Die Tödliche Doris

active between 1980 and 1987


The West Berlin artist group, Die Tödliche Doris, was founded by Wolfgang Müller and Nikolaus Utermöhlen in 1980. Both were students of Wolfgang Ramsbott’s class for experimental film and visual communication at Berlin University of the Arts.

Temporary members of the fluctuating collective include Chris Dreier (member 1980–1981), Dagmar Dimitroff (member 1981–1982), and Tabea Blumenschein and Elke Kruse alias Käthe Kruse (both members 1982–1987).

The band dissolved in the autumn of 1987.

Tabea Blumenschein

born 1952 in Konstanz, Germany
died 2020

Dagmar Dimitroff

born 1960 in Dresden, Germany; died 1990 in Berlin

Chris Dreier

born 1961 in Wuppertal, Germany; lives in Berlin

Käthe Kruse

born 1958 as Elke Kruse in Bünde, Germany; lives in Berlin

Wolfgang Müller

born 1957 in Wolfsburg, Germany; lives in Berlin

Nikolaus Utermöhlen

born 1958 in Würzburg, Germany; died 1996 in Berlin

Visual Arts and Music

Visual Arts and Music

Die Tödliche Doris is a conceptual project between music and performance art that ultimately includes all branches of art. Paintings, objects and installations, videos, photographs, and texts emerge in connection with music.

The collaboration of art students Wolfgang Müller and Nikolaus Utermöhlen can be seen as a precursor of the group. The two collected torn passport photos, which they glued together and presented under the title Material für die Nachkriegszeit. In 1981 their work was translated into a dramatized film version and was subsequently developed as »Foto-Dokumentar Archiv Projekt.«

With the founding of their band in 1980, in the context of the Neue Deutsche Welle, punk, and New Wave, they not only opposed standards of stadium rock but also any virtuosity or norms of »real« playing. They experimented with a variety of instruments as well as defective tapes and tape recorders.

On September 4, 1981, Die Tödliche Doris appeared in the Berlin Tempodrom at the event, Die große Untergangs-Show – Festival Genialer Dilletanten which was a legendary gathering of representatives of such trends. (The misspelling of the word »Dilettanten« was originally a mistake on the flyer of the event, which they intentionally kept as a statement of the acceptance of shortcomings and mistakes). In the same year, Wolfgang Müller published his book Geniale Dilletanten which achieved the status of a manifesto. It included texts by Blixa Bargeld, Frieder Butzmann, Peter Gente, Gudrun Gut, Klaus Hoffmann, Wolfgang Müller, and Nikolaus Utermöhlen as well as illustrations by Tabea Blumenschein. In it, Müller locates dilettantism between »academic stay-at-homes and do-it-yourself pathos« following Goethe’s lead and describes the paradigm of the 1980s in which art became pop and pop music became art.

In the period that followed, Die Tödliche Doris appeared in prominent places in the art world: in 1982 in the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris; in 1983 as a supporting part of Harald Szeemann’s exhibition Der Hang zum Gesamtkunstwerk in Berlin; in 1984 in the New York performance space The Kitchen; and in 1987 in the Museum of Modern Art in New York as well as at documenta 8.

The dissolution of the band in 1987 took place for their graduation and was incorporated into the founder’s final thesis. The afterlife of the group is also telling: it created its own history in the theater piece Das war die tödliche Doris, which it showed instead of a concert they had been invited to in Tokyo in 1988. They also used the stage wardrobe, some of which had been designed by Tabea Blumenschein, to create objects such as Sesselgruppe Kleid (Armchair Group Dress) or Lampe Revue (Lamp Revue), which they presented as visual art.


Morbidity and the apocalypse are central themes of Die Tödliche Doris. In »Sieben tödliche Unfälle im Haushalt,« a song on their first untitled maxi-EP (1981), Wolfgang Müller recounts four everyday death scenes with cool detachment, accompanied by clarinet improvisations by Nikolaus Utermöhlen and casual percussion. The cover he drew is adorned with a fish that appears as a skeleton on the reverse side. In 1986, at a concert in Budapest, »Death« jumps onto the stage in a bone costume designed by Nikolaus Utermöhlen and frightens the audience.

»Tanz im Quadrat,« another song from the first LP, deals with the question of how to adapt to the collective as another essential theme. Playing with a military rhythm, the text reads »You dance just like me« and »You shall exactly be like me.«

Author: Lena Nieper

In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Die Tödliche Doris

Unser Debüt / Our debut, NDR Video-Nacht (video night), August 10, 1985, with Tabea Blumenschein (voc.), Käthe Kruse (voc., perc.), Wolfgang Müller (voc.), Nikolaus Utermöhlen (voc.) and a choir of forty people who before that had never been on TV, 15:20 min.

On August 10, 1985, Die Tödliche Doris had its debut on television as part of the NDR video night with its debut film. The visually multilayered performance is divided into three sections: the first is entitled »Debüt in Helgoland« and begins with a complex game of multiple media translations. First you see the blurred image of a performance in Helgoland on a big screen and finally in full screen. When the camera slowly zooms back, the latter turns out to be a television picture in the context of a performance with seated naked figures wearing wigs and watching this television picture—a performance that took place in Riehen near Basel. In the next step, this scene once again proves to be a television picture, now on stage in the NDR studio. This nesting is then transferred to another screen on the same stage.

The rock show »Unser Debüt,« (Our Debut) makes up the second section, in which Kruse, Müller, and Utermöhlen sing—in German and English, among other languages—»This is our debut. We’re on TV for the first time.« In the third section, the »Allgemeines Debüt,« (General Debut) these sentences are sung wildly mixed up by a choir, resulting in a colorful cacophony. The choir consists of forty people found through an advertisement, selected according to the criterion that they had never been on television before.


Lena Nieper