Improvisations on the Bassoon

Werner von Delmont
in conversation with his son, Hans-Dieter, in the year 2033


2nd Act

D e l m o n t : It is only in a very few gestures that tenderness remains. We embrace our brothers and our sisters as if for the last time. For fear lurks outside, in the blue-collar families, in the white collar beds and under the fingernails of the Members of the Supervisory Board. Flesh is rotting on the living. Faces sag in blue chunks. Grey misery bears down upon us and like autumn we leaves come reeling from our summits. It is night and it is falling. Corporate granite drains poverty and other human slime off into the suburbs of Dread. Cold maggots are oozing across our skulls. The water will last just a few days more. Our eyes have dulled, and yet still glow. Bands of youths are perishing in our prisons and middle class management is lying and rotting on their front lawns. Today's politicians even dumber than their people! What does this matter, if it has always been so? An ega-litarian arrogance against these new employees of power! Their politics of common impoverishment will not make them happy. The power centres lie empty - and yet they control and rule it all. Under the blank bright neon light, the decay of the last remaining values glisters....internally.

H a n s D i e t e r : Daddy, Daddy, don't get lost in another delirium! Were you also one of them? I asked - "Were you also one of them?" !

D e l m o n t : What? Me? ... Well, I don’t know! .... Back then, no one really believed in revolutions any more. There was no longer a State to..... But instead of creating their own, independent structures, many considered it a pretty avant-garde attitude to XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX except to insist on their rights whilst railing against the disintegration of the social services.

H a n s D i e t e r : I thought that those were the happy greasy days of plenty?

D e l m o n t : What nonsense! You must understand the historical context however... we grew up in the shadow of a great war. Our parents wanted to repair the damage that had been done to house and home... and to the soul as well... and then to match it all up with the seemingly uncracked circumstances from before the war....

H a n s D i e t e r : Terrible....

D e l m o n t : But then....a defiant, younger generation rebelled against this collective suppression, and this raised an awareness of politics in the 1970's, also in art. Utopias, social changes and so forth... suddenly everything seemed possible.

H a n s D i e t e r : Those old folks still dream today of....

D e l m o n t : Yes, yes, ...yes, ..yes..... but then, this mood of awakening was to be consolidated very soon with social democratic reforms, dazed commune living and psycho fug. Flower power drag....raffia wallpaper....XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX But next - the art of the eighties cleaned up - it was aggressively, cynically and subversively...yes!...affirmative. Just a laugh of derision, a fresh joke... Buy it up - art objects are on an inflationary boom! But on the side, it was confirming the arch conservative economic policy of the so-called "First Wave„ . Imagination soared high up towards the stock exchange... and the wild style attitude was dropped. Then, by the beginning of the nineties, this hedonism, now become exclusively affirmative, started to be stomach churning once more. The institutions that had promoted such silly rubbish came in for some criticism... art tactics and techniques were used for political protest and political intervention was borne into the arts. None of this was particularly new, however......

H a n s D i e t e r : Still... to persistently re-start from scratch regarding historical positions is not only the right of each younger generation, but probably also its only possibility.

D e l m o n t : Yup, that’s true. But it's not a question of a revival of the old style.

H a n s D i e t e r : Yeah, it was actually very necessary for the twentieth century to eat itself up at its own end.

D e l m o n t : The public was sold, privatised, you could say. But not only that private investors owned the public spaces, like the squares and pedestrian zones, the museums, the institutes, the media, the tv, the Internet... Day by day, the state visibly transferred more of its decision making powers, its administration initiatives and the discretion of its cultural institutes over to the purely economic interest of the Corporations. Up until 2017/18, the power of definition was increasingly taken over by market forces.

H a n s D i e t e r : The desired profit was that of image transferred from the take-over of what had previously been functions of the state. Yield, since now money is equal to the authority of the state.

D e l m o n t : What had hitherto been nation states were converted into provinces, or administrative units of the supra national economic forces. And they were intricately bound up with one another, married, related, associated, connected, entangled and cross-fertilised and thus they increasingly formed one single body that fell gluttonously onto everything and IN-CORPO-RATED it. As happend within absolutism, power condensed more and more in a single entity, in one very individual body:- The global COINAGE.

H a n s D i e t e r : Isn’t it funny that capitalism today gets its power not from conquering territories, but from the threat of drawing out of them? Those who are now desired as investors... where they not once called exploiters, back then?

D e l m o n t : And in global competition, each of our administrative units prepeares the grounds with tax reliefs, further breakdown of social security in order to provide attractive and cultural meadows for the global cows to feast on. Inevitably, all art became something like a decoy in this scenario... What could artists do not to end up as cheerleaders for the advent of the global player?

H a n s D i e t e r : But there wasn't any more 'real' art being made in any case, it was all curating this and organising that, system surfing or issue hopping

D e l m o n t : ‘Real art’, ha, ha... you're singing me that old nursery rhyme! But in other ways, you might be right, because manufacturing processes were automated and workers were turned into SERV-ANTS: service errand boys and service errand girls in a society of Service industry serfs... In this society, it paid better and was held more important to shift and distribute products than it was to produce them. So in art, instead of producing objects, artists served as subcontractors to the system, perhaps as the company crackpot or as an upholsterer for events and comfy sofas.

H a n s D i e t e r : What we learned in our art classes was: From the concept to the context, from the context to the ambient...

D e l m o n t : Well... Come the end of the century and everyone was dangling helplessly on the gallows of the modern age, tearing their hair to discover strategies that could provide art with some public attention. All kinds of niceties were deployed - parties, bars, society games, prettily shaped seats or home-made sandwiches - in the name of enticing some lost citizens inside of art's cold rooms. But at the back of the social furnace, these pious gestures never delivered on what they promised. As a visitor one had either to muck in with some participatorial programme or sit and gawp at cooking pots.

H a n s D i e t e r : You would have been better advised to install a large FUCK YOU in the room instead!

D e l m o n t : Ass-kicking instead of kissing it? Come along to the zombied market and have a look! Don’t be afraid! Whether you're showing chopped up bodies, bits of corpses, anatomical grotesqueries, gross miscarriages or just your own tragedy, when you strip off and yell, "Look at me, I am feeling bad and I have nothing more to say!" Or whether you put a sign around your neck on which you wrote, "I’m a stupid pig, please spit at me" - all fairground attractions!... populist special effects! Industrial-site specific art with a desired punkish gesture! And where lust and sensationalism kick in, or a little bit of a pity moves, it is there that advertising brands its LOGO.

H a n s D i e t e r : Wasn’t art as advertising actually superior art?

D e l m o n t : No, it had always just been superior advertising! In spite of the period's tendency to historicise, this supposedly most avant garde of all artistic excesses was, as a matter of fact, the most conservative art that was possible to imagine! Totally in the service of those who held the power! For naturally, art will ennoble the corporations' strategies and propaganda, it is totally in the service of those who held the power! As it snuffles around at the feeding trough of the supreme COINAGE!

H a n s D i e t e r : Oh.. how awful! How hopeless, just hopeless! But why did no one go back to art, you know to a "Coke-Classic" approach, to the real thing, to the original and still the best..

D e l m o n t : Oh yes, you bet! Oh yes.... traditionally produced according to the age-old recipes of the region... Chardonnay du Baron! Vintage art, warmed up for you, listen, I've got another poem from yesteryear:

Rotted away under the silken robes.
Long since tolled for the final time, time takes its toll on the bells. Sunday’s holy choir has dissolved. Devotion's silent hour slithered by.
The downy nest was mollified with fluffy straw and fungous fuzz. Local colour lay in a labyrinth of blots...the Indian inkwell of the Informel.... what a neat shine!
The style of their forefathers at their fingertips. In love with their own shuddering lyrics, delighted by their own stuttering doddery prose, with its dwindled lines all devoid of desire, a little flaccid, these fragile dabs of thought... And thus they fled from the frontline and their mission.

Sham battles, they died helpless without fun, like wet streamers in the rain of their feelings. The tiny taste. ... a nervous disease, no grace.

Long since dusted over and appointed by Nostalgia, is the cellar bar of Uncle Pop. Dripping candles weakly waver, whilst sponges soft and sultry swell, like Yellowstone, where putrid sulphur springs, whilst doilies spin a-round and round on turning tables...
Pop pop music in a country country club! Wearing sunglasses in the candlelight and glowing pink like artificial leaves, this is how selfishness prefers to crawl along the ground.
Under the magnifying glass are details of petty taste terror: morsels short ‘n’ sweet lined u,p side by side. Yet another a style for the late 20th Century and why not? Gun salutes for all the slouch hats! ... and into the warm timorous heart!

Long since putrified have our fighters of the left, felled by the archangel of their own self-righteousness, they lie like dead trees over the swamps of their pulverised conscience.
Politics are rotting in their mouth. Art is the cold sweat that pinpricks their forehead. Earning money as embarrassing as a cheque from father’s hand. In the clammy morgue of their vanities, they are defiantly wearing the priggish police uniform of their ethics and three times a day they control the catechism of their self-righteousness for misprints. And there it is written: ... celebrate yourself, hinder each other, talk a lot, but never take action!
Yet at the same time, the bitterness of your claim to power is so pedantic... clerical.

There may be leniency aplenty, but in the end, there is no forgiveness any more. Die arrogance, die severity, die humanity if you use and abuse power!

I will not incline my head to the reign of your goodwill. My sovereignty is the greatest enemy to your claim to infallibility. For neon bright is the mockery our cold day makes of their deranged mind. Their taste is stale in the way only their purpose can be.

The old styles go to rack and ruin. No plaudits for the 20 century!

Its fashions are like dead birds for us, their pilfering will not help us further.

We have to go back to before the French Revolution and start over, live a former life once again, for our sovereign is dead and fair game we are.

H a n s D i e t e r : What a bright melody, so sweetly conceived! Verily, this poem is not your best... But, go on, say... were all kinds of different arts existing next to each other back then?

D e l m o n t : So might it well have appeared. It looked indeed as if every clique in art's wide field had its own special territory and would fight for every inch of attention, for every ounce of love in opinion's eco-pond. Into this biotope, into this ecological equilibrium of niches, where no one exchanged a word any longer, but instead spared each other's feelings to a large extent, the enzyme of economy naturally forced its way, money, that is, able to foster some species and not others. And like everywhere, the COINAGE supported what was useful to it, what glorified it and additionally adorned it ... that is, the representative and the affirmative. Critical attitudes were understood to be necessary for biodiversity and approved where they would not disturb.

H a n s D i e t e r : What did you do at that time?

D e l m o n t : For me, these years were rather liberating. At least, a couple of small discoveries had been made and they had been effective. The rest had all to be pulled down again, into the Orcus of time. I myself travelled a lot and began the first experiments with my cellar theatre ‘Little Freedom’, but above all I had an extremely happy time with your mother.

H a n s D i e t e r : You had already become acquainted with mother then?

D e l m o n t : Yes, the first time I saw her was in Stuttgart at the symposium... ‘Fictions of Public’. I was immediately taken with her. However, when the discussion closed, I initially lost sight of her.

H a n s D i e t e r : Then you had 10 years or more of 'The Art Talkshow" or what?

D e l m o n t : Talkshow? ... That's a good one. Of course, you have to discuss art all the time, in small circles, if you want to push it forward as differentiated. But it has to be de-differentiated on the other hand in order to expand and mediate this dicussion, to cross-link and distribute it...Alliances need to be sought out, but opponents do as well. For the public is no abstract thing, it's an interest that requires creating. And even in seclusion.... Secret societies became quite necessary shortly after the turn of the millenium, when the situation became yet more critical.

H a n s D i e t e r : But could they create any common spaces, independent economies, independent information and independent networks that could be set against the corporate society?

D e l m o n t : You mean, an independent public? That was attempted again and again, always afresh and always with ardour. But a lot of these people saw politics just outside of themselves ....and in opposition and outside of art. For as much as one might like to get away from the prevailing concepts of the value of art, it is exactly with them that one can stake a claim with which to occupy the existing social platform of ART, with the precise aim of altering that territory.

H a n s D i e t e r : But did not everyone hate socalled „political art"? As some cheerleader-smurf from Kunstverein Hamburg coined it once: "Art has been political for long enough, now once again, it turns towards beauty."

D e l m o n t : Pah!... When I hear musty old polarisations like that..

H a n s D i e t e r : Dad, you’re still getting annoyed about it today!

D e l m o n t : You bet it annoys me, so what? If art only wants to put its argument through aesthetics, then its radicality - hopefully, an artistic, aesthetic radicality - becomes rather quickly accepted. Think of the way that the Court craves new fashions for example. In this case, art gets used for embellishment and legitimisation of xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx It is merely advertising.... and that's that. However, if art only argues politically or theoretically and not also as an innovative aesthetic production, then the political or theoretical intention simply becomes undermined by the bad form. Painful, fatal, the worst sort of art...and that's that. And thus in this way are form and content always and forever screwed together, a necessarily reciprocal condition.

H a n s D i e t e r : Every child knows that, actually....

D e l m o n t : ..........but the hardest thing is to hack a path into this middle ground, without perishing of mediocrity in between. And yet, on occasion, the bird can soar sweetly through the air.

H a n s D i e t e r : But how do you achieve that? You had all those thoughts about the academy, didn't you hope with them....

D e l m o n t : Hope is the name you give to the breeding sites on the twenty-third floor, where the robots are programmed with the promises made by the system. But if you want to program yourself you need other people which are in a similar situation. The necessity for artists to create their own structures always existed, call it academy or whatever, the good ideas always came out of these self-built experimental labs. Critical thought needs condensation points.

H a n s D i e t e r : Didn't you project upon them very strongly?

3rd Act

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