On Thursday, September 17, at Kunsthalle Wien inaugurated GesammttkkunnsttMeshuggahhLaandtttt, solo show by musician, composer, performer, visual artist Charlemagne Palestine. Curated by Luca Lo Pinto, the exhibition includes Palestine’s early video works, his stuffed animal sculptures, paintings, installations and book scores, alongside other works that have rarely been shown before.
We asked some questions to Charlemagne Palestine.
ATP: The show includes a selection of your early video works, your paintings, installations and your stuffed animal sculptures. Which criteria did you and Luca Lo Pinto follow to choose them among your vast production? Is there a central core around which the exhibition is composed?
Charlemagne Palestine: like the title of the show says,,,,Gesamtkunst (total art work) Meshugah (crazy) sooo Luca and I tried to choose dynamic overview of the works from CharleWorld!!
ATP: In the exhibition we’ll also see works that have rarely been shown before. Could you please introduce us to them?
CP: Most of the works in the show,,have been seen or presented before,,but neverrr as a totalll,, allltogetherrr,,,planettt!!!!
ATP: You’ve been into both art and music since a very early age: when you were 13 as a job you played the bells in the tower of Saint Thomas Church, which is very close to MoMA. You had a membership card, and you often went to see exhibitions. Now, the title of this show recalls in some ways the one of your very recent album “Ssingggg Sschlllingg Sshpppingg”. I know you don’t really like categories and frames between mediums, but how do you feel the connection between your “material” production and your musical compositions?
CP: After my early childhood job as a singer of traditional jewish religious music in synagogue and for jewish ceremonies like marriages and Bar Mitzvahss,,, I then went to the High School of Music and Art,,,where one was expectedd to choose studyinggg between Art or Music,,,,buttt I couldn’tttt,,,,,choose,,,,,,, I was,,,,hungry,,,,,thirstyyy,,,,curiouss about everythingg,, and both Art and Music seduceddd me and made me hotttt to tryyy and developp in my own wayy!!! Alreadyyy backk then in High School!!
ATP: When you play, you wear special clothes and you drink your special cognac in your special ritual glass. How did this ritual come about?
CP: Already in synagogue one wearszz special robes,,and hats and singers drinkk whiskey to lubricate their vocal chords,,,,and afterrrr,,,,, i became influenced and inspired by the culturess of indigenous peoples from alll around the world,,,through Folkways records and antropologicalndocumentary films,,,and found that in many indigenous culturess ,,,,,ways of dressing,,,prayer,,,singing,,,dancing,,,,objects they created,,,were interelatedd and interactive,,,their societies were a sort of alternative “gesamtkunst or gesamtlebens workkkk!! That I found more “truee” to my own instinctss and needss and tendenciess!!! Soo that’ss the directionn I begann headingg towardsszz!!
ATP: Stuffed animals play a central role in this ritual. What does they mean to you? Why stuffed animals?
CP: All indigenous cultures that I have encountered have always other “beingss” from other zones or universess than just their own “today and now”nesszz with themselvess relatedd to their identity,,,religion,,,reasonsz to be,,,,,etc,,,,, So for me,,,,born in 1947 inn Brooklyn,,Amerikka,,,a childd,,,my first acquaintance,,,,with “”otherr beingzzz”” fromm another somewhereezz,,(animism)like most western childrenn was through stuffed animalszz,,sooo,,they became my soul mates,,,my bestt friendszz,,, my confidents,,,,,,,my body guardsss,,,my intermediariess to my parentss,, (already had one of my first Teddy Bears,,,,who would explainn thingss to my parents,,,i would invent a voice for him like ventriloquism and he’d talk to them,,,,,sooo that’s how it first began ,,,,this connection!!!!! Much later on when I went to the Stieff Teddy Bear company in Giengen near Stuttgart,,,and met the chief designer,,,who was the great nephew of Margarette Steif the founder of the company,,,,, to ask him to help me build a bear for Documenta,,,,,,,he told me that the Teddy Bear was not invented by them,,,as many people thought and think,,,but that a jewish couple from Brooklyn named Morris and Rose Michtom had invented the Teddy Bear,,,,or first Stuffed Animal in 1902,,,,and I found out laterr on ,,, still that I was born,,,,3 kilometress from where they livedd,,,,and invented this magic toy beingg,,,,!!!! So then I assumedd that I am a direct family decendenttt of the “”stuffed animal””,,,,one might say that I’m the stuffed animalszz,(teddysszz) cousin or nephew!!!
ATP: During the show you’ll do two performances. Could you give us some anticipations?
CP: For both performancesss,,,i’lll playy on a modern Bösendorfer Imperial piano, which is the centrepiece heart of the Kunsthalle Exhibition. The Bösendorfer Imperial is the biggest piano in the world with 9 more lower notes than any other piano, thus not the usual 88 keys,,,but 97 keys. The Bösendorfer Imperial wasoriginally invented in Vienna by the Bösendorfer piano company inspired by the suggestion of the turn of the century Italian avant-garde virtuoso piano composer Ferruccio Busoni in 1900!! I will perform my own Lower Depths Strumming Musics that I’ve composed and performed specially for Bösendorfer Imperials since the late sixties ,,,,, The first performance on the 18th of September will be a ceremonial ritual and performance for a limited amount of people. The ceremony with include rituals for crystal glasses and my own voice,,,,!!! The piece will last between 35 or 45 minutes.,,,,In Novemberrrr as the exhibition space have been mostlyyy emptied) of the installation,, I’lll again do a performance around the Bösendorferrrr Imperial,,,,but for a much larger public audience !!
ATP: Are you working on any future project?
CP: Next we’ll go to Innsbruck for the KLANGSPUREN SCHWAZ FESTIVAL,,,,then to Ljubljiana for SONICA CLASSICS III FESTIVAL, LA MAROQUINERIE, Paris,,,,,CAFE OTO, London,,, a one man show,, at,,WITTE DE WITH, Rotterdam,,,,multimedia presentation at the PULITZER FOUNDATION, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA,,,,,,,,””BIRTH OF THE TEDDYYYYY and the TEDDYMANNN “ a one man show multimedia expo at,,,The JEWISH MUSEUM, in New York City!!!
Until November 8