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Colin Lang, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University, Art History

“Remix: The Impact of Pedagogy on Art and Music in West Germany c. 1969”

My research in Berlin centers on the short-lived but highly influential Zodiak Free Arts Lab, an experimental music venue in Kreuzberg founded by Conrad Schnitzler and Hans-Joachim Roedelius in 1967. While the performances at Zodiak often featured a fusion of music with some form of visual production, traditionally, the club’s brief existence is written only into historical accounts of the development of Krautrock (originally a derogatory label coined by the British popular music press, though later adopted by those practitioners to whom the moniker referred). Schnitzler’s background as a Düsseldorf transplant and former student of Joseph Beuys belongs to a history of pedagogy in the plastic arts which relates to the larger framework of my research on Raum 19, a studio shared by Beuys students Imi Knoebel, Blinky Palermo, Katharina Sieverding, and others at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1966-1969.

While the Zodiak offered a site for an experimental merging of art and music in West Berlin, Schintzler’s influence also returned to Düsseldorf, where he is credited with providing the first synthesizer to Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, founding members of the seminal electronic outfit Kraftwerk, at the time also students in Düsseldorf at the Robert Schumann Hochschule. The synthesizer would be a central instrument in Kraftwerk’s compositions and recordings, all of which were produced in their own privately constructed Kling Klang studio in Düsseldorf. My research thus situates the history of these three discrete spaces—Raum 19, Zodiak, and Kling Klang—within the larger context of contemporaneous German pedagogical practices, examining the transformation of earlier workshop methods under Beuys at the Kunstakademie to Schnitzler’s hybridization of music and art in Kreuzberg to the popularization of electronic music and its subsequent engendering of a remix culture through the music of Kraftwerk.

To trace the ambitions of these related but diverse practitioners, I will rely on this figure of the remix as a model that engages both musical and plastic arts. As a musical term, remixing transpired in various incarnations in the late 1960s, from Jamaican Dub to the earliest sonic experiments with radio technology and electronic music under Karlheinz Stockhausen and his journal, Die Reihe (Kraftwerk’s association with Stockhausen in Cologne is documented but not well known). For the purposes of my study, remix also becomes a generative term that signals a condition of perpetual unfinishedness—a logic that opens any formal structure to future reconfiguration and expansion.  The remix operates within an already established work to reveal inherent potentiality and future possibility, which, I argue, offers an alternative temporal orientation to those models of historical consciousness fixated exclusively on either the concerns of a fleeting present, or the inescapable contours of the past.