Wolf Kahlen: VideoTapes 1969–2010
Exhibition view Wolf Kahlen
Sat, July 03, 2010 – Sun, September 26, 2010
Wolf Kahlen, who has turned 70 this year, is one of the most important German video pioneers. His work »S.C.H.A.F.E« (1975) was among the visitor favorites last year at the ZKM exhibition »RECORD > AGAIN! 40yearsvideoart.de – part 2«. When Kahlen first came into contact with the new media video in the mid-1960s as a young DAAD fellow in New York, he knew immediately that this technology was the one for his art. A medium that is, in his opinion, difficult to understand, subjective, and also frameless. At the beginning of the exhibition, the visitor thus strolls by the projection »Kyoto - Raw Material On Sublime Beauty«, which contains mainly Japanese street scenes and will always be ungraspable with its duration of nearly twelve hours.

For Kahlen, the camera was and remains a wandering eye that searches for, but also sometimes finds, coincidences; documents, and yet produces something entirely different than the camera of a documentary filmmaker. For him, the medium has, instead, something intimate; his video works engage each individual viewer in a conversation. Thus, already in 1975, Wolf Kahlen showed his works on screens in black tents that he had pitched in the gallery, as though he considered the works much too precious to expose them to a mass of eyes simultaneously. Shown back then were the first twenty-five works, in the meantime, there are nearly 160 films, many of which were created since the mid-1980s on long journeys through Asia. And again, the exhibition architecture has something intimate about it: the view onto transparent, white lengths of material at first only lets one surmise what is taking place behind, on flat screens and a video projection. Yet as soon as the visitor enters the space, he or she is in an audiovisual reading room, a site of calm and undisturbed study. Monitors and the projection are arranged in such a way that it is nearly impossible for people to be looking over each others’ shoulders. And the roughly 500-page list of works that Kahlen published for this retrospective lies open for inspection everywhere. But one is not able to grasp the oeuvre in all of its many facets, or as a whole. Yet for sure, it is all there.

The exhibition is supplemented by six video sculptures, including two found in the collection of the ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art, which have been restored for the occasion and can thereby be viewed for the first time in many years.
Organization / Institution
ZKM | Medienmuseum

Ruine der Künste, Berlin ; WRO Art Center Wroclaw ; Folkwang Museum Essen