The Museum of Time-Based Art
Music and Museum – Film and Museum
Fri, July 21, 2006 7 pm CEST, Opening

At the turn of the 21st Century can a museum continue showing what is, perhaps, the most important innovation of the 20th Century, namely, the moving picture? Can a museum account for the transition from a spatially based to a time based art? Can a museum act differently to the market?

The Museum as Place for the Arts of Space

When classical aesthetics alludes to the picture, what it is referring to is the painting. Owing to its two-dimensionality and its motionlessness, the picture has been defined as the structure of space. Thus, Lessing’s definition in »Laokoon«, of 1776 runs as follows: »So, that’s settled: chronology is the province of the poet in the same way as space is the province of the painter« (ch. 18). No sooner did the picture begin to move, whose images were then called »motion« pictures, or no sooner than were pictures comprised moving parts, as in kinetics, the picture migrated out of the sphere of space. The problem of motion introduced the problem of time to fine art. Language and music were always arts of chronologically successive moments (sequences of letters or notes). Language and music were thus always based on time. In the case of film, TV, video and digital art, the picture stepped into the sphere of poetry and music. Hence, the moving images of film or of video are no less close to music than is painting. Indeed, due to the centuries long hegemony of painting, classical aesthetics was so influential that museums of modern art remained closed to the real achievements of 20th Century art, namely to the problem of motion and time. For considerable time, museums remained the places for the art of space, namely, painting, sculpture and photography. Museums were not places for the art of time, language, music, video etc. Although the most progressive museums of the West had their own film departments, the films were shown outside of and not as part of the permanent collections. The Centre Pompidou in Paris has contacts to the music institute IRCAM, but the music is only occasionally part of the exhibition program. The ZKM has a film institute and an institute of music as departments and now plans to integrate these institutes into the permanent collection. The ZKM is predestined for this because, ever since its foundation, it has been showing the art of the moving picture and thus the art of time under the title »Master Works of Media Art«. It now intends to go one step further and open itself completely to the art of time and, furthermore, present the works of film and music in the permanent collection.

The Museum as Place for the Arts of Time

With the introduction of video art, of videotapes and the presentation of computer aided, interactive environments, the relationship of the museum to time has long since changed. The visitor to an exhibition has accustomed himself to not only pausing for seven seconds in front of a painting but the videotapes and digital installations have invited or rather compelled him to either view a piece of art for minutes at a time and/or to draw him into a dialogue. With its numerous exhibitions of video and computer art, the ZKM has consistently opted for time based art. So, if the visitor has thus accustomed himself to view art videos in full length projections, frequently extending up to one hour, the question then suggests itself: If time-based art – as video art is occasionally called – then why not also the mother of all time-based arts, namely, music? For as long as painting was shown, it was clear that silence was to prevail in museum halls. However, since the invention of sound film, the invention of television and the success of video art, we have known for a long time now that the moving picture is not solely derived from these but is always accompanied by language, sound and music. If contemporary video and computer installations already work with music, then why not introduce and present notes, sound and music installations at museums?

Music in the Museum Exhibition Space

The ZKM has therefore decided not only to present music and sound art in temporary exhibitions, which it has done from the beginning but to also show these in its permanent collection. Thus, in its media museum, commencing from the 21st of July 2006, the ZKM will install several permanent spaces exclusively dedicated to music. In the media museum, music as a medium will enjoy equal status to all the other media exhibited there. This equality of media in the permanent exhibition reflects the post media condition of our world, in which media not only refer to reality but, more especially, are systems of reference for other media and that alternately refer to each other as such. In other words, at the ZKM you will discover the first museum of music within the setting of an art museum. Clearly enough, in this music presentation the selection is focused on that kind of music produced and reproduced under technical conditions, namely, on music with and for audiotape, computer etc. In cooperation with the Experimentalstudio für akustische Kunst e.V. Freiburg (Experimental Studio for Acoustic Art in Freiburg reg. assoc.) the ZKM will also present permanent visual extracts from Luigi Nono’s revolutionary late work. From September onwards, the ZKM will dedicate itself to the work of the seminal composer/architect Iannis Xenakis. Iannis Xenakis conceived the plan of the Phillips Pavilion for the World Exhibition held in 1958, in Brussels. The Bavarian Chamber of Architects has a model of this Pavilion, which comprises the centre-piece of is exhibition »Iannis Xenakis – architecture and music«. The ZKM is proud to present this exhibition of Iannis Xenakis’ architectural and musical works from the 9th September to 31st October in the new music department of the media museum. Edgard Varèse composed his »Poème électronique« for this pavilion. An acoustic simulation composed by the Technical University of Berlin will make audible the innovative sound possibilities of that time. The founding of the archive for music IDEAMA (International Digital Electro-Acoustic Archive for Music), in 1990 was one of the most important acts of the ZKM’s | Institute for Music and Acoustics first director, Johannes Goebel. IDEAMA started out as a cooperative project with the renowned Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University, where Goebel worked with Max Mathews and Patte Wood prior to the former’s appointment to Karlsruhe. The founding trio sought no less than to preserve the most important early works of electro-acoustic music worldwide, to collect, develop, digitalize and – according to the terms of the ZKM – make them accessible to the public. Goebel, Mathews and Wood appointed two continental selection committees and scientific conferences were organized in order to discuss the selection criteria. The ZKM association assembled the list of the works to be preserved for Europe, and the CCRMA association, which left the project in the mid 1990s, assembled a list for America, Canada and Asia. From seven hundred and eight works aimed at and drawn from the period between 1929 (Walther Ruttmann’s radio play »Weekend«) to the year 1970 (Alvin Lucier »I am sitting in a room«), over the years five hundred and sixty nines works were in fact found and, after legal questions had been settled, digitalized then, with approximately one hundred hours of music, assembled into probably the most comprehensive data bank for electro-acoustic music. Equipped with its own play-back room the IDEAMA is the heart and the foundation of the new line of music in the ZKM | Media Museum. As an emancipated consumer and with the help of the most advanced interface technologies, the listener has the possibility to assemble for himself a music program as he is accustomed to doing in the age of the MP3 and portable music equipment etc. The independent direction of sound art, beginning with the work of BernhardLeitner is also successively presented.

Film in the Museum Exhibition Space

Similar arguments are true for the relationship between the film and the art museum. As is known, the MOMA, New York, and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, each have a film department although, beyond temporary, alternating exhibitions in which films are projected within the framework of an exhibition, the film collections are shown in the basement and only in the evening after the museum has closed or in halls especially set up outside the exhibition spaces. The ZKM has always placed a high value in its thematic, alternating exhibitions in treating the avant-garde film equally.

Just in its most recent exhibition »Light Art from Artificial Light» it has shown itself to be a pioneer of light art and, also for the first time, has exhibited film artists from the classics of the avant-garde, Viking Eggeling, Walther Ruttmann, Hans Richter, Oskar Fischinger, to Tony Conrad, Paul Sharits, Anthony McCall, Woody Vasulka etc. Since 1999, the ZKM, which under my directorship has opened itself up especially to art film, see the exhibition »Future Cinema – The Cinematic Imaginary after Film« (16.11. 2002 – 30.03. 2003), is breaking new ground. Art films can be viewed in the permanent exhibition along with paintings, sculptures, installations, works of sound art etc. Thus, just like all other works of art film has also been made accessible. It no longer exists in the shadow of video art but, as with all other artistic media, is treated equally. The approximation of film art and art museum corresponds to an inner logic in so far as many film artists, both past and present, were originally fine artists and because film, whether art film or Hollywood film, represents the primary medium of reference. But there is also an outer logic which is also contiguous to this fusion of film and museum. On the one hand this has to do with the emergence of the artistic documentary film as a consequence of the qualitative decline in public and private television whereas, on the other, the migration of the artistic feature film in the museum, as a result of the decline in the film industry which, in turn, is due to the fact that many significant film writers can no longer find a hiring agency. Thirdly, after the success of video art which, in many cases, referred back to the experiences and experiments of avant-garde films during the inter-war period and, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, to the greater readiness of museums to open their doors to avant-garde film which, at that time, had been left out in the rain and excluded from the art business (to detriment of both). For example, after the commercial distribution system for cinema no longer offered a platform for many important directors, be they Jean-Luc Godard, Agnès Varda or Artavazd Peleshian, the museum stepped into its place. On the other hand, an increasing number of fine artists shoot their own films, whether Matthew Barney, Ange Leccia, Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno. Hence, the museum has become an interface and platform for film such that it has even become a producer itself. Under the directorship of the Andrei Ujica, the film institute at the ZKM has already made two films together with the »Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain« in Paris, the film »7x3« (2004) by Raymond Depardon and the new film by Artavazd Peleshian, who has been unable to make a new documentary film for the last fifteen years. So, film and art now find themselves in a very new phase. The museum is moving over into film production. The ZKM belongs among the pioneers in this approach between cinematograph and exhibition space. Thus, in July the ZKM will be opening its museum cinema program.

This process is the natural consequence of multiple developments: in the first place, it constitutes an answer to the transformation of the exhibition business into a mass phenomenon. The questions of the relationship of museum and the masses, of art and the masses can most clearly be treated through film as mass medium and, perhaps, no less in the mass medium of television, which the ZKM will be approaching more specifically in the future. On the one hand, this process is largely connected to the migration of a cultivated public from the cinema to the museum which is dominated by art house cinema since, for many adults, commercial cinema provides little if any interest. Thirdly, it originates in the inner logic of the development within the arts, the transformation from the static to the moving picture, from museum as place for spatial arts to place for the arts of time. Our program has as its focal point those films which straddle the divide between the documentary and the fictional, including the classical avant-garde, and is structured in two parts. There will be a permanent repertoire as well as alternating titles, which will be renewed at certain intervals.

Belonging to the opening program are

Agnès Varda: »Cléo von 5–7« (1961) and »Daguerrotypes« (1975)
»The Great Directors of the World« (BNN, 01. 07. 2005)

Artavazd Peleshian: Selection of Works 
»The Most Important Contemporary European Film Director«
(Jean-Luc Godard, 1992)

Andrei Ujica: »Out of the Present«(1995)
»An epochal film from an epoch that has not yet occured.«
(Time Out, New York, 02.01.1997)

Peter Weibel, Werner Schimanovich:
»Kurt Gödel: A mathematical Myth « (1986)

Raymond Depardon: »3 x 7« (2004)

Organization / Institution