Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle (F.S.K.)

founded in Munich in 1980 by Justin Hoffman, Thomas Meinecke, Michaela Melián, and Wilfried Petzi

Biography

Justin Hoffmann

born 1955 in Cham; lives in Wolfsburg; curator, art historian, musician

1978–1986: Co-editor of the magazine Mode & Verzweiflung

1986: PhD in Art History at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich; subsequently lecturer at, among others, the Academy of Fine Arts Munich, the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, the Zurich School of Art and Design, the Braunschweig University of Art, the Merz Akademie Stuttgart; visiting professor at the University of Art and Design Linz

Since 2004: Director of the Kunstverein Wolfsburg

Thomas Meinecke

born 1955 in Hamburg; lives in Upper Bavaria and Hamburg; author, musician, DJ

1977–1982: Studies Theatre Studies at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

1978–1986: Co-editor of the magazine Mode & Verzweiflung

Since 1986: Numerous book publications with Suhrkamp Verlag

Since 1993: Radio play productions with the Bavarian Broadcasting Company (BR)

Since 2008: ‘Plattenspieler’ at HAU, Berlin

Michaela Melián

born 1956 in Munich; lives in Upper Bavaria and Hamburg

1976–1978: Studies at the Richard Strauss Conservatory, Munich (cello, piano)

1978–1984: Studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich (master student); subsequently visiting professorships at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich and the ETH Zürich

Since 2010: Professor for Time-Based Media at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg

2010: Memory Loops – 300 Tonspuren zu Orten des NS-Terrors in München 1933–1945: audio artwork commissioned by the State Capital of Munich in cooperation with the Bavarian Broadcasting Company (BR) – 2010 Radio Play of the Year, 2012 Grimme Online Award

2018: Edwin Scharff Prize, Hamburg

2019: Roland Prize for Public Art, Bremen

Wilfried Petzi

born 1948 in Bad Griesbach/Rottal; lives in Munich; photographer, musician

1972–1974: Studies at the Bavarian State Academy of Photography, Munich

1978–1986: Co-editor of the magazine Mode & Verzweiflung

1982–1992: Lecturer at the Munich University of Design

Since 1986: Works in the field of art and exhibition documentation, portraits of artists and musicians

Visual Art

Visual Art

Michaela Melián

Michaela Melián originally studied cello and thus, in a certain sense, came from music before joining the editorial team of the magazine Mode & Verzweiflung while still a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Generally speaking, this magazine was a kind of melting pot of budding writers, artists, and musicians from the Munich scene at that time, which was strongly influenced by punk and new wave. From 1980 onwards, Melián was responsible for four of the eight issues (published until 1986), while at the same time – in addition to the joint band activities – she pushed ahead with her own independent artistic projects.

Initially strongly focused on drawing and object art, Melián increasingly began to address feminist aspects of cultural production and, beyond that, of socio-political milieus. An early formal condensation of this was found in the installation Tomboy (1995), which consisted, among other things, of eight historical portraits of women serially printed by hand on a wall; the portraits were created in the manner of phantom pictures on a police search computer. The eight portraits – including those of Tamara Bunke and Charlotte Moorman – which were torn from oblivion, pointed the way to further conceptual investigations into pioneering women in the most diverse spheres: Melián’s installation Life as a Woman, realized in 2001, was thus dedicated to the actress and cyberneticist Hedy Lamarr, at the time largely forgotten. In Melián’s work, the principle of, for the most part, graphically produced murals featuring drawings or texts and related objects was to be continued in a wide variety of configurations, with medial extensions successively playing an increasingly important role. From 2002 onwards, Melián used the format of the slide installation, accompanied by self-produced music, in ever new facets, whether thematically encircling a rococo sculpture of St. Magdalene (Ignaz Guenther House, 2002) or following the traces of Bernward Vesper’s novel The Journey (Straße, 2003).

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Melián’s interest in history began to focus increasingly on the period of National Socialism, for example with the works Föhrenwald (2005, named after a model settlement built by the Nazis to the south of Munich) and the publicly commissioned audio artwork Memory Loops (2010), for which she produced 300 audio tracks from sites of Nazi terror in Munich. Melián discovered a further, autonomously functioning media component in the format of the radio play, which combines historical research, theatrical re-enactment, and musical rescoring/transformation – twelve works have been produced to date. Speicher (2008), for example, thus takes the lost multimedia experiment of VariaVision from the 1960s as source material for a film and a radio play, while Electric Ladyland (2016), based on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s and Jacques Offenbach’s automaton figure of Olympia, explores the history of gendered ‘difference engines’ in an installation and a radio play. In all of these, Melián’s staged installations always reflect the underlying production realities and material conditions, for example when she transforms drawings with sewing machines and thus reminds us of specific areas of female activity, or when, as in the installation Lunapark (2014), she creates a late-modernist play of light from glass objects and thus places them in a media-reflexive context.

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Music

Music

The band Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle (F.S.K.) was founded in Munich in 1980 by Justin Hoffman, Thomas Meinecke, Michaela Melián, and Wilfried Petzi. The four worked together in the editorial office of the underground magazine Mode & Verzweiflung. The band’s name was borrowed from the self-censorship office set up by the film industry. Such appropriations and inauthentic speech also determined the early phase of the group, which – strongly influenced by post-punk and early new wave – provided textually precisely accentuated and in some cases confrontational comments on the times with rhythm machines, as well as edgy guitar and cool keyboard sounds. This is already apparent on their debut EP Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle (1980), released – as all their albums up to 1989 – on the legendary ZickZack label: With its Velvet Underground sound, the song ‘Moderne Welt’ was a eulogy to everything that was an abomination to late hippies and advocates of authenticity. Their first LP, Stürmer went in the same direction. The title even aroused suspicion of Nazism, but with its eighteen numbers, some of which sarcastically scourged life in West Germany, it was worlds away from this.

From 1984 onwards, with records such as Ça c’est le Blues and Goes Underground, the band turned increasingly towards American-German transfer and exchange relationships, which was to reach one of its climaxes with Original Gasman Band (1989). In doing so, F.S.K., as the band called itself from 1989 onwards, was not just concerned with the one-dimensional influences of Anglo-American pop music in Germany, but with more complex, multidimensional processes of ‘transatlantic feedback’ (the title of a piece from 1993). From 1991 onwards – now joined by the drummer Carl Oesterhelt – they were engaged in ever new and increasingly inventive explorations of ‘original American’ forms of music. Whether country, jazz, R’n’B, or Detroit techno, all possible and at times even remote styles were adapted in the typical F.S.K. manner and cast in sparkling, lyrically brilliant contemporary images enriched with all kinds of artistic references. In 2012, their last studio LP to date, Akt, eine Treppe hinabsteigend, was released – a clear allusion to Marcel Duchamp – which once again negotiated the significance of the readymade found or appropriated from elsewhere. In 2017, on their album Ein Haufen Scheiß und ein zertrümmertes Klavier (including actual piano smashing), recorded live at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, they explored the art of destruction and machine music from Luigi Russolo to Public Enemy.

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In the late 1990s, Thomas Meinecke and Michaela Melián began working on various solo projects. Together with the electronic musician Move D (David Moufang), Meinecke set a number of his literary texts to music, such as Tomboy and, most recently, On the Map (2017), a sonic cartography of various African American styles of music. Starting in 2001, Melián produced a series of electro-acoustic soundtracks for her installations together with F.S.K. drummer Carl Oesterhelt, some of which also draw on samples of classical music. Her debut album Baden-Baden was released in 2004. In the meantime, five LPs and various CD productions have been released, with edits of soundtracks produced for art and radio play projects, as well as cover versions of songs by Roxy Music and David Bowie, performed with skilful understatement. The installation and radio play Music from a Frontier Town (2018), which re-appropriates the sound of the US re-education programme in post-war Germany, is an eloquent testimony to her tireless, often site-specific sound research.

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In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Off to India, Hello how are you as part of the programme ...sagst was'd magst of the Bayerischer Rundfunk, 2.3.1982 with Michaela Melián (voc., bass guit.), Thomas Meinecke (voc., guit.), Justin Hoffmann (voc., guit.), Wilfried Petzi (voc., guit.), 2:40 min, Courtesy: Bayerischer Rundfunk

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1982, in a studio of the Bavarian Radio: As part of the programme ...sagst wasd magst, to which former members of the West German political protest movement Außerparlamentarische Opposition (APO) are invited to discuss with members of the magazine Mode & Verzweiflung (among them Christoph Schlingensief), a nervously chirping rhythm machine introduces the musical contribution of Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle. The band takes its position facing the audience frontally, with the trio of (male) guitarists on the left, the keyboard and rhythm engine in front of them, and the singer and bassist Michaela Melián on the right. One after the other, the guitarists – first Petzi and Meinecke, then Hoffmann – begin to play a staccato two-chord piece, until, after several repeated bass breaks, the undercooled vocals kicks in. With stoic monotony, Melián sings four verses; here as well, the principle of repetition reigns: ‘You are no hero in this world / In this world we like so much / And how it disfigures your face / How your philosophy shatters on this world’. Then, with the second verse, the chorus sets in at the same time, intoned in unison by the three men: ‘Off to India / Go to India!’ – again and again, almost like a prayer wheel underlying the solo voice. The second verse cranks the hippie bashing up a notch: ‘Yesterday, you counted your money / Enough for a backpacking trip around the world / around the whole world in your own tent / you are no hero in this world’. While the ‘Off to India’ mantra continues, another run-through with only one guitar and finally an a cappella version (with only the rhythm box) – and then it is over! The slap in the face, reduced to the bare minimum, has hit home – although it was already considered a cliché in the early 1980s, the post-hippie figure still existed in droves. The fact that the band’s appearance evoked a mixture of Kraftwerk – in a neatly arranged formation – and the Bundeswehr (the four of them wear the appropriate uniform), makes the provocation factor of these two elements clear: electric, machine-produced sound on the one hand, which, in the case of Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle, was always counteracted with a shrewdly humanistic attitude; and, on the other hand, as the greatest possible affront to any hippie, peacenik aspiration, the flirting with the military industrial aspect, as practiced by many other groups at the time. In this way, ‘Off to India’, which was also included on the debut album Stürmer (another insult!), which had just been released, becomes a haunting farewell to a declining youth culture – and this with a double wink of the eye: While, for a long time, the older generation had hurled a disdainful ‘Go to the other side!’ at the young rebels (meaning the other side of the Iron Curtain), F.S.K. exaggerates this knockout argument to the grotesque. As though, with their travesty of the conservative zeitgeist, they wanted to take everything heroic, even the figure of the anti-hero, to the absurd. Which was never meant to become reality, but which, for a brief moment, which the early F.S.K. embody here, found its most compact possible form.

Author:

Christian Höller