Beautiful Balance

Founded in 2012 by Max Brand, Anne Imhof, Veit Laurent Kurz, and Stefan Tcherepnin; active until 2014/15

Biography

Anne Imhof

born 1978 born in Gießen; lives in Berlin and New York

2000–2003: Studies Visual Communication at the University of Art and Design, Offenbach am Main

2008–2012: Studies at the Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main; Graduation Award 2012

2013: First solo exhibition at the Portikus in Frankfurt am Main, where she presents, among others, her degree work School of the Seven Bells

2013/14: Studio scholarship in Paris

2015: Preis der Nationalgalerie for her installation Rage, created in Paris in 2014

2016: The work group Angst, which Imhof describes as an opera in three acts, is presented at three separate venues (Kunsthalle Basel; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Biennale Montreal)

2017: German pavilion at the Venice Biennale (her work Faust is awarded the Golden Lion)

2019–2020: The work group Sex, conceived for three separate venues (Tate Modern, London; Art Institute of Chicago; Castello di Rivoli, Italy)


Stefan Tcherepnin

born 1977 in Boston; lives in New York

1999–2003 Studies at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio

2003–2006 Studies at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York

Since 2001 Numerous music projects and performances (solo and in various ensembles)

Since 2011 Numerous solo exhibitions (among others, at Freedman Fitzpatrick, Los Angeles/Paris) and participation in group exhibitions


Veit Laurent Kurz

born 1985 in Erbach; lives in Berlin and New York

2005–2009 Studies at the University of Art and Design, Offenbach am Main

2009–2012 Studies at the Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main

Since 2009 Numerous exhibitions and music performances (among others, at Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin)

Since 2012 Member of the music duo Steit, together with Stefan Tcherepnin


Max Brand

born 1982 in Leipzig; lives in Berlin

2005–2007 Studies at the University of Art and Design, Offenbach am Main

2007–2011 Studies at the Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main; Graduation Prize 2011

Since 2010 Numerous exhibitions (among others, at Galerie Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt am Main)

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Anne Imhof, Max Brand, and Veit Laurent Kurz became acquainted with each other during their studies at the University of Art and Design in Offenbach and the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main. In the context of the latter, not only did their first collaborative projects take place, but their artistic careers, each of which had different accents, also began to take on a more concrete form. All three have in common what could be called an in-depth investigation of theatrical gestures and sign repertoires in the context of everyday cultural formations (and transformations). In the work of Max Brand, this exploration of ‘literal’ sign reservoirs, fed from a wide variety of sources, occurs within the (singular) medium of painting, whereby their receptiveness is subjected to a kind of inner dissolution of boundaries through the use of the most diverse means – from acrylic paint and coloured pencils to ink and chalk, fineliners and spray cans. Brand’s often large-format paintings – presented in exhibitions with emphatically matter-of-fact titles such as Tür (2016) and Birds (2019) – thus create concentrated arenas of chimerical and often seemingly sketchy, violently colliding everyday scenes. Similarly visionary and at the same time world-forming are Veit Laurent Kurz’s painting installations, in which polystyrene and other materials from model construction are frequently used and – with a conceptually reduced palette – condensed into seemingly posthuman ambiences. They are reminiscent of the fantastic interiors of a post-technological eco-future and are given such eloquent titles as Chiraptophobia, Herb-o-Rama, and Nutrition and Drama.

Within the context of the Städelschule, Brand and Kurz (via Anne Imhof) also met Stefan Tcherepnin, who, since the 2000s, had also developed a series of theatrical environments parallel to his various music projects. In Tcherepnin’s diorama-like installation The Mad Masters (2018), for example, furry, larger-than-life monsters reminiscent of stuffed animals with ambivalent characters between emphatic friendliness and profound disturbance are emphasised by means of frozen moments of a more comprehensive fantastic narrative. Tcherepnin’s exhibition Honky Tonk Calamity ><Ms. Fortune on the Links (2019), with its mixture of bar, club, film set, and golf course, also represents the realisation or theatricalisation of a monstrous stage situation, which is also equipped with sound.

From the very beginning, Anne Imhof conceived her art as an extended, three-dimensional – indeed even four-dimensional – pictorial production, in which specially composed sound plays an important, integrative role. The individual stations of her first series of works, School of the Seven Bells, had the effect of paintings that extended into the performatively temporalised and simultaneously spatialised. Based on pickpocketing practices in Naples, the series featured a group of conspiratorial and at the same time radically isolated individuals engaged in secret rituals of transferal and theft. This performance or opera, as Imhof later called her unique form of sound-driven and temporally expanded installation, was to find congenial continuations in further work groups: in Rage and Deal, for example, which, condensed into For Ever Rage (2015), represented a first highlight of her often agonizingly true-to-life explorations of affect; or in the three chapters of Angst (2016–17), whose form of staging generated a highly intense network of tension with increasingly expansive sculptural settings, animal protagonists, and an extended cast of long-time collaborators and models hired for the performance. Wall paintings, drawings, minimalist objects, and buttermilk or Red Bull containers, newly produced for each of the pieces, as well as a sound backdrop between elegiac solo singing and monstrously swelling drones, and last but not least poetic sprinklings of text as allegories of a present that has shrunk to zero – all this and much more (falcons, turtles, actual drones) forms the basic material from which Imhof’s pictorial worlds are always constructed, as if they were a test of endurance.

In this respect, Faust in the German Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale represented an even more condensed escalation – including barking guard dogs and glass floors, alluding to corporate architecture and its fictional appearance of unhindered omni-transparency. With Sex, Imhof began in 2019 to pursue contemporary forms of desire and fetishism, again in three (as yet unfinished) chapters.

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Music

Music

From the very beginning, Anne Imhof’s oeuvre – her ‘painting’ extended into three-dimensional space as well as over longer periods of time – built upon on an inherent musical component. Early on, for example, in the context of works such as Ähjeii and School of the Seven Bells, she produced extensive soundtracks that represent integrative components of the performative event. For Ähjeii, which had previously been presented within the context of a student exhibition at the Städelschule, she thus created in 2012 – together with the Belgian artist and musician Billy Bultheel – a two-dimensional composition, repeatedly interspersed with ascending drones or bizarre rhythmic accents. Bultheel also played a prominent role in creating the music tracks for Imhof’s performance series School of the Seven Bells – until the artist and the band Beautiful Balance (founded in 2012) gave the music of this series a different, more group-specific sound. After the approximately two-year phase with the band Beautiful Balance, Imhof began once again to work more closely with Bultheel for Rage and Deal, as well as for the Angst trilogy, increasingly using songs as part of her long-time performances (one of these pieces, ‘Brand New Gods’, was released on vinyl in 2016). For Faust (2017), she produced a kind of suite together with Bultheel, Franziska Aigner, and Eliza Douglas, who was also significantly involved in the music. This suite was released as an album in 2019, using parts recorded live at the German pavilion during the Venice Biennale. Faust reveals the entire spectrum of Imhof’s musical cosmos – from darkly elegiac vocal pieces such as ‘Medusa’s Song’ and ‘Queen Song’ to two-dimensional or drone-like instrumental passages and choral cover versions of a Marilyn Manson song and the partisan folk song ‘Bella Ciao’.

Among Imhof’s fellow musicians in the band Beautiful Balance, Stefan Tcherepnin is the most active and versatile, having participated in numerous formations and constellations (testing a wide variety of styles) since 2000 while studying music. In the early 2000s, Tcherepnin was a member of the college band The Gongs, which, by its own definition, performed ‘musical games’. In 2007, he recorded a highly energetic synthesizer duet (‘Gowanus’) with the artist Seth Price; most recently, he performed quirky genre expansions (gospel, doom) with the duo formations PSST and Afuma. Tcherepnin, who also recorded a composition by the legendary electro-acoustic musician Maryanne Amacher on the piano in 2019 (‘Petra’), has also been active in the formation Steit, together with Veit Laurent Kurz, since 2012.

In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Concert at the vernissage of the exhibition of Michael Krebber at the CAPC Bordeaux, 15 November 2012, with Max Brand (perc., synth.), Anne Imhof (bass guit., voc.), Veit Laurent Kurz (drums, synth.), Stefan Tcherepnin (guit., synth.), 55:20 min

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In 2012, Beautiful Balance was publicly launched at an exhibition of works by Michael Krebber (Max Brand had studied under him) at the CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux. The four had come together shortly before, after Brand, Imhof, and Kurz had already cooperated in joint musical performances in 2009 and they were subsequently joined by the American artist and musician Tcherepnin in the course of an exhibition in Basel. With regard to the group’s internal dynamics and the constantly fluctuating exchanges between the four protagonists, the band was an experiment of sorts – their debut concert on the occasion of the opening of Krebber’s exhibition on 15 November 2012 is impressive proof of this. In the middle of the large exhibition hall – with various works by Krebber on the floor and walls – the four of them, one after the other and with constantly changing instruments, began to introduce their reciprocating repertoires into the group sound. Tcherepnin set the tone on the keyboard, whereupon the others gradually entered the elegiac motif and began to stretch and distort in various directions. Imhof, initially on guitar, repeatedly contributed her beguiling chanting, then switched to bass guitar, while Tcherepnin took over on guitar – before, at one point, they both electronically processed the sound on a laptop and mixing console respectively. In this way, the four ‘riffed’ – Kurz was, for the most part, on the drums, but at one point also set the melodic direction with another elegiac synth motif – through highs and lows, downshifts and drum-driven accelerations. Meanwhile, Brand squatted for most of the time on the floor and played electronic percussion before he, too, took the big step to the drums. Such changing of instruments and joint ‘riffing’ – initiated by one member of the band, with the others then tuning in by modulating, intensifying, or transforming – represented a group dynamic principle, the output of which constantly strove to transcend borders and ends. The elegiac and repeatedly eruptively bursting stream of sound thus contained small song sketches, as well as longer improvised and doom passages, including isolated passages in which the flow of sound broke, even tore off completely – until all four band members came together again in polyphonic singing, without losing sight (and sound) of the always necessary, uncertain balance.

Author:

Christian Höller