Wolf Vostell

Deutscher Ausblick, 1958–1959, aus dem Environment “Das schwarze Zimmer” (German View from the Black Room Cycle)

Vostell German View Berlinische Galerie - © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016
  • Wolf Vostell
  • Deutscher Ausblick, 1958–1959, aus dem Environment “Das schwarze Zimmer” (German View from the Black Room Cycle)
  • 1958–59
  • décollage, wood, barbed wire, tin, newspaper, bone, television with cover
  • 115.5 × 130 × 30.5 cm
  • Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur - © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016

The sculptural assemblage Deutscher Ausblick (1958–59) is part of Wolf Vostell’s environment “Das Schwarze Zimmer”, along with Treblinka (1958–59) and Auschwitz Scheinwerfer (1958–59). The assorted items that comprise Deutscher Ausblick present a morbid and destructive view of Germany’s repressed memory, inseparable from guilt and blame for the Holocaust. Bones and barbed wire invoke the silenced victims of the concentration camps, whereas newspaper clippings covering the Soviet Army and the military branch of the East German police challenge the euphoric feeling of rescue and reconstruction that was felt in West Germany after 1945. 

Two items in this collage—a built-in television and a cover of the German news magazine Der Spiegel depicting a Roman Catholic clergyman—serve to comment on the roles of mass media and the Catholic Church, declaring them responsible for neglecting and suppressing crimes against humanity in the wake of World War II. The incessant disruptions and hissing noises of the flickering black-and-white television set preside over all, creating a broken reality—one created solely by the fragmentary nature of actual mass-media coverage that distorts information and facts.

Petronela Soltész

Biography of Wolf Vostell

  • Born 1932 in Leverkusen, Germany
  • Died 1998 in Berlin, Germany

Wolf Vostell is known as a co-founder of the Fluxus movement of the 1960s and ‘70s, as well as for his pioneering works in installation, Happenings and environmental art. His education included studies at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts (National School of Fine Arts) in Paris (from 1955 to 1956) and the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf ((Dusseldorf Art Academy; in 1957). Starting in 1958, Vostell initiated Happenings across Europe and New York. That same year, he creating the first installation to incorporate a TV set (German View from the Black Room Cycle, 1958–63). Appropriating the term “Dé-coll/age” from the French language in 1954, Vostell re-introduced the Dadaist legacy of deconstructing consumerist items (like street posters) as a means of encouraging independent thinking. Vostell’s artistic achievements earned him early international recognition. He helped organize the Festum Fluxorum in Wiesbaden of 1962, among other events with the Fluxus group. Vostell was granted major retrospectives at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris) and the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery), Berlin, in 1974, and participated in Documenta, Kassel in 1977. In the 1980s, Vostell expanded his practice into environmental art, creating immersive installations for the FLUXUS-Train traveling across Germany. He founded the Museo Vostell, dedicated to his work, in 1976 in Malpartida de Cáceres, Spain.