Reinhard Döhl: Everything is Possible. Anything Goes.
Exhibition view »Konrad Balder Schäuffelen: language is a body, forsooth«
Im Rahmen der Reihe »Poetische Expansionen«
Thu, July 27, 2017 – Sun, October 22, 2017

In »Everything is Possible. Anything Goes.«, part of the exhibition series »Poetic Expansions«, the ZKM focuses on the oeuvre of author, poet, artist, literary and media studies scholar Reinhard Döhl (1934–2004). Döhl’s very considerable literary and artistic body of work includes short prose texts, lyric poetry, concrete and visual poetry, audio dramas, Mail art, collages, paintings, Japanese calligraphy, and Net art projects. In the fields of literature and media studies, he mainly published works on the history of literature, audio drama, and media.

Döhl studied German philology, philosophy, history, and political science in Göttingen. At the invitation of philosopher Max Bense, a professor at the University of Stuttgart, he moved to Stuttgart at the end of 1959, after he had published the poem »missa profana«, for which he was charged for blasphemy but later acquitted by the the court. Döhl received his PhD for a thesis on Jean (Hans) Arp, engaged early on with interdisciplinary themes, and finished his Habilitation thesis in 1979 on the subject of »New German Literature with Special Reference to the Media«. From 1965 until his death in 2004, Döhl taught at the University of Stuttgart, initially as a research assistant and then as Professor of German Studies.

In the 1960s, he was part of the Stuttgart group which had formed around Max Bense. The inner circle of the group consisted of Bense, Helmut Heißenbüttel, Döhl, and the typographers Klaus Burkhardt and Hansjörg Mayer, who were united by a shared interest in experimental literature and producing art with new media and writing systems. The group quickly expanded beyond the city’s boundaries: Ernst Jandl, Franz Mon, and Ludwig Harig, among others, can be accounted a further circle of the group. In 1965, Döhl created a unique gem of concrete visual poetry, the »Apfel mit Wurm« [Apple with Worm], composed of repeated instances of the printed word apple in the form shape of an apple. The word »worm« is hidden away at the bottom right of the apple. Döhl’s Apfel found its way into anthologies about concrete art and into many school textbooks.

Since the 1960s, Reinhard Döhl has maintained his contacts with a variety of literary figures and artists from France, Turkey, Czechoslovakia, Brazil, and Japan. A number of joint literary and artistic projects have arisen from the wide network that he created. The avant-garde of the twentieth century, the principles of artistic synthesis and artistic dialogue were always central aspects in Döhl’s work as a literary and media studies scholar and artist. In addition, he began to explore the literary and artistic possibilities of the Internet very early on and discovered the computer as a medium suited to meet the central requirements of a dialogical literature and art. From the 1990s he ran his own website,, while also operating the “Als Stuttgart Schule machte”[When Stuttgart set a precedent] Internet reader with Johannes Auer, which is an extensive archive of texts, comments, and materials about the Stuttgart group. From 1996, he published almost exclusively on the Internet.

Besides poetry, Döhl wrote prose, artistic and scholarly texts, and audio dramas. His texts have been translated into many languages, including French, Spanish, Czech, Russian, English, and Japanese. As a literary and media scholar and university professor, he worked intensively on early twentieth century experimental literature and art, especially DADA, and with the medium of the new audio drama. As well as his development of a radio series, this field of research also resulted in scholarly publications on the subject, which are still very important today.

The exhibition at the ZKM focuses on Döhl’s Internet literature and Internet art from 1996 onward, much of which was developed in collaboration with media artist Johannes Auer. The exhibition also features other works from Döhl’s oeuvre that companioned the 1960s avant-gardes — the work of a tireless spirit, whose curiosity about new media and their possible artistic uses constantly led him to explore a new medium artistically and scientifically.

Reinhard Döhl’s archive has been housed at the Academy of Arts in Berlin since 2001. Since 2004, large parts of Reinhard Döhl’s estate have been put in the ZKM’s collection.

Exhibitions team

Technische Projektleitung: Henrike Mall 

Organization / Institution
ZKM | Karlsruhe

Über den Künstler