseren belehrt, denn bei jedem Atelier- oder Ausstellungsbesuch muss ich erkennen, dass er etwas, zumindest für mich, Unverzichtbares und so noch nie Gesehenes dem Bisherigen hinzu zufügen hat. So verbinden sich spannende optische Sensationen bei ihm mit einem vielschichtigen Gestaltungsgehalt, wobei er auch auf mittelbare Verweise der Kunstgeschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts zurückgreift. Vielleicht sind es aber gerade diese eigenwilligen Dialoge unterschiedlicher temporaler Zeitebenen dieser spannenden Vergangenheit, verbunden mit den Strategien und Medien unserer Massengesellschaft in der Gegenwart, die seine Kunst so präsent im hier und heute angesiedelt erscheinen lässt.

Obwohl wir auch bei den Installationen, die Sie in dieser Präsentation sehen, veränderte Sicht- und Gestaltungsweisen des Künstlers kennen lernen können, bleibt Wesentliches von dem erhalten , was wir bereits 1987 konstatieren konnten. Um dies zu erkennen, möchte ich kurz auf zwei Werke aus unserem Besitz eingehen, die letztlich den Entstehungs- und Veränderungsprozess von einst und jetzt verdeutlichen sollen.

So gehörte der Maler bereits vor dem Zusammenbruch der DDR nicht zu denjenigen, die die Tristesse des Seienden zelebrierten, und sei sie auch noch so ästhetisch sensibel und gekonnt in Grau-, Braun- und Beige Variationen als Stilleben, Figur oder Interieur auf die Fläche gebannt. Seine Mentalität und die damit verbundene Sicht auf die Welt war und ist anders geartet. So nahm er z.B. in seinen „Raucherbildern“, von denen wir eine besonders gelungene Fassung von 1987 besitzen, das Klima und den Lebensrhythmus von Berlin in den Jahren nach 1989 vorweg und drückte so zugleich das ihm gemäße Zeitgefühl aus, das dem Leben in einer europäischen Metropole entspricht. Dekorativ einprägsame Emailleschilder der Zigarrenwerbung aus den 20iger Jahren, die für ein Massenpublikum geschaffen wurden und zum Kauf motivieren sollten, bildeten hier die Anregung für das farbintensive Bildnis eines dionysisch coolen Supermannes (1987), bei dem sich eine plakativ strenge Raumgestaltung verbunden mit einer expressiven Farbauffassung, die Balance halten sollten.

8 Jahre später entstand mit dem Bild „Schatten der Leidenschaft“ (1995), das wir 1996 erwarben, eine Arbeit, die der Beschleunigung unseres Lebensrhythmus mit ihren Möglichkeiten und Verwerfungen in eigenwilliger Weise Rechnung zu tragen verstand, was sich mit den Worten von Heinrich Klotz zusammenfassen lässt: “In dieser Stadt ist die Idylle fast unmöglich, auch weil die Menschen in einer Art nervöser Gereiztheit untereinander leben, die sie kaum zur Ruhe kommen lässt.“(1) Diese Aussage wird bei unserer großformatigen Bildcollage, in der Öl, Acryl, Kunstblumen und Neonröhren eine Symbiose miteinander eingehen, in besonderer Weise nachvollziehbar. So weiß der Künstler auch hier wieder mit traumwandlerischer Sicherheit die Balance bei der Doppelkodierung von Elitär und Populär, Alt und Neu zu halten und sie spannungsvoll miteinander zu verbinden. Aber auch Begriffe wie „Mythologisierung, Nostalgie, Punk, Ritualisierung, atmosphärische und detailgenaue Erzählfreude“(2), mit denen sich das vielgestaltige Bild der Postmoderne zusammenfassen lässt, bestimmen seine Arbeit, ebenso wie der Mythos von der Unvereinbarkeit der Geschlechter, der über Jahrhunderte hinweg in der Kunst thematisiert wurde. Doch letztlich fasziniert uns der gestalterische Dissonanzreichtum innerhalb seiner Arbeiten, der schnelle Wechsel von widerstrebenden Empfindungen, wie er durch den Kontrast von Malerei verbunden mit der schattenrisshaften Vereinfachung der Form mit ihrem gebrochenen Pathos, künstlichem Grabschmuck und dem technoid grellen Licht der Leuchtstoffröhren erzeugt wird. Nach der Vergrößerung der Bildformate , der immer stärkeren Verdichtung des jeweiligen Grundgestus und den immer raumgreifenderen Collagierungen, die sich nicht selten mit grob gerasterten schwarz- weiß Kopien von fotografischen Bildern verbanden, war die Rauminstallation ein folgerichtiger Schritt. Dass es sich bei unserer Präsentation im Packhof um eine ehemalige mittelalterlichen Warenablage handelt, die nicht nur eine Vielzahl kleiner und relativ niedriger Räume mit zahlreichen Durchblicken besitzt, sondern zum Teil auch fachwerkbelassene Wänden hat, stellt auch für Killisch eine Herausforderung dar. Hinzu kommt, dass ich ihn bat, in diese Installation einen Auftrag unseres Museums aus dem Jahr 2007 einzufügen. Es handelt sich um 6 Malereien im Format 83x50cm, die in standardisierten leuchtkastenartigen Stahlrahmen ihren Platz gefunden haben. Die thematische Klammer der 6 Malereien lässt sich unter dem Thema „Pandora“ zusammenfassen. Mit Transparentfarbe und Serigrafie, beidseitig auf Plexiglas aufgetragen, sind die einzelnen Bilder scheinbar zusammenhanglos als Folge zusammenfügbar. Allein durch die Rasterung des Formats sowie durch die Intensität der leuchtend intensiven Farben scheinen sie in unheilvoller Weise aufeinander bezogen zu sein. Bereits der aus der griechischen Mythologie entnommene Titel weist auf das Unheil hin. So wurde die Pandora einerseits als zerstörerische Elementargewalt angesehen und anderseits zur weiblichen Urgewalt stilisiert. Zu beidem lässt sich ein Bezug zu Killischs Malereien herstellen. Darauf weisen sowohl die monströsen Haarberge auf einem nicht näher zu identifizierenden weiblichen Kopf ebenso hin wie schwarze Kreise von unterschiedlicher Größe, die die surreale Note des Bildes nach verstärken. Aber auch die gefährlich glänzenden und durch ihre Farbigkeit wiederum aberwitzig schön wirkenden Schrottteile in ihren deformierten Verkantungen stehen in spannungsvollem Gegensatz zu den ornamental psychedelischen zarten Formen aber auch Kopfumrissen und vervollständigen das brachiale und zugleich hintergründige Bild vom Chaos.

Bereits die ersten Ankäufe von 1987 bis hin zur Installation vom Januar 2009 würden den Titel unserer Präsentation „eine lange seltsame Reise“ rechtfertigen. Klaus Killisch erläutert diesen Titel und damit sein Wollen noch etwas differenzierter. Angeregt durch die Biografie der kalifornischen Rockband Grateful Dead wählte er für unsere Ausstellung in Frankfurt (Oder) den Titel: a long strange trip. So sei die Textzeile dem song ‘truckin‘ (erschienen 1970) entnommen und stehe als Metapher für ein ständiges Bewältigen und Auseinandersetzen mit Umbrüchen im eigenen Leben. Diese Musik liefe zur Zeit in seinem Atelier ständig und laut. Die LP „Anthem oft he sun“ träfe sich dabei wunderbar mit seinen Bildern. „Die Musik ist psychedelisch“, bekennt der Künstler „und in vielen Schichten collagiert. …Die Ausstellung a long strange trip variiert in den Räumen des Packhofes eine innere und äußere Reise ohne Ankunft. … In einem Raum der Ausstellung werde ich mein Atelier inszenieren…. Generell ist ein Atelier nicht nur der Produktionsort für Kunst, für die Künstler ist es auch der Ort an dem Musik gehört und gelesen wird und an dem Leute empfangen werden. Ich möchte deshalb diesen Ateliernachbau auch als Bühne für Veranstaltungen, die in Zusammenhang mit den Bildern der Ausstellung zu sehen sind, nutzen.“(3) Doch was in den hoffentlich zahlreichen Veranstaltungen zu erwarten ist, deutet sich bereits bei unserer Installation an und wird so in der Ausstellung gleichsam vorweggenommen. Es ist das sich verzahnen bzw. dialogisch aufeinander reagieren von optischen wie akustischen und haptischen Formulierungen, die durch die Farbe, vor allem aber durch Rhythmen auf der jeweiligen Wand bzw. Bodenfläche in einem gestalterischen Sinnzusammenhang stehen. Einbezogen in diese Collagen ist eine klangintensive Malerei, die zum Teil mit schwarzen Schellackplatten, Covers oder Fotos bzw. Computerausdrucken collagiert wurde. Hinzu kommen über mehrere Wände reichende Bilder von opulenten glänzenden Haarsträhnen, die die Stärke von organoiden Rohren zu haben scheinen. stakkatohaft in verschiedenen Teilbereichen der Installationen sind unsere Glasbilder zum Thema „Pandora“ zu finden, die durch die Leuchtkraft des Lichts die jeweilige Einzelwand erneut strukturieren.

Eine komplexe Fülle von Assoziationen stellt sich beim Betrachten dieser eigenwilligen Installationen ein, aus der hierarchische Ordnungen des Abgebildeten ebenso ausgeschlossen wurden wie inhaltliche Festlegungen. Und gerade dadurch wird das ausgeprägte Formbewusstsein von Killisch noch deutlicher erkennbar. So ist dieses polyphone Geflecht formaler, ikonografischer aber auch historischer Querverweise nur einer von vielen Bestandteilen dieser großartigen visuellen Kommunikation, die eine geheimnisvolle und Fragen geradezu provozierende Verbindung zur Welt des 21. Jahrhunderts herstellt.

1 Heinrich Klotz: Die Neuen Wilden in Berlin, Stuttgart 1984, S. 9 2 Charles Jencks. Zit. Nach Stephan Schmidt- Wulffen: Spielregeln, Tendenzen der Gegenwartskunst, Köln 1987, S. 28 3 Klaus Killisch in einem Brief an die Autorin vom 14. Oktober 2008


Robert Fitterman DON’T LOOK BACK

One of the many contributions that Klaus Killisch’s artwork brings to the conversation about recombining, freestlye collage is the absolute joy he takes in recovering the iconic markers of our shared cultural history. Killisch’s artwork is refreshed by an almost boyish embrace of the past, any past, as an archivist in an icon factory. Whether he is reframing or modifying images from early Hollywood Westerns (The Boy From Mixed Run) or gluing vinyl records on canvas beside massive hairstyles (Hair to Eternity), Killisch’s paintings defy the hierarchy of high and low. In his art there is no forced distinction between the genuine and the ironic, between the Grand Canyon and the Grand Canyon gift shop. Both are of equal use and significance, both are embraceable with the same awe. As such, this is an art of inclusion—a happy insistence on everything, anything. Finding its way into the grand stage of his large painting is big hair one day and Durer the next.

There is a particularity to this awe that is central to Killisch’s world. As a painter coming of age in the DDR mid-1980s, there is always the sense of both awe and disbelief in the cultural icons that he collects. In his art, critical distance is often replaced with wonder. This is not the same as naivete, but, in fact, it is closer to the position of the stateless flaneur. Killisch reminds us that to live in this moment of technological speed is to always play catch up. What’s happens when that catch up is a “given” cultural history—“given” as a both a gift and as a pre-determined assumption. This complexity is most evident in Killisch’s 1992 series Flowers, where plastic flowers are hand-sewn into the canvasses. The nostalgia here is not in the image or the technique, but for the closing of the artificial flower factory near Dresden that could no longer compete on the World Market after the wall went down. Killisch drove down to the factory and loaded his car up with the sad symbols of an eastern bloc yesteryear, and revitalized them in his paintings. A gesture not dissimilar to Donald Judd traveling to New Jersey to discover a new plastic to make art with (as reported by Robert Smithson). In his latest series, Krieger und Helme (2007), there is a similar affect where the cut n’ paste collage of architectually ornate Baroque details shape up to overblown heads and headdresses. These heads sit seamlessly on contemporary clothing, and then that image is interrupted by the outlines of neo-expressionistic figures suggestive of Killisch’s own early work. This suggestion operates as an appropriation of his own work in collision with these ornate images.

Killisch’s embrace of pop culture and an art of inclusion extends itself, almost organically, to the web. Through his various musical compositions, videos, faux operas, installations, etc., we see what collage might look like in the 21st century. To spend an hour at Killisch’s website ( is to understand how the art of collage has been taken out of the gallery and onto the web. Killisch treats the possibilities of web art as a sort of new way to think about collaboration and the possibility of something akin to “street art”. In these collaborations and video pieces, Killisch furthers his commitment to inclusion, to an everyday art and a practice that is continually open to new ideas of community and social space. Each project, each collaboration informs the world view of this art and the wondrous relationship it has to the past, present and future.

catalogue: DONT LOOK BACK, 2007


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