070408: Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin - Karl Valentin

Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin: Karl Valentin – Pioneer of Film and Artisan of Media Avant-gardist of one’s half accord Karl Valentin was an incomparably talented comedian. He could have easily competed with film gods such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. His international film career failed mainly on account of the (visionary and financial) insufficiencies of the national film industry and later on account of the sufficiency of the Nazi film industry, which tolerated absolutely no humour regarding social criticism and solely propagated the farce of an ideal world, which in the meantime had been completely destroyed. All of these facts were common knowledge for a long time, at least since Valentin’s rediscovery in 1982, the year commemorating his 100th birthday. Besides the usual devotional objects such as props, movie posters, program flyers, and stills the two movie theatres at the exhibit in the Martin-Gropius-Bau also offer a humoristic insight into his work. The exhibit focuses on the fact that Valentin was not only an object of film history, but also a subject of media history – a pioneer, who acknowledged the inescapable triumph of technical media with feelings of opposition as well as fascination. He worked hard on his artistic survival by utilizing experimental media. All of this is presented at this exhibit. Be it the photo collection of folk musicians from Munich, which at the same time is a kind of Mnemosyne-Atlas of grotesque formulas offering him a source for his own performances or his facetious idea to use a slide projector to show unusual advertisements (“clever housewives use Persil to cook”) during the intermissions of his own performances, proves how cleverly he used his cryptic humour to draw attention to himself. This can also be observed in the multimedia arrangements (“Der Flug zum Mond mit dem Raketenflugzeug”, “In der Schreinerwerkstatt”, both 1928), in which Valentin links the characteristics of stage, cinema and radio broadcasting to simulate the effects of sound film. Thereby he created a synthesis of the arts, which could easily withstand similar ambitious experiments made by numerous Bauhäusler at the same time. Could one therefore say: Karl Valentin: an avant-gardist? Let’s glance at one of Valentin’s other projects, the “Panoptikum”, which was opened in 1934 in Munich, where his subversive, nearly Dadaistically inspired witty linguistic humour actually took shape: here lunacy, a condition mirroring the time, became reality. Valentin proved to be a genuine concept- and installation artist before the Surrealists had the same idea and designed their shock-cabinets, and long before the “concept- respectively object- and installation artist” was art historically accepted. Therefore one can say: Karl Valentin was an avant-gardist. And clearly his “I would have liked to, but I was not allowed to dare” proves its validity. Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin 10963 Berlin, Niederkirchnerstrasse 7, until 21. 04. 08 www.gropiusbau.de

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