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.«
Wolfgang Müller & Nikolaus Utermöhlen, »Materialien für die Nachkriegszeit (Relikte aus dem Sofort-Fotobildautomaten)« [Material for the Post-War Era (Relics from the instant photo booth)], 1979–1981 ...more
149 photo/fragments mounted on DIN A 4-sheets and 6 text sheets (Detail). Image via viennale.at; © Wolfgang Müller & Nikolaus Utermöhlen/Bildrecht, Vienna ...less
Die Tödliche Doris, »Chöre & Soli«, 1983 ...more
Published by: Gelbe MUSIK, Berlin und PURE FREUDE, Düsseldorf. Carton box with 8 mini records in different colors in plastic cover with player and batteries, ø 2.36 inches each, 30-page booklet, Format 4.72 x 6.69 inches, box 12.32 x 12.32 x 2.2 inches. Image via abebooks.com ...less
Die tödliche Doris, »Sesselgruppe Kleid« [Group of Armchairs Dress], 1991 ...more
3 parts: chairs, dresses, cushions: 31.49 x 20.47 x 23.22 inches. Courtesy Galerie Holger Priess, Hamburg. Photo: Kampmann; image via mittelbayrische.de; © Die tödliche Doris ...less