Andy Warhol is overrated

I see something that you don't see

Doing nothing in and of itself is mostly boring. It only becomes interesting when it contrasts with what is done. Every budding musician, actor and director learns how important it is not just notes or words, but rather correctly intoned pauses, moments of silence, of pausing, in which sentences, melodies, Images develop their effect.

And sometimes the break becomes the main thing. A strategy to break with tradition and implement new things. Nine examples of how diverse and successful this can be: through refusal, provocation, with cunning, jokes. Or just doing nothing.


A film needs a plot, a dramaturgy and a script? Not necessarily. On the night of June 25-26, 1964, Andy Warhol filmed the Empire State Building in New York from the window of a neighboring skyscraper. The silent film in black and white lasts eight hours and five minutes, with a single take, without cuts, tracking shots or pans. Sometimes lights in the building go on or off, sometimes the shadow of an airplane flits through the picture, otherwise nothing happens. Night falls, time flies.

Warhol's Empire is considered to be one of the most important experimental films of all. It was interpreted as a variation of the baroque vanitas motif on the transience of all things, a colossal painting with the means of film. Today the work belongs to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Art is beautiful, but is it a lot of work? Does not have to be. Why bother when everything you need is in the nearest department store? In 1913 Marcel Duchamp mounted the front fork of a bicycle on a stool - and the sculpture was ready. In 1917 he signed a urinal and submitted it to an exhibition, which promptly sparked a scandal. And at least for a moment distracted from the fact that at the same time the old order was bloodily falling on Europe's battlefields. With his Ready Mades, Duchamp created one of the most copied jokes in art history: What an artist signs, even if it is an object of daily use, is inevitably elevated to an object of art. Since then, Duchamp has been considered one of the most idiosyncratic but also most influential artists of the 20th century. His principle of the ready made has since been adopted and varied countless times.


In 1915 the Russian painter Kazimir Malevich exhibited his painting Black Square for the first time. It shows no more, but also no less than the title promises: a square canvas painted monochrome in black. It wasn't just abstract painting. In a sense, it was an end point of painting, an image that obliterated all other images. Malevich thus created an icon of modernity - the image as a definite non-image. "Because art can only have itself as its content," Malevich declared programmatically. Since then, anything has been possible in painting.

Take a rest

4'33 ", (Four minutes, thirty-three seconds) is the enigmatic title of a piece of music by John Cage, premiered on August 29, 1952 by the pianist David Tudor. Incidentally, the score should also be for a string quartet and a complete symphony orchestra Be suitable, but it always sounds the same regardless of the line-up: Not a single note is played for four minutes and 33 seconds, and there is silence for four minutes and 33 seconds. As part of a concert evening, this can sometimes be a source of relaxation or irritation. In any case, Cage's composition sparked debates about the nature of music in the professional world. As early as 1949, three years before the premiere of 4'33 ", at a" lecture about nothing "in a New York artists' club, Cage had declared:" Me am here and there is nothing to say. What we need is silence. "

Clamoring around

Even decades later, Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music still sounds like grievous bodily harm, pressed on vinyl. Instead of writing and recording new songs, the legendary musician (Velvet Underground) had the feedback whining of two electric guitars leaning against amplifiers recorded in 1975 and released as a double album: hellish noise. Years later, when asked if this was just a joke, Reed replied, "I was taking it seriously. But I was also seriously on drugs." The record nevertheless influenced so-called noise rock and bands like Sonic Youth. In 2007 the chamber music ensemble Zeitkratzer performed metal machine music with classical instruments.


Since the premiere of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot on January 5, 1953, it has been clear that an event can become an event on a theater stage from nothing - even without conflicts or intrigues, without heroes and crimes, without love, hate or other strong feelings and Motifs. In Beckett's play, two tramps wait for an ominous Mr. Godot. But that doesn't come. Beckett himself was absolutely silent when asked for explanations. An actor who premiered in England in 1955 recounts the audience's reaction: "We were greeted by waves of hostility and the mass exodus began soon after the curtain rose."

Two decades after Godot, Beckett was still radicalizing his method. His piece Atem, premiered in New York in 1969, consists only of a change of light and the sounds of inhaling and exhaling. It takes 25 seconds.

Waiting for Godot, the "pill break in recent drama" (Heiner Müller), was Beckett's answer to post-war literature blessed with ideology and is considered one of the most important plays of the 20th century. Perhaps, precisely because the piece aims to offer neither consolation nor handy explanations of the world.

Check off

In April 2009, the members of the Rimini Protokoll group declared the Daimler Annual General Meeting in the International Congress Center Berlin to be a play. They didn't have to do much more for the most unusual documentary "production" of the year - a kind of ready-made of spoken theater. They bought shares at an early stage and thus enabled 200 viewers interested in the theater as small shareholders to attend the general meeting. The actors - board of directors and supervisory board on the podium and talkative shareholders in the hall - strictly adhered to their roles without even suspecting that part of the audience had not come because of the dividend, but out of curiosity for a lesson. The stage design: No state theater has seen such an effort. The duration of the performance, 8 am to 9 pm, easily exceeded Goethe's Faust, Parts 1 and 2. The entertainment value: unfortunately modest. A certain monotony of the performance was inevitable and entirely intentional. "Dramaturgically, from the company's point of view, it makes sense to be as boring as possible. Anything that adds variety lengthens things and creates undesirable transparency," says shareholder protection officer Lars Labryga, a regular visitor to general meetings.


The London Hayward Gallery did away with the idea that the visual arts should at least be visible in June of this year. Her exhibition Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957-2012 brought together invisible art. Completely white canvases, nicely framed in wood. Gianni Motti used invisible ink for his drawings. Behind glass you can admire a sheet of blank paper. It only becomes a real work of art, at least for the artist Tom Friedman, because he has stared at it for thousands of hours over the past five years. Also nice: the pedestal on which Andy Warhol once posed for a few minutes as a living sculpture many years ago. Now everyone can imagine him on the empty pedestal.

remain silent

Although every moderately known artist has long begged for attention for himself and his work, some of the most important authors never wanted to have anything to do with public relations. The US writers J. D. Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye) and Thomas Pynchon (The Ends of the Parable), for example, have become almost as famous as they were with their work. After just a thin novel and three volumes of stories, Salinger found that he had now said everything. In 1965 his last story (Hapworth 16, 1924) appeared in the "New Yorker". But even in the following 45 years, until his death in 2010, he did not lose his shyness. Obviously, it has not harmed his reputation or success.

At least Samuel Beckett had himself photographed, but avoided the public whenever possible. He didn't want to answer questions about the work. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969, it is said that when he called from Stockholm, his wife answered in shock: "Quelle catastrophe!" Beckett went into hiding and of course did not accept the award personally. Even so, he retained the aura of his enigmatic work: It has not become part of the general talk.

An artist's refusal to explain himself publicly rarely prevents interpreters from interpreting a work long and verbatim: the less the artist talks - even if it is just a scam - the more the others talk about him. In any case, Josef Beuys, who liked to talk a lot about his work, was inspired to write a nice sottise about Duchamp in 1964: "Marcel Duchamp's silence is overrated," he wrote on a blackboard. His gallery owner had it framed and sold it as an object of art.