George Brecht

In 1925 George MacDiarmid, alias George Brecht, is born in New York. During his chemistry studies at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science 1946 — 50 he also takes lessons in figural drawing, oil painting and in sculpture. He finishes his studies in Mexico in 1950, yet there he again starts his studies of painting and construction. Back in the USA Brecht continues his artistic activities parallel to his work for chemical companies. He works on lacquer and enamel projects, but also on the development of the artistic »Accidental-Methods-Models« (Chance Imagery,1957/66).

In 1958 Brecht participates in New York in the experimental composition classes of John Cage. The New School for Social Research is considered the original site of the Happening (simultaneous performance of pieces by Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg, 1952). The relations between art and science, special processes of change, accidental phenomenon and theories of perception are among Brecht’s special areas of interest, which he explores with his objects and multi-medialEvents. Brecht understands his works as research on the nature of human experience. Experiment, chance and paradox repeatedly determine the forms of his art open for the interventions of the viewer in which he takes up the theme of life feelings such as emptiness, indeterminacy and nonsensicalness.

In his first works Brecht is taken by the visual characteristics of music (Room Poem, 1958) and the comparison of sound variables with light analogies that also determine the Event-Model which he presents in a one-man show in 1959. Here the genre mix already begins to show itself which will remain influential in his later works and interventions. Plaster instructions, musical scores, objects, posters, tickets and brochures are all part of the staging. In 1959 some group shows follow (Group 3, Below Zero), in which Alberto Burri, Allan Kaprow and Robert Rauschenberg participate.

Together with Cage and Rauschenberg, Kaprow and Maxfield, Brecht shows his Candle Piece for Radios und Card Piece for a Voice in 1960. Shows follow in which Brecht is represented by poster designs, objects or project concepts. In1961 he shows in Europe (Stockholm, Amsterdam), in New York he shows the Three Chair Events, which was to occupy his interest over the next years culminating in the big closet project Repository, which MoMA buys. Together with George Maciunas or Nam June Paik works by Brecht are shown in 1962 at events in Wuppertal (»Kleines Sommerfest: Après John Cage«) and Düsseldorf (»Neo-Dada in der Musik«). Together with Robert Watts, Brecht also participates at the »YAM«-Festival-Project, which culminates in May with a month-long event program. In order to dedicate himself more intensely to his artistic projects, Brecht reduces his activities for industrial businesses and becomes a consultant for Mobil Oil Company in 1963. The many Fluxus-Events in Wiesbaden, Amsterdam, Kopenhagen, Paris, Den Haag, Stockholm, Nice and the »Festum Fluxorum-Fluxus,« organized by Maciunas and Beuys in Düsseldorf, where Brecht is also represented, make clear his participation in the European Fluxus-Movement.

With the conception of Event-oriented Action Paintings George Brecht turns decisively to language and its categorical, definitive determination of objects and situations (Start/Stop or Here and Now, 1963). In the 1960s and 1970s Event-Objects come about with accidentally structured everyday objects that, according to the artist, are to become an Event at the moment when the viewer grasps them and his experience flows into the work. During this time Brecht also begins to see his work as »Book«, with »Pages« that are structured as object boxes (The Book of the Tumbler on Fire, 1964). In 1966 Georges Brecht and Robert Filliou participate in Villefranche-sur-Mer, the work on the project La Cédille Qui Sourit, a model for non-exploitative creative work. At the same time the artists begin to develop ideas for the creative renewal of language and to experiment in language games and paradox language constellations, which Brecht supplements in 1978 with studies in the relation of calligraphic-pictographic signs.

Brecht moves in 1968 to London and teaches –seminars on »Chance and Randomness« or »Intermedia« – at Leeds College of Art. After numerous exhibitions and projects he moves to Düsseldorf in 1969 and, in 1971, to Cologne. In addition to one-man shows he participates in 1972, 1977 and 1987 in the Documenta 5, 6, 8 and begins work on a new chapter of Book of the Tumbler on Fire in 1975, which investigates the »Event«-Structure of crystals and prepares the later construction of »self-made« Crystal object boxes. A retrospective at the Kunsthalle in Bern devotes a retrospective to his work in 1978. Countless book and exhibition projects, radio play productions and events follow since the 1980s.

George Brecht lives and works in Cologne.

Selected Literature

George Brecht, Events, Eine Heterospektive: Ausst.-Kat. Museum Ludwig, hg. v. Alfred M. Fischer, Köln 2005

George Brecht: Ausst.-Kat. Kunsthalle Bern, Bern 1978

Fluxus, 1962 — 1982: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstverein Wiesbaden u.a., Wiesbaden 1982

Fluxus, Today and Yesterday, Art and Design: Ausst.-Kat. London 1993

Jappe, E.: Performance Ritual Prozess. Handbuch der Aktionskunst in Europa, München 1993

Friedman, K.: The Fluxus Reader, London 1998

Bildrechte: Calder Foundation New York / Foto Stiftung Lehmbruck Museum Foto: Tobias Roch, Hagen Bildrechte: VG Bild Kunst, Bonn 2014 Bildrechte: gemeinfrei, Foto: Peter Hinschläger

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