Der Künstler als Fiktion
Kunstpersiflage und andere große Ideen

Curated and presented by Jonathan Pouthier

Art History likes stories. For centuries, the idea of being an artist has reflected an irrational need for singular and heroic characters. Rejecting their roles into a fiction they do not control, artists and filmmakers have distorted the accumulated commonplaces attached to them.

Here, the traits of tormented figures are exaggerated; the art world and its rules mocked and turned into absurdist elements of an existential comedy such as DUFUS (1970-73) by the Californian artist Mike Henderson. Alone in his small studio, the painter appears several times from a door, disguised as different characters that successively add their contributions to a prepared canvas. Developing a series of artists’ clichés (from the romantic to the engaged), Henderson turns, with a maximum irony, all categorizations and exceptions against one another.

Opposed to the interpretation of the creative process only through a psychological gaze, Rudolph Burckhardt (Swiss photographer, known for his collaborations with American surrealist artist Joseph Cornell) creates with Mounting Tension (1950) a playful satire in which the beat poet Larry Rivers interprets an energetic and oversexed artist unhappy in art and love. Shot in Manhattan, the film depicts one after another in a burlesque manner the commonplaces surrounding an art scene soon to take its part in the history of modern art.

If with Burckhardt the visit at the MOMA is made with a baseball bat, the neo-structuralist American filmmaker Owen Land (aka George Landow) expresses the decline of the American avant-garde cinema at the turn of the 1970s with a pair of scissors. Cutting through the recent history of a scene which has gained recognition from the art world, Land piles up for his film “Undesirables (Work in Progress)” – initiated in 1970s and finalized in 1999 – a succession of fictional and real elements reflecting a breathless “milieu” centered on itself, wearied by internal debates and unable to produce new forms. Staging a self-portrait as part of this community, the filmmaker deconstructs an underground scene in which the leading artists – from Stanton Verbeek to Carl Shitars – are all involuntary acting a part in an amused and obsessed vaudeville act.

At his turn, the Irish conceptual artist Les Levine investigates his position in relation to his surrounding environment. Recorded during a walk on the Bowery in New York, the performance of Levine I am an artist (1975) is openly directed against the art world and those who think that it is possible to be an artist disconnected from political and social realities. From his claim “I am an artist who doesn’t want to be involved” repeated in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the city, to the explanations given by a young men who tagged “I am the best artist” on a wall in the gentrified Soho interviewed by the Argentinian conceptual artist, Jaime Davidovich, being an artist remains a self-affirmation and nothing further. “Dr Videovich” (who produced from 1979 to 1984 The Live! Show on Manhattan Cable Television) dedicates this episode of April 1982 to a delusional artist, who compares himself to Leonardo Da Vinci, and thinks that since some people believe that everything is art, he believes that nothing is art.

Haus der Geschichte, Otto-Borst-Saal

Konrad-Adenauer-Straße 16, 70173 Stuttgart

U-Bahn / Bus: Haltestelle Staatsgalerie, Haltestelle Charlottenplatz (Zugang überUrbanstraße)

Mounting Tension

USA 1950, 16mm, S/W, 20:00 Min.
Regie: Rudolph Burckhardt

Larry is a madly energetic, oversexed artist. Jane, a combination of palm reader and psychoanalyst, is trying to straighten him out. John is a straight boy interested in baseball who ends up an abstract painter.


USA 1970–1973, 16mm, S/W, 6:00 Min.
Regie: Mike Henderson

A motley cast of characters offer their thoughts on what’s most important in life.

I am an artist

USA 1975, Super 8 mm (digital),
Farbe, 15:00 Min.
Regie: Les Levine

While walking along the New York Bowery, this artist will explain why he does not choose to get involved in the problems of our Society.

The Best Artist

USA 1982, Video, Farbe, 6:00 Min.
Regie: Jaime Davidovich

In this episode of The Live! Show, Dr. Videovich interviews the “Best Artist” whose large-scale painting on a wall in New York’s SoHo neighborhood proclaims, “I am the Best Artist.” The deadpan interview between Davidovich’s alter ego and the self-declared Best Artist touches on the nature of art making, advice to young artists, and promoting art.

Undesirables (Condensed Version)

USA 1999, 16 mm/Video, S/W,
15:00 Min.
Regie: Owen Land

Undesirables (Condensed Version) is an assemblage of scenes from another feature film Land began shooting in the 1990s but didn’t finish. Its subject is the New York avant-garde film scene of yesteryear, where Land made his own debut.