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Exhibition at KOW storage space
Participatory Minimalism
Franz Erhard Walther
Feb 27–Mar 21, 2009

KOW ISSUE 1 shows the 11-Meter-Bahn, one of the most prominent objects from Franz Erhard Walther’s 1. Workset – developed between 1963 and 1969 and a classic among the German post-war art – and portrays the history of its utilization. Walther proposed to no longer conceptualize art independently from its application by a public and assign its users co-authorship on the form and meaning of artworks. He became an early exponent of process-related and participatory art.

Walther’s proposal is still a design to counter the habitual way of dealing with art, which is to seek for the aesthetic and the economic value of an art piece in its “out-standing” object quality or peculiarity, rather than in the social dimension of a “Werkgedanke” (Walther) or the possible consequences for our actions, our “Handlungsvorstellungen” (Walther) respectively.

In numerous, partly canonized, partly unorthodox, and previously unrevealed documents, we display the diverse forms of employment the 11-Meter-Bahn has led to in the last 43 years. How open and inviting does Walther’s proposal look today? How encouraging does it sound? The white, 11 meter long textile strap that two persons can tighten between their bodies, remains an ever unconcluded artwork that calls for our participation, not for our deference. In his 1. Workset, Walther presents symbolic models of action, which were concrete expressions of democratic experience, hardly 20 years after the end of fascism. Similar to the recently reappreciated Charlotte Posenenske, his Participatory Minimalism is increasingly regarded as a politicizable, societal-oriented alternative to American Minimal Art.

Concept and production: Alexander Koch, Nikolaus Oberhuber. Text an photos: Alexander Koch