Initiative Haubrich-Forum too late Das Loch European Kunsthalle

Manus Spleen 2 Speech by Udo Kier (english translation)

21.02.2002. Speech by Udo Kier in Rosemarie Trockels video "Manus Spleen 2" on the occasion of a staged protest in front of Josef-Haubrich Kunsthalle. German version of the speech.

Sentenced to death

We have come here to protest. We are protesting against the demolition of the Kölner Kunsthalle. We know that it is too late. The decisions in favor of the demolition of the Kunsthalle have been made. And the decision to build a new house for the Kunsthalle on this spot has also been made long ago. So it's actually too late.

But isn't it always already too late to protest. Haven't we all got used to the fact that protest always comes too late as questions, in which we could also have a say, are always decided in places where it is not our interests that matter, but local politics, power politics, economic policy.

So why protest when it is too late anyway? For that very reason! We are protesting precisely because protest is no longer power-politically relevant, and precisely because all those voices that used to have a place at least in the Kunsthalle do not have a say anymore in so-called political decisions. We are protesting against the futility of protest - and nevertheless against the demolition of the Kölner Kunsthalle.

(the streaker)

This is a surprise demonstration. A reminiscence of a form of protest that goes back to the sixties, the time when this beautifully ornamented Kunsthalle was built.

Back then, the Kunsthalle was a place where a lot of things were happening, all kinds of events, not only artistic ones. It was an important platform for surprising openings, for displacements and for actions which would eventually lead to what we now call the art scene of Cologne. And don't forget the exhibition "Happening und Fluxus" which opened in 1970. The Kunsthalle was temporarily closed, in order to remove the booth of the "Wiener Aktionismus".

The shutdown and demolition of the Kunsthalle - doesn't it represent the violent rupture of a political thread that runs through the art scene of Cologne?

I am not only speaking here as a native of Cologne, and also not only as someone who was involved in the movements of the sixties especially here in Cologne. I am speaking here for myself as the other! Actually, I have never been asked, so I want to give a misplaced answer to a question that hasn't been addressed to me.

The question could be this: Why didn't you take action much earlier? For example, when it became obvious that the Kunsthalle was neglected just to have a reason for its demolition? Why didn't you present an offense that would cost any drinking mother the custody of her child?

So, I am not talking about hope, as there is no hope left. But I am telling you: The catastrophe is real, it can't get any more real than this. And still I feel responsible for you. But who is the other? I am the other! I, as opposed to those who want the demolition. They are the others. What am I supposed to do in order to reach them? Imagine our demolishers on the horizon of hope.

I am trying to empathize with the demolishers. One day they will have to ask themselves, "What was it worth living for?" Was it worthwhile tearing down the "Hertie" department store, for example? The old "Hertie" complex is gone. It used to be my favorite department store where I would get everything I was looking for and where I have always been very politely served, even as a minority.

This is gone now, and along with it went a piece of the history of Cologne. We must not forget that the owners of the "Kaufhaus Tietz" had been dispossessed by the Nazis! And now - you just have to look around the corner - there is a building that not only spoils one's pleasure in ice cream but also one's pleasure in the arts.

And yet - why do I not speak for the demolishers? Why do I not say - like that gentleman of the CDU - that the new house will place highly important accents in terms of cultural policy, completing the "Kölner Museumsmeile" and creating a museum landscape that is unique in all of Europe. They regard this new project as an important highlight, also in terms of city planning.

A journalist from a Cologne daily paper thinks that - I quote - "...none of the involved parties should pursue their own interests too egotistically, in order to create a multicultural realm of experience which overcomes the traditional, solitary institutions in favor of a mutually stimulating dialogue."

And he continues: "In the end, this innovative project, above all its realization, is supposed to give pleasure to everybody, citizens and visitors alike. Culture is nothing without sensual experience. The new museum and arts complex near the Neumarkt - if it should be realized one day - will make Cologne shine so much brighter in this place. Not to mention the urbanistic side of things. In that respect we have been waiting for the Phoenix to rise from the ashes for a long time."

Is he trying to say we just need some good entertainment? "The Phoenix rising from the ashes" strongly reminds me of Hollywood, where I live. It also reminds me of my dead friend River Phoenix, of his last words about Hollywood before he died: "Fuck them all." So, do they want something like a miniature Hollywood in Cologne? I have been told that there already is something called "Hollymünd"? Now - that's what I call world-class city planning.

So, once again: For what exactly is it too late here and now? How does the new design of the "Kunsthalle-Kunstverein" complex relate to the globalization of an entertainment industry that promises sensual encounters of the third kind?

And what about the old building? Let's have a look at it, because soon we won't be able to anymore. This very house in this very place represents a part of the history of Cologne. And a part of the art history of Cologne - a history that was always political, too, and not only in terms of the arts. Who exactly is responsible for the neglect and dilapidation of this building? Who exactly has already many years ago dismissed the artistic direction of the Kunsthalle and thus systematically forfeited any chance that this house of the arts could continue to exist? With this house, its architect Franz Lammersen has created a space for the arts that has proved to be successful. In the Kunsthalle and in the Kunstverein, things have taken place that I like to remember. For example, the show of Michael Buthe in 1973, or the delicate feet and bashful necks of the Chinese bronzes.

These buildings are vibrant with the history of art from the sixties until today. So why are they going to be demolished?

Now, the demolishers might argue that the new structure will provide all this, too. But I say: Why tear down a house in order to build a house that will provide all that which the old house already provided? The Kunsthalle was and still is good the way it is. It just needs a facelift. The architect Franz Lammersen has achieved something that is only rarely achieved. The only thing that was not achieved was a loving and conscientious maintenance of the exhibition spaces. Far from it! For years they have been irresponsibly and inexcusably neglected.

And - my dear friends - let us think of our own failings. You and I, all of us stood by and did not intervene. We were too lazy, too naive or too narrow-minded. We tolerated the demise of the Kunsthalle because we didn't believe it was worth the effort. We didn't do anything , stood passively by. And now it is too late.

But I am telling you: Exactly this is why we are here. Not because we believed we could still change a thing. Because we always cannot change a thing - that's why we are here! Right now and right here we want to protest against the unchangeability! We are here to stand up for the dignity of growth and change!

I would like to add - especially for the representatives of the press and the media - that I will not allow partial quotation or publication of my words. Either you publish everything or nothing at all. It is better to disappear in an art of disappearance than to always - like we are used to - be fragmentarily misrepresented!

So, my friends and comrades: In spite of all this and nevertheless!

If they really have to demolish something, I suggest they tear down the house with the glass dome on the corner down the street.

Whoever wants to support this impossible protest may please enter their names in the lists.

Thank you for coming.