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Reading »rot« Again

Experiments in texts and pictures

Thu, July 25 – Sun, August 25, 2024

Music Balcony

In the art book series rot (en: red), Max Bense (1910-1990) and Elisabeth Walther-Bense (1922-2018) brought together experiments in concrete poetry and visual poetry, computer graphics and semiotics over a period of almost four decades. The exhibition is dedicated to the interests and playing fields of these two central figures, who united art production, presentation, and theory in the 1960s and 70s in small, square, red and extremely important publications.

The more than 50 issues show works and published texts by Haroldo de Campos, Friedrich Hegel, Ernst Jandl, Georg Nees, Aloisio Magalhães, Hansjörg Mayer, Franz Mon, Charles S. Peirce, Diter Rot, Mira Schendel and Timm Ulrichs. The exhibition focuses on the development of the art book series and the (hi)stories of its publication. In addition to the published editions, unpublished drafts for further editions of rot will also be presented for the first time.

The ZKM archive serves as the basis for the exhibition. Most of the exhibits come from Walther-Bense's estate, which was handed over to the ZKM in 2018. It comprises around 14 linear meters of documents and is completed by the joint working library of Elisabeth Walther-Bense and Max Bense with around 6.000 publications. The extensive collection of correspondence with artists and theorists forms the largest part of the estate with around seven linear meters. The archive contains numerous documents relating to the publishers, printing plates, drafts and notes, photographs and letters relating to the rot series, which can illustrate the international network surrounding the history of this publication.

The exhibition was conceived and curated as part of the cooperation seminar between the Institute of Art and Architectural History at KIT Karlsruhe and ZKM | Karlsruhe. The seminar with students from KIT and HfG | Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe (Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design) combines art historical research with archival and curatorial practice.

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Elisabeth Walther-Bense's unpublished works

More information about Elisabeth Walther-Bense and Max Bense

© Elisabeth Walther-Bense
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Self-description of the series rot by Max Bense and Elisabeth Walther-Bense, ca. 1970:

the rot series serves the publication of experimental
literature and graphics
the term experiment is not narrowly defined
we include everything under the
condition that it is created
to be a theoretically accessible aesthetic
conception encompassing
the form, content and purpose of
of artistic production
experimental literature and graphics include all
stochastic aleatoric topological
abstract and concrete techniques
moreover it is not limited to the natural
modes of production of a creative
individual but also takes into account the
artistic productions of electronic
computing systems


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