Katharina Grosse and Stefan Schneider

born 1961 in Freiburg, Breisgau; lives and works in Berlin and New Zealand

Biography

1982–1986: studies at the University of Fine Arts Münster under Johannes Brus and Norbert Tadaeusz

1986–1990: Studies at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in the master class of Gotthard Graubner

1998: Participates in the Biennale of Sydney

2000–2009: Professorship at the Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin

2002: Participates in the Bienal de São Paulo

2010–2018: Professorship at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art

2015: Participates in the Venice Biennale; realisation of a site-specific painting in the assembly hall of the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus of the German Bundesta

Visual Art

Visual Art

Initially working with paintbrushes in various sizes and widths, and since 1998 primarily with a spray gun, Katharina Grosse creates abstract colour landscapes that, over the course of time, have become increasingly larger and have, in many cases, abandoned the rectangular plane of the classical panel painting. For her installation in the large hall of the National Gallery in Prague (2018), the artist created two monumental paintings consisting of numerous lengths of fabric which flow down from the ceiling from a height of almost fifteen metres and over a width of roughly fifty-five metres each and which extend another five metres onto the floor. In other works, she occupies three-dimensional painting surfaces, such as in the Kunsthaus Graz (2014), where she constructed a furrowed mountain of furrowed folds as a support for her painting. In addition, Grosse paints over not only objects such as furniture or natural materials, but also entire rooms including floors and ceilings, and even buildings and landscapes, such as an abandoned military barrack on the beach in New York (2016) or nature on both sides of a coastal road in Arhus, Denmark (2017). “Painting can occur everywhere”, and “the painted image [...] may come to life without transition”. Everything can become a “picture” and thus “imagination”.[i] Grosse is particularly interested in those zones where image and reality overlap, and the object-subject relationships dissolve. As the boundaries between these poles disappear, “reality [...] becomes fluid”.

Grosse understands her paintings as “prototypes of possible realities”, which do not depict reality but rather produce it. She understands her artistic work as a plea for an imagining and acting which breaks down boundaries and makes rigid definitions fluid.

[i] All quotations are taken from a lecture given by Katharina Grosse at the Nationalgalerie in Berlin in 2018.

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Music

Music

As a child, Katharina Grosse learned to play the German flute and played in youth symphony orchestras. Later, she attended a summer workshop led by a violist from the Stockhausen circle. It was here that she became acquainted with the classics of avant-garde music (such as John Cage etc.).

Around 1990, she met Stefan Schneider (born 1961 in Düsseldorf) at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art. At that time, he was studying photography in the Becher class; after graduation, he dedicated himself to making music, performed in various bands (Kreidler, to rococo rot), and is now also a producer (founder of the label TAL). Back then, their exchange was already marked by the transcending of boundaries: Grosse and Schneider were part of a loose group of students from different classes who met for self-organised seminars, because they felt that talking to representatives of other disciplines was essential.

The principle of dialogical exchange, which was cultivated at that time, was taken up again years later and continues sporadically to this day. It all began in 2008 with an invitation to a lecture at the Kunstverein in Cologne, where dissatisfaction with the traditional format of artist talks led them to sit on ladders and discuss their work across the space. At their feet sat musicians who, during their discussion, performed Yves Klein’s Symphonie monotone – silence (consisting of a single, long-lasting D major triad followed by ‘reverberation’ in concentrated silence; although the duration of the two parts is not fixed, they should be of equal length). In 2013, a further performance took place at the art space Kurt-Kurt in Berlin, which is located in the house where the poet Kurt Tucholsky was born. In their performance there, Grosse and Schneider integrated a sentence from a text by the poet, as well as fragments from an interview with the two young men who now lived in Tucholsky’s former flat. They had asked them to describe the rooms. In new combinations (repetitions, displacements), they used these materials together with sound elements in such a way that musical qualities were created. During their performance, Grosse and Schneider sat on the branches of a tree felled near Grosse’s home, which the artist had painted over and laid one on top of the other.

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The situation was comparable in 2014 at a concert in the Kunsthaus Graz, where the two performed in Grosse’s painting, towering, several metres high. Once again, they engaged in a verbal and musical dialogue about their art, whereby the text written by Grosse for this occasion referred, among other things, to a portrait of a man by Rembrandt, an illustration of which hung in the exhibition. Rembrandt’s virtuoso way of superimposing layers of painting was relevant to her own work.

In 2017, Grosse and Schneider released their first album together on the TAL label. Its title Tiergarten refers to the park in the centre of Berlin, which Walter Benjamin describes in his collection of writings Berlin Childhood around 1900. In this, Benjamin applies the principle of “dérive” (as aimless strolling with detours and deviations), later elaborated by Guy Debord, to which Grosse’s and Schneider’s method of making music is also subjected.

Grosse and Schneider do not rehearse and do not do soundchecks. Before concerts, they only meet for a conversation to tune into each other and to sound out topics that they wish to take as a basis for their performances, into which they usually, although not always, integrate texts as material. Their music-making is always a spontaneous act in the here and now, which does not follow musical parameters as much as the principle of dialogue. They generate their sounds on analogue synthesisers, avoiding references to specific instruments.

While Grosse creates time clusters of great intensity in her painting through the superimposition of countless layers of paint and the multiple covering of partial areas, her music is subject to linear progression and thus to a different form of temporal experience. Nevertheless, it is also a matter here of generating different intensities.

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In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Katharina Grosse & Stefan Schneider

Small Sound, Large Sound, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 7 February 2018, 38:52 min., Film: Claudia Müller, Courtesy: Phlox Film/Claudia Müller

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The performance by Grosse and Schneider in the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf on 7 February 2018 is one of the rather rare cases in which the two did not appear in an exhibition of Grosse’s works and also did not integrate text elements into their performance. At the time of the concert, the Kunsthalle was empty; the two played in the main space, with their music being transmitted to a smaller space.

Author:

Eva Badura-Triska