(Compiled by Johannes Grenzfurthner / Frank Apunkt Schneider – www.monochrom.at)
Georg Paul Thomann was born in Bödele in Vorarlberg, Austria, on 13th March 1945 as the son of Hans and Hermine Thomann. One week later he was baptised at the Lutheran church in Dornbirn (ill.). Hans Thomann is a post office employee; Hermine Thomann is a housewife. Georg is the family's third child after Peter and Günther.
From 1951 to 1955 Thomann attended the primary school in Bödele.
From 1955 Thomann attended the grammar school in Dornbirn.
Georg proves to be an exceptionally intelligent child; his teachers in Dornbirn have nothing but praise for his independence, sense of social responsibility and organisational abilities, all of which are very mature for his age.
Following the fourth year at grammar school the evangelical priest at Dornbirn, Julius Eberle, intervenes to see that Thomann is accepted at the local state-run boarding school. During this period Thomann is greatly interested in the church and is deeply influenced by the appearance of his patron Father Eberle, to whom he expressed a wish to join the clergy on several occasions.
However, stronger than his apparent calling, the new won independence from his parents drives him to active participation in life at the college. During his senior years, from 1959 to 1963, he only sees his parents twice per school year, at Christmas and at Easter. He does not spend the summer vacations at home but with his classmates instead. Every summer they cycle along the banks of the Rhine as far as the Lake of Constance in a large group.
"There was at least one experience of what nature might perhaps be. I remember that well from Vorarlberg. We turned away from the mountains and were heading towards the distance or, more accurately, the flatlands. The flats of the Rhine and the Lake of Constance definitely spurned me on to draw and to paint."
(Thomann in conversation with Herbert Buchner, published in Bedingungen, Ed. Herbert Buchner, Verlag Ueberreuter)
The teachers at the college encouraged Thomann's musical talent wherever possible. As well as Father Eberle, his drawing teacher Friedrich Zurbrügg was particularly supportive of his pupils. This encouragement also showed in the results attained in other subjects.
In the sixth year Thomann founded the student magazine Das Boot (The Boat), which contained reports on school proceedings written by himself and other pupils, as well as a quantity of cartoon strips and caricatures he had drawn (includes Galacta).
When the school purchased a second hand tape recorder in autumn 1961 ("an AEG-Telefunken Magnetophon KL 65 KS with a crystal microphone") – intended to modernise teaching techniques in foreign language classes – Thomann is delighted. He repeatedly smuggles it into his dayroom. He and his roommates experiment using empty tracks on the English and French tapes.
"While I recorded, the others ran back and forth in the room and shouted often rather vulgar expletives as they went. Then I fiddled around with the equipment until we had something amusing, and when everyone laughed I was satisfied." The other boys also listened to records and the radio at night. "We shared a bonding hatred of Elvis Presley. There was nothing I hated as much as Elvis except the village I came from, which I hated almost as vehemently. We wanted to hear Beat. Nothing else." (Thomann in Jungle World, August 1999)
From the start of his seventh year Thomann began writing poems and short pieces of prose but later destroyed most of this work. (The only texts to have survived are the Atommärchen Bumm – Atomic Fairytale Bumm – and the poem Dadobele.)
His main influences are H.C. Artmann and Gerhard Ruhm, whose most recent volumes he regularly receives as gifts from Father Eberle.
Dissatisfied with the articles written by his friends for his school magazine, he also takes over responsibility for the text section. He writes critical reports of all the teachers and complains about the poor condition of the school buildings. The partly enraged teaching staff has to be repeatedly pacified by Father Eberle, who continues to hold a protective hand over the young man.
Thomann attempted to read the philosophy classics outside of class, but admits to understanding nothing of what he read.
"It didn't bother me. I wanted the feeling that I was helping myself to get ahead by reading. My eyes flew over Nietzsche and Schopenhauer and I delved into a world of dreams. I have never since experienced such a liberating sense of a lack of knowledge. Or perhaps I did. With Maria Prantner." (Profil Nr. 11/1988)
Maria Prantner and Georg P. Thomann first meet at a Dornbirn youth festival. She is his first love. In his eighth year at college the nocturnal meetings with Maria incite further hostility towards Thomann from most of the teaching staff.
When he turned his pen in Das Boot directly against the headmaster of the college, wishing him instant retirement, it is the last straw. Thomann is rusticated for two weeks and Das Boot is banned. Father Eberle was able to prevent expulsion.
A few weeks before the final examinations Thomann and his roommates have all their private luxury items such as the record player, the radio and entertaining literature confiscated. The items were never returned.
"They came into the dorm with a kind of inventory list of our private belongings and took everything away that was on the list. When they had gone we couldn't stop ourselves from bursting into a fit of laughter. The tape recorder belonging to the school was still on my bed. It hadn't been on the list. I immediately hid it well, and took it with me after the examinations were over. It still works." (Thomann in Jungle World, August 1999)
Thomann finished his school career on 12th May 1963 with a distinction. At the matriculation ceremony he refused to receive his certificate from the head of the examinations committee who, as he had heard from his peers, had been a police commandant in Passau/Germany under the Nazis. A ruckus developed between the headmaster of the college and Father Eberle during the course of which Thomann described the head of examinations as "a Nazi swine". Thomann tore the certificate from his hands, the headmaster hit him and he ran out of the building. Father Eberle was personally insulted by his protégé's behaviour and took his leaving the school as reason enough to break off further contact. (Note: In a conversation with Thomann's parents Father Eberle apparently asked: "Who spoiled my Schorschi like that?")
On the advice of his drawing teacher Friedrich Zurbrügg, Thomann decides to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. He passes the entrance examination with several 1:10 miniaturised copies of Impressionist masterpieces. He becomes a student of Erich Huber, who had taken over from Albert Paris Gütersloh temporarily.
Thomann moves into a bed-sit on Joanelligasse in the 6th District of Vienna.
Georg Thomann shows his first artwork to the public at the Academy's autumn exhibition, which opened on 24th November 1963. It was the charcoal drawing Kennedy Blast.
In December 1963, together with his colleague Gerold Wagner, Thomann joins the KPÖ, the Austrian Communist Party.
Thomann and Wagner wrote three political manifestos (Unseres ist das Recht, Was Ihr Nicht Möget Wissen and Zu Beginn Der Anfang – Ours Is The Right, What You Might Well Not Know and The Beginning To Start With), which they duplicate and hand out to the students and professors at the Academy. They receive an official cautioning from Rector Herbert Böckl.
In February 1964 Thomann writes an open letter to the Central Committee of the KPÖ, which is printed in the Party journal Weg Und Ziel. In this letter he demands the early staging of the 19th Party Congress and new elections for all of the Party leaders. "The decisions made at the 18th Party Congress now serve as nothing more than armchairs into which the Central Committee reclines whenever required. ... Out with you! Anyone could do a better job. As far as I'm concerned you can fetch Muhri!" (Weg Und Ziel, 21st March 1964)
He received no reply.
At a meeting of Party sympathisers in April 1964 Gerold Wagner started a fight and called the Viennese Communists "Nazi baggage". He is expelled from the Party. Thomann is clearly disappointed by the impossibility of finding "a carefree, youthful political discourse" in Vienna, and also leaves the Party. He now wants to have his public activities, most of which are confined to the distribution of written statements in the form of flysheets and small format magazines, seen as unpolitical in the Communist Party's sense.
At the opening of the Donau Turm on 16th April 1964 Thomann tries to distribute copies of an essay entitled Über Die Türme Hinweg Und In Die Seele Dieses Österreich (Going Beyond The Towers And Into The Soul Of This Austria) among the visitors to the ceremony. He is prevented from doing so by the police.
Also in April Thomann wrote an open letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles (which he distributed at the Universities in Vienna). He protested against the awarding of the Oscar for the Best Film to "That My Fair Lady crap" instead of to Dr Strangelove, Kubrick's grotesque scenario of world war.
On the evening of the 19th June 1964 Thomann handed out onions wrapped in paper to male passers-by on Kärtner Strasse. On the paper it said: "Hans Moser died and you didn't even notice. Go home. Your wife is crying."
Thomann completed his first year at the Academy totally dissatisfied with his artistic development.
"The only use that I could make of the Academy was the practise I gained in quick drawing and making exact copies of Old Masters. ... I organised still-life drawing competitions with the girls in my class. I don't remember anything that I was supposed to have learned there." (Profil Nr. 11/1988)
At the end of the second semester he decides to go and visit his parents in Vorarlberg. He has neither seen nor written to them for a long time. After three July days in Böden Thomann heads back to Vienna. "It was a catastrophe, of course. There was no talking anymore, just screaming. As far as my mother was concerned, she just clucked away. I swore to myself that I would never set foot in Vorarlberg again." (Plex World, 3/1982)
Back in Vienna, Thomann spends most of the summer with his fellow student Tini Hergovic. He moves in with her at the start of the academic year 1964/65. Hergovic lives in her deceased grandmother's apartment on Lobkowitz Platz in the 1st District of Vienna. After only a few weeks Thomann ends the relationship, which he has seen as a purely sexual cohabitation, when Hergovic asks him to marry her.
Following the start of the second year at college, when he felt the burden of the need to produce art for the first time, Thomann realises that he definitely does not want to stay on at the Academy. On 12th November 1964 Thomann takes the train to Berlin. He has one piece of luggage with him.
Thomann hopes to be able to live in the apartment of some of Wahner's relatives. This does not work out at first. Thomann writes a letter to Vienna and after two weeks of homelessness he can move into the apartment.
Thomann meets the photographer Bert Randow at a concert. Thomann moves in with Randow and his girlfriend Britta Schlosser.
A ménage à trois develops between Randow, Schlosser and Thomann.
Thomann is stimulated by the highly politicised atmosphere in Berlin ("I've left that hole Vienna behind me"), using most of his time to enjoy his "new won freedom".
On 2nd April 1965, at the opening of the Europa Center, Thomann continues with his art for the literary public. He hands out Banda copies of the short story Und Der Bürgermeister Geht Eislaufen (And The Mayor Goes Skating).
Thomann spends most of his time in the company of Randow and Schlosser. However the relationship falls apart at the beginning of June 1965. Thomann stays on in the apartment until 1967.
20th June 1965: The action Ordentlich Durchnageln, Strammwade (Do Some Serious Fucking, Meaty Calves). Thomann sends illegally obtained pornographic magazines with falsified cover pages to various Berlin personalities. The new cover image shows Konrad Adenauer.
Numerous underground magazines (including Knallkopf) refer to this action.
15th September 1965: Rolling Stones concert at the Waldbühne Charlottenburg, 85 people arrested. Thomann is beaten up by policeman in the fray, he is injured but not arrested.
Thomann writes his Essay Über Den Aufschlag (Essay On The Serve).
Thomann spends a great deal of time in small political communes and meets, among others, Udo Kühn (K1).
He devotes most of his time to the "photographic documentation of the revolution" (Thomann, 1999 in de:bug).
5th February 1966: About 1,000 people participate in a protest march against the US engagement in Vietnam. After the speeches around 200 demonstrators, mostly students, move on to America House in Hardenbergstrasse in Charlottenburg. Following a sit-in a group of demonstrators (among them Thomann) throw bags of paint at the building. The police encircle the building and drive the demonstrators apart.
Thomann meets the student Loli Wenders. They spend nearly all of their time together.
In April they decide to go on a walking tour around Berlin. They follow the GDR border with an old tent.
Thomann writes the article Rundgang Am Anfang Der Welt Mit Einem Hauch Ende (Tour At The Beginning Of The World With A Touch Of The End).
Following a student demonstration outside a cinema on Kurfürstendamm, the film Africa Addio that was released there on 2nd August 1966 is stopped after a brief run. The protesters condemn the film for celebrating colonialism and racism.
Thomann hands out flysheets on "racial distinctions".
On 11th December 1966 there are renewed clashes between students and police at a demonstration against the American Vietnam policy. The police break up the speeches in front of the Bundeshaus on Bundesallee as the demonstrators deviated from the authorised route. There are further clashes during the closing rally on Wittenbergplatz. The police use their truncheons.
In May 1967 Thomann goes to Paris with the former communist Udo Kühn, from where the threatening letters to offices of members of the German government are to be sent. They stay for a few weeks with the journalist and sociology student Isabelle Rascot, who had visited Kommune 1 the previous year for her newspaper L'Humanité. Thomann and Rascot fall in love, and after Kühn's departure they move into a larger apartment together on rue Faidherbe in the 11th Arrondissement.
"Berlin and Paris... eventually melted into Isabelle's person. Her grandparents and her mother had come from Berlin, her French father was an important civil servant in the Paris town hall. When she led me through the streets of Paris and explained French politics in German all of my innocent interests of the time – travel, art, politics and love – fused in the one person." (Thomann in Télérama Nr. 346/1989)
Thomann joined the PCF, the French Communist Party, where Rascot is already a respected member of the Paris section. She had earned this respect, not least, for her series of articles in L'Humanité on why the French government should support the North Vietnamese in their struggle ideologically and with weapons, adding a new reason on a daily basis.
With Isabelle Rascot's intervention, in July 1967 Thomann and four other young artists are commissioned by the PCF to make a political installation for the PCF-owned Galerie des Cent Ans in the Latin Quarter. The exhibition, entitled Le Dieu Inconnu, consists of smashed stone figures of saints, the parts of which had been put together to form a squadron of American bombers. Thomann's first public appearance as an artist was to go off with a Big Bang.
His clandestine contribution consists of carrying the sculptures out of the gallery piece for piece incognito at night and depositing them in the house next door. The missing parts of the installation had to be continually replaced by Thomann's colleagues.
After two weeks the PCF calls in the Paris police, who kept an eye on the gallery but only during the day. By the end of the exhibition over 100 visitors to the gallery had been detained by the police for questioning on suspicion of being the enigmatic art thief. Some copycat criminals who were actually caught with pieces of the installation on them were charged and given heavy fines. Finally the PCI decides to shut down the gallery and the installation is dismantled.
One week later, though, the arrangement is almost complete again – Thomann had re-acquired the stolen pieces from the house next door and set them up again in the gallery. He had written a message to his Party friends all over the floor: "PCF = Parti des Cul-Fuckers!" and signed it 'Le dieu inconnu'.
When it leaks out that Thomann had discussed the action with his girlfriend Isabelle and some of the editorial staff at L'Humanité both are expelled from the Communist Party in order to avoid falling under suspicion.
The French body of art critics reacts enthusiastically to the revelation that: "Georg Thomann's artistic enterprise claims for itself the deconstruction of persuasive Shibboleths as they appear both in the academic artworld as well as in everyday artisanal art. The art of the everyday is never impartial; the presuppositions and cultural assumptions of a long tradition are intrinsic to it. At the same time the critical treatment of this tradition's philosophical basis results in a new emphasis on the artist's/interpreter's/philosopher's individual autonomy and creativity. Perhaps this anti-populist and nevertheless anti-Aristotelian element is Thomann's most significant contribution to the perception of art in the post-Hiroshima era." (Sophie David, L'Objet D'Art 26/1968)
Jean-Noel Picq becomes one of his most important acquaintances in Paris. He first spoke to him in September 1967 at the funeral of Franqois-Maurice Eberl, a Jewish painter from the Ecole de Paris who had died aged 80. Picq remembers the occasion in his memoirs of the 1960s Jusqu'au Mois De Mai (ed. Seuil, 1978): "My short-sightedness and vanity of the time, not wearing my spectacles at public occasions, is to thank for... my meeting Georg. At the time Georg was just over twenty and obviously recognised me at a party. He greeted me in a course German accent but very politely: 'Good day, Monsieur Picq. How are you?' I thought he was Jürgen Hensbach, though, who was a guest performer at the T.N.P. with his colleagues from Bochum – not because of his face, but because of his awkward, rather sloppy accent. I was still surprised by his strange reserve, though, so I said – still convinced that Hansback was in front of me: 'since when do we use vous to one another?' And kissed him. From that moment on Georg Thomann and I were on first name terms.
Thomann on Picq in 1991: "When I think of Picq today, I still see that fat toad with glasses in short-sleeves throwing one glass of cognac after the other down his gullet, crammed in behind a table at Café Flore. Whenever he spoke he came very close to you because he wanted to be able to feel your enthusiasm for everything he said immediately. He explained and explained, sometimes there were ten of us sitting around him, then he grabbed a subject for conversation from nowhere – just like a toad snapping at a fly – and grunted away for hours. It put you to sleep, but it was glorious in its way. ...Picq still goes to the Flore today, once a week, although with girls from the Lycée whom he explains the world of operetta to. That's not a joke, it's true!" (Junge Welt, 3rd September 1991)
Thomann spends almost the whole of the particularly cold winter of 1967/68 in the cafés of St. Germain des Près and in night-clubs. "We couldn't afford to heat our apartments. So we met up every day sometime between two and three, and talked all afternoon in Flore or in the Deux Magots, drinking coffee and cognac. Isabelle and I, Pierre Alechinsky and Charles Lapicque, whose paintings I found dreadful at the time, the two old boys Picq and Douchet, the divinely beautiful Irina Lhomme, Blandine Jeanson, of course Jacques Renard and a few others. I saw Renard again in the mid-80s, he had just started working for AIDS sufferers and made a couple of films on the subject that really impressed me." (PNG, 1992)
While Isabelle Rascot spends most of the winter nights in the offices of her newspaper, Thomann generally toured the night-clubs of Montparnasse or around the Bastille, usually in the company of Jacques Renard. His nocturnal acquaintances led to a temporary separation from Rascot ("She was a wonderfully dogmatic bourgeois communist, and I was thrown out after the first little fling.") in January 1968. Thomann moves in with Renard for a month, moving back to Rascot in early March.
In March 1968 Thomann went to hear a panel discussion at Nanterre University with Michel Serres, Jacques LaDalle and Victor Krylov. He and Rascot subsequently wrote a one-act play with the same title as the sociologists' discussion: La Fraction De La Structure. In the play two actors sit incognito in the audience until at least half of the audience has become so annoyed that they leave. Then the two actors stand up, climb onto the stage and deliver a long tirade alternately chastising and praising the people in the audience who have remained.
Jean-Noel Picq, whom he showed the manuscript, declines to produce it following the disturbances of May 1968. However he encourages Thomann and Rascot to write a brief treatment of the piece for cinema. This is subsequently realised by Picq and Jean Douchet as a three-minute episode in the short film project Cinétracts (1968) initiated by Jean-Luc Godard and Chris Marker.
On the evening of 28th March 1968 Thomann and Rascot join a procession of students from the 22nd March Movement, which was on its way to a pro-American exhibition by the Mouvement Occident student group. On their arrival the exponents were taken apart and the space made unusable. Thomann is held in police custody overnight along with 14 other students from the Mouvement du 22 Mars. Isabelle Rascot had already gone home when the police arrived.
At the end of April Thomann falls ill with meningitis and has to spend the following two months in hospital.
He experienced the student revolt of May 1968 through his friends' excited accounts of the events. He uses the free time to work on La Fraction De La Structure and writes letters to French and German newspapers.
In a letter to the Frankfurter Rundschau he compares his suffering with that of France. "It'll all be over soon and I'll recover just as France will recover. And if anybody asks me what the mood is like six months from now, I'll be able to reply richly 'better than ever'. I saw Cohn-Bendit on television and found him laughable. Everything he said was correct but I knew that my relentless healing process will stop him." (Frankfurter Rundschau, 21st May 1968)
Having gone missing for a week, Isabelle Rascot is found dead by the police on 1st August 1968. Her body lay covered with a blanket in the back of a car that had been standing in a no parking zone on rue St. Jacques for three days. It was only a few metres away from the Panthéon and the hotel where Thomann occasionally spent the night when it was too far for him to go home to rue Faidherbe. Traces of heroin are found in her blood as well as an overdose of sleeping tablets. As a farewell note is never found, though, Thomann has his doubts about the police's theory that it was a suicide.
Fourteen years later the case surrounding Rascot's death is reopened in connection with some secret documents from the CIA, according to which a team of observers had had Parisian circles of intellectuals under surveillance since 1968. Rascot's enthusiastic coverage of the Black Panther movement in L'Humanité and the fact that the car in which she was found had never been reported missing led to speculation that Rascot had been drugged by the CIA, interrogated and then abandoned on the street – where it was presumed that she would probably die.
Following Isabelle's death Georg Thomann leaves Paris and spends August 1968 in Marseilles and with friends in Munich. Herbert Meiseneder and Paul Lumbach, acquaintances of Thomann's from his time at the Academy in Vienna who now have a music studio in Munich, encourage him to spend more time again exploring the possibilities of musical recordings and reworking these artistically.
Back in Paris, though, Thomann starts concentrating on painting. He moves out of the apartment on rue Faidherbe and moves back in with Jacques Renard.
After a few weeks he moves in with one of his friends from Café Flore, Blandine Jeanson. She had set up a commune in her Latin Quarter apartment that had served Jean-Luc Godard as a set for La Chinoise the year before (Jeanson had been allowed to play herself in the film). Between five and twelve people, mostly young film and stage actors, occupy the large loft space. "The only good thing about it was that nobody had to pay anything to be allowed to live there. The production firm had obviously forgotten to cancel the rent payments when the filming had come to an end." (Thomann in Junge Welt, 3rd September 1991)
While Thomann and Jeanson pursue an "artistic sexual relationship", a one-year phase of intensive painting and photography begins. Within a few months Thomann paints hundreds of hyper-realistic portraits of his girlfriend that he then photographs and burns. He sells the large-format prints to various art dealers.
After three months, over Christmas 1968, Thomann leaves the commune and splits up with Jeanson.
"Compared to what I had experienced in Berlin, Paris commune life was more like life at a convent. It was not much different politically, Mao-bible and stuff, but the people preferred long shared breakfasts to going to bed with one another. Fucking was done in secret." (Junge Welt, 3rd September 1991)
In January 1969 Thomann moves back into his room at Jacques Renard's place. His interest in social and artistic life in Paris dwindles.
"It was clear that you couldn't avoid looking to Germany. Hardly had 1969 begun and everything that was connected with 1968 had been forgotten in Paris. As ridiculous as May '68 had been, the arrogance with which the Parisians dealt with the events, with themselves, was sad. It was as if they were ashamed. But in Berlin, Munich, Hamburg the dam didn't seem to have burst, everything was still building up. In my thoughts I'd been back there for a long time." (Jungle World Nr. 33/1998)
In spring 1969 Thomann made several short films, political statements on the situation in Germany and the USA, usually with himself playing the lead.
"Planned as a work of homage," Thomann later says, is his film Grussbotschaft An Harun Farocki Und Holger Meins (Message Of Greeting To Harun Farocki And Holger Meins). In sympathy with Farocki's anti-Vietnam War manifesto, it shows Thomann extinguishing a cigarette on the back of his hand having just finished reading the manifesto. Here Thomann's own manifesto is directed against the cigarette industry, and it closes with him destroying a cigarette by smoking it.
In the film Lettres D'Une Sœur Qui Pète Les Plombs one of his friends, the painter Charles Lapicque, reads a letter from his sister who is living in America out loud. In the letter she defends the American president against her brother's onslaughts.
Georg Thomann and Charles Lapicque fall in love with one another on this encounter. Thomann moves into Lapicque's studio in April 1969. Here he continues his experiments with painting and photography with his new lover standing as model instead of Blandine Jeanson. "What I learned from Charles was a love for the intensity of every nature-abhorring colour and, above all, the courage to discover surface."
In April Lapicque and Thomann also begin work on the large-format double portrait L'Amant Nu L'Amant Flottant, which is to become Thomann's best-known work as a painter. They spend months painting opposite one another in the studio, day for day. The portraits are altered several times and never completed. In October 1969 the two paintings are purchased by the art dealer Henri Rosencrantz for 32,000 francs and later put on show in the newly opened Centre Beaubourg at the Musée National d'Art Moderne. The pieces are still in this collection.
At the end of July 1969 Thomann reads in several newspapers that he smashed up the television showing a live broadcast of the American moon landing in front of the American Embassy on avenue Gabriel (Stop The Buzz). He is arrested on the same day for disturbing the peace as a result of the allegations in the press. To this day Thomann denies having had anything to do with the action. However it is safe to assume that if he did not carry out the attack in person he was certainly involved in the planning. He is released on the same day due to lack of evidence.
Despite his profound personal affinity for painting Thomann spends the summer of 1969 concentrating on music, and attempts to continue working on what he had learned during his month in Munich.
"What I didn't know was how to archive music credibly without being suspected of being a swindler. What fascinated me acoustically had always been the transience of the thing. I recognised that one avoided swindling by producing music electronically – when the act of archiving pre-empted, so to speak, each tone, made it possible in the first place. When each playback is actually just a listing, a listing of possibilities. Simultaneously the death of any intuition, a declaration of war on the myth of human creativity." (Source: Dagegen – Dabei. Texte, Gespräche Und Dokumente Zu Strategien Der Selbstorganisation Seit 1969, [Against – Involved. Texts, Conversations And Documents On Strategies Of Self-Organisation Since 1969] Dany, Hans-Christian; Dörrie, Ulrich; Sefkow, Bettina; Edition Michael Kellner, Hamburg 1998)
With a Theremin and a borrowed Moog synthesiser, in October 1969 Thomann records the Amour tapes under the pseudonym Lautrec Tech. Employing a mixture of the spoken word and music, the three part series describe the germination, the phase of doubt and the death of love. Even though the piece is dedicated to his lover Lapicque, Thomann's abstractly formulated statement on the death of love shakes what had been a happy relationship until then.
Early November: Thomann completes the photo-realist painting Anna, the portrait of a fictitious young girl lying in a stack of Kellogg's cornflakes packets looking distressed.
After Charles Lapicque ends the relationship to go and stay with his sister in Los Angeles, Thomann also decides to turn his back on Paris once and for all. He had lost contact with most of his Parisian acquaintances during his cohabitation with Lapicque.
"I got onto the train and nobody cared. Paris was past its bloom and cold. 1968 had been decades ago."
Only his financial situation is comforting, even promising for the first time in his life as a result of the sales of various paintings. On 23rd November 1969 Thomann arrives in Munich.
Thomann offered Amour to the Bavarian Rundfunk (radio). The tapes are declined. Nevertheless at the beginning of December 1969 Thomann becomes a freelance culture reviewer for Bavarian radio and meets the sculptor Heiner Gerhardt.
Günter Brus and Oswald Wiener go into exile in Berlin; Rudolf Schwarzkogler commits suicide. Thomann writes the short story Brus Sel, an obituary for Schwarzkogler.
12th January 1970: Performance Kurs: Kunst (Course: Art). Thomann drives in circles in a toy tractor tied to a central post. The action has to be halted when the tractor comes untethered several times and tips over. Two passers-by are injured. Thomann is detained by the police. The action is criticised for its "ridiculous use of metaphor" (the Swiss art journal Du, February1970) and also for "playing down the world-wide proletarian struggle for emancipation from servitude" (Theorie Und Praxis).
Late January 1970: A ménage à trois develops between Thomann, Bernhard Vesper and the young writer Gudrun Nabermeyer. Nabermeyer writes a letter to Thomann in February 1970: "I shall be away for a while" and joins the political underground. Presumably Nabermeyer attempted to make contact with the RAF, however this has never been confirmed.
March 1970: Visits to various communes (e.g. Freudenhof in Nuremberg, Deggendorf agricultural collective etc.)
"The daily routine in the communes consisted of: making fun of current highlights of the VIP-ey society, drawing up the worst manifestos, filming action movies, the production of subversive material, parties with Jimi Hendrix music, long discussions about art, psychoanalysis, Wilhelm Reich, anarchy and the future of the consumer society. Then sex in groups or couples, less often alone (ego)." (Thomann in an interview for Art Forum, 3/89)
Thomann loses interest in communes.
He works on a Super-8 loop film project (8 x 8 = 88) for The First International Underground Film Festival in London.
Thomann makes up with "drinking partner Vesper" (Thomann in an interview for Art Forum, 3/89). Vesper writes: "('peasant') Our language, the language of spoilt children, 'you are naff', 'don't behave so like an underdog', the ruling classes and their ideology ensures that the scions have the right attitude towards the prospective underlings. When I grabbed CMB (G.P. Thomann, cf. Vesper Und Die Deutschen by Peter Manther) by the cock, he said: 'You are naff', and turned to the side." (Vesper: Die Reise)
On 15th March 1970 Thomann publishes an article in the Munich underground magazine Fudd (issue #3). Self-criticism on the religious implications of his works, especially Der Unbekannte Gott (The Unknown God), and a positive reception of Adorno at the same time: "The Transformation of the duality entrapped in the binary cannot receive any more transcendental imaginings, no significance as a refuge of paling theology, as Adorno might have said."
In Fudd #4 Thomann reviews Susan Sontag's text The Esthetics Of Silence, published in 1967. He cites her as having maintained that the artist who creates silence or emptiness must produce something dialectic, even if only because the artwork exists in a world full of many other things: a total gap, an enriching emptiness, a tuneful or articulated lack of speech. (cf. Sontag, Susan: 'The Esthetics Of Silence', in: Aspen Magazine 5-6/1967) He calls for a boycott of her writings.
April 1970: Founding of the Gemüse-Gaga-Orchester (the Vegetable-Gaga Orchestra; with the members of Amon Düül), which ritually plays with and destroys vegetables and other foodstuffs on the stage – "so that nobody else makes art with plants!" as he wrote in a letter to the hippie magazine Dunst. Title: Kant Hoch Zwei (Kant Squared). Not even ("that botanist") Warhol's flower paintings are spared.
Thomann goes to Hamburg when he hears that Beuys has invited Warhol to participate in a panel discussion. Sensation at the event: "Someone should give him a good kick in the balls!"
"Warhol was ugly and soulless." (Thomann)
(Note, Fritz Ostermayer: Trio reiterate the sentiment ten years later on their first album Trio, with the song Los Paul, Du Musst Ihm Fest In Die Eier Haun! – Go On Paul, You've Got To Give Him A Good Thump In The Balls!)
In a statement (23rd April 1970) Thomann compares himself with the "Hollywood Ten", and on 29th April he organises a public show trial at Munich fruit and vegetable market. The jury is comprised of drag queens, the prosecutor is played by the then unknown Viennese rock musician Fredi Fender (from 1978 vocalist in the Viennese band Mordbuben AG) in police uniform. While Thomann delivers the speeches himself (alternately dressed as Jesus and as Stalin) a portrait of Warhol descends that is then "glazed and grassed" (cannabis is thrown at it): it becomes famous as "the longest joint ever smoked outside Vietnam" (Georg Seesslen). Thomann is arrested. At the trial Thomann is conspicuously quiet. He is sentenced to three months in jail. He reads Pasolini and Kim Il-Sung, whom he admires for his "expressionist style", and gives himself the alias Weltliteratur (World Literature).
From his cell he sends regular letters to the prison director, later also to the Social Democrat Minister of the Interior, in which he complains about the "tame conditions" and the "unbelievable slovenliness of the staff". He gives his first article after his term in jail the title Burt Lancaster Hatte Alcatraz (Burt Lancaster Had Alcatraz; published in the trendy Hamburg magazine Lupo). The article "would have, had he been significant, finally brought him ostracism by the RAF – or at least criticism from the radical left" (Fudd #8). Thomann never writes for Fudd again.
Spring 1971: Brief stay in Amsterdam for Bavarian radio.
Thomann visits Sound = Sight. Three Audio Visual Projects in the Stedeljik Museum.
Thomann writes a less than benevolent critique. (The closing sentence to the article: "They should have invited me.")
In May 1971 Thomann is invited to participate at Experimenta 4, T.A.T. Frankfurt. Thomann's installation is called Positronengehirn (Positron-Brain). Thomann meets Valie Export and offers to help with her performance Eros/ion.
17th October 1971: Sun-Ra concert in Donaueschingen. Meets Karl-Heinz Stockhausen, the famous lawn scene. ("There was trouble." Peter Brautigam in Komm Küssen #1)
Contact with the conductor Krysztof Penderecki.
On 4th December 1971 the first branch of McDonald's opens in Germany (on Martin-Luther-Strasse in Munich).
With the help of the Viennese butcher Jirí Sukop he uses a circular saw to cut the McDonald's logo out of several sides of beef. Thomann and friends carry these up and down Martin-Luther-Strasse.
"I had recently reckoned up with nature in the BRD, i.e. with plants. But meat is no better. Our cows scream for napalm over Vietnam just as they screamed before for the B-52 over Korea; they scream for the USA, even in Austria and all the more so for the Yanks in Vietnam in the BRD, ask Jirí. And also the workers in the West, perhaps all over the world, are doing the same; they are all screaming for the Yanks in Vietnam, and also for the Germans in Vietnam, and the Austrians and so on. And the RAF is fighting in Vietnam, too, and if they had napalm then they would use it and remove all the foliage in Germany, and then they would finally be ... art, theory and practise in one. In an art historical dimension. That would then be Kant to the power of three. Maybe to the power of n." (interview on Austrian radio)
On 27th February 1972 Thomann throws four kilos of pepper from the Olympia Tower in Munich. He is filmed by the experimental filmmaker Sandra Berchtold (Serschant Pfeffer, Berchtold 1972).
Thomann designs the slide-show Fettauge for the Munich Musik Dia Licht (Music Slide Light) Film Festival.
On 30th June 1972 Documenta 5 opens in Kassel. Thomann is invited (with other painters, such as Charles Close) and is supposed to exhibit his painting Anna. However this does not happen: In the course of Documenta 5 Thomann finally breaks with the notion of linearity, dichotomies, the dichotomy of 'going further', as described by Diedrich Diederichsen in his book Sexbeat. 1972 Bis Heute.
Ken Kesey enters the scene. Thomann knows him from Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
"I've just seen a speaker standing in front of me up here ... I couldn't understand what he said ... but I still have the tone of his voice in my ear ... and I could hear how your echo came back at him ... and I could see the gestures ... and I could see the way his chin jutted out ... like this ... silhouetted against the sky ... and you know who I saw ... and who I heard? ... Mussolini ... I've just seen and heard Mussolini here ... a couple of minutes ago ... Oh well ... He's playing their game for them..." (Ken Kesey)
Gottfried Bechtold conceived a conceptual performance for the Documenta that attracted a great deal of attention. Thomann followed Bechtold's work and reflected on his own Paris recordings, saw in them the notion of 'further', turned down the invitation to the Documenta but still went to Kassel. Thomann visits the sites of the exhibitions (Museum Fridericianum, Friedrichsplatz and the Neue Galerie).
Gottfried Bechtold's contribution to the Documenta is under the motto 'Surveillance', Big Brother. He walks all day for the entire duration of the exhibition (100 days) in Kassel and has his whereabouts announced over a Tannoy on an hourly basis. In addition, he makes notes of the announcements and files them meticulously away: "Herr Bechtold is currently on Marktplatz". Thomann, influenced by Foucault, sees Bechtold's action as a ridiculous stage-managing of representation. Thomann does not seem willing to embark on any further struggles in the dialectic arena (the disappointing encounter with Gudrun Nabermeyer and his inability to access commune life are also contributing factors).
Didi Bruckmayr writes in an analysis published in Skug #4 (1991): "Thomann's action consisted of trying to contact Bechtold, orientating himself strictly according to the announcements on the Tannoy. With no concrete aim, but equipped with a tape recorder and tapes so that he could provide continual documentation of his own search. Unfortunately the tapes are not available for inspection so it is not known what form the documentation actually took or whether Thomann also added his own commentary and observations. It is also not clear whether or not he continued working on the tapes afterwards, perhaps adding a commentary. In any case, the action had to be interrupted after two and a half weeks. On 3rd August he was, as Karner remarked, back in Munich. The reason was clearly the enormous stress that Thomann had to deal with each day."
"The only thing I have against this social information is that it doesn't permit me to also carry around the equipment to prove the simulated factor, virtual/simulative", says Thomann in 1972, in the only known commentary of the happening (Münchner Bote). His disappearance, his absence appears to have gone down largely uninterrupted. In any case, there are no reports of the project to be found in the usual sources. The reels of tape have disappeared.
"...Here the same motif of going under, of disappearing, is recognisable that was tested in his 1969 happening in Paris Le Dieu Inconnu. The issue addressed is that of the (impossible) documentation of one's own disappearance, what Heinz Karner termed "claustrophobic caries": slowly being eaten away, to an extent it is an active refusal to employ personal hygiene measures. So as not to allow this to be taken metaphorically and so to render it significant as cultural critique, which would eventually require a 're-emergence', there was no longer a notion of 'going further' – but also none of 'going back'. Perhaps Thomann does not wish to appear so dichotomous and so consistent in the concrete situation. The breech begun on a theoretical level appears in retrospect, however, to have been final on a personal level..." (Source: RE-PLAY. Anfänge Internationaler Medienkunst In Österreich, published by the Generali Foundation, Vienna)
August 1972 (Primarily as a reaction to the hysteria surrounding the Olympic Games) Peter Grabner (Nuremberg actor), Jürgen Benedikt (Bavarian Radio technician) and Thomann begin work on the radio play Edelhagen. It tells Kurt Edelhagen's story, the swing composer of the great "1972 influx of all nations".
The assault on the Olympic Village in early September, however, leads to a radical change in the play's theme. The Edelhagen project is drawn to a halt.
In September 1972 Thomann collaborates on a few music productions in the circle around Cluster, Faust (handles the doctored cement mixer in a few live performances) and the group Amon Düül II, who have converted to become neo-hippies.
Thomann earns some money with voice work for plays produced by Bavarian Radio. He features anonymously.
October 1972: Grabner, Benedikt and Thomann begin work on Molch (original title: Keiner Willy Brandt – No Willy Brandt).
27th October 1972: Opening of the exhibition at the Munich gallery Roksa with the installation project Krakatau. Thomann distributes flysheets on which he declares that he "no longer care[s] about anything anymore" and that he is giving the installation away "to the first person that trips over it". Chaos outside the gallery and a small photograph in the Munich Arbeiterzeitung.
5th December 1972: Questionnaire in the magazine Zeit. Thomann praises Franz-Joseph Strauss (minister of Bavaria) for his haircut. He explains that he has never made any art but that he is going to start doing so. Thomann forbids himself to "produce music" for an unspecified period of time.
10th December 1972: Invitation to Vienna. Thomann meets the video artist Richard Kriesche at a panel discussion. The Arbeiterzeitung writes: "An enthusiastic exchange of ideas between two people who have nothing else to say to one another."
January 1973: Thomann, Grabner and Benedikt finish work on Molch. Excerpts of the play, which lasts several hours, are broadcast on 5th January 1975 on Bavarian Radio. The critiques are lukewarm. "A fatal lack of interest combined with hopeless sloth," writes, for instance, Gustav Kraner of the Salzburger Nachrichten.
On 14th February 1973 Thomann presents his sculpture Das Dritte Auge (The Third Eye) at the Freisach Gallery in Munich. It consists of an antique looking statue of a woman with an oscillator as a head. During the opening speech Thomann attempts to short-circuit the piece by pouring olive oil over it.
The FAZ sees in this act, "saving the honour of a piece in bad taste."
Thomann writes an article about the Sioux in the Marburg alternative newspaper Lepra when, on 1st March, a few hundred armed Sioux Indians stage a sit-in at Wounded Knee in the American state of South Dakota. They are protesting against conditions in their reservations on the site of one of the last massacres of Native Americans in 1890.
Thomann closes his critical text with the announcement of situationist activities in Munich. He is planning to distribute flysheets on which passers-by are encouraged to "bear the pain" as they are all "red indians".
Thomann is invited to participate in the exhibition Neue Medien – Neue Methoden at the Bregenz fringe festival (to be held in Palais Thurn und Taxis, Bregenz). Work is also to be shown by Gottfried Bechtold, Heinz Gappmayr, Taka Imura, Urs Lüthi, Fred Sandback and Franz Erhard Walther. Thomann declines.("I'm never going to show my face in Vorarlberg again!" Quoted by Peter Kienast).
Early April 1973: Thomann leaves Germany to travel to America. he makes this decision on hearing that the last of the GIs has left Vietnamese soil.
Thomann defines his departure to the USA as "fleeing for a further quarter of an hour with Warhol". While changing flights at New York he sees a television show where Iggy Pop is asked by the Stooges: "Mr. Pop, whom did you help?" To which he replies: "I think I helped wipe out the Sixties." Thomann takes a felt pen and writes "I wiped out world literature" on the television.
Initially he is planning to "only spend a couple of months" in the United States.
Thomann goes to San Francisco, where he moves into Douglas Houfman's/Craig McKenna's Nonterritorial, a small artists' commune on Height Street.
At the end of April he writes his short story United Karies ('Karies' as a reference to Heinz Karner), which is first published in 1978 by the small Berlin publishing house Edition St(r)ichpunkt.
In collaboration with Fred Dunnan, Thomann organises a series of lectures on Strategic Art at the California College of Arts and Crafts. The LA Times praises the lectures, saying: "We will never be surprised ever again".
On 8th July 1973 Thomann hears the news of Max Horkheimer's death.
He starts a collection of old photographs in memory of Max Horkheimer.
During the course of this work he has the idea for a long-term project, which he entitles Personal Deaths. Over the next two years he organises regular Personal Death Events at the Proper Gallery in San Francisco, where he recounts his own memories of people who have died recently in a slow, monotonous voice. In this context he performs the deaths of Pablo Picasso, Max Horkheimer, Ingeborg Bachmann, Duke Ellington, Erich Kästner and Charles Lindbergh.
"The strong preoccupation with sentimentality and demise, which I above all encountered during the period in San Francisco, discharged itself in the form of death performances. In a complete trance I urinated several times onto photographs of Kästner; I ate the famous photograph taken after Lindbergh's landing in Europe."
The US Congress forced Nixon to stop bombing in Cambodia from 15th August. Subsequently Thomann records the video 12. The video consists of various random stills in rapid succession, all of which contain the number '12' (on billboards, menus, car number plates etc.).
"12 was the number of years the American intervention in Indo-China had lasted. I wanted to preserve this number and combine it with the nation's everyday experience. The number 12 represents the beginning and the end of the American dream. Soaked full, puked out."
August 1973: Thomann moves into an apartment on Delaney Avenue in San Jose.
At the end of September he starts work on his book The Past And The Future.
In a letter to Margot Morauer, Thomann refers to himself as "distended".
On 2nd December 1973, during a panel discussion on Energy War at California State University (Hayward), Thomann coins the phrase 'the petrol-based life-form'.
From January 1974, alongside his work as an artist, Thomann is engaged as an art critic for the American magazine Newsweek. His texts on contemporary art are, inter alia, published in Art Forum.
Good Gifts For Oyster Oilers (his first review) comes under heavy attack. The editor is delighted.
January/February 1974: Coast to coast tour from San Jose to New York. Newsweek provides him with a Jeep as Thomann had promised "to find even the most obscurely situated art". In Los Alamos he meets the peace activist Ed Grothus and sees his collection of atomic waste. Thomann proposes writing a major cover story for Newsweek entitled Atomic Ed, Radical Trash Artist. But he is told to stop working on the story immediately.
End of February 1974: Travels to New York, where Thomann spends two months. He had gone there at the invitation of Gallery Bonino, where he exhibits the sculpture Telly and meets Nam June Paik for the first time in person.
The New Yorker is enthusiastic about Telly, praising the: "superb technical achievement and critical homogeneity", also saying that the "aspect involving the mechanical dog at the centre of the structure is particularly interesting."
Influenced by Pryne David's Pra, which he realised for the Washington channel W.T.O.P-TV in 1971, Thomann also wants to experiment with the "de-massification" of television as a mass media in the Bay Area too. His project Dad Dee is realised on 4th January 1974 on K.T.N.F. Oakland.
On 21st February 1974 William Friedkin's horror movie The Exorcist premieres in the cinema. Its release had already been pre-empted by protests against the excessive violence shown. Thomann goes to see the film and takes Super-8 shots. He combines these in a montage with footage of homeless people. During the presentation of his film at the Mayfield Gallery in Palo Alto, Thomann reads out excerpts from Moby Dick and the Constitution of the United States of America.
"It was drastic but necessary. I felt good. I'd done something. It was a cleverly integrated act of self-deception. I wanted to be an American artist. And yet I was just another idiot after all."
At the end of March he returns to California.
On April 4th 1974 Patricia Hearst announces that she wants to join the Symbionese Liberation Army. The SLA had kidnapped the daughter of the media baron Randolph Hearst on 4th February 1974 and demanded a ransom with which they planned to buy food for the needy in California.
Thomann is impressed by the situation but feels that he needs to go deeper into Hearst's role and the media coverage ("Media Buttocks!"). He runs through the campus at Berkeley and makes copies of flysheets on which he officially declares that he is in love with Patricia Hearst. He proclaims that from now on he will be celebrating Valentine's Day on April 4th. He constructs a mobile shrine in an old Ford decorated with paper hearts, plastic flowers and toy guns. The exploit becomes known under the title First Campus Happening. A student newspaper describes the happening as "incomplete and uncritical prudery". Thomann describes the responsible journalist Casey Londale as a "cash cunt".
Thomann makes a gift of the car to the Mayfield Gallery.
May 1974: Through the video artist Pete Hume, Thomann manages to contact a circle of technically adept hackers. Even though Thomann described himself at the time as "technical dilettante, unable to escape his own European-ness" (Art Forum, 3/89), the contact is a fruitful one.
The result is Thomann's short story World Game.
Thomann is confronted with computer networks for the first time at Berkeley University, for instance in the network games played by students in the university computer lab.
"These trans-spatial games suddenly confronted me with a whole new view of the world. World Game is a literary reflection of this experience."
May 1974: Thomann finishes planning the satellite performance Globetrotting.
He is supported in the venture by the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas, and its director James Hariths, who had established the first video department at the Everson Museum in Syracuse.
"I desperately wanted to do something with satellites. They represented the great unknown, it made them exotic. I wanted to use one as a means of distribution for a very avant-garde, conceptual video, one that nobody would expect or want. I wanted to get out, I wanted to move into absolutely geometric space." (Thomann in conversation with the filmmaker Kathrin Resetarits, 1998)
Thomann meets Ted Dabney of Atari. With Dabney he designs the video sculpture Nevermore Nuppy NBC for the Mojo Art Festival (San Francisco, 4th-16th June).
"From a historical perspective, media art as it is represented today can be divided into three periods, separated by sudden advances in media technology for instance: The early analogue electronic art (video and television projects as well as early net and telecommunications projects) which were based on media-critical positions and an inventive spirit in the sixties and seventies. The middle, digital (i.e. computer-based) media art with its focus on the possibilities for an interaction between programmes and users, and on so-called 'interactive' installations and environments. Finally, there is the internet phase with its hypertext-like, networked structure, the basis for the phenomenon of net culture as well as for net art. For a long time, right into the eighties, I failed to recognise that I had been stuck in the media-critical phase." (Art Forum, 3/99)
Thomann carries a life-sized crucifix through the campus at Berkeley. Telephone receivers are nailed to Jesus' hands. (Second Campus Happening, 1st August 1974)
December 1974: Craig McKenna, Hannah Perch and Thomann realise the project Collateral Crunch.
"Collateral Crunch was one of the most beautiful projects of the time. The installation was financed by Nolan Bushnell of Atari, whom we were able to fascinate with the concept. Collateral Crunch was an eleven metre high steel structure in the shape of a clenched fist with an integrated Tesla-spool that we erected at the harbour in Oakland. We worked on it for four months. Craig ran back and forth dressed as a smooth moderator in a fluffy red suit with a raw turkey in his hands, and provided the commentary to the Collateral Crunch Show. It was an incredibly powerful event. Similar performances were later to be realised in the early eighties by Craig McKenna and Mark Pauline (Industrial Research Labs) and the Cacophony Society (the Burning Man Festivals from 1985). But I had lost interest in the whole thing by then. It was over. It was too seventies.
January 1975: "During an interview for the San Francisco Chronicle I was asked about the political situation in Germany. The arrests of several members of the RAF, the Peter Lorenz Action, the 2nd June Movement etc. I replied, being provocative of course, that I wasn't interested in any of that. I was quoted on this for years to come. But at the time I wanted to get our positions the right way round: I wasn't there to tell the Yanks about the RAF, they should've been telling me all about the Black Panthers."
Thomann completes work on The Past And The Future.
The book is published in English in February 1975 (by HarperCollins) and in German in April of the same year (by Pranke, Stuttgart).
Thomann moves to New York in February 1975.
He enters into an informal collaboration with art groups like the Video Freex and Raindance. The result is five editions of the Transition Tapes by the end of April:
- Transition One
- Transition More
- Transition Less
- Detransition – Weinstein Sighs
- Jupiter Five
April 1975: As part of the group of artists NY OFF, Thomann calls a press conference on 3rd April, where he expresses the wish to sink New York into the ocean ("Wipe it out water! Clean it up! Waste to waste! You mighty Atlantic!"). He makes a collage wall-hanging out of the various responses in the press.
"I felt a need to move images, ideas, sounds through the walls of the so-called 'media categories'. I have never really ever done anything in only one medium. Instead I have thoroughly enjoyed combining video or web-video or websites with drawings, photographs, printing, objects and theatre. I am interested in destroying the media. 'The massage is the medium', is at least what I said to McLuhan's daughter, who was a friend of mine back in the seventies. She agreed. The other myth about me is that my work is dedicated to 'communication'. I don't believe in communication! I believe in the great adventure: making an attempt at communication, especially over large distances, whether these are temporal, linguistic, spatial, geographic or gender-based. That's a particular challenge. It almost never works except for a brief moment or two. Shit, I look for those seconds. A rolling stone gathers no moss." (Excerpt from an interview for Art Forum, 8/99)
May 1975: Thomann is indicted for physical assault for beating up the lorry driver Barry Wolping at a bar in Queens. The reason for the attack is unknown. Thomann has to pay 3,500 dollars damages and faces bankruptcy.
Patricia Hearst is arrested on 19th September. Jupiter Sex is completed shortly afterwards (as the 6th part of the Transition Tapes), initially only in a working copy.
Pier Paolo Pasolini is murdered on 1st November. Jupiter Seven is dedicated to him posthumously. The Transition Tapes series is complete. The New York artist couple Melanie and Charlton Kellis finance Jupiter Sex and Jupiter Seven.
At the end of November Melanie and Charlton Kellis take Thomann with them to CBGB's, where the group Suicide is performing. During the concert the lead singer Alan Vega attacks members of the audience who are not watching, and throttles them with the microphone cable. Thomann is among them: "In a way, it was a total emancipation from the stance that one had somehow adopted when that singer, Alan Vega, attacked me directly. It was something new, different, wild, immediate, dangerous, sexy. The artwork hits back! Then I realised that the music to come had to function differently. At that moment I knew that there was another kind of energy in the whole rock thing, one that can function on a 'the medium-is-the-message' kind of a level. And that somehow changed my whole life completely. And, above all, it changed my approach to music. From that point on I stopped trying to make music with electronic equipment, I wanted to make electronic equipment with music. What I mean are very specific conditions of social intensity." (Quoted from a conversation with the American performance artist Ruth Jesus in Transpect, 1992)
As a direct result of the "Suicide experience" Thomann lifts his self-imposed ban on "music production" dating from 5th December 1972. ("Back to Bertelsmann!")
In December 1975 Thomann begins working on his film project Becoming Beast – The False, Part 1.
January 1976: On 12th January George Gallagher's play Prawn premieres at the Dandy Theater. Thomann performs the role of the 'nameless banker' four times.
"I was more and more bored by America. I wouldn't leave home for days on end except to go shopping. The New York euphoria had faded away quickly. I felt uneasy, empty; it made me sick. I was running up and down Fifth Avenue swearing at passers-by in my Vorarlberg dialect. I felt like Walter Matthau in Bern." (Dobie Magazine, 1993)
On 13th April 1976, the verdict of the Hearst trial is awaited in San Francisco. Although having planned his departure from the United States for weeks, Thomann wants to finish his project on Hearst. He travels to San Francisco, where he runs up and down in front of the courthouse, screaming and spraying "Last Chance" on the pavement in enormous letters. As the verdict is announced – Hearst gets 35 years in prison – he purloins the Ford 'shrine' from the Mayfield Gallery and tries to sink it in the bay. He is taken into custody for five days. ("I felt like Bern in Walter Matthau.") He finally leaves the States ("I spared myself the bicentenary celebrations.").
In the middle of April 1976 Thomann visits several renowned artists in Yugoslavia; it is rumoured that he also met the artist/intellectual Goran Dordevic. Among other activities they drive in a large Skoda van to the original set locations of the Winnetou films near the Plitvice lakes. Dordevic's painting Win Tito is dedicated to Thomann (according to Südkunst 80, ed. Fred Korner).
Beginning of May, 1976: Thomann arrives in London. At first he lives in the post-hippie Relay commune that had formed around Ken Granger and Ariadne George, and takes part in their Commune-Non-Communicate experiments: planned week-long suspensions of communication between the communards. In a programmatic text the aim of this action is defined as: "To not have any Selbsterfahrung for several weeks." The experiment is stopped when the sixteen year-old drug addict Meryll Parish attacks Ken Granger with a knife on the evening of May 18th 1976 and the latter is severely wounded.
During Ken Granger's trial for indecently assaulting a minor Thomann meets the London-based psychiatrist Thornton Stark, who has published several papers on 'schizo-analysis' and 'anti-psychiatry'. Having just curated an exhibition on the art of psychiatric patients in care, Stark invites Thomann to the opening of the show in the Perjury Arts Gallery, where Michel Foucault is holding a lecture. Thomann subsequently begins to take an interest in what he refers to as "the art of minorities".
July 1976: Visits Malcolm McLaren's Sex Boutique. Plans to edit a situationist magazine together; McLaren introduces Thomann to recordings of the group Sex Pistols; Thomann suggests recruiting the Brazil-based Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs as a vocalist for a project with the band.
Together with several regulars at McLaren's Boutique, among them the later singer of the Ashtrays, Pat Riot, Thomann founds the punk band Bourgeois Guillotines; two concerts at the Roxy during July and August.
11th August 1976: Performance In the Ghetto/6 Elvis Impersonators Can't Be Wrong in the Laundromess club in Soho: six deaf and dumb Elvis impersonators appear and perform Elvis' lyrics in sign-language accompanied by the avant-garde jazz band Nasal Five-O-Clock-Bop playing Dixieland versions of some of Elvis' hits. Thomann fades in original newsreel sound footage of the London bombing. One of the Elvis impersonators is hurt by a bottle thrown by one of the punks in the audience. After the concert Thomann meets Genesis P. Orridge, who shows a great empathy for the performance and introduces Thomann to recordings of Throbbing Gristle.
"When I first met Thomann he seemed to glow from within like a heretic on the stake. When I last met him three months ago he was a burnout. All the life had vanished from his eyes." (Genesis P. Orridge in Wreckers Of Civilisation)
September 1976: Thomann meets the art student Doris Lasser at the Robo Art exhibition in the legendary Discharge Gallery. She is showing a film collage about her bulimia (Women Vomit For Their Rights).
October 1976: The Bourgeois Guillotines record the single Dresden Bombs Got Me Down/Don't Blame The Messenger, Shoot Him/Wreck The Structures/Northern Industries, which is then released by Casual Records in April 1977. The cover features one of Thomann's collages, which shows the head of Joseph Beuys exploding. Below it says: "This is not a pipe! It's Joseph Beuys' head exploding."
Winter 1976: Together with Doris Lasser, Thomann relocates to a farm in Essex where he experiments with synthesisers. As a result of his punk experiences his concept of electronic music takes a new turn. Thomann takes up painting again.
During a visit to London he contacts the artist group Art & Language. He subsequently publishes the essays The Micropolitics Of The Shellac Record as well as The Non-Sociologic Concept Of Modern Communication in their magazine of the same name; Mayo Thompson invites Thomann to participate in recording sessions with the band The Red Crayola.
On 3rd February 1977 Thomann circulates a mass letter including the text Rückzug Als Umland (Withdrawal As Environment).
In March 1977 Thomann records a piece of experimental music called Duo Für Einen Zahnarztbohrer Und Einen Schwitzenden Patienten (Duo For A Dentist's Drill And A Sweating Patient.
24th June 1977 to 2nd October 1977: Participates in Documenta VI. On the occasion of the kidnapping of H.M. Schleyer in September Thomann spontaneously destroys his "post-media critical" (Hajo Schönherr in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) installation Einsilbiger Ranschmiss Auf Dem Tabular Der Angst- Und Freudenballistik. Affirmation Ist Die Radikalste Form Der Affirmation – Kritik Ist Die Zweitradikalste Form Fer Kritik (Taciturn Coquetry On The Tabular Of The Ballistics Of Fear And Joy – Affirmation Is The Most Radical Form Of Affirmation – Criticism Is The Second Most Radical Form Of Criticism) as well as his displayed paintings Fick Mich, Blinky Palermo (Fuck Me, Blinky Palermo), Nackte Japanerin Fotographiert Eine Suppendose (Nude Japanese Woman Photographing A Soup Can), Ratlos: Documenta-Chef Manfred Schneckenburge (Perplexed: Documenta Boss Manfred Schneckenburger), Kriegsversehrter Vor Francis-Bacon-Bild (Disabled War-Veteran In Front Of Painting By Francis Bacon) and Asynodisches Verhalten Für Alle (Asynodic Behaviour For Everyone). He declares this action to be an installation called Schleyer Der Maya (Schleyer Of The Mayas). Thomann also distributes wanted posters around the entire site of the Documenta showing a photograph of Schleyer with the caption "Runaway Dog! Answers to the Name of Hansi." Some of the posters are also hung over the works of other artists. At the last possible moment the Documenta management is able to prevent Anselm Kiefer from suing for damages, because a restorer from Frankfurt manages to restore Kiefer's painting Nibelung Melancholia to its original state without any significant residual damage. The media response to Thomann's action is enormous. The headline of Bildzeitung reads: "That's Enough! Art Tramp Slanders Kidnapped Employer's President." In the Tageschau the newscaster Karl-Heinz Klöppke talks about "a derailment unparalleled in modern art", and the Christian-Democratic politician Friedrich Zimmermann publicly demands that Thomann is banned from the Documenta.
24th November 1977: With an installation called Schleyer-Haft, Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! – Let's Figure Them Out! (Haft = detainment; Schleierhaft = mysterious) on the occasion of an exhibition at the Henschke Gallery in Dusseldorf, Thomann refers to Schleyer's abduction once again. The work consists of a platform with a bathtub on it which contains plywood panels, screws, a coat rack, brown stain for wood etc. A sign says: "This tub contains – actual size – the basic materials for a standard built-in wardrobe. If it had been built the following kidnapped persons out of absolutely contemporary history [sic] could have been locked up inside until their execution. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" Then follows a list of nearly 200 names of politicians and celebrities, among which are those of Karl-Heinz Köpke, Friedrich Zimmermann, Anselm Kiefer etc. The police search the home of the gallery owner, Hansmartin Henschke, as well as the home of a member of the artist group Minus Delta t where Thomann has stayed during his visit to Germany, but the searches are fruitless.
January 1978: The relationship with Doris Lasser is in a state of crisis; a false pregnancy follows and finally they split up.
Thomann buys a Korg MS-20 synthesiser; he records the piece Frauen Für Schlechte Tage (Women For Bad Days), which later serves as the name of a Berlin band associated with the Ingenious Amateurs. Shortly after the track is released under the project title The Year 2525 on the audio cassette sampler Fruchtsäfte Für Autofahrer (Fruit Juices For Car Drivers) by the Rhosa Khmer label (Bremen, 1980).
3rd March: Stage appearance with the radical noise band Favourite Mishearings in the Death-Music Live-Festival at the London location Warsaw (with Throbbing Gristle, Chromosome $, Durutti Column, among others). The band consists of Allan Bannister, the Japanese art student Hoki Yakusata and Thomann playing the oscillator.
April 1978: Synthie pop with the Dispatched Structures In The Dark (who consolidate as Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark after Thomann leaves); the 7" single Agriculture Is Revolutionary Art (Solipsist Product, 1978) sets texts by Kropotkin on the question of agriculture in Russia to music.
July 1978: Thomann brings out a 10" record of experimental synthesiser music called The London Symphonic Organ: Don't Talk (Linguistics Is A Rontgen-Machine Held By The Police) [sic; note: Röntgen = X-Ray in German] with Norman Carter's label Face-Off. The cover shows a collage that depicts Allen Ginsburg's head exploding.
August 1978: Thomann leaves London to temporarily settle down in Vienna, but keeps up his contacts with the London punk and art scenes. Among other activities he takes part in the recordings of Red Crayola's LP Kangaroo? With Jowe Head of the Swell Maps he records the 12" single Smashfish. The cover art shows one of Thomann's collages with Moby Dick's head exploding.
After two years of work Thomann finishes Becoming Beast – The False, Part 1.
In Vienna Thomann gets in touch with local artists. He meets the art students Anton Hofer and Jiri Wechselberger at Café Marat and introduces them to records of the Damned and the Adverts in his apartment. Both seem spontaneously enthused and only a few weeks later they found The Violents (later renamed Tote Donau and Ernste Jugend), probably the first Viennese punk band ever.
As a reaction to his own past as an art student in Vienna, Thomann records a single with Xao Seffcheque which they release themselves: The Valuable Social Comments: "A Cheap Holiday In Erich Huber's And Albert Paris Gütersloh's Misery." Falter writes: "The Valuable Social Comments are the Fugs of punk rock; beatnik folk lined with machine gun-like drum rolls." The cover shows a collage by Thomann in which Rainer Werner Fassbinder's head is exploding.
Becoming Beast – The False, Part 1 premieres on 5th September 1978 at a small Paris cinema called Truq. Thomann is absent. The film runs for five weeks.
November 1978: Aburteilung Adalbert Stifter (Adalbert Stifter On Trial). It is a piece of action theatre with Herbert Potlatsch and Ecki Ströwe at the Freie Bühne Wien.
"For an endless two and a half hours we have to experience the Austrian folk writer Adalbert Stifter (hardly convincingly acted by rock comedian Stefan Weber) being arrested in his bed by a not clearly designated militia wearing futuristic uniforms, and then being dragged before a revolutionary tribunal where he receives a 'historic-critical' – unfortunately this still means 'dialectic-materialistic' here – trial in the name of 'the people' because of his novel Der Nachtsommer (The Nightsummer). What might be understood as an ironical side-swipe at so-called 'documentary theatre' soon dissolves into an unsavoury, long-winded and confusing choreography. A chorus of Brechtian elements (what an outrageous platitude!) which recites inconsistencies to English hard rock music is likely to end up as a drama-historic storm in a teacup. Equally obscure is the jury's decision: Stifter (1805-1868) is accused of having made a strong literary effort for the realisation of the dignity of human reason, the human capacity for self-fulfilment as well as the educational impact of art. Hence he deserves to be hanged during the course of a Bacchanal feast which is again staged to the accompaniment of English hard rock. No wonder that during the interval about two thirds of the audience decided to spend the remaining evening at the café next door." (E. Bauer in Die Presse, 12th November 1978)
January 1979: Thomann travels to San Diego.
In a performance entitled Personal Death Events Revisited staged at the premises of the bookstore collective Nonidiomatic Depressions of the North, Thomann attempts to cry in public over the deaths of Gudrun Ensslin, Adorno, Freud and August Macke.
"I wore my grandmother's wedding dress. She passed away in January 1978, exactly one year before the performance. I had my face painted yellow to commemorate the victims of the Maoist revolution. Primarily, this was meant to remind myself of their fate. I believe that death in our society can never be taboo enough, so I wanted to develop and represent the most cramped relation with death. Hence the death of my grandmother, whom I actually saw for the last time at the age of ten because since 1960 she had been living in a home and my parents had never tried to get in touch with her for family reasons. The key point was to be all tensed up just remembering all those people I actually had nothing to do with during my entire life. And I also hoped to ridicule myself with this action. Unfortunately the audience got it all wrong and they all remained very quiet, instead of cheering me on as I had hoped. The performance was a failure in practical terms, although I had made an effort to provide free beer and had an ice-cream vendor walking around. The latter was the free jazz trombonist Emerson Albukirky, whom I had often worked with before." (Thomann in an interview with G. Schöllhammer, Springerin, 1999)
March 1979: Back in Vienna Thomann appears as a dancer with Drahdiwaberl and begins to engage with the emerging Viennese punk and new-wave scene. In June he begins to co-edit the Vienna punk and art magazine Der Ismus.
The audiocassette samplers Überstunden Der Angst (Overtime Of Fear) and Wien-Morbeat are released under the Gwirkst label, containing several pieces originating from projects Thomann had participated in (with Winterhilfswerk, Glutamat Rund and The Nachgeburt, among others). Notably I Hate Rock'n'Roll by The Nachgeburt represents one of the first pieces to use computer language software (note: in contrast to the Vocoder experiments of Kraftwerk). Over a monotonous new wave riff the software recites: "I Hate Rock'n'Roll/It's a Bourgeois Ideology/For Conservative People, Baby!"
May 1979: Appearance at the Muzkack festival for new music in Vienna with the group André Hitler. In July the concept album Wollt Ihr Die Totale Phantasie (Do You Want The Total Fantasy) is released on Imbus-Records in Linz including tracks critical of the Austrian songwriter culture, with titles such as Phantasie Macht Frei (Imagination Makes You Free), Volk Ohne Phantasie (A People Without Imagination), Phantasieunwertes Leben (Life Not Worthy Of Imagination), Phantasie Befiel, Wir Folgen (Imagination Commands, We Follow), Wir Werden Weiter Phantasieren, Bis Alles In Scherben Fällt (We'll Keep Up Our Imagination Till Everything Falls To Pieces). "Total madness! Alongside original newsreel sound footage of the London bombing we hear André Heller singing: 'bewitched, bewitched, bewitched in the mists...' On top of it somebody cries out a sentence from the French post-structuralist Lucienne Kléber: 'Marx, c'est de la merde!' Art or pop? That is the question here." (Marcel Kollatschek in the magazine Der Ismus)
On 4th June the Viennese bard André Heller sues for an injunction against Thomann and the experimental musician Andy Holzer from Linz, which he finally obtains. The yet undelivered part of the record's edition has to be destroyed. Wollt Ihr Die Totale Phantasie has fetched prices in excess of 100 Euros at recent auctions.
Ars Electronica 1979: Projekt: Bibelverfilmung (Project: Bible Screen Adaptation). Thomann shoots a film following the Bible page for page in minuscule detail, "at reading pace", which is projected simultaneously on several walls of the Brucknerhaus in Linz as well as via satellite on rented advertising hoardings in Bombay, Kabul, and Kyoto (made possible by a new video projection technology developed by Jerry Crestnik). This "neo-realistic social thriller" (Waltraut Schöffe in the Viennese art fanzine Der Kleine Bellizist – Culture As Fuck) is underpinned by a soundtrack with cattle being slaughtered with real guns and tape-recorded footage from the seminars of Jacques Lacan, Lucienne Kléber, and Michel Serres.
After Projekt: Bibelverfilmung Thomann meets Peter Weibel, at that time professor of media art at the Gesamthochschule in Kassel. Weibel is impressed by Thomann's "virtual sculpture, which turns Andy Warhol upside down" (Weibel in Dossier). Together they found the journal Rotes Rauschen – Die Politik Der Medien – Die Medien Der Politik (Red Noise – The Politics Of Media – The Media Of Politics) that aims at "combining the work of Marx, Virilio, Sid Vicious and Rupert Murdoch" (preface to the first issue).
"Damn, I really liked Weibel."
Renaming of the band André Hitler to 100 Wasser.
At the Vienna By Night festival in the U4 club the radically experimental music of 100 Wasser results in tumults among the audience. Thomann accuses the audience of being "bourgeois fuckers". There is a backstage fight with Tom Petting whom he calls a "fucking Nazi arsehole".
Renaming of the band to Der Arische Brauer. The songwriter Arik Brauer does not sue them, but he does express his pity for Thomann in an interview with the Kurier newspaper. ("If he wants to be provocative, he should be provocative, but he should never assume that he is being original.") The band splits up shortly afterwards.
4th and 5th November 1979: Participates in Milan Kunc's Konsumistischer Demonstration (Consumerist Demonstration) in Wuppertal.
Becoming Beast – The False, Part 1 is shown for the first time in the German-speaking world (chiefly in small art cinemas).
In Meteor 4/96 the film theorist Alfred Barvinek concedes the following about Becoming Beast – The False, Part 1: "In 1979, as a fourteen year-old, I saw Thomann's experimental film Becoming Beast – The False, Part 1 in Linz as the B-movie to The Exorcist II: The Heretic (USA 1977, John Boorman). Naturally I was expecting a short, satanic film shocker instead of a cool experimental film, and so was rather surprised. From today's perspective I would say that the piece is a homage to Kenneth Anger, Jean-Luc Godard, Andy Warhol and Valie Export or, even better, an attempt to revive the genre of underground film. It is widely known that Thomann burnt the film in 1980: 'At that time I had personal reasons for coming back to film as a medium. However I soon noticed that the whole film thing is pretty used up. It wasn't enough to let it go in front of the camera anymore.' Until the year 2000 no copies of the film ever resurfaced. Birgit Hein wrote in a contemporary review (FAZ): 'Here the representation of reality is largely abandoned. Apart from the well-known technique of multiple exposures, Thomann elaborates on over- and underexposure, blurring and shots dissolved by light conditions, which he uses as new and purely cinematic means of expression.'
However Hein solely describes the structural facets of the film. What I also remember is that in thirteen one-minute chapters (the way of the Cross!) a man tries to mutilate his own body with several instruments but he always fails. At the same time the film material itself is exposed to the very same torture: it is mutilated and scratched. From the outset we hear text fragments taken from The Revelation Of St. John, Anti-Oedipus and Adorno's Negative Dialectics. The film was shot on the lookout platform of the Empire State Building in New York City. Surprised tourists emerge in the frame several times. This strategy means that the relationship between artistic calculus and pure chance becomes evident."
Thomann himself has frequently maintained that his film inspired Gilles Deleuze to write the sixth chapter of his book The Time-Image (1989): "Deleuze saw the film in Paris in 1978 and was quite enthusiastic about it. There is no doubt that my film has greatly inspired him. However, in the sixth chapter of the book in question it only mentions the big shots like Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, and Friedrich Nietzsche. This is simply because Deleuze had no specialised knowledge of experimental films whatsoever."
In 1998 Alfred Barvinek had already demanded an intensification of the discussion on this matter, especially with regard to the aesthetics of plagiarism in the discursive practices of documentary and experimental film: "With respect to Thomann's oeuvre, one should investigate how the strategies of plagiarism possibly intend a reunion of art and the real-life world, just as the traditional avant-garde had in mind earlier. This sheds a different light on Thomann's action during May 1981 in Club 2."
In December 1979 Thomann travels to London.
He designs the cover of the Pop Group's LP For How Much Longer Will We Tolerate Mass Murder and plays together with This Heat in one of the Peel Sessions.
The musician Franz Morak asks Thomann to design the cover for his first LP. Thomann absolutely hates the music and the quasi-critical attitude and tells Morak that he might as well ask Helnwein.
Thomann conceives the Mahn- And Warndreieck (Commemorative And Warning Triangle).
10th January 1980: Opening of the Inform exhibition at the Grazes Gallery in Munich. Übermalen Nach Zahlen – 33-45 (Painting Over by Numbers – 33-45). For this show Thomann buys paintings from obscure contemporary abstract painters, reworks them and displays them with new titles. Two of the artists sue him.
March 1980: Thomann meets Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen in Cologne. Joint exhibitions follow: Hals- Und Ebenenbruch (Fracture of Neck And Plane) at the Borkowski Gallery in Hanover (with Kippenberger, Tabea Blumenschein, Bohumil Pflug, Jürgen Horch, and Wolfgang Müller), and Dass Die Ausstellung Typisch Mann Ist, Ist Eine Einstellung, Die Typisch Frau Ist (That This Show Is Typically Male, Is an Attitude That Is Typically Female) at the Frankfurt Artists' Gallery (with Oehlen, Kippenberger, Walter Dahn, Svenja Schulte, and Horst Tsche Min). At the Frankfurt Forum Thomann shows a series of paintings entitled Todesfuge/Jingles (Fugue of Death/Jingles) in which he has designed advertisements on the basis of lines from Paul Celan's poem Die Todesfuge (The Death Fugue), e.g. adverts for long-life milk and a hair-toner. Ludwald Celan, the son of the poet, files sues Thomann for damages.
"Until the 1970s the spirit of modernity was always connected to concrete Utopias but then art experienced a much debated 'twilight of the gods' with regard to its values and the depletion of content in the strategies behind the idealism. Around 1980 this supposed mist of indifference is occupied by the vital theatrical will of a post avant-garde generation, so to speak. The new generation reveals the fragmented ego's potential for constructive energy, unravels its internal inconsistencies as worth unfolding and, thereby, destroys the intellectual comfort of an entire era – namely the late 60s, the historicity of which is now rendered fully transparent." (Jens Molzan in The 80s In Dusseldorf)
Early April 1980: A single by the conceptual band Austro Killer Satellite is released. It contains a track called Die Letzte Zigarettn (The Last Cigarette), which is a parody of a Wolfgang Ambros hit of the same title. The lyrics are comprised of fictitious reminiscences by several Austrian songwriters (Ludwig Hirsch, Georg Danzer, Wolfgang Ambros, Konrad Beikirchner) uttered just before their execution by the Austrian revolutionary people's tribunal. Ambros' original lines "Jetzt sitz ma do/Und rauchn de letzte Zigarettn/Und mir wissn/Glei fohrt der letzte Bus..." (Now there we sit/And smoke our very last cigarette/And we know/The last bus is soon to go...) become "Jetzt steh ma do/Und rauchn die letzte Zigarettn/Und mir wissn/Glei foit da letzte Schuss" (Now there we stand/And smoke our very last cigarette/We have transpired/The last shot will soon be fired). Wolfgang Ambros has the song banned by a court injunction.
27th April 1980: During a concert by the band Hallucination Company, Thomann reads out his Anti-Rockkabarett-Manifest (Anti Rock-Cabaret Manifesto), tumults, split with Stefan Weber. "At that time nobody knew what to do with Thomann anymore. He has been behaving strangely, uncooperatively" (Stefan Weber, Rennbahn Express, 3/1987).
May 1980: Thomann, Sammy Karstadt, Albert Oehlen, Werner Büttner, and Salomé jointly set up five simultaneous exhibitions at railway stations in Vienna, Hamburg, Wuppertal, Munich and Berlin. They display different abstract paintings similarly entitled Forward To The 80s With The Nostalgia Of Barbecue Machines, and intentionally accuse each other of plagiarism. Climax: during an interview on the TV programme Aspekte Sammy Karstadt (born Jürgen Schneiderbanger) accuses Thomann, Büttner, Oehlen, and Salomé of stealing his ideas, and calls them "scumbag revolutionary art fags". In the following broadcast four counter-charges are read out using exactly the same wording.
Thomann is not invited to the Ars Electronica 1980.
The performance Kunst. Spech. Akt. Porträt. Art Of The State Is The State Of The Art (Art. Spec. Nude. Portrait.). Thomann gives a television interview on the function and the role of art within bourgeois society while at the same time being anally penetrated by a seventeen year-old male prostitute. A scandal in the media when it turns out that the latter is the heroin-dependent son of the Lower Austrian chief prosecutor Adolph Hofner. In the course of the interview Thomann also starts the rumour that a Canadian artist has apparently constructed a machine that can decapitate somebody and mount a typewriter on their neck where their head had been – a procedure which the artist himself is finally said to have undergone. This rumour is still in circulation.
Only a week later Hofner's secret is revealed: "The action was faked from the beginning to the end. It was just a bizarre and unreal choreography – and the media acted like sheep: I had then eating out of my hand."
July 1980: The action Kunst Durch Anzeigen (Art By Denunciation): anonymously Thomann reports several of his neighbours in the fourth District of Vienna to the police for planting marijuana and possession of child pornography among other things. As a result the police search several apartments and Thomann films the procedure from the window of his home.
On 17th July Thomann suffers a collapse. He spends the remainder of the summer in the Kaiser Josef hospital in Vienna ("All that was left of me was mere flesh").
October 1980: Together with the Berlin based experimental musician Frieder Butzmann, Thomann records the album Butzmann/Thomann: Arbeitslosigkeiten (Unemployments). It is eventually released under the Zensor label in 1981.
From 13th November to 20th December 1980 the exhibition Mülheimer Freiheit & Interessante Bilder Aus Deutschland (Mühlheim Freedom & Interesting Paintings From Germany) is held at the Maenz Gallery in Cologne. The show features work by Hans Peter Adamski, Ina Barfuss, Peter Bömmels, Werner Büttner, Walter Dahn, Jiri Georg Dokupil, Georg Herold, Klaus 'Grätsche' Gärtner, Albert Oehlen, Resi Schmelzeimer, and others. Thomann also participates. But while for many of the young artists this exhibition is their first public presentation, which is why the show could later be seen as the initial appearance of an emerging new school of painting in Germany, Thomann's works are displayed under the pseudonym of Thomassio Pablo György. This is the result of "scepticism towards the very possibility of group-building, of the historical event, of the 'generation', of the 'future of painting' etc." (quoted from a conversation with Mario Herderstolze in: Bleep Generation). The following paintings are exhibited:
- Salzwasser In Seenot Bitte Nicht Trinken (Salt-Water In Distress Please Don't Drink)
- Wer Erschoss Immanenz? (Who Shot Immanence?)
- Formulargranate Für Den Unterleib Der Damenwelt (Form Grenade For The Abdomens Of All The Ladies)
- Selbstmörder Bei Der Kartoffelaussaat (Suicide Victim Sowing Potatoes)
- Humorvolles Negermalheur In Der Raiffeisenbank (Humorous Negro Mishap At The Raiffeisen Bank)
- Kissinger My Ass
- Poor Homesick American Soldier Is Seeking And Destroying Little Vietnamese Schoolgirls While Humming A Beach Boys Song
- Arithmetischer Sexual-Rhumba Für Funky Mulitversum (Arithmetic Sexual Rumba For Funky Mulitversum)
- Die Waltons – Dialektisch-Materialistisch-Anal (The Waltons – Dialectic-Materialistic-Anal)
- Frau Hümmer, Die Fensterputzende Monade (Frau Hümmer, The Window-Cleaning Monad)
- Die Geschichtlichkeit Baut Sich Einen Faschingswagen In Der Garage Von Joseph Beuys – Porträt (Historicity Builds Itself A Carnival Float In Joseph Beuys' Garage – Portrait)
- Stilleben Mit Sich Räkelnder Krise Vor Erdbeergefülltem Servierporzellan (Still Life with Sprawling Crisis in Front of Strawberry-Filled Dinner Service)
Through the mediation of Hans-Werner Henze the second German public channel ZDF broadcasts Thomann's experimental film Zugriff (Grasp) in the series Das Kleine Fernsehspiel. It shows the story of a Lower Austrian police officer (played by Werner Holm, an actor at the Vienna Burgtheater) who receives a new office computer. The latter turns out to be the bewitched media artist Peter Weibel (voice: Peter Weibel), who manages to persuade the policeman to kill his entire family. Fierce protests by the Catholic Church. The film includes footage of the Kunst Durch Anzeigen (Art By Denunciation) action.
January 1981: Stays in London. Participates in the production of a single by the Debord Guys entitled Unidentified Flying Objectivity (Don't Fuck With Pneuma Records). "A sort of strange novelty thing from outer space. Dilettantes playing pub-rock with Cantonese lyrics. The Slits meet Dr. Feelgood right in the face" (New Musical Express). As cover art one of Thomann's collages is used showing the explosion of Benny Hill's head.
"This single ties in with the concept of S-music, which I developed in co-operation with Reinhold Prosenc, 'superfluous music', avoid doing something that is 'important', which is in any sense of 'historical value' or is of any use to anybody. The total standstill. This attitude was subsequently adopted by all the German new wave bands. We just wanted to do something that nobody actually needed, that didn't represent anything and that certainly didn't inspire anybody to adopt a particular hair style or, even worse, a particular attitude. One hundred percent individuality, not just speaking for anybody else but as a strategic refusal of all the things happening at that time. All the differentiation between sub-sub-cultures, you know. Put briefly: the exact opposite of, say, Velvet Underground. That's why pub-rock and that's the reason for the Cantonese lyrics. And it was naturally connected to the 'new superfluity' that I had proclaimed together with Martin Kippenberger, the so-called 'Sism'. At that time we had already written the 'Sistic Manifesto' in Bielefeld." (Thomann interviewed by Martin Büsser/Testcard)
End of January 1981: Open letter to the director's office of the Ars Electronica:
"For once, please don't invite me to the Ars Electronica this year! Being present there again may shed a bad light on my status as an 'unsteady wanderer through the virtual worlds of (post-) modern art spaces' (Albert Neuruppin). People might think I had finally arrived somewhere. And I wouldn't like that. Thank you for your understanding and good luck again with this year's boozy discourse and the good old representations of representations of representations! Yours, Georgie"
February 1981: Diminutive Manifesto with Ainget R. Varencz and Thomas Benesch (published in Mondo Canibale), which is still committed to the ideas of Sism Central, claims: "Reality must be played down by any and all means possible!" and "Read more books of formulas!"
On 17th February 1981 the performance Wir Haben Euch Etwas Mitgebracht: Hasch! Hasch! Hasch! (We've Brought Something for You: Pot! Pot! Pot!) is carried out.
At a peace movement demonstration in the centre of Vienna, Thomann and Christoph Blonk dress up as members of the Christian initiative Pax Mondo and set up a booth offering free tea. They also distribute biscuits prepared with THC. Two demonstrators have to be taken to a psychiatric clinic. An investigation by the Viennese police ensues but does not produce any results.
March 1981: With Ainget R. Varencz and Thomas Benesch, Thomann coins the phrase 'Drop Art', an art movement with actions drawing on the discursive technique of so-called 'name dropping'. The first works are displayed in a show entitled Namedrops Are Falling On My Head in Kaiserslautern (Wack Gallery, April to May 1981). "A naked women with a pith helmet is sitting in a cannibal's cooking pot made of papier-mâché, as seen in cartoons. Three negroes dance around her – they are the artists Georg P. Thomann, Ainget R. Varencz, and Thomas Benesch. They utter war cries such as 'Roda Roda!' and 'Breyten Breytenbach!' to manic staccatos of tribal drums... Quo vadis, Fluxus?" (Statt-Hefte, Kaiserslautern)
April 1981: Thomann takes part in recordings by the band Rosachrom that are later released as a mini-LP under the title Ausserhalb Des Kreises (Outside The Circle) on the Schallter record label.
May 1981: Performance of Geh Ich Halt Nach Drüben (Well, Then I'll Go Over There). During the Austrian TV programme Club 2 Thomann fills out an immigration form for the German Democratic Republic in front of the live camera. He is thwarted by presenter Franz Kreuzer.
8th June 1981: Performance entitled Schafft Ein, Zwei, Viele Peter Handke-Bücher! (Create One, Two, Several Peter Handke Books!); Thomann and Mariele Streban organise a demonstration for "more books by Peter Handke" in the centre of Klagenfurt. The demonstrators shout passages from Handke's work and the parole "Ha-Ha-Ha-Handke-Min!"
July 1981: During recording sessions for an LP with Peter Weibel and the Hotel Morphila Orchestra (released in 1982) Thomann quits the band accusing Weibel of planning a cover with a photograph of his own record collection, which Thomann rates as "fucking petty bourgeois, like comparing dicks for size." Thomann's contribution to the Hotel Morphila Orchestra appears on the piece Ich Tu, Was Ich Will (I Do What I Want) released on the Wienmusikk sampler (Schallter Records, 1981).
August 1981: Performance Reinhardt Hablitschek. Thomann sets himself up as the young poet Reinhardt Hablitschek from Burgenland and manages to have a collection of poems published entitled Die Zärtlichkeit Der Kometen (The Tenderness Of Comets) with the support of a grant from the province of Burgenland. During the Salzburg Festival 1981 he burns the entire edition of the book on the city square cheered on by previously instructed punks and art students; the Festival is massively disturbed by the resulting turmoil. The Minister of Bavaria Franz Josef Strauss, present among the audience, later speaks to Austrian television and calls it "an unparalleled act of imbecility". Thomann loops this sentence and uses it as the basis of a single that, supposedly a parody, becomes a fun hit on local Bavarian radio. The provincial government of Burgenland sues Thomann.
September 1981: Severe car accident in St. Christophen, Lower Austria (on the way to St. Pölten). Thomann looses the small finger on his left hand, suffers from a perforated lung, abdominal contusions and severe bone fractures. Thomann is hospitalised for a month. Afterwards he recuperates in his apartment in the seventh district of Vienna.
February 1982: Thomann starts work again.
An oil painting that he calls Beliebiges Werk Einsetzen (Insert Any Piece) is inspired by the radical experience of the car accident. "An exploration of the artist and his dissolution." (Kulturzeit, 3/82)
March 1982: Thomann paints Pornomesslatte (Porno Yardstick).
On 25th April 1982 the German news magazine Stern presents the Hitler diaries – a forgery. After the plagiarism is exposed Thomann expresses his sympathy with the forger Konrad Kujau. Thomann tells the Kurier (quoting from the First Futurist Manifesto) that the Hitler diaries are more significant than "a speeding race car emitting sparks... which is itself more significant than the Venus de Milo."
May 1982: Thomann sends out applications to Margaret Thatcher and several English newspapers (The Sun, The Daily Mirror) applying for the position of an official battle painter for the Falkland's campaign: "I desire so terribly to accompany your army to paint some piles of dead Argentinian soldiers and maybe mingle some of their blood in my peinture." And: "If you succeed to sink any Argentinian vessel could you ask your troopers to maybe save some of its steel elements from the wreck for me. I'm looking forward to add it to a sculpture to herald your greatness as a Warlord. To me you are a mythological archetype." The application is published in the Hamburg alternative magazine Abbruch, issue 2.
June 1982: Thomann writes Maschinist Thomann.
On the occasion of the 60th birthday of Georg Kreisler on 18th July 1982 Thomann wants to "kill several hundred pigeons in the parks of Schloss Schönbrunn" (according to a press release sent out to the Austrian daily newspapers). Thomann enters the facilities with a bag full of flour; a scuffle with passers-by ensues. The retired Karl Wallek injures Thomann's right eye with his walking stick. In an interviewed for Falter ("I was being a Bolshevistic art-dog's cunt") Thomann forgives Herr Wallek with a reference to Pope John Paul II ("I can do that too").
The Salzburger Nachrichten calls him a "naive professional youngster".
Thomann suffers from lung trouble throughout the month of August 1982. The wound (see car accident in 1981) seems not to have healed properly. Several spells in hospital.
The Sao Paolo Biennale kindly invites Thomann to participate. He has to decline the invitation due to poor health.
Thomann eventually decides to take a one-month cure at the spa in Bad Hall, Upper Austria.
In November 1982 Thomann writes the science fiction short story Der Bod.
January 1983: Thomann's short story Der Bod is published for the first time by the German literary magazine Krull. (Note: later Wolfgang Jeschke also publishes Der Bod in the 1986 Heyne Science Fiction Almanac)
Starting in February 1983 he works on a series of paintings entitled Helmut Und Isaac:
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton In Der Frauensauna (Helmut And Isaac Newton In The Women's Sauna)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Tanzen (Helmut And Isaac Newton Dancing)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Und Die Mona Lisa (Helmut And Isaac Newton And The Mona Lisa)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Im Waschsalon (Helmut And Isaac Newton At The Laundromat)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Im Haus Rosi (Helmut And Isaac Newton At Rosi's Pension)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Essen Fritten (Helmut And Isaac Newton Eating Chips)
The graffiti artist Harald Nägeli (a.k.a. 'The Sprayer of Zurich'), who is temporarily staying in Germany, is being sought by the Swiss police. Thomann declares his solidarity with the wanted man. Beuys, Böll, and Grass publicly comment on this hostility towards art. On 9th June 1983 Thomann fires an air gun at a can of spray-paint in the Vienna Volksgarten park shouting "Küchenkästchen" (kitchen cupboard) in Swiss dialect. Beuys, Böll, and Grass distance themselves from Thomann's action.
12th July 1983: Thomann's parents die in a car accident, both aged 74.
In July 1983 Thomann records the experimental music piece Guten Morgen, Liebling – Sampling-Versuch Mit Berstendem Glas (Good Morning, Darling – Sampling Experiment With Breaking Glass).
In August 1983 he completes a new series of Helmut Und Isaac paintings:
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Essen Ketchup (Helmut And Isaac Newton Eating Ketchup)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Halten Händchen Während Eines James Bond-Filmes (Helmut And Isaac Newton Holding Hands During A James Bond Movie)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Wollen Reagan (Helmut And Isaac Newton Want Reagan)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Und Das Wirtschaftswunder (Helmut And Isaac Newton And The Economic Miracle)
Thomann starts working on the comic Gulaggy.
On 22nd October 1983 he presents the Helmut Und Isaac series at the Viennese club U4. Live music is performed by the group X-Beliebig ("Musically speaking, between Joy Division and The Cure but with more driving auto-dynamics." Rennbahn-Express). Thomann sings a version of Michelle in a duet with their lead singer Rene Adametz.
8th December 1983: Thomann participates in the Sternmarsch (march under the stars) to Hainburg initiated by the Austrian Students' Union. Thomann stays on the meadow along with several hundred other demonstrators helping to stop the clearing of woodland.
On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Hainburg events, in 1993 Thomann describes them as follows: "Fucking cold, fucking dirty, but politically haunting". Thomann meets Dagmar Gilbert, a sociology student, in Hainburg.
From spring 1984 he starts being active on behalf of the alternative Green political party.
Dagmar Gilbert moves into Thomann's apartment. Problems with Gilbert's parents.
End of May 1984: Thomann finishes his political comic Gulaggy, a furious satire paraphrasing The Peanuts and Stalinism. Andropov the dog and Tchernenko the senile bird become popular figures in German fanzine circles.
Thomann is offered the commission to design a 'technology pavilion' for the 1986 Expo in Vancouver. He accepts.
On the invitation of Günther Berger, Thomann starts his involvement with the Austrian Artists' Union in May 1984. A crucial issue under discussion is the situation of Austrian artists in relation to health insurance and social security for artists as well as the debate on an 'extended notion of art'.
In July 1984 Thomann produces an interview with the Otto Mühl communard Theo Altenberg. The portrait is broadcast in Germany on ZDF.
Summer 1984: during the catastrophic famine in Ethiopia Thomann works intensely with millet-seeds as a material for making artworks. Exhibitions Äthiopien, Du Sau! (Ethiopia, You Pig!) at the Wachsfabrik in Cologne, Wir Ham's Ja! Relativ Hochpreisige Arbeiten Mit Hirse Für Solvente, Hässliche Deutsche (As Long As We Have It! Relatively Expensive Artworks With Millet For Ugly, Solvent Germans) at the Silvia Menzei Gallery in Berlin, and Weltspartag: Zur Ästhetik Der Verschwendung Von Grundnahrungsmitteln (World Savings Day: On The Aesthetics Of Squandering Basic Foodstuffs) at the new Kunsthalle in Vienna. "I thought somebody must stop me. I couldn't believe I was allowed to do that!" (From an interview with Michael Kalz for Süd-Ost, 1993)
On 1st November 1984 the show Räume Wechseln (Change Spaces) opens at the Ingrach Gallery in Vienna. Thomann presents an installation called Das Könnte Raumschrott Sein (It Might Be Space-Garbage), a lump of black metal on a white background.
On 15th December 1984 the Austrian Chancellor Fred Sinowatz is a guest at the Wetten, Dass... show on television. Thomann produces posters with Sinowatz ("The funny and smart face of the social democratic movement, a path into the future") and sticks them up on the Social Democratic Party headquarters on 19th December 1984.
Winter 1984/85: Thomann goes on an extensive journey through Italy with Dagmar Gilbert. During the trip he writes the political one-man play Molybdän (Molybdenum).
1st March 1985: Thomann exhibits photographs from his winter holiday at the Centro La Capella in Triest, Italy. Title: Müde, Aber Ehrlich (Tired But Honest).
"I really wanted to document my beautiful holiday in Italy in an authentic way. Sober, black and white photographs of the landscape, of people, of monuments. The trip to Italy gave me new strength; I was able to recompose myself. Although the Italian press accused me of doing the exact opposite. They were looking for irony and cynicism which, in fact, they cannot be blamed for doing. And they did find what they were looking for – I just wonder how." (Thomann in Skug #4, 1991)
12th March 1985: Major Thomann retrospective at the Cologne Stollwerck entitled Besser Als Baselitz (Better Than Baselitz). All the paintings are hung with the painted side facing the wall. "In order to prevent things from being too boring I stuck football cards from Pannini albums to the backs of the canvases. I even had twelve showing Uli Hoeness."
May 1985: Stays in Berlin with Dagmar Gilbert.
Together with the members of the Berlin punk rock formation Knappsack and Dagmar Gilbert, Thomann founds the group Westwärts and writes the song Ruck Zuck Starfighter. This furious parody, combining the commercialisation of the Berlin underground with the American SDI project, becomes a chart hit. Emerging commercial radio stations of the 'young generation' play the song continuously. Thomann dislikes this development; he breaks with the musicians of Knappsack, disbands Westwärts, and – demonstratively in front of Café Kranzler – burns the "eight million Marks" which he had supposedly earned from royalties (obviously Monopoly money). Then, at the time of Band Aid, the action not only enrages the tabloids, but is even judged by the TAZ as "counterproductive and hardly original total nonsense from a crazy egomaniac." This contributes to Thomann's suddenly becoming a topic in the international artworld again.
"If people just happen to dislike Thomann's work, which may happen because one cannot remember, save or historicize much of it, they tend to refer to his style as 'pubescent'. Strangely enough, this judgement turned pejorative just at the time of the youth revolts that actually aimed at a culture of never ending puberty. It seems that on the one hand they meant the provisory, playing with sexual and pedagogic taboos, a lack of balance between means and end, and last but not least, the not-knowing-why. Just to not miss a chance. Whatever you may concede about people, puberty may be the most embarrassing, and sometimes rather painful, but rarely the worst time of their life. " (Alfred Preitner in his essay 'Abschied Vom Abschaum' [Farewell To The Scum], in: Präsens Werden, ed. Ingo Heller, Verlag Deuticke)
In the summer of 1985 the Ruhr District experiences its first large-scale smog alarm. Thomann writes the short story Gasflämmchen (Little Gas Flame), which is published by the alternative Grünpresse of Dortmund.
During the following trip to Berlin Thomann shoots the experimental film Der Lurch Des Intendanten (The Director's Dandruff) in collaboration with the Berlin avant-garde group Die Tödliche Doris.
During September 1985 Thomann plays tennis several times publicly in the Vienna Freudenau wearing a white rubber mask. He pretends to be the "eighteen year-old Boris Becker, the youngest vanilla blancmange in the world" (a reference to the Monty Python sketch Giant Tennis Playing Blancmanges From The Planet Skyron In The Galaxy Of Andromeda). In the course of the third happening on 24th September 1985 Thomann has a good twenty-five followers, mainly Monty Python fans. The culture editors at the ORF report on this "anarchic art comedy". On the first Austrian radio channel Ö1 Thomann replies in an interview for Journal Panorama: "I'm certainly not doing this just for the fun of it."
Molybdenum premieres on 12th October 1985 at the Steirischer Herbst festival. The one-man play is not staged live but projected as a video. Blixa Bargeld plays Franz Deutecke. Gary Danner of Station Rose contributes the synthesiser soundtrack.
"Collective television as a provocative theatre event." (Kleine Zeitung)
November 1985: Together with Oregon John McDowell, Jacqueline Scholze, Jorge XIV, Asger Jorn, Nathalie Préscut, the obscure Danish artists group MakroMakroMakroMakroMakro, pop musician Alan Jenkins (The Deep Freeze Mice etc.), Jaros Tuareg, Para Ernest Park, Alivia Mammuth, Jack Unternull, Peter Bömmels and others, Thomann participates in the exhibition Stuck Inside The Eighties at the Hairdo Gallery in Brussels. Thomann's pieces manifest a strongly realistic tendency. Primarily works from the years of 1977 to 1985 are shown:
- Viele Menschen Unterschätzen Das Gebirge, Andere Bleiben Gleich Zuhaus (Many People Underestimate The Mountains, Others Just Stay At Home
- Die Phantasie Verleiht Der Mündigkeit Flügel Und Dem Verlangen Räder (Imagination Lends Wings To The Age of Consent And Wheels To Desire)
- Theorie Der Ästhetik, S. 266 (The Theory Of Aesthetics, Page 266)
- Sie Werden Zu Uns Kommen, Und Ihre Technologie Wird Unvorstellbar Sein (They Will Come To Us, And Their Technology Will Be Inconceivable)
- Ob Es Wohl Jemals Ein McDonald's Drive-Through-Restaurant Zwischen Erde Und Mars Geben Wird? (Will There Ever Be A McDonald's Drive-Through Restaurant Between Earth And Mars?)
- Nur Ein Alter Mann Mehr Auf Dieser Welt (Just One Old Man Left In This World)
- Einmal Wird Die Erde Den Meisten Gehören (One Day Earth Will Belong To The Majority)
- Geschichtsklitterung Muss Ich Mir Nicht Vorwerfen Lassen, Trägheit Schon Eher (I Can't Be Blamed For Transfiguring History But For Laziness, Though)
- Jerry Spürt Ihre Anwesenheit, Er Kann Sie Förmlich Riechen (Jerry Feels Her Presence, He Can Literally Smell Her)
- Bei Mir Kommt Der Strom Aus Der Steckdose, Woher Denn Sonst? (In My Home Electricity Comes From The Powerpoint, From Where Else?)
- Onkel Dagoberts Geiz – Stilisiert (Uncle Scrooge's Stinginess – Stylised)
- Etwas Ähnliches Habe Ich Selbst Schon Einmal Erlebt (I Have Already Experienced Something Similar Before)
- Etwas Vergleichbares Ist Mir Bisher Nie Untergekommen (I Have Never Seen Anything Like It Before)
- Etwas An Seiner Körperlichen Deformiertheit Ist Zutiefst Menschlich (Something About His Physical Deformity Is Deeply Human)
- Figur Im Raum Bielefeld (Figure In The Bielefeld Area)
- Kennen Sie Trier? (Do You Know Trier?)
- Tangens Gibt Auf (Tangent Gives Up)
- Verzweifelter Italiener Bei Nacht (Desperate Italian At Night)
- Sujetmalerei, Sujetmalerei (Subject Painting, Subject Painting)
- Pleinair-Faschismus Für Gestalttherapiesüchtige (Open-Air Fascism For The Gestalt-Therapy Addicted)
- Warum Man Sich Den Unterschied Zwischen Stalaktiten Und Stalagmiten So Gut Merken Kann (Why It Is Easy to Remember The Difference Between Stalactites And Stalagmites)
- Sind Wir Ganz Allein Im Universum? (Are We Totally Alone In The Universe?)
- Wieviele Welten Wie Die Unsere Mag Es Wohl Noch Geben? Billiarden? (Just How Many More Worlds Like Ours Might There Be? Billions?)
- Die Schnauze Voll, Aber Sonst Ganz Nett (Fed Up But Quite Nice Otherwise)
- Hundsfott, Elendiger (Fucking Dog's Cunt)
- Die Freiheit Ist Unvorstellbar Grässlich IV (Freedom Is Unbelievably Appalling IV)
- Die Österreichischen Tugenden Beim Herrenabend (The Austrian Virtues At A Gentleman's Evening)
- Wir Leben Im Zeitalter Einer Unendlichen Beschleunigung, Eines "Rasenden Stillstandes" – Paul Virilio. Z.B. Die 'Häschenwitze', Damals Der Letzte Schrei, Heute Schal, Alt Und Nutzlos Geworden (We Live In The Age Of Infinite Acceleration, Of The "Rapid Stand-Still" – Paul Virilio. For Example, The Bunny-Rabbit Jokes, The Last Cry Back Then, Have Become Corny, Old And Useless.
February 1986: Action entitled Unglücklich-Verliebtsein-In-Julian-Schnabel (Being Unhappily in Love With Julian Schnabel). Thomann writes several love letters to the New York-based artist Julian Schnabel and regularly calls him on the telephone (Schnabel is informed about the project in advance). As part of the action the latter demands protection from the New York Police. The police report is published.
"Even today the still ongoing meaningless discussions on the autonomy of the artist-subject are due to an epistemological misconception. The only important thing is systemic autonomy, i.e. an autonomy that helps the system. This means at the same that the art system also has its service sectors, in keeping with other functional systems. As stated before, this fact not only pertains to connections with the economic system but, in many ways, to developments of the entire society which can be subsumed under the keywords of de-realisation, semiotisation and the mediatisation of the world." (Thomann in Kunstforum International, 1988)
1st March to 25th March 1986: Nature Axis: No Berlin No is the name of a show Thomann stages at Yoko Ono's invitation in the empty warehouses of the Barcelona docks. Thomann works with installations and integrates new media into his work. With impressive and equally provocative images moving in slow motion, his three-channel installation El Fi[e]st-ing deals with homosexuality in animals. His work is well received internationally and yields a review in the emerging cyber-art zine Mondo 2000 as well as a detailed discussion of his oeuvre in the Whole Earth Review.
Thomann starts to work on the book Folgen, Abschätzung (Risk, Evaluation).
1986: Intense collaboration with Herbert Achternbusch on Heilt Hitler (Heal Hitler), 1986, and Punch Drunk, 1987. The planned film Schlagstock (Riot Stick) is not realised. Thomann is supposed to have acted the roles of a policeman, a lavatory attendant, God and a pregnant waitress.
May 1986: Thomann interrupts a lecture on journalism at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. The CEO of the 1985 founded commercial television channel SAT1, Jürgen Doetz, is speaking on the "concept and recent situation of the commercial TV station SAT1". Thomann accuses Doetz of building "tomorrow's mediacratic society". Interviews for the Spiegel news magazine further entrench the controversial standpoints.
"Meanwhile I must concede that my – then purely provocative – postulates have materialised one hundred percent." (Thomann in Jungle World, August 1999)
In July Thomann spends two weeks at the Expo in Vancouver ('World In Motion, World In Touch', scheduled for 2nd May to 13th October 1986).
"Thomann was not satisfied with the realisation of the Expo pavilion. He wanted to criticise and to attack; pathetically speaking, he wanted to put his finger onto the wound of the Western world. But he simply did not need to do this. The Challenger had exploded and there had been Chernobyl. Each and every visitor to the pavilion was shocked, but not so much by Thomann's concept as by a latent sense of social unease." (Dirk Meiner in Jungle World, June 1998)
On 9th October 1986 Nick Cave performs for the first time in Austria at the Linz Posthof. Following a tip-off given to him by Peter Heimler, Thomann is present there. He is carried away and shoots a series of photographs with Cave on the facilities of the VOEST Alpine Linz (Crazy Aussie Ass).
3rd November 1986: Thomann starts his Sandoz-Aktion (Sandoz Action) on the banks of the Rhine (the Sandoz accident had been on 1st November). Facing difficult weather conditions, Thomann, the sprayer Harald Nägeli and the biochemist Laurie Jenkins move North along the Eastern bank of the Rhine collecting samples of water. Jenkins analyses the samples on the spot (whenever possible). On 1st December the results of this three-week "eco-trek" (Der Stern) are sent to the Humboldt University in Berlin, to the federal government of Germany, to the management of Sandoz ("Dear Maelstromers" to quote the salutation at the top of the letter) and to the United Nations.
6th December 1986: Performance entitled Revolution Durch Peinlichkeit – Ich Schäme Mich Unsterblich (Revolution Through Embarrassment. I'm Undyingly Ashamed). Thomann calls reporters of several dailies to a press conference in the Thalia Street red light district in Vienna; they await him there. Twenty minutes later Thomann emerges from the video peep show there buttoning up his trousers. On noticing the reporters he runs away. While running he throws copies of Baudrillard's Kool Killer, edited by Merve Publishers, at the reporters following him. One year later the very same performance is repeated under the new name of Revolution Durch Unangenehm-Auffallen – Ich Schäme Mich In Die Annalen Der Kunstgeschichte (Revolution By Means Of Annoying Behaviour – I'm Shamed In The Annals Of Art History).
1st May 1987: While the traditional annual Fluxus Nostalgia May celebrations are being held at the Fluxuskirche in Wiesbaden-Erbenheim (Wandersmannstrasse), under the motto "Maciuas - where are thou?" Thomann carries out his flute performance Stockhausen Revisited for twelve naked youths, a choir-leader and twelve whistles (the ones that uncurl when you blow them). The performance, according to a number of critics, was not concerned with revealing Stockhausen's paedophile inclinations, but with contrasting the spirit of Fluxus with the composer's spiritual resoluteness.
On 20th April 1987 Thomann begins an action under the name of Lange Genug (Long Enough), a provocative reference to the presidency of Kurt Waldheim. Passers-by in Mariahilfer Strasse receive small brown plastic toy horses and photocopied flyers saying "do your duty".
Summer 1987: The thematic emphasis of this year's Ars Electronica centres around 'the free sound' in all its different varieties. In co-operation with the M.I.T., especially Nicholas Negroponte, Thomann realises the interactive sound installation U'LL C// (bi] incorporating terminals at galleries and museums in Boston, New York, Helsinki, Karlsruhe, Pamplona, Linz, and Osaka. The visitors are able to permute the sound installation from all these locations and make their interventions visible on all the other terminals. A pioneering achievement to which Thomann owes the Prix de la Médiatheque Éternelle de la France – as well as largely differing reviews in the European feuilleton press.
NZZ, Zurich: "Thomann's work defies any description. Among other things it throws a bad light on the earlier and far more complexly interpreted works of the artist that exactly he, as the anti-capitalistic agent provocateur, is responsible for an installation which can only be seen as a banal, one-dimensional, naively affirmative tribute to globalised telecommunication."
Wiener, Vienna: "Ars Electronica at its best: As Thomann links up half of the world with his installation U'LL C// (bi]. In Linz not only the Ars' director Hannes Leopoldseder and Chancellor Franz Vranitzky are practically and theoretically happy, but all the visitors to the Linz art event are queuing up in front of this year's festival highlight. Here they can also catch a glimpse at the future of art. In the case of Thomann, new media as a material for art can mean more than just funny little animated films or weird sound experiments. ...Thomann is comical and meaningful at the same time."
September 1987: Thomann creates a series of watercolour paintings called Ulknudeln-Gedenkbilder (Comediennes' Memorial Paintings) with portraits of Ingrid Steeger, Helga Feddersen and Beatrice Richter.
October 1987: Together with Dagmar Gilbert he becomes involved in the strike at Vienna University; Thomann writes an analytical article for Die Zeit.
Intense correspondence with Christoph Ransmayer.
January 1988: At Thomann's request the Metropolitan Museum of New York includes the piece Beliebiges Vorheriges Werk Einsetzen (Insert Any Prior Work) in their disaster-proof archive.
In February 1988 Thomann stars as a guest in the ORF television production DORF (VILLAGE) along with Lukas Resetarits and others. He parodies his own attempt at auto da fé during a Club 2 broadcast in 1981. The role of the presenter Franz Kreuzer is played by Erwin Steinhauer.
5th March 1988: Thomann is taken to Vienna General Hospital with acute pyelitis.
18th March 1988: Discharged from Vienna General Hospital.
26th March 1988: Thomann is again hospitalised at the General Hospital. Suspicion of a swollen kidney – unconfirmed. Thomann is put on a strict diet and has to rest.
Correspondence with Christoph Ransmayer.
Thomann designs the photographic piece Solche Bilder In 10 Sekunden (Pictures Like These In 10 Seconds) and finishes Folgen, Abschätzung.
Folgen, Abschätzung is published at the beginning of August 1988 by Ueberreuter.
"Thomann turns out [In Folgen, Abschätzung] to be a criminologist of the cultural discourse, elegantly and precisely describing the different media-theoretic debates and micro-debates. A marvellous book. But what must also not be missed is the author's usual self-stylisation. As a preface he delivers an autobiographical sketch in which he curses institutions and state education. He claims to have had only the worst teachers except for one woman in primary school, who taught him that he should watch television without having a TV-license. And this, he states, he wrote down on a scrap of paper in the last carriage of an S3 tube train shortly behind Floridsdorf, on the 6th of June 1988." (Quoted from the Spectrum colour supplement in Die Presse)
30th August 1988: Thomann is invited to a public discussion on the "media mania" in the great auditorium of the Vienna University of Technology. He creates the buzzword 'collective journalistic unconsciousness', referring to the hostage tragedy of Gladbeck. He accuses the responsible media managers of the "crime" of having actively interfered in the course of events – he claims that the media are responsible for the hostages' death. He then grabs a megaphone, stoically repeating the sentence "I want to speak through the media now" – quoting Dieter Degowski, one of the Gladbeck kidnappers.
On 26th September 1988 Thomann is attacked by an orthodox Viennese Catholic during the premiere of Scorsese's Last Temptation Of Christ in Vienna. Thomann's words "Jaja ... und der Axel Corti schaut nur blöd zu" (Sure ... and Axel Corti is just looking on inanely) is used as a sound sample by the band EAV on the LP Nepomuks Rache.
On 17th November 1988 the Academy of Fine Arts confers on Thomann the title of 'Professor honoris causa' and he receives a teaching assignment for contemporary art. The jury's report praises Thomann's "virtually infinite variability in terms of artistic expression and his knowledge of today's artistic, cultural, and political necessities". The ceremony is criticised by the Kronenzeitung and Furche.
Excerpts from the press coverage:
"Actually it is not Thomann's problem that we have to interpret as a provocation what is in fact nothing but a literal interpretation of the ethical demands of the significant systems, i.e. of the systems of meaning for both religion and the state, of the system of meaning in new German film, as well as of the system of meaning behind 1968 thinking. I have never ever encountered a person that is further away from being cynical than Georg Thomann. It is a pity that he is a 'Professor' now but at the same time it is a challenge." (Diedrich Diederichsen)
"Thomann's brand of rebelliousness still reminds us of a Don Quixote attacking the 'educated bourgeoisie', the Catholic myths and ethics, and the systematic order of the family just like those windmills which the knight with the sad figure believed to be giants. But isn't it conceivable that Quixote was teasing us and that he knew that he was attacking windmills, which his contemporaries would not have forgiven him because windmills represent progress, order, economic wealth and, besides, an original form of organised exploitation? Isn't it possible that he just claimed to mistake them for giants in order to protect the material he needed for his mise en scène? Likewise Thomann's rebelliousness repeatedly descends into a very generic and a very private place – as all art is supposed to do. As a performer, as a director and also as a painter he is always both a usurping clown and a bleeding martyr." (G. Seesslen, Die Zeit)
"He never aims at something great or final but uses the means available to depict a constant flow of impressions and fantasies. Thomann's art is neither a journey nor a dream. It is a merry-go-round. One of those things that – by going around full circle – still turns you around your own axis once more. The faster you turn, the more the people lose the feeling of who and what they actually are. Not to speak of the where, even if there are (naturally totally faked) indications for it." (Franz Merger, Kurier)
December 1988: Thomann designs and produces an installation called Informationsfluss (Flow of Information).
During the winter and summer semesters, intense teaching activity for his master class students (project Love Simmel). A friendship between Thomann and his assistant Frank Krenz develops. In February he visits the demonstration against the Vienna Opera Ball with five of his students in the form of an excursion.
May 1989: Invitation to deliver several guest lectures at the philosophy faculty at Marburg University. A series of lectures entitled Kranke Kunst Und Kunst Als Krankheit (Sick Art And Art As Sickness).
Thomann gets in touch with the performance artist Elffriede and participates in her performance Kranebitten. The latter deals with the historisation and the de-historisation of art.
In an interview for the Flex Digest Elffriede describes the aim of and the following construction of myths around Kranebitten as follows: "I had already been in touch with Thomann because of a body painting thing. During a performance he had painted hieroglyphs for a multimedia karma under my fingernails. Later they grew to an extreme size so that I had to drag them along two meters behind me. This was of course a prearranged affair because he had planned it well in advance as a provincial multimedia spectacle. He was filming me as well as the resulting scars on the pavement and digitised the raw material afterwards. Since then I have been stigmatised and – probably as a late after-effect – I was thrown out of Germany, as we all know."
1st August 1989: Opening of an exhibition of several video works at the Hof in Basle entitled Ich Und Die 199 Schwerwiegendsten Versäumnisse Des Yves Klein (Me And Yves Klein's 199 Most Serious Omissions).
"That television had emerged as a waste product of the V2 missile experiments in Peenemünde didn't bring me any more credit than the fact that television stemmed from everyday use as a kind of visual washing-machine for the economic miracle. Due to a lack of predecessors, video had been repressed as an art form because of the claim of exclusivity and the belief in a progressive notion of art that always carried a formal renewal with it. But video has cleared its way to the museum. And I gave it a kick in the behind." (Thomann interviewed by Dieter Bögeli for the Basler Zeitung, 2nd August 1989)
October/November 1989: On the occasion of the fall of the Berlin Wall Thomann again relocates to Berlin for several months. He combines this with a spell as a visiting professor at Humboldt University. He lobbies to conserve a part of the Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate as a political memorial which "has to remain until a Chinaman is as rich as a Canadian, someone from Ghana receives the same medical treatment as a Norwegian, and human rights are not ignored in any nation in the world." Thomann furiously rejects the commission to design parts of the East-West gallery in Friedrichshain and "I turn my back on Berlin once and for all" (Thomann in Zitty).
Christmas 1989: Thomann receives a letter from his former lover Blandine Jeanson of Paris, with whom he has had no contact since 1968. He learns of the existence of their common son. Clément-Edouard Jeanson was born in June 1969. After dropping his law degree he became deputy chairman of Le Front National, an extreme right-wing youth organisation.
Spring 1990: Thomann, along with William Gibson, Terence McKenna and Bruce Sterling, is invited to the Ars Electronica in Linz because of the short story Der Bod published in 1983 (note: according to the jury, one of the first short stories in the Cyberpunk genre to have been written in German). The title of the festival in 1990 is Digital Dreams – Virtual Worlds. Thomann declines as he has more pressing things to do.
He starts work on his collection of anti-artist jokes with his assistant Frank Krenz. The collection is planned for academic application.
June 1990: Thomann dresses up as a 'Trekkie' and visits the Ars Electronica. He maintains that he "wants to give Marvin Minsky a big boot up the arse, mainly for pragmatic reasons". The endeavour is a failure. Thomann does, however, have a beer with William Gibson.
August 1990: The book of images Helmut Und Isaac Newton Ziehen Bilanz (Helmut And Isaac Newton Take Stock) is published by Elak Verlag, Vienna.
September 1990: When the first Austrian Media Markt store opens in Salzburg, Thomann takes the chain to court maintaining that they have taken the name from a (non-existent) Thomann painting completed in 1975. Thomann submits an old hand-held palette as evidence. (See: Muss Das Sein, Professor Thomann? 1990 – Do You Have To Professor Thomann? Kurier, 12th September)
November 1990: Thomann and Krenz's artist joke research is presented at the Styria premises in Graz under the title Arty-Farty. Kartographie Des Künstlerfeindlichen Witzes (A Cartography of the Anti-Artist Joke).
Frank Krenz applies for a job in the depot at Media Markt. He attempts to send several thousand Media Markt catalogues to private addresses in Cuba at the firm's expense. The plan is discovered due to a formal complaint from the postal department. Krenz is taken to court by Media Markt.
Thomann completes the watercolour: Selbstporträt Als Foto In Der 'Bildzeitung' Unter Dem "Kunstlump" Steht, Anlässlich Meiner Schleyer-Performance Auf Der Documenta VI (Self-portrait In 'The Bildzeitung' Under Which It Says "Kunstlump" [art buffoon], On the Occasion Of My Schleyer Performance At Documenta VI). He also completes the piece Weibel's Butterflyfish having discovered the species Chaetodon weibeli in a book on angel fish.
Personal differences of opinion with Thomann's long-standing friend Dagmar Gilbert.
In December 1990 Thomann begins taking private flute lessons.
Following the start of the US campaign in the Persian Golf Thomann participates in several anti-war demonstrations. He meets the German doctor Petra Meier at one of these, with whom he begins an affair that lasts six months. Meier is a member of Médecins Sans Frontières and is active in Uzbekistan against the increasing damage to the Aral Sea caused by Soviet policy on power stations.
Thomann receives a grant of 250,000 Austrian schillings from the Ministry of Education and the Arts, for a project in Graz.
Thomann goes on a trip to Znaim in Czechoslovakia with a group of students from his class on 4th February 1990, and announces the start of the action GZ 326.32/II/3a (the reference number of the application for a grant for the project Raum Raute – Square Parallelogram of Space).
Thomann and his students spend an afternoon trying to buy the small town of Znaim empty. They visit various shops and offer large sums of money for their complete stock. There is a confrontation and the GZ 326.32/II/3a group is forced to leave the country due to illegal currency smuggling. The project is attacked, above all, by the Volksstimme. Thomann has to repay the ministry out of his own pocket.
In June 1991 he accompanies Petra Meier to Tashkent, where he shoots the travel film Eine Aral-Andeutung (An Aral Suggestion), which he never completes. (Excerpts from the footage are shown in the SAT.1 programme 10 Vor 10 with Alexander Kluge, 21st September 1998)
August 1991: Participation in the trash film production Kampfkommando Virus. Die Ohne Hoffnung Sind (Battle Commando Virus – The No-Hopers; "the toughest jungle warfare film to have ever come out of Austria") by Drehli Robnik and Daniel Rein. Thomann plays the part of the 3rd South-Easterner.
September 1991: Thomann completes the conceptual piece Belangsendung (Current Affairs Programme).
On 15th October 1991 Kampfkommando Virus premieres at the Filmcasino cinema in Vienna.
In November 1991 the 'Censoring Media' issue of the American journal Felix is published containing a few essays by Thomann, including 'Potlach – Now And Then'.
In December 1991 Thomann sells his parents' house in Vorarlberg to Daniel Rein. It had been standing empty.
Thomann goes to Ireland in February 1992 to visit Christoph Ransmayer.
Thomann's assistant Krenz takes over his teaching duties for the summer semester 1992.
Thomann embarks on a prolonged tour of France.
Thomann visits a few of Gilles Deleuze's lectures on bird song at the Paris-Vincennes Reform University (St. Denis). Here Thomann meets the culture dandy Jean-Luc Dadache, who was born in 1943 in the Southern French village of Rennes-le-Chateau between Toulouse and the coastal town of Narbonne.
Dadache earns his keep as a German teacher who travelled towns along the French south coast offering block seminar courses but he had also earned a name for himself as "a radical version of Pierre Bourdieu" (Thomann on Dadache), having used his experiences of May 1968 in Paris to become an early intellectual supporter of the communication guerrillas. (Note: 2000 in Hanover, to participate in the anti-Expo campaign in situ)
Dadache invites Thomann to a Paris café where he is reading pornographic poetry from his rewritten Logik Des Milieus (Milieu Logic – note: the work is still waiting to find a publisher). Thomann is particularly impressed by Dadache's account of his search for the Holy Grail, the Merowinger dynasty and the secret murders of Prieuré de Sion. So he accompanies him to the South of France.
Dadache's self-imposed, life-long artistic project is concerned with the repeated simulation of the search for the Grail in the form of a Land Art performance in and around the village that he comes from. For these performances he heads for the countryside, which is ridged by mountains, to create intriguing excavations or to split stones, for example. These activities result in spontaneous Land Art installations. Exhibitions of his finds and worked finds are held regularly in Rennes and Toulouse, supplemented by lectures and an arsenal of photographs. It is a historical fact that the historic trail of the Holy Grail is lost in the region around Rennes-le-Chateau and the fortress near Montségur.
In 1993 Dadache's catalogue of Grail-searchings is released for the first time in a hand-crafted edition. Thomann interprets the art of Jean-Luc Dadache: "In his of necessity exhausting tours through the mountains of the South of France, Dadache manifests his permanent repudiation of the matrix and, at the same time, an idiosyncratic critique of art. One will not see from him any gestures of humility before the surface of his work, no optionistic artworks orientated around the education state. Dadache intervenes. His search is like the process of forming a Utopia, a little personal contribution to a new (left-wing) Utopia after the fall of a socialism that really existed. According to Dadache it is necessary to fragment oneself in order to slip through the pores of the omnipresent surface and then to pull oneself together again somehow in the underground." (Social Text #3, 1993)
At the end of April 1992 Thomann asks Dagmar Gilbert to marry him. The wedding is held on 10th October 1993 in the Mariahilf registry office in Vienna.
In September 1992 Thomann made little colour stickers and adhered these to copies of the newly published book 25 Jahre Ö3 – Zeitgeist Für Beide Ohren (25 Years of Ö3 – Zeitgeist For Both Ears) by Alfred Komarek in bookshops around Vienna. The stickers changed the ORF advertising book's slogan to '58 Jahre Krukenkreuz' (58 Years Of The Austrian Swastika). Thomann's scheduled appearance in the Ö3 programme Musicbox is subsequently cancelled.
Protracted litigation with Daniel Rein, who refuses to pay the full price for the "Thomann dump" (see December 1991).
In January 1993 Thomann is invited to come to St. Petersburg by Prako Pronev, where the two of them complete a television studio installation in the gallery D.
"Pronev was a red hot Gagarin fan, his childish enthusiasm infected me too, and we spent every day for two months proving that Juri Gagarin set foot on the moon on 6th January 1965. We built a moonscape in a functioning television studio, made of the debris of former Lenin statues. Here and there was a Lenin head to be seen peeping out of the surface of the moon. Snessar even managed to establish an illegal live link to the MIR station and I asked the cosmonauts there where Franz Viehböck (the first Austrian in outer space) was. Pronev had to pay a fine of 3,000 dollars for the whole thing. They're all crazy there."
From March 1993 Thomann maintains regular contact with Peter von Trapp (KLF/K-Foundation), exchanging letters and per telephone.
Thomann receives a Lomo camera from Prako Pronev and Viktor Snessar (Laboratorie Chisni) as a gift. He gives this to Wolfgang Stranzinger back in Vienna. Stranzinger subsequently organises a large-scale import of the cameras from St. Petersburg to Vienna.
Thomann is negative about the activities of the Austrian 'Lomographers' in a 1996 interview with the magazine Wiener. He calls them "trendy, Nachtwerk flavoured wankers" (Nachtwerk is a large disco in Vienna).
22nd May 1993: Thomann meets Ernst Kloppenwerde in Berlin at the premier of his production of Faust. Thomann has nothing good to say about the production, although a meeting with the actress Kitty Schrödinger (Gretchen) is constructive (re. Kitty Schrödinger, see: Frank Beringer's Clara, De Groon, as well as Körperwelt, Steirischer Herbst 1992.).
Thomann and Schrödinger decide to work on a screenplay for an ORF (the Austrian broadcasting corporation) production.
August 1993: Thomann and Schrödinger start work on Der Heilige Koloman (Saint Colomannus).
November 1993: The title Der Heilige Koloman is changed to Wienfluss (River Wien).
18th November 1993: Thomann is invited to London for the K-Foundation Award Ceremony. Thomann and Dagmar Gilbert-Thomann use the invitation to have a late honeymoon in London.
In January 1994 Thomann works on the concept for the series of exhibitions Tophits Yes to be realised at the Kunsthalle Wien (The Greatest Hits Of Concept Art; Those Were The Times. Golden Oldies Of The Fluxus Movement; The Very Best Of Land Art).
Due to bureaucratic problems, Thomann decides upon the "non-realisation" of his series of exhibitions, as he wrote in a review in Profil 3/1994. He signs the article Georg Luis Thomann.
In March 1994 Thomann starts the web-art project punkt-i at The Thing Vienna.
"At that time more and more people were going online with their home computers. Al Gore had even made it one of the issues in his electoral campaign. But nobody was using the internet to make art. You could peruse the collection of the National Museum in Canberra or others like it, but there was no new art being made specifically for the internet.
When we began work on the project my colleagues Robert Schneider and Gary Welz assured me that a programme could be written that stopped you being able to write a fullstop. This would mean that as soon as you became involved in writing a 'sentence' you would realise that you were contributing to a never-ending ongoing statement. My work with you and the world is an endless adventure. Every day, every month, every year is subject to change. In the meantime the contributions are far more advanced in terms of the graphics than they used to be. The sentence is now glowing in hot pink and has pulsating java, video, audio, colour, simply everything. At the outset it was black and white but full of soul and personality. (Thomann in de:bug, 1999)
"At first glance it looks like a paradox that in April 1994 Thomann began preoccupying himself increasingly with biology and the natural sciences. According to some sources, he read at least 300 pages per day on issues concerning the human organism and evolution. And that in what was certainly his most productive phase as 'one of the most significant and advanced thinkers on electronic space' (Karel Dudesek in his inauguration speech as chairperson of the committee responsible for visual media design)." (Michael Löbenstein, Körperdiskurs, Vienna University, 1999)
This is not a contradiction for Thomann: "It was in spring 1994, shortly after punkt-i that I began to get interested in issues concerning organisation, organic interaction, the prerequisites for growth and development in life forms. I think that the BODY has to be understood not merely as a metaphor but as an indisputable prerequisite for any cultural act – without doubt a taboo theme for left-wingers but it has used up its moral value in Kuwait and Sarajevo at the latest. ...I am, WE are, but also nations, industrial associations, revolutionary movements, and also the new virtual space, the web are organisms before anything else, before they become ideologies... it is the small mind, the required bone marrow that gave us the laws not the sneaky old man who went up the mountain (Moses), oxygen and water, the teleological movement from undesigned matter to the organisation of the organs. The drive to reproduce and the power of entropy... Yeah, yeah, yeah!" (de:bug, 1999)
The concept for Every Body Needs Some Body. 25 Geile Provokationen Für Linke (25 Sexy Provocations For Left-Wingers) came as a result of the above considerations.
12th May to 18th May 1994: Thomann goes on a brief holiday ("That web-art crap had simply been too tiring and I was yearning for the countryside – not to paint a piece of it, just to look at." Thomann, 2000, in a conversation with Frank Apunkt Schneider scheduled to appear in the 14th issue of the magazine Monochrom) to the Gschwendtner Hof in Gmünz, Tyrol. Here he completes the photo-realistic painting Mieses Bild Dank Schlechtem Scanner – Aber Die Dargestellten Haben Eh Ganz Andere Probleme, Z.B. Angst Vor Der Zukunft, V.A. Wegen Dem Atom, Aber Auch Sonst (Lousy Painting Thanks To A Bad Scanner – But Those Shown Have Very Different Problems Anyway, E.G. Fear Of The Future Because Of The Atom But Also For Other Reasons). He has also completed the concept for the sculpture Ohgott: Die Radioaktive Strahlung Verwandelt Ihn In Ein Teuflisches Monster! (Oh God: The Radioactive Contamination Is Changing Him Into An Evil Monster), which was displayed on 22nd October 1996 in Postbauer-Heng near Neumarkt in Oberpfalz, in front of the newly opened Foodstuffs Supply Centre.
"I arrived in this ambitious community by chance and was, to put it mildly, enthusiastic: A peculiar, booming human hybrid that made the grown village structure simply so flat – so falling into the sphere of Lacan's semiotic system. An incredibly pathetic letter of farewell to the authentic, if you will. In the church there, for example, you'll find a baptismal fountain made of Perspex and things like that. The Foodstuffs Supply Centre is a kind of pseudo-futuristic shopping mall with brutal delvings into the neo-classical. It's beyond description, you have to see it for yourself. I wanted to be a part of that implosion of reality and simply had to give them my sculpture. At first they were sceptical but I managed to convince them with the help of Heinz Dreschke's expertise. Dreschke is the author of a highly respected piece of work on the structural transformation of sculpture in public space under postmodernism. Unfortunately I was unable to have the sculpture opened up to skate-boarders. The council voted unanimously against the move." (From a conversation published in Trial & Error 25, supplement to the Steirische Herbst 1998)
12th June 1994: The EU membership referendum. Thomann speaks out in favour of entry into the European Union. "We must take over the notion of growth, rapid growth and networking from the global economy once more – so let's get in there, let's make it grow, mingle and spread rapidly... the left-wing simply has a problem with doing it, but not me!" (Der Standard, referendum special of 3rd June 1994) Thomann is against the creation of integrative structures in principle.
Thomann's short story Exjugoslawienurlaub (Former-Yugoslavian Holiday) is published in the literary journal Manuskripte. Thomann has his protagonists speak of a "cancerous tumour that has destroyed the dream of a shared European state." The protagonist wishes to see "Alois Mock up before the European Court." The reactions in the German press are devastating. (See the analysis presented in Warum COOK ISLAM Ein Anagramm Von ALOIS MOCK Ist – Why COOK ISLAM Is An Anagram Of ALOIS MOCK – in the Salzburger Nachrichten, 15th June 1994.)
19th June 1994: Thomann starts the series of actions I'm Proud Of Us. The Night Of The Riding Subject-Corpses. Self-Historicising Snapshots For A Millennium That Already Has Everything. Beginning with the Hans Moser Death performance of 19th June 1964, one of his first interventions in public space (as formulated in the manifesto that accompanied the action at the time, Reif Für Die Museumsinsel – Ripe For The Museumsinsel), Thomann is "Repeating all of the performances and actions I have realised to date on their 30th anniversary, unchanged. As I always attempted to interact with contemporaneous events (for instance, the death of Hans Moser) in my performances, and so humiliated myself according to the principle of current-ness as a citizen of the bourgeois process and model of writing history, I now want to encounter a more spherical-shaped understanding of time by aiming to emancipate myself at last from the predominant concept of art and everyday life. Today I want to become fluid at long last. And that also means becoming superfluous for me, as I'm afraid when I view my work retrospectively, despite the entire 'pathos of disappearance' (Karl-Eugen Broder: Giggi Sankt Pölten and Georg P. Thomann: Über Post- Bzw. Nonvitalistische Konzepte In Der Österreichischen Gegenwartskunst. Manual 3. Vienna 1987), that at times I was damned significant. It, or something to the same effect was even stated in Profil (1983). By becoming my own retrospective I am freeing myself from Actionism, that disease, that crap, that art-cramp. And, God willing, in 30 years I'll be my own loop. Maybe I'll be so more stupidly than Beuys was and more obviously than Jacques-Louis David. Although: can anything be more stupid than Beuys?
Accordingly, on 19th June 1994 Thomann re-stages the Hans Moser Death performance by handing out onions wrapped in paper to male passers-by on Kärtner Strasse in Vienna. On the paper it says: "Hans Moser died and you didn't even notice. Go home. Your wife is crying."
Two days after the repetition of the performance Thomann publishes the essay Schafft Ein, Zwei, Viele Georg Paul Thomanns (Create One, Two, Several Georg Paul Thomanns) under the pseudonymous team Herbert Gröschel/Albin Moroder Jr. using the fachschaft-informatik-kranich mailing list. The fictive pair of authors are concerned in this text to prove that Georg Paul Thomann is not a real being but a manifestation that only exists in the virtual media and the art context, a collective persona who has been used within certain subcultures for years in order to attack the social semi-system of 'art'. It would be impossible for one artist alone to have created such an abundance of, incidentally partially contradictory, work, traces and presence. The authors actually give such a transcription of Foucault/Deleuze/Guattari a euphoric review and make a call for people to continue using the name Thomann when doing art instead of using their own names. A short while later Thomann sends an email demanding that such accusations cease, to the extent that: "It reads as if I had written the article myself in order to brag about my diversity. After all, nearly everyone in Vienna knows that I really do exist. Anyone who doesn't believe it should come to the Eisenbahn Café (14 Opernplatz) on Thursday next week at 2pm. I shall be eating pancakes there and reading the Kronenzeitung in the presence of a lawyer as a witness. This should be proof enough of my existence." Note: The coffee house mentioned does not exist under the address given, although in Steyr there is a coffee house of the same name with a similar address: 14 Opheliagasse.
"I wanted to avoid the cliché of becoming an art-nomad, that totally hackneyed gesture of 'being on the road', the curse of disappearing: Yes, darn it! Worse than Jack Kerouac, even worse than Salinger, Hemingway and Novalis put together. I found all that semi-digested Buddhist postmodernism disgusting. It irritated the hell out of me and I had an impulse that said I had to get out. I'd rather go to Nicaragua and shoot Contras than want to have anything whatsoever to do with the constipation of the postmodern subject. The crypto-humanism of the post-humane era! My most radical attempt to torpedo it all was in 1996 at the Gayflower Gallery in New York, where I only exhibited 50 screen prints of my private address in different colours. Of course three to four metres high and in beautifully ugly contrasting colours, e.g. green on red background etc." (Conversation with Jens Kristof in Diagonale, ORF, June 1998)
3rd September 1994: In the Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna, Thomann presents the piece America, Your Body Is A Micro Soft Machine, a map of North America where all the names of the states have had the word 'Microsoft' stuck over them.
In "a decade-long auto-retro-phase" (quoted from Texte zur Kunst), Thomann wants to continue work on the Helmut Und Isaac series of paintings.
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Wollen Thatcher An Die Titte, Aber Sie Ist Nicht Mehr Wichtig (Helmut And Isaac Newton Want To Get At Thatcher's Tits, But She's No Longer Important)
- Helmut And Isaac Newton Sehen Sachen (Helmut And Isaac Newton Seeing Things)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Und Ihre Haribo Lakritzschnecken (Helmut And Isaac Newton And Their Haribo Liquorice Spirals)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Besuchen Paul Breitner (Helmut And Isaac Newton Visit Paul Breitner)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Auf Dem Roskilde-Festival (Helmut And Isaac Newton At The Roskilde Festival)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Im Freizeitstress (Helmut And Isaac Newton In Leisure Stress)
October 1994: Completion of the screenplay for Wienfluss. The ORF is not satisfied with several pages of the manuscript. Thomann threatens to mutilate himself in public if they do not accept the screenplay. The managing director of the ORF, Gerhard Zeiler, refuses "to have anything more to do with this Punch-and-Judy show". The former managing director, Gerd Bacher, intervenes.
November 1994: Thomann accepts the striking of two scenes in Wienfluss. ("Austria is probably not ready for a cock spread with mayonnaise.")
End of November 1994: Thomann, Schrödinger and the ORF agree on Peter Patzak as the director of Wienfluss.
February 1995: Shooting of Wienfluss begins with Franz Buchrieser as Löbö, Ludwig Hirsch as Ulgu and Bibiane Zeller as Knrk. A co-production with NHK-Japan on HDTV.
Thomann occupies a rehearsal room in the Arena – which is no problem because it is unheated. He experiments with asceticism and helium there and, under their influence, he records the didactic opera Mensch Und Verkehr (People And Traffic), which is released on cassette by Trüb.
March 1995: At the student strike (the result of the ÖVP/SPÖ government cutbacks) Thomann gives a reading on Pigs. He reads excerpts from a children's book by Janosch. (The text was too cute really, but it doesn't matter though. Marx is too cute, too.")
April 1995: The techno poem Gilgamesh 3003 is released in collaboration with Sven Väth (EYE-Q/WEA Records). Thomann's HEAVYpoem ("Tischlein Track dich/Tischlein Tech dich/Tischlein Tag dich/Tischlein Tactic" – Little table track yourself, Little table tech yourself/Little table tag yourself/Little table tactic) read by Joachim Król is a commercial flop, although the remix by Jochem Paap is a big hit on the London club circuit.
13th May 1995: Thomann holds a press conference on the occasion of his 50th birthday, where he announces the start of his cycle Ich Stelle Mich Meinem Alterswerk (I'm Preparing Myself For My Mature Phase).
As Schritt 1 (Step 1) of this project, the exhibition Meditationen Über Den Niedergang. Ornament Und Versprechen (Meditations On The Decline. Ornament And Promise) is held at the Plankton lounge in Vienna. Thomann shows the following "Old Masterly and formally promising" paintings (quoted from the accompanying manifesto Kunst Kommt Vom 'Können-Wollen' – Art Comes From 'Wanting To Be Capable'): Die Würde Von Günther Grass Ist Unantastbar (Günther Grass' Dignity Is Unimpeachable); Alte Luftaufnahme Von Florierendem Baugeschäft In Büro Von Marodem Baugeschäft, Gilb (Old Aerial Photographs Of Flourishing Property Development In The Offices Of The Putrid Property Developers In Gilb); Wir Wollten Keine Bullenschweine, Wir Wollten Phantasie, Illusion, Poesie Und Magie (We Didn't Want Any Arsehole Cops, We Wanted Imagination, Illusion, Poetry And Magic); Mein Bauch Gehört Dir. Ich schenk' Ihn Dir! (My Stomach Is Yours. I'm Giving It To You!); Gevatter Hoffnung (Grandpa Hope); Ich Habe Dir Meine Gefühle Gezeigt, Nun Zeige Du Mir Deine! (I've Shown You My Feelings, Now Show Me Yours!); Durch Die Zerstörung Der Perspektive Hindurch Schimmert Gar Nix! (Nothing Glows Through The Destruction Of Perspective!); Kubistische Gitarrenspielerin Des Menschlichen Durchhaltevermögens (Cubist Guitarist Of Human Perseverance); Schwarzes Quadrat Privat (Black Square Private); Theodizee Trotz Lepra, Leo Kirch Und Brit-Pop (Theodizee Despite Leprosy, Leo Kirch And Brit-Pop); Ich Kann Kein Weimar Mehr Sehen! (I Can't See Any More Weimar); Währenddessen... (While...); Plötzlich... (Suddenly...); Ich Verspreche Euch Durchaus Einen Rosengarten (I Certainly Do Promise You A Rose Garden); Dieser Sonnenaufgang Bewahrt Mich Vor Dem Schlimmsten (This Sunrise Is Saving Me From The Worst); Kommerzielle Landschaft, Zwar Dank Brüssel Verseucht, Aber Das Sieht Man Ja Nicht (Commercial Landscape, Contaminated Thanks to Brussels Though, But You Can't See That); Niemand Ist Eine Insel, Höchstens Peter Handke (Nobody Is An Island, Except Perhaps Peter Handke); Karl Marx Zum Fünfzigsten (Karl Marx On His Fiftieth Birthday); Stefan Weber Wird Von Ausserirdischen Entführt (Stefan Weber Is Kidnapped By Aliens); Sie Steht Voll Auf Schmerz, Er Auf Italienische Lebensart (She Is Totally Into Pain; He, The Italian Way Of Life); Warum Weinst Du, Kleiner Asylbewerber? (Why Are You Crying, Little Asylum-Seeker?); Frühstück Im Grünen Trotz Zweier Verlorener Weltkriege (Breakfast In The Garden Despite A Couple Of Lost World Wars); Bill Gates Geheimster Wunsch: Von Stephen Hawking Im Bett Erniedrigt Zu Werden (Bill Gates' Most Secret Desire: To Be Humiliated In Bed By Stephen Hawking); Ich Mich Schämen? Ja Wieso Denn? (I Should Be Ashamed? But What For, Then?); Historischer Brunnen In Schengen (Historic Fountain In Schengen); Verschneites Konzentrationslager (Snow-Covered Concentration Camp); Britpop-Zielgruppe 1-7 (Brit-Pop Target Audience 1-7); Ich War Ein Zärtlicher Chaot (I Was Tenderly Chaotic); Ich Wollte Es So And Darf Mich Nicht Beklagen (I Wanted it Like That And Mustn't Complain); Kilometerlange Menschenfabriken Säumen Die Autobahnen Europas (Kilometre-Long Human Factories Line Europe's Motorways); Jemand, Der In Der Kärtner Strasse Nie 'Blowing In The Wind' Sang (Somebody Who's Never Sung 'Blowing in the Wind' on Kärtner Strasse); Seelenwanderschuh (Soul-Walking Shoes); Die Permeabilitätsfalle – Prototyp Eines Radargeräts Auf Der Burgenländischen Esoterikmesse (The Permeability Trap – Prototype Of A Radar At The Burgenland Esoteric Fair); Die Essbarkeit Von Nahrungsmitteln – Abstraktes Bild Eines Unbekannten Künstlers Auf Butterberg (The Edibility Of Foodstuffs – Abstract Painting Of An Unknown Painter On Butter Mountain); Resonanzfähigkeitsraum Der Uni Heidelberg, Innen (Heidelberg University's Resonance-Capable Space, Interior View); Bakunin-Biographin Ricarda Huch – Porträt (Bakunin Biographer Ricarda Huch – Portrait)
As Schritt 2 (Step 2), in November Thomann releases the Austro-Pop record: Georg Paul Thomann: Sanfter Rebell (Georg Paul Thomann: Gentle Rebel). The record consists of typical "rather mediocre Austro-Pop of penetrating self-righteousness. Not as genre-critique, but as a way out of the mass of mediocre Austro-Pop and penetrating self-righteousness" (Georg Paul Thomann in a Skug interview with Didi Neidhart). The single from the album Nix Wos Mi Reut (Nothing I Feel Guilty About) and the song Mir is Heut So Autobiographisch (I'm Feeling So Autobiographical Today) describe Thomann's artistic development. Du Bist Die Arte Povera Aus Gemeindebau (You Are The Arte Povera From Council Housing) is apparently a song about Thomann's relationship with Isabelle Rascot. The song Mei Potschertes Gesamtwerk (My Inept Oeuvre) is a cover version of the hit by Hansi Orsolic. The sleeve to the CD shows an under-exposed photograph of him, so it is alleged, breaking into Arnulf Rainer's studio; the CD also bears a sticker with the legend "Produziert von Christian Kolonovits" (produced by Christian Kolonovits). A court injunction orders the removal of the stickers even though the goods are not yet on the shelves. The original sticker is replaced by one saying "Die Gedanken sind frei" (Thoughts are free). The reviews are tepid but have something of the uneasy tone of a half-articulated suspicion that it is art.
The piece Vergeben Und Vergessen. Ich Entschuldige Mich Formell Und Doch Von Ganzem Herzen (Forgive And Forget. I Formally Apologise, And That From The Bottom Of My Heart) follows as Schritt 3 (Step 3). The project is published in the magazine Magma, and consists of "an open letter to the victims of my youthful frivolity". In this letter it says: "I always wanted to be the enfant terrible of the Austrian artworld. I have always suppressed any thought of what I am doing to others in achieving this. This was at the root of my nervous breakdown last year which you probably read about in the Kronenzeitung. I have done much wrong, I have stylised my life using cheap effects. I lost sight of myself and others entirely. In the end I was completely alone. A wretched existence in the midst of a life's work full of emptiness and absence. I had lost track of myself. I felt like the last chapter of Melville's Moby Dick. Thanks to the help of my therapist, the prominent analyst Dr. Ursel Hadwiga, I have learnt to find the path back to my self. I would like to apologise here to all those who fell victim to my egomania and somehow typically Austrian destructiveness, but especially to André, Arnulf and Adolf."
As Schritt 4 (Step 4), in summer 1995 Thomann organises the Festival Der Clowns Und Tränen (Festival Of Clowns And Tears) in the Manège Der Illusionen Und Des Friedenswillens (Manège Of Illusions And The Will For Peace) on the Vienna Donauinsel. Thomann holds an André Heller record in front of his face for the opening speech. Recordings of German bombers run in the background while acrobats, clowns and other artists perform.
As Schritt 5 (Step 5), Thomann shows the performance Bitte Thematisieren Sie Meine Abwesenheit (Please Themetise My Absence) in the Erika-Kino. Thomann is not present. While the performance is running he goes to a student party at the Academy of Fine Arts dressed as a Harlequin.
"What I find so fascinating about Thomann is the non-identicalness of his modus operandi, the disappearance of the artist-personality in stylistic plurality; a solo exhibition by Thomann always looks like a group show." (Ulrich von Rosen in 1000 Jahre Mitteleuropa)
"Thomann's presence is the non-identical one. The space in which Thomann moves and comes to himself is the amalgamation of the available possibilities with the necessary. Neither Weberpalz nor Arnold Günther are moved by such a self-permeation of plurivocity, one which always merely traverses itself." (Alexander Kluge in Kandelbar)
"The power of this performance lies in the unbearable laxness of the idea behind it." (Achim Baltung in Magazyn)
On 8th October 1995 Wienfluss is premiered on ORF 1. The Freedom Party is highly critical of the broadcast. On 10th October Thomann and Peymann are the guests on the news programme Zeit im Bild 2, to talk about scandalising art. Thomann offers himself as fodder for the Freedom Party: I am a healthy body of the people, eat me. And I have more pixels."
Stefan Broniowski subsequently wrote in Volkstimme: "Like so much utter nonsense to come from the conservative culture corner, the latest right-wing backlash is a home-grown Austrian one. ...We have yet another reason to be proud of ourselves: Even before Botho Strauss and his unmentionable Bocksgesang (Ram's Song), ageing provocateurs like Georg Thomann have rendered a right-wing body-cult and the glorification of the biologistic discourse-capable. The healthy 'body of the people' is back again, and once more from the mouth of a self-styled 1968 activist... Thank you Herr Thomann – that's just what we really didn't need!"
On 28th October 1995 the Rex happening is carried out in Wiener Neustadt: "Surely not Kommissar Rex in Wiener Neustadt. Whoever is behind it, the joke backfired. Using 'professionally produced flysheets' (from the police report) complete with the official letter headings of the police and the ORF studios in Lower Austria, the residents of Wiener Neustadt are invited to an event with Tobias Moretti and the dog Kommissar Rex in the courtyard of the local police station on 28th October. 200 people came to see what was happening in the courtyard of the police station, some even with their own Kommissar Rex clones for the Rex imitation competition that had also been announced. Only Tobias Moretti and Kommissar Rex were missing ...No wonder, though: The whole thing was a fake. 'There will be consequences to pay!' Was the threat issued by police lieutenant Manfred Fries to the unknown miscreant behind the hoax. 'I don't know who is behind it or why someone should have played such an idiotic prank on us.' But he does know that the flyers were produced using Coral Draw. For our part, though, we are going to nominate the exploit for the as-yet non-existent international prize for the best act of sabotage in 1995." (Source: TATBlatt +45, 9th November 1995)
On 3rd December Thomann and Frank Krenz write a letter of confession to Wiener Neustadt's police lieutenant Fries and ask him for "advent forgiveness". The local court in Wiener Neustadt sentences Thomann to a fine of 60,000 schillings.
November 1995: Intensive collaboration with Christoph Kummerer and Martin Stepanek and the founding of the musical formation Langhans Teufel.
January 1996: Due to interpersonal tension between Thomann and Kummerer the project Langhans Teufel is terminated following some very promising jam sessions.
February 1996: A survey of youths on the theme 'homosexuality' carried out by the Fessl Institute shows that over 60% of young males consider homosexuality to be 'abnormal' and 'disgusting'. Thomann records the synthie-pop song Kids You're Shit.
March 1996: Holiday with Dagmar Gilbert-Thomann in Crete.
Gilbert-Thomann has a serious diving accident and falls into a coma. In June 1996 she is transferred to Vienna General Hospital.
Thomann visits his wife every day until her death on 20th August 1996.
"I could see how the life in her was ebbing away a little more day by day... All my pain, all my sympathy slid away on what was left of her. You know, all my interest in biology, in growth, in the élan vitale of nature met with one major negation: The body of a loved one reduced to its primary functions... carbon again, but now for the first time I see it with the cynicism that has been at the centre of my discourse on the body ever since. Sometime or other I'll do it, you know ...a tank of water and 70 kilos of nails, and I'll call it Dagmar because it looks like biology can't tell us any more about ourselves." (Thomann in a conversation with Wolfgang Kos, 1997, unpublished)
Thomann paints Helmut Und Isaac Newton Glauben Nicht An Den Fortschritt Der Medizin (Helmut And Isaac Newton Do Not Believe In The Advancement Of Medicine).
1st to 26th October 1996: Thomann is curator of the Labyrinth Festival held in the abandoned torpedo hall in Copenhagen.
Ende der Musik, Wie Wir Sie Kennen Und Schätzen (The End Of Music As We Know And Value It) is produced: a single on CD with recordings of Thomann's EEG field. Thomann pours nitrate solution over the CD while wheezing away.
"It was tough. Going on and still staying in the same place. Not being able to go further and nevertheless slipping forwards."
In November 1996 Thomann is invited by Catherine David to participate in Documenta X. He accepts the invitation.
Thomann goes to visit Christoph Ransmayer in Ireland and stays until early 1997.
14th January 1997: Opening of the Thomann exhibition Keine Macht Für Jemand! (No Power For Somebody!) at the Städelschen Kunstinstitut Frankfurt. Thomann explains in a conversation with René Lohendorf for the theory-zine Transgender, that: "I wanted to remix Bourdieu. The basic idea was that in postmodernism social power structures function completely differently than they did in, say, 1950. I wanted to make the distribution and the isometrics of 'power' and 'powerlessness' visible by feeding the title of the second Ton, Steine, Scherben LP and a late early-environmentalist statement through a kind of Daft Punk-like diversity filter. One could describe the exhibition as a kind of mix between Foucault and provincial abstraction. I had a large number of colourfield, smear and dribble paintings originally made as part of the series Ich Übe Für Die Bedeutungslosigkeit! (I'm Practising For Insignificance!). A whole cellar-full. I was in the process of moving house and so I had the choice: Throw them all away, donate them to the National Gallery or throw them away as an exhibition in itself. Of course the paintings are complete crap but I thought if I gave them good titles it'd be okay. As I have l always wanted to do something on the theme of 'power' it provided a quasi-good opportunity to combine the two things and to make a compilation of the paintings, making them a series, simply by giving them titles. I then offered them for sale very cheaply, 300 schillings a piece, so they all went like hot potatoes. But as there were so many of them I still earned a tidy sum. I donated the ones that were left to St. Pölten."
The exhibition opens with a body-painting performance where Thomann and Ina Krell, who works as a make-up artist at the Frankfurt Staatstheater, painted a dead horse. Background music is provided by a Sven Väth CD and a live string quartet.
In addition, Thomann reads poems from the cycle Wozu Braucht Peter Handke Zehn Kilo Pferdefleisch? (What Does Peter Handke Need Ten Kilos Of Horsemeat For?) and in front of an art deco mirror he performs fencing tricks with a clarinet as a foil alternately shouting "New York! " and "If I can make it there, I can make it with Nancy Reagan" and "Did you ever know: I'm my hero!"
A total of 86 paintings are on show in the exhibition with the titles:
- Keine Macht Für Jürgen! (No Power For Jürgen!)
- Keine Macht Für Frau Stirnima! (No Power For Frau Stirnima!)
- Keine Macht Für Den Hofer Aus Dem 20er Haus! (No Power For Hofer Of The 20er Haus!)
- Keine Macht Für Engelbert Humperdinck! (No Power For Engelbert Humperdinck!)
- Keine Macht Für Gabi! (No Power For Gabi!)
- Keine Macht Für John Lennon-Biographen! (No Power For John Lennon Biographers!)
- Keine Macht Für Simone! (No Power For Simone!)
- Keine Macht Für Rüdiger Oder Stefan! (No Power For Rüdiger Or Stefan!)
- Keine Macht Für Die Mächte Des Bösen! (No Power For The Power Of Evil!)
- Keine Macht Für Uwe Johnson! (No Power For Uwe Johnson!)
- Keine Macht Für Pablo Neruda! (No Power For Pablo Neruda!)
- Keine Macht Für Dragan! (No Power For Dragan!)
- Keine Macht Für Marylou! (No Power For Marylou!)
- Keine Macht Für Aktionismus! (No Power For Actionism!)
- Keine Macht Für Kinder! (No Power For Children!)
- Keine Macht Für Meinen Cousin! (No Power For My Cousin!)
- Keine Macht Für 'Armeen Aus Gummibärchen'! (No Power For 'Armies Of Jelly Bears'!)
- Kein Macht Für Heinz Aus Wien! (No Power For Heinz From Vienna!)
- Keine Macht Für Limburg! (No Power For Limburg!)
- Keine Macht Für Leute, Die Geo Lesen! (No Power For People Who Read 'Geo'!)
- Keine Macht Für Gesellschaftliches Aus! (No Power For Social Outing!)
- Keine Macht Für Jesus! (No Power For Jesus!)
- Keine Macht Für den Geist von Potsdam! (No Power For The Spirit Of Potsdam!)
- Keine Macht Für Lehrer Dr. Specht! (No Power For Dr. Specht, The Teacher!)
- Keine Macht Für Monotonie In Der Südsee! (No Power For Monotony In The South Seas!)
- Keine Macht Für Aus Einer Mücke Einen Elefanten Machen! (No Power For Making A Mountain Out Of A Molehill!)
- Keine Macht Für Alte Bekannte! (No Power For Old Acquaintances!)
- Keine Macht Für Uninteressante Mitmenschen! (No Power For Uninteresting Fellow Human Beings!)
- Keine Macht Für Leute, Die Pauschalreisen Buchen Und Sich Hinterher Beschweren! (No Power For People Who Book Package Tours And Then Complain Later!)
- Keine Macht Für Idiosynkrasien, Ausser Sie Bringen Die Menschheit Weiter! (No Power For Idiosyncracies Unless They Contribute To The Advancement Of Humanity!)
- Keine Macht Für PTH-Nicht-Schmecker! (No Power For PTH-Sufferers!)
- Keine Macht Für Halbe Sachen! (No Power For Jobs Half Done!)
- Keine Macht Für Ganze Kerle! (No Power For Real Men!)
- Keine Macht Für Alte Garde! (No Power For The Old School!)
- Keine Macht Für Slogans! (No Power For Slogans!)
- Keine Macht Für Veränderungsunfähigkeit! (No Power For The Inability To Transform!)
- Keine Macht Für Starre Regeln! (No Power For Inflexible Rules!)
- Keine Macht Für Den Psychiater Von Brian Wilson! (No Power For Brian Wilson's Psychiatrist!)
- Keine Macht Für Die Normative Kraft Des Faktischen! (No Power For The Normative Power Of The Factual!)
- Keine Macht Für Neubauviertel! (No Power For New Neighbourhoods!)
- Keine Macht Für Evil Knievel! (No Power For Evil Knievel!)
- Keine Macht Für Theorie Und/Oder Praxis! (No Power For Theory And/Or Practise!)
- Keine Macht Für Alle, Die Noch Nicht Reif Dafür Sind! (No Power For All Those Who Are Not Yet Mature Enough For It!)
- Keine Macht Für Die Bahnhofsvorhalle Von Hammünkeln! (No Power For The Station Lobby At Hammünkeln!)
- Keine Macht Für Theo Van Gogh! (No Power For Theo Van Gogh!)
- Keine Macht Für Kellner, Die Einen Übersehen! (No Power For Waiters Who Overlook One!)
- Keine Macht Für Den Einzelhandel! (No Power For The Retail Trade!)
- Keine Macht Für Internetpornographie, Ausser Sie Ist Gut Gemacht! (No Power For Internet Pornography, Unless It's Well Done!)
- Keine Macht Für Kinderschänder, Das Dürfte Ja Wohl Konsens Sein! (No Power For Paedophiles, That Ought To Find A Consensus Of Opinion!)
- Keine Macht Für Die Biedermaier, Denn Sie Sind Die Brandstifter! (No Power For Biedermaier As They Are The Arsonists!)
- Keine Macht Für Die Brandstifter, Denn Sie Sitzen In Bonn! (No Power For The Arsonists As They Are Sitting In Bonn!)
- Keine Macht Für Meine Freunde, Denn Die Können Auch Nur Reden! (No Power For My Friends As They Can Only Talk!)
- Keine Macht Für Slipeinlagen! (No Power For Sanitary Towels!)
- Keine Macht Für Massenmedien, Die Die Würde Des Menschen Zum Fussabstreifer Degradieren! (No Power For The Mass Media That Degrade The Dignity Of The People To Doormats!)
- Keine Macht Für Gesundheitsschuhe! (No Power For Healthy Shoes!)
- Keine Macht Für Jerry Zachary Adamski! (No Power For Jerry Zachary Adamski!)
- Keine Macht Für Kennedy-Attentäter! (No Power For Kennedy Assasins!)
- Keine Macht Für Den Diskreten Charme Der Bourgeoisie! (No Power For the Discrete Charm Of The Bourgeoisie!)
- Keine Macht Für Pseudo-Kippenberger! (No Power For Pseudo-Kippenbergers!)
- Keine Macht Für Den Historischen Woyzeck! (No Power For The Historical Woyzeck!)
- Keine Macht Für Magellan! (No Power For Magellan!)
- Keine Macht Für Alte Hasen im Showgeschäft! (No Power For Old Hands In Show Business!)
- Keine Macht Für Exilliteratur! (No Power For Exile Literature!)
- Keine Macht Für Srebrenica! (No Power For Srebrenica!)
- Keine Macht Für den Muff Von 1000 Jahren! (No Power For The Mustiness Of 1000 Years!)
- Keine Macht für 'Bitte Nicht Hupen ...!' -Autoaufkleber! (No Power For 'Please Don't Use Your Horn...' Bumper Stickers!)
- Keine Macht Für Weltverbesserer! (No Power For People Who Want To Make The World a Better Place!)
- Keine Macht Für Grobe Fouls! (No Power For Obvious Fouls!)
- Keine Macht Für Nachrichtensendungen, Die Zu Sensationsheischend Sind! (No Power For News Programmes That Are Too Sensation Seeking!)
- Keine Macht Für Beispielsätze, Denn Die Lenken Doch Nur Ab! (No Power For Exemplory Sentences, They Are Only A Distraction!)
- Keine Macht Für Leute, Die Immer Nur Fragen, Was Der Staat Für Sie Tun Kann! (No Power For People Who Only Ask What The State Can Do For Them!)
- Keine Macht Für Babyphon! (No Power For Baby Alarms!)
- Keine Macht Für SMS-Scheidungen! (No Power For SMS Divorces!)
- Keine Macht Für Die, Die Es Schon Immer Gewusst Haben! (No Power For Those Who Have Known All Along!)
- Keine Macht Für Die, Die Es Ja Gleich Gesagt Haben! (No Power For Those Who Told You So!)
- Keine Macht Für Leute, Die Nicht Mal Wissen, Was Methexis Ist! (No Power For People Who Don't Even Know What Methexis Is!)
- Keine Macht Für Leute, Die Sich Einen Christopherus An Den Rückspiegel Hängen! (No Power For People Who Hang A St. Christopher Medallion On Their Rear-View Mirrors!)
- Keine Macht Für Irish Folk-Fans! (No Power For Fans Of Irish Folk Music!)
- Keine Macht Für Irish Folk-Fans! II (No Power For Fans Of Irish Folk Music! II)
- Keine Macht Für Leute, Die Briefmarken Mit Pritt-Stift Einschmieren, Damit Sie Sie Noch Mal Benutzen Können! (No Power For People Who Smear Pritt On Stamps So They Can Use Them Again!)
- Keine Macht Für Das Milieu! (No Power For The Milieu!)
- Keine Macht Für Erfahrung! (No Power For Experience!)
7th March 1997: Thomann is invited by the artist group monochrom to their Gehirnaquaplaning: Diskurs- Und Gameshow (Brain Aqua-Planing: Discourse And Game Show) held at Public Netbase, and plays in a team with Ex Digest and Sacro Egoismo (Vienna Punk and Hardcore scene).
End of March, Thomann records the song Versuch Ein Lied Zu Machen, Das Amina Handke Auflegen Würde (Attempt To Make A Song That Amina Handke Would Play).
Participation in the exhibition Treffsicherheit Seit Werndl (Accuracy Since Werndl; 17th May – 19th July 1997, Kunsthalle.tmpSTEYR), where Thomann uses the pseudonym Johannes 'Johnny' Muggenthaler and hangs a self-portrait with a bullet caught between his teeth. The piece bears the title Nice Try Death.
5th June 1997: Thomann participates in the exhibition It's A Better World. Russischer Aktionismus Und Sein Kontext (Russian Actionism And Its Context) in the Wiener Secession (curated by Johanna Kandl and Joseph Bakstein). Thomann spends the following week with the Muscovite Actionist Alexander Brenner (who, five months prior to the exhibition, had sprayed a green dollar sign on a Malevich painting in Amsterdam and come straight from prison to the exhibition in Vienna) and Oleg Kulik who, as Revisor Dog, had tried to prevent visitors from entering the exhibition while naked and on all fours, chained to the door of the Secession. Thomann is impressed and accepts an invitation to visit Moscow in 1998. ("With the two of them I had the humiliating feeling that I was the grandpa among us but it was a liberating feeling in a way, too. I felt alive again for the first time since Dagmar's death.")
Documenta X: 21st June to 28th September 1997
Selbstporträt Als Ikearegal (Self-Portrait As An Ikea Shelf): Thomann exhibits a 'Billy' shelf unit at Documenta X in Kassel. At a press conference Thomann admits publicly to suffering from a lack of ideas and a lack of perspective. He also informs the journalists that the installation is an act of plagiarism, being a repetition of the piece Self-Portrait Of A Fast-Food Store by the New York-based geo-realist Morgan Werner. Thomann announces that he is completely burned-out, "at the end" from a human point of view, objectionable and also addicted to Methamphetamin. Furthermore, at the age of ten he had forced his four younger sisters to put his genitals in their mouths. A Thomann expert in the room (played by Elena Zwang) interjects that he didn't have any sisters and grew up as an only child. Thomann replies that he meant it "more on a theoretical level". Finally Thomann takes a copy of a confession slip out of his jacket pocket and begins reading out a list of his sins. Among these are ones like: "Fell asleep during an Otto Mühl organ concert" and "bought 50 shares in Microsoft from my accountant". He finishes the press conference by drinking half a bottle of Slibowitz schnapps and begins to murmur that he has really been impotent for years. He moves towards the audience and representatives of the press and grabs them by the neck, cries, becomes aggressive etc. Then he falls of the stage, throws up and stammers lying in his own vomit: "I believed in art!" Suddenly Thomann stands up, bows slightly, thanks the audience for their attention and declares that the whole thing was a fake, the Slibowitz bottle had "was only filled with water and I've been practising throwing up."
Enthusiastic reviews of the performance follow in Art Forum and Springer.
At the start of August 1997 Thomann goes on a trip to Albania. Thomann compiles the Albania Baedecker, which contains 200 empty pages.
17th August 1997: Thomann performs at the electronic music event Picknick Mit Hermann (Picnic With Hermann) and plays the song Saufen Mit Ostermayer, Einem ORF Angestellten on the electric zither (Drinking With Ostermayer, An ORF Employee, Rhiz CD-003/1)
On 1st September 1997 Thomann sues the Documenta curator Catherine David for having been so thoroughly irresponsible as to have shown his piece Selbstporträt Als Ikearegal, even though it was plain to see that this was "the last piece of total crap". He maintained that David had neglected her duty as a curator "abysmally" and damaged him, Thomann, more than helped him in his career as he had clearly not been responsible for his actions when he produced the piece. David should have noticed this. "She's known me for long enough. ...I was lonely at the time and addicted to tablets. I had simply lost sight of any sense of perspective or goal. I had just taken the Ikea shelf unit out of the cellar because the deadline for submitting the exponents had come and I had nothing to show. My girlfriend had just left me and I was really down. In my opinion it should have been Catherine David's duty as leader of the Documenta to reject the piece. ...I refer here to the writings of Johann Jakob Winckelmann in particular." (Note: Johann Jakob Winckelmann is an invention of Thomann's and is not to be confused with the archaeologist of the same name who lived from 1717-1768.)
October 1997: On the death of Martin Kippenberger Thomann produces the collage 'Kippenberger – Ich Vermisse Dich!' Or 'Taka Taka' Or 'Phlegmatische Kritik Am Strukturalismus' Or 'Das Vexierbild Des Gesellschaftlichen, Und Damit Basta!' ('Kippenberger – I Miss You!' Or 'Taka Taka' Or 'A Phlegmatic Critique Of Structuralism' Or 'The Picture Puzzle Of The Social, Et Basta!')
31st October 1997: Thomann presents the synthie pop song Kids You're Shit, a year late, at the Hohenems Transmitter Festival.
In November 1997 Thomann announces the existence of the 'Ytong Chromosome'. (Note: Ytong is the Central European equivalent of breeze blocks)
December 1997: Elena Brandstätter-Schmitz publishes the text 'Antisemitische, Sexistische und Rassistische Tendenzen der Österreichischen Gegenwartskunst' in Singulär 3. Cultural Studies ('Anti-Semitic, Sexist and Racist Tendencies in Austrian Contemporary Art' in Singular 3. Cultural Studies. Vienna 1997), in which, alongside Schwarzkogler, Mürz, Simascheck and Arnulf Rainer, she also launches a vehement attack on Thomann. Among others, the project André Hitler is criticised as "a tasteless anti-Semitic art college prank ... that failed to create sufficient awareness of the concrete arsenal of significance which he introduces into the arena ...even abusing such representatives of a continuing Jewish cultural element within the Austrian people's culture to generate ironic parodying effects. Precisely here the criticism of the projects André Hitler and Der Arische Brauer runs into an empty, merely cynical recourse to shocking content without the artist's adopting any kind of a clear position. Precisely the fact that at the few performances of André Hitler radical right-wing symbols (raised right arm) were presented by the audience itself and that even the right-wing intellectual elite chose not to interfere in Thomann's undifferentiated amusement in confusing symbols, clearly shows to what extent such transgressive art could play right into the hands of the once more strongly represented neo-right-wing tendencies... The same applies to a certain extent to Arnulf Rainer's series of paintings Amsfeld (1988)."
In a letter to Singulär Thomann commits himself: "Even if it's difficult to believe me here, I agree entirely with Elena Brandstätter-Schmitz."
From today's point of view, and in the face of the so-called 'PC' movement, which is forcing older artists in particular to decide for or against the socially incorrect, the project André Hitler cannot avoid the vicious circle of a merely provocative recourse to symbolism. The re-release of Wollt Ihr Die Totale Phantasie currently being planned on the Bremer industrial label Scholastik&Muräne is stopped at the last minute. Thomann writes an essay which is published simultaneously in Texte zur Kunst, Singulär and the Croatian artzine Prepost. The text takes a critical view of his own work and sheds light on sexist and racist content from a critical point of view, reflecting on the issues concerned.
In January 1998 Thomann begins working on his book Die Konflikt-Masche (The Conflict Trick).
The Sapperlott free-rave formation is founded in the same month with Franz Ablinger, Markus Hofer and Martin Kraushofer.
31st January 1998: Thomann performs with the group Die Mäuse at the Schlachthof in Wels. Thomann interrupts the concert unexpectedly and reads out an Anti-Mego-Kabarett-Manifest (Anti-Mego Cabaret Manifesto). Bottles are thrown from the audience and Thomann is booed off the stage. Mäuse singer Tex Rubinowitz is hit and injures his nose.
The performance artist Walter Pfriemer on Thomann in an interview for Radio Orange: "I've known Thomann since a concert with the group Die Mäuse at the Alte Schlachthof in Wels. I was responsible for the visuals in the space and had spent months training a mouse for the evening. The mouse had learned to throw a tiny basketball into a basket using its snout without resorting to dribbling in a way that would have been against the rules.
I put it in a little house with parquet flooring. And to get the mouse in the right frame of mind I got it to watch a game of basketball between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks from 1994 (score, 98:101) around the clock. When I noticed the mouse had developed a particular affinity for the New York player Patrick Ewing I called it Bobby Duffy. I put a little basketball in Bobby Duffy's little house about a month later. Shortly after that I mounted a basket in the house. I trained Bobby by carrying out the following experiment: I hung up 100 miniature New York Knicks outfits with "Patrick Ewing – 10" printed on the back in a little house next to Bobby's. I then put another mouse in the house next to Bobby's that had been put on a starvation diet and I let it eat the sports kit. During this time Bobby Duffy had to throw the ball into the basket. When Bobby Duffy succeeded I took the sports kit-eating mouse next door and mixed it in with the shredded remaining sports kit using a purée-maker and then fed the concoction to Bobby Duffy.
When Bobby failed to throw the ball into the basket during the sports kit-eating period, I set the other mouse free and then got another starving mouse and let it eat sports kit. After four days the experiment was over as Bobby Duffy had made the basket 87 times. Only 13 mice were set free. As Bobby Duffy put on 47 grams in four days during this time I put him on a strict regime of training, which I filmed. Bobby Duffy managed to hit the basket 386 times in an hour and was subsequently withdrawn from the experiment to be prepared for the next experiment, which is called 20 Jahre Cordoba (20 Years Since Cordoba).
The hour-long video was shown during the Mäuse concerts. In-between, the word "Meuse" flashed across the screen as a reference to the band of the same name.
Thomann interrupted the concert with his reading of the Anti-Mego-Kabarett-Manifest. After that there were some violent incidences and Thomann ended up on the floor. I slung him over my shoulder so that we could go and talk about our understanding of art. We spent a night at Mustapha's in Wels, where Thomann ate unbelievable amounts of Shish Kebab."
In February 1998 Thomann starts work on the series of oil paintings Sanfte Revolutionen (Gentle Revolutions).
- Sanfte Revolution Für Die Haut: Kleenextuch Im Mund Einer Erschossenen Geisel (A Gentle Revolution For The Skin: A Kleenex Tissue In The Mouth Of A Shot Hostage).
- Sanfte Revolution In Osteuropa: Toter Tschetschenischer Milizionär Auf Einem Feldweg Bei Grosny (A Gentle Revolution In Eastern Europe: Dead Chechen Militiaman On A Rural Path Near Grosny).
- Sanfte Revolution Der Kommunikation: Masturbierender Schüler Vor Kinderporno-Website (A Gentle Revolution In Communication: Masturbating Schoolkids In Front Of A Child Pornography Website)
- Sanfte Revolution Der Gesellschaft: Brennendes Asylbewerberheim In Nordrhein-Westfalen (A Gentle Social Revolution: Burning Asylum-Seeker In North Rhine-Westphalia).
- Sanfte Revolution Der Musik Als Sanfte Revolution Der Gesellschaft: Mitarbeiter Des Berliner Umweltamtes Nach Der Loverparade (Gentle Revolution In Music As A Gentle Social Revolution: Members Of The Berlin Ministry Of The Environment After The Love Parade)
- Sanfte Revolution Im Strassenverkehr: Unternehmensberater Weiss Noch Nicht, Dass Er In Vier Tagen Durch Airbag-Fehlzündung Sterben Wird (A Gentle Revolution In Traffic: Company Consultant Does Not Know That He's Going To Die In Four Days Because Of An Airbag Malfunction)
- Sanfte Revolution Der Zwischenmenschlichen Beziehungen: Exhibitionist Wird Von Polizeibeamten In Altaussee Festgenommen Und Schwer Misshandelt (A Gentle Revolution In Human Relationships: An Exhibitionist Is Arrested And Seriously Maltreated By The Police In Altaussee)
- Sanfte Revolution Der Freizeit Durch Sanften Tourismus: Adolf Hitler Auf Dem Obersalzberg, Wandernd (A Gentle Revolution In Leisure Pursuits: Adolf Hitler On The Obersalzberg Mountain, Hiking)
- Sanfte Strukturen: Erfrorener Obdachloser In Berlin-Mitte (Gentle Structures: Frozen Homeless Man In Berlin-Mitte)
- Sanfte Zeitenwende: Mordstatistik Einer Amerikanischen Grossstadt Zu Beginn Des Wassermannzeitalters (A Gentle Change Of Sides: The Murder Statistics For An American City At The Dawning Of The Age Of Aquarius)
- Sanfte Gerechtigkeit: Alois Mock Vor Dem Den Haager Kriegsverbrechertribunal (Gentle Justice: Alois Mock Before The War Crimes Tribunal In Den Haag)
- Sanfte Revolution Der Landwirtschaft: Mediamarktfiliale Im Salzkammergut (Gentle Agricultural Revolution: A Branch Of Media Markt In The Salzkammergut)
- Sanfte Revolution Durch Sanfte Stimmen: Marvin Gayes Vater Wird Nach Der Erschiessung Seines Sohnes Festgenommen (A Gentle Revolution By Means Of Gentle Voices: Marvin Gaye's Father Is Arrested Following The Shooting Of His Son)
- Samtweiche Körper Für Sanfte Feelings: Von Dänischem Touristen Misshandelte Thailändische Prostituierte – 14 (Silky-Soft Bodies For Gentle Feelings: Thai Prostitute Who Has Been Mishandled by Danish Tourists – 14)
- Sanfter Erdkörper (Gentle Geological Volumes)
April/May 1989: Thomann travels to Moscow. Performance with Oleg Kulik on Pushkin Square where Kulik, in a monk's habit, and Thomann, naked in an over-sized aquarium full of squirming eels, read from the Bible. The performance is stopped by the police.
"It was phenomenal. A wonderful, plastic sequel to my Bible film perfected by Oleg's unmistakable direction. Not only that, but the arrest was really a highly erotic experience. Wow, was I horny, first the eels then the militia."
"The whole story of the Rainer over-painting is now a widely known one. An unknown individual breaks into Arnulf Rainer's studio one night and paints over his paintings there, a technique that Rainer himself had employed. The next day Rainer, who himself has been accused of having painted over his own paintings, accuses Thomann of the deed. Thomann's statement is cryptic although he has an alibi provided by a male prostitute on the Vienna Gürtel. The excessive detail given in the alibi, though, fails to eliminate all suspicion. Rumours continued to circulate, encouraged by occasional cryptic remarks made by Thomann." (Peter Burger in a conversation with Thomas Edlinger/FM4 during a programme on the performance at Pushkin Square)
End of May 1998: On the Soon-To-Be Eastern Frontier. Thomann places DIN A1 stacks of paper in front of the ministries of defence in Bonn and Vienna. These are held down with, as Thomann alleges, "stones from the Volga as paperweights. ...My open-air Torres."
June 1998: At the art college where he teaches, Thomann increasingly themetises the concept of the intangibility of a reliable given reality. On 24th June he takes his students to the site of the ICE accident in Eschede. With a portable combination of mobile phone, notebook and webcam, they begin to gather material that is then worked into a website (Crack ICE, You Stupid Minds/Public Netbase t0).
28th June 1998: First and only performance by the group Sapperlott in the Vienna Soft Egg Cafe/Flex with Thomann (under the pseudonym MK71) playing the flute. The track Katzengewascht (Cat-Bathed) is released as a single by Sabotage Records.
"Sapperlott are doing with funk what Underworld have done for the rave. Don't be frightened of magnanimous gestures, surface-covering sounds and a crystal-clear production. The result may well appear far too smooth for some techno-fetishists. Especially the approach to the verses, chorus etc. of tracks like I Fucked Friedl Koncilia and Der Dippel Und Die Pensionistin (The Zit And The Pensioner)." (Spex 8/98)
A fight with DJ Drehli Robnik ensues – apparently due to a row over the fee.
July 1998: Thomann completes the painting Danke (Thank You), which he dedicates to his parents. It shows "a picture of me as a child playing the piano, but only the head and the hands floating freely in a mauve sauce that looks like a naff early-90s sofa cover. Seen greatly enlarged it actually shows visitors to a sporting event. Underneath this it says "danke" in gold lettering, which is addressed to my parents who gave me the gift of life, and not just that of life. The painting ought to reflect something of the warmth and cosiness of our living room in Vorarlberg, which I attempt to interpret both as a primeval broth as well as the evening red of the modernity into which I was born. A sense of reconciliation! Peace, satisfaction, being at one with the universe, the overall mauve tone of which transcends me into a state of bodilessness, from which I emerge in that particular precinct of 'reality' in which my parents raised me. The crown I'm wearing is intended to be understood as an indication of the healing power of solipsism. Purity, I think this painting's about purity. The most pure event is probably the advent of the human being as he steps towards us from an undefined depth in his Lavateresque signature, but which I have deliberately tried leave the background to the painting blank. So that nobody comes at me later with C.G. Jung or some other crap." (From a conversation with Frank Apunkt Schneider to be published in Monochrom #14)
10th August 1998: Opening of Sanfte Revolutionen in the Vienna Semper Depot.
"Sanfte Revolutionen throws you back into the midst of life, you are dragging your feet slightly clumsily across the floor." (Klaus Nüchtern in Falter Nr. 34, 1998)
"Thomann is an iconoclast." (Ingo Lebauf in Texte zur Kunst, Autumn 1998)
At the exhibition Verstandsaufnahme (Intelligent Appraisal/Absorbing Comprehension; 26th October to 18th November 1998) in Schloss Gloggnitz in Lower Austria, Thomann causes a furore as a visitor by repeatedly gaining access to the fuse box and then, in the darkness for which he is responsible, announces the pending short circuit in human understanding. Contact with the artist group Shifz.
3rd December 1998: Thomann performs with Didi Bruckmayr (of Fuckhead) at the Skug Research is 5 party at B72 in Vienna. The happening is entitled Havanner Krampfradler (Havana Cyclist Shandy/Havana Varicose Vein). While Bruckmayr executes a performance of screaming to the sound of Cuban folk music, Thomann attempts to bury himself in old Fent tractor tyres. A tyre rolls off the stage almost hitting Christian Schachinger, who writes an article on the exploit on 6th December under the title Ironische Bestialität Ohne Format (Ironic Bestiality With No Format; Der Standard).
From 14th February to 14th March 1999 Thomann realises his project My Body Is My Buddy Buddy (I) – Waterworld. He sticks his left hand in a large beer glass and leaves it there for an entire month. He takes digital photographs of his hand every day and puts them online as graphic documents. Internet users can "watch the increasing softening of his body in a bodiless medium" (Thomann in Format 3/99).
March 1999: Small role as a passer-by in Rene Udovicic's political satire Die Schleiche, Escape From New Danube, an ambitious statement on the shift to the right in Austria.
April 1999: Thomann starts the three-part series Titelbilderserie (Cover Image Series), each part of which consists of 5 separate paintings: Hitlertitelbilder Des Spiegel ('Spiegel's' Cover Images Of Hitler; Part 1); Tittentitelbilder Des Stern ('Stern's' Cover Images Of Tits; Part 2); Listentitelbilder Des Focus ('Focus'' Cover Images Of Lists; Part 3)
May 1999: The Sanfte Revolutionen series of oil paintings from the previous year is supplemented by a new series:
- Sanfte Konter-Revolutionen (Gentle Counter-Revolution)
- Sanfte Revolutionen: Pfiffiger Nachwuchs Stellt Sich Der Ikonenschwemme (Gentle Revolutions: Lively Progeny Confronts The Flood of Icons)
"A fat little child is standing on a 70s piece of furniture gazing at the powder pink wallpaper on which Rudolf Mooshammer's likeness appears 12 times." (Thomas Jeschke in Diessein 9)
- Sanfte Revolutionen Des Innenausbaus: Neue Blüte Des Handwerks Durch Öffnung Für Homoerotische Neckischheit Und Den Sanften Rausch Des Schwulen (A Gentle Revolution In Interior Conversion: New Life For Craftsmen Through The Opening Of Homo-Erotic Coquetry And The Gentle Buzz Of The Gay)
"A curly-haired lad copied from Johann Casper's Hermes is standing naked from the hips up but with a respiratory mask of rose leaves in front of his mouth. Casually slung over his shoulder is a sanding machine. His gaze is to the side, over the sea of roses, and looks simultaneously both innocent but nevertheless as if he has a sense of responsibility. The painting is intended to pay solitary homage to Robert Mapplethorpe, as the signature 'Richard Wientzek' shows, for that is Mapplethorpe's real name." (Thomas Jeschke in Diessein 9)
The Thomann painting also appears under the pseudonym Richard Wientzek, – despite the row with Johannes Ullmaier – in Testcard #10, although incorrectly titled Selbstporträt Mit Schleifgerät (Self-Portrait With Sanding Machine).
- Sanfte Revolutionen Der Innenausbauikonografie Durch Solides Schuhwerk (A Gentle Revolution In Interior Conversion Iconography By Means Of Sturdy Shoes)
"One sees the naked legs and uncovered penises of two obvious workmen in a dust-filled interior; on their feet 80s training shoes and apple green socks are also to be seen." (Thomas Jeschke in Diessein 9)
- Sanfte Revolution In Der Kunstpädagogik: Leichteres Verstehen Konzeptuell Komplexer Enviroments Durch Ausliegende Interpretationshilfen. (Gentle Revolution In Art Teaching Practise: Easy Comprehension Of Conceptually Complex Environments By Means Of Guides To Interpretation Laid Out)
In June 1999, Thomann travels to St. Petersburg. A happening with Viktor Snessar of Laboratorie Chisni. A Land Art project on the Finnish Gulf, where both spend a week on the half-completed dam without any contact to the mainland. The purpose is to attract attention to the environmental danger posed by the damn, which prevents toxins from flowing into the ocean.
Thomann catches a serious stomach complaint and has to go to hospital, where he spends the next three weeks.
25th August 1999: My Body Is My Buddy Buddy (II) – Gottfleisch (Divine Flesh). Thomann has a wart removed from his back (verruca vulgaris, on the right shoulder blade) and has the procedure broadcast onto his homepage per webcam. In a brief essay on the website, Thomann appeals for the "capitulation of the tumour in space". He is referring in the text to Timothy Leary, who had his ashes projected into space in 1997. "Must every life end shitily, even if it was half-way okay?"
10th September 1999: Premier of Gutes Erb(g)ut/Böses Erbgut (Good Ge(n)es/Bad Genes) at the Top-Kino. Thomann's film was produced in only two days using just a personal computer, a microphone and a VHS recorder. Thomas re-edits Paul Verhoeven's Basic Instinct and alters the synchronisation of the dialogue. The reviews are tepid. The showing is not repeated. (Note: a copy of the videotape is available from the Demonia videotheque on Esterhazygasse, 1060 Vienna.)
"Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas, as well as a couple of minor figures, fuck with a little dialogue in-between in Georg Thomann's re-dubbed version on the reproductive drive and the quality of the respective genes inherited. Sharon Stone kills everyone with bad gene material – but in an endless loop they try it again and again. In-between is footage taken from the television series Universum of copulating animals, on the soundtrack: Do Ya Think I'm Sexy by The Revolting Cocks – all in all, quite fun." (Michael H. Arno in Splatting Image, November 1999)
At the end of September 1999 Thomann states that he is against the stance taken on web art in the magazine Springerin.
"One thinks that this medium will create transparency, but it doesn't because everyone puts on their own little show. Warhol would have loved it. The question is how does one represent oneself, with which details and elements. This is in keeping with the current of the times, which has allowed us to hope that we will at last be able to admit that we don't trust the surface. Or do you think that everyone really believes, and believes what others say there? I think that doubt is already being embraced in the web."
23rd October 1999: Launching party for Thomann's book Die Konflikt-Masche (Edition Selene, foreword by Oliver Marchart) at Rhiz.
22nd November 1999: Anti-80er-Jahre-Zynismus-Training (Anti-80s Cynicism Training) performance with the Hallucination Company in the Vienna Orpheum; the rock caberetists Hallucination Company file a suit for the unauthorised use of their name.
"The book is Thomann's most experimental literary work, a mixture of DIY assembly instructions, radical political commentary, sentimental novel and the peculiarly Austrian brand of contrariness." (Kurier, 5th December 1999)
"What at first sounds like the tedious ramblings of a notorious grumbler who is dissatisfied with themselves and the world reads smoothly almost from the beginning to the end. Entertaining and wonderfully exciting. Die Konflikt-Masche is an enchanting love story, a successful introduction into drilling wall plugs and a brilliant reckoning with post-industrial capitalism." (Die Welt Hamburg, 20th February 2000)
The immense power with which Thomann vents on Derrick/Tappert is the salvation of German literary endeavours." (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 3rd February 2000)
"Thomann clearly counts as the founder of 'the new utility value'." (FAZ, 11th January 2000)
31st December 1999: Thomann throws plastic sharks into the Danube canal from a bridge, the Augartenbrücke.
"This will be the year of the great anniversary. The white shark is 25 years old."
January 2000: More pieces in the series Ulknudeln Gedenkbilder (Slapstick Memorial Paintings) with the wives of the all the Austrian Presidents since the founding of the Republic.
Thomann is also planning the To Lose Law-Track/Verlasse Bitte Den Pfad Der Tugend, Liebe Jugend (To Lose Law-Track/Please Leave The Path of Virtue, Dear Youth) series of portraits of young criminals from Vienna and Lower Austria in the style of the French painter Toulouse-Lautrec. The project is not realised.
February 2000: When the Conservative-Freedom Party coalition is announced Georg Paul Thomann writes the Frohdrum manifesto (Happy About It). The background to the document is covered with Smilies, which is heavily criticised by the Solidarität Union and by Rainhardt Hörbig and Heimo Zobernig, among others, at a panel discussion held in the Republican Club.
An excerpt from the manifesto:
"There is something that needs repoliticising, let's get to work. On 4th February 2000 a coalition government between the FPÖ and the ÖVP took office. Since then nothing has been as it was. I no longer do the washing up. It stinks at home. I can't return to my normal life, our everyday lives! I don't even want to go out and buy a bread roll in the face of the current power structure. If I was a cynical ageing left-winger without any ideas before, overnight I have become a cynical ageing left-winger who doesn't know what to paint first. Yesterday, within four hours I'd had almost 20 ideas for titles of paintings, all of which are appropriate under the circumstances: hoist a flag, show which side you're on. One can buy a hand-numbered facsimile of my notes on the theme reproduced on hand-made paper from the Hellerau artists' colony. Edition: 100. Get yours now! The first three orders each come with a free CD of Leonard Cohen's most beautiful songs, specially compiled and burned by me. I'd like to paint the paintings because of the excellent titles but think that there are quite simply too many of them. So I'd better let it be! So, stick to the motto: If it's buggering up your life, bugger it up! And: We can't win if we're on our own. But there are many of us! Whole pedestrian precincts full."
The manifesto was circulated by email. The text mentioned above was an attachment bearing the following ideas for titles:
Gelbe Flecken Gegen Nazis! (Yellow Stains Against Nazis)
Grossflächiger Farbauftrag Mit Spachtel Und Zigarettenschachtel (HB) Gegen Rechts! (Generous Covering Of Paint With Palette Knife And Cigarette Packet (HB) Against The Right-Wing)
Sensible Grossstadtbeobachtung Gegen Neurechte Tendenzen Im Urbanen Raum! (Sensitive Metropolitan Observations Against New Right-Wing Tendencies In Urban Space)
Weinender Clown Gegen Die Koalition! (Crying Clown Against The Coalition)
Kaltnadelradierung Einer Winterlandschaft Im Stile Alfred Kubins Gegen Mindestens 30% Der Österreichischen Bevölkerung! (Hand Etching Of A Winter Landscape In The Manner Of Alfred Kubins Against At Least 30% Of The Austrian Populous)
Improvisierte Saxophonsoli Gegen Haider! (Improvised Saxophone Solos Against Haider)
Inszenierung Meiner Abwesenheit Gegen Gesellschaftliches Klima! (The Faking Of My Absence As A Protest Against The Social Climate!)
Zu Würfel Gepresster Autoschrott Gegen Das Wiederaufkeimen Des Geistes Von '33! (Car Refuse Pressed Into A Cube Against The Rekindling Of The Spirit Of '33)
100 Aufgereihte Defekte Schreibmaschinen Gegen Das Vergessen! (100 Broken Typewriters In A Row Against Forgetting!)
Alter Postsack Gegen Alte Garde! (Old Post Sack Against The Old School)
Verbranntes Bernhard-Buch Gegen Bücherverbennungen! (Burned Bernhard Book Against The Burning Of Books)
Schwarzes Dreieck Gegen Schwarzhemden! (Black Triangle Against Black Shirts!)
Braune Sosse Gegen 'Braune Sosse'! (Brown Sauce Against 'Brown Sauce'!)
as well as Rituelle Bewerfung Mit Fleisch Gegen Rassismus! (The Ritual Throwing Of Meat Against Racism).
On the FM4 (radio station) homepage Martin Blumenau accused Thomann of misplaced sarcasm. The paper Beute considered Thomann's action to be of "Schlingensiefesque counter-productivity". Joris Hellmer and Gunther Pfäff distanced themselves publicly from Thomann in a discussion on FM4. Thomann himself described the manifesto as "too hasty and idiosyncratic" in an interview with Stefan Rathke (in Querbalken 9), and shortly afterwards he too distanced himself from it in, of all media, a letter to the Kronenzeitung newspaper.
End of February 2000: Thomann meets the electronic musician and computer artist Tonki Gebauer at a demonstration against the ÖVP-FPÖ-government.
March 2000: Thomann starts working on his installation Anteil 04 (Proportion 04). The project is in collaboration with the pathological institute at Vienna Medical University, a biochemistry research group at the Itheca University, New York, and the artist group Shifz.
Thomann also goes on to plan Such A Lovely Place, a projection of profiles of different countries ("The real Caucasus Mountains are the Alps") onto the left wing of the Austrian Parliament (not realised).
End of March 2000: Thomann and Tonki Gebauer plan a live collage comprised of ski and yodel film footage. Following a visit to the performance Kassasturz (Cash-Crash) by the Institut für Transakustische Forschung (Trans-Acoustic Research Institute), they both abandon the idea. Thomann identified too strongly with what he had seen.
Thomann resolves to go on a diet and loses twelve kilos in the ensuing months.
April 2000: The "self-critical" (Thomann in his newsletter There's A Time To Laugh And A Time to Cry) painting Ich Hatte Doch Ausdrücklich Gesagt: Keine Sardellen! (I Quite Clearly Said: No Sardines!) is completed. "It should be seen as a study of my inability to produce any slapstick when the black-blue (conservative and populist right-wing) coalition came into power." In a text published on the action union Get To Attack's homepage, Vivian Stölzle says that Thomann's themetisation of his inability to produce the work in Frohdrum is itself "a monstrous Thomannesque gag".
Thomann responds with the projects Ein Schamhaar Für Eine Politische Schamgrenze (A Pubic Hair for a Political Boundary Of Decency/Pubic Political Boundary) and Ein Königreich Für Eine Demokratie (A Kingdom For A Democracy).
Thomann meets the painter Gerhard Fresacher and the lead singer of Naked Lunch, Oliver Welter, on 1st May at a picnic in Dusseldorf. Through his Moscow acquaintances the performance Demontage Der Superheroes (der = of the) is organised in the XL Gallery where Fresacher as Superman, Welter as Batman, Thomann as the Red Flash and the Muscovite artist Gosha Ostretsov as a Russian superhero all get drunk on a portacabin full of Pjatisvesdaja vodka in front of the gallery. The spectators are confused and distraught.
"All of the Western idols and ideals have found fertile ground in Russia, the political as well as the economic greats, Mickey Mouse, the Semperit and Tofix men, only the superheroes have, for reasons that are inexplicable, never arrived in Russia – until our performance, that is." (Thomann in Art Forum, August 2000)
Thomann finishes working on Anteil 04.
Start of June 2000: Under the name Polizei14, Thomann and Tonki Gebauer begin work on a piece for the Metallica mp3 Contest held by the Illegal-Art plunderphonic label.
As a result of increased difficulties between the two in their collaborations, Thomann chooses "to let fate decide" (see Tonki Gebauer in Wer erschoss Immanenz?). The piece is never completed.
Thomann also works on the series Actionpainter.
- Actionpainter Im Baumarkt (Action Painter At The Builders' Merchants)
- Actionpainter Im Hochzeitskleid Seiner Mutter, Schwitzend Onanierend – Es Ist August (Action Painter In His Mother's Wedding Dress, Sweating And Masturbating – It's August)
- Actionpainter Bei Der Papst-Audienz (Action Painter Having An Audience With The Pope)
- Actionpainter Im Kino, Verwirrt Und Geil (Action Painter At The Cinema, Confused And Randy)
- Actionpainter Installiert Eine Webcam In Seinem Atelier (Action Painter Installing A Webcam In His Studio)
- Actionpainter Träumt Von Eigener Homepage (Action Painter Dreams Of His Own Homepage)
- Actionpainter Sucht Actionpainterin (Action Painter Seeks Lady Action Painter)
- Actionpainter Wie Ihn Keiner Kennt (Action Painter As Nobody Knows Him)
Summer 2000: Thomann leaves in July on a four-week tour of the United States, before his departure he gives interviews in Austria and Germany. He also gives a few interviews during his time in the USA. The publishers Pranke Verlag show interest in re-publishing Thomann's first book The Past And The Future in a revised version, and uses the opportunity to promote issues addressed by the book. (Note: Pranke withdraws from the project in autumn 2000.)
3rd September 2000: Presentation of Anteil 04 at the Ars In Der Manège 2000/Free Speech Camp AEC.
From the programme to the Ars In Der Manège festival:
"A large, see-through tank is filled with a strange concoction. This concoction is a mixture – in the right proportions – of various elements: carbon (represented by coal), water, iron (rusty nails), phosphorous, calcium (in the form of chalk) etc. – i.e. precisely those elements which go to make up an 82 kilo person. There is a shovel in the tank. In a star-shaped arrangement, psycho-tests from glossy magazines run around the tank attached to strings of disco-style blinking lights. A monitor hangs above the tank showing a recording of visitors to the marquee with the word "rezipieren" (assimilate) superimposed."
The following notice is on the tank: "This tub contains the raw material for a person weighing 82 kilos. If he had been born then he would be called Georg P. Thomann and would have become an artist. He would have built this installation." Signed: "Georg P. Thomann".
On the last day of the presentation, per registered express mail, Thomann instructs the curators Johannes Grenzfurthner and Evelyn Fürlinger to empty "it" (the tub) into the Danube. The curators are subsequently informed by postcard sent to their private addresses, that they "have not emptied me."
Anteil 04 is "a Mobius curve of vanity" (Frank Bertmann-Trauner, Kurier) planned well in advance.
"Thomann's quandary, the plurivocity of the act of disappearing which he has been continually staging in new ways since the late-1960s, the quasi-hypertextual investigation of academic absence in his many hundreds of artworks and the individual fragments of same, that 'Épater l'avantgardiste, c'est épater le bourgeois', as he once described his 'counter-cultural DJ set' has transposed him from the entity to the surface. His gesture of (py)romantic self-creation is an impressionist technique of obscural. What Thomann is selling us, whether with his work or as a human being, is always merely the flickering of the categories. That Thomann also pursues this preoccupation in the work of others is shown by the Viennese art scandal surrounding the so-called 'Arnulf Rainer overpainting' which, it is rumoured, was carried out by none other than Georg Paul Thomann and was, at the very least, certainly prompted by his action Übermalen Nach Zahlen – 33-45 (Overpainting By Numbers).
(Mariele Schrader in Diskurskorrektur. Hefte Zu Kunst & Tragik. Vienna 2000.)
October 2000: Thomann and Tonki Gebauer plan to rewrite the 1981 performance Schafft Ein, Zwei, Viele Peter Handke-Bücher! as a short film. Handke Malt (Handke Paints) or Handke Und Fusske (Handke And Footke) are considered as titles. Tonki Gebauer is to write the score. The project is never realised.
November 2000 to April 2001: Thomann receives a scholarship from the Bamberg Concordia arts centre from November 2000 until April 2001. Initially he commutes to and fro but in February Thomann stops going as the result of internal bickering, and returns to Vienna. "On the way back I had a look at Salzburg."
24th November 2000: Following an interview with the Bamberg resident editor of Monochrom Frank Apunkt Schneider (to be published in issue 14), the two of them found the temporary group Die Offene Gesellschaft Und Ihre Feinde (The Liberal Society And Its Enemies), which was conceived for the purposes of a single action and which is consequently disbanded as scheduled on 20th December. To ritualise the disbanding of the group Thomann and Schneider paint portraits of one another in the style of the Old Masters. The resulting paintings are entitled Frank Apunkt Schneider Als Benjamin Von Stuckrad-Barre Mit Ween-Aureole (Frank Apunkt Schneider As Benjamin Von Stuckrad-Barre With Ween-Aureole) and Der Vater Von Helmut Und Isaac Newton Auf Der Pirsch (Helmut Und Isaac Newton's Father On The Prowl).
The group's one action, Die Offene Gesellschaft Und Ihre Feinde, is realised as the "proto-email art action" (Schneider during a panel discussion at the Wiener Depot) Are You Ready For 'Die Offene Gesellschaft Und Ihre Feinde'. The performance consists of several hundred stolen free postcards of the kind presented in special postcard stands in the inner-city Bamberg students' cafeteria (just as at many other German university cafeterias, too). There are three different motifs in all: Stell' Dir Vor Es Ist Uni Und Keiner Geht Hin (Imagine It's Term Time And Nobody Goes There), Internationales Management (International Management) and Ein Offenes Betriebssystem Hat Nicht Nur Vorteile (An Open Operating System Does Not Just Have Advantages). The latter of the three is an advertisement for Microsoft, the other two are the winning entries in a student design competition. Three stickers have been added to the front of each of the stolen postcards and one to the back. The stickers declare the altered postcards to be works of art, multiples, and provide relevant information on the project: copyright holder (Thomann), title (Sympathy For 'Die Offene Gesellschaft Und Ihre Feinde! or Gimme Gimme Gimme 'Die Offene Gesellschaft Und Ihre Feinde'! or Paint It 'Die Offene Gesellschaft Und Ihre Feinde'!), production date, a list of materials and the fictitious price of 50 German marks.
The stickers provide a critical reference to the Golf War ("Die gegen den Irak verhängten Sanktionsmassnahmen vernichteten nach internationalen Schätzungen ca. 0,5 Millionen Feinde der offenen Gesellschaft im Alter von 0 bis 14 Jahre. Das wird den übrigen 3,5 Milliarden Feinden der offenen Gesellschaft eine Lehre sein!" – According to international estimations, sanctions against Iraq have eradicated approx. 0.5 million enemies of the liberal society between the ages of 0 and 14 years old. This should teach the remaining 3,500 million enemies of the liberal society a lesson!). They also contained the buzzwords coined by Karl Popper "The liberal society and its enemies" ("Gemeinsam sind wir prima: 'Die offene Gesellschaft & ihre Feinde'" – We're great together, the liberal society and it's enemies; "We'll begin bombing in five minutes!"; "Die offene Gesellschaft dankt dem Araber für jahrelange treue Feindschaft" – the liberal society thanks the Arabs for years of loyal enmity – etc.).
As the compartments of the presentation stand are covered with the motif they contain and so one cannot see what is in them, Schneider and Thomann replace the contents with their adjusted cards. In this way about 2,000 of their postcards are put into circulation.
"Over the course of a few weeks we removed the cardboard from the display stands. Then, sitting in coffee houses or at home, we added stickers to them we had made ourselves and put the pieces of cardboard back. It's good material to work with and not only that, they are displayed for free." (Schneider at the panel discussion)
Following the official end of the action Thomann writes a letter to the dean of Bamberg University, Professor Ruppert, in which he distances himself from the postcards that have been signed using his name and explains that he has nothing to do with the whole thing. He admits that he was actually in Bamberg at the time in question because of the scholarship he had received but the postcard action had been carried out without his prior knowledge and without his permission. He consequently demands that Bamberg University stops using his name illegally in the future and has any existing postcards removed, which, in his opinion, is the job of the janitor. Furthermore, the whole activity is anyway a plagiarised version of one that Thomann himself had carried out at Vienna University in autumn 1985, where he distributed forged food vouchers for the student cafeteria. These had been signed on the back with the name Nam June Paik.
A second, anonymous, letter to Ruppert demands that Schneider be kicked out. This letter also contains clues as to the identity of the perpetrator (including the presence of a mathematical derivative of Schneider's immatriculation number). Sadly, it does not cause a respectable university scandal.
"The artist as an opportunist: Thomann embodies more than any other 'avant-gardist' of this century, the chameleon type as an artistic strategy. Disturbing, yes: however this stance is only disagreeable to those who persist in granting the artist-persona a kind of Persil-attestation of moral cleanliness, or raise him/her to the status of being of exemplary moral standing. That artists are arseholes like you and I is one of the things I have learned from G.P. Thomann's artistic oeuvre. I thank him for that." (Fritz Ostermayer/FM4, Im Sumpf, 26th November 2000)
20th December 2000: Thomann sends Polaroid photos to the editorial staff of the magazine Springerin. They show new paintings in the series Helmut Und Isaac Newton. (At time of going to press these Thomann paintings had not yet been exhibited.)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Covern‚ 'It's Raining Men' Mit Ihrer Band (Helmut And Isaac Newton Record A Cover Version Of 'It's Raining Men' With Their Band)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Am Grab Von Karen Carpenter, Weinend, Trostlos Und Total Zerstritten (Helmut And Isaac Newton At Karen Carpenter's Grave, Crying, Inconsolable And Having Totally Fallen Out)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Malen Ein Aktporträt Von Georg P. Thomann, Einer Kollektiven Künstlerfigur Aus Der Wiener Subkultur (Helmut And Isaac Newton Paint A Nude Portrait Of Georg P. Thomann, A Collective Artist Figure In Viennese Sub-Culture)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Bepissen Sich Vor Lachen Über Eine Sehr Ernste Angelegenheit (Helmut And Isaac Newton Piss Themselves Laughing About A Very Serious Matter)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Verbrennen Ihre Witwe Am Ganges (Helmut And Isaac Newton Burning Their Widow On The Ganges)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Bauen Sich Selber Ein Theremin (Helmut And Isaac Newton Building Their Own Theremin)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Neben Didi Hallervorden Als Stargäste Bei Harald Schmidt (Helmut And Isaac Newton Next To Didi Hallervorden As Star Guests On The Harald Schmidt Show)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Masturbieren Heimlich Im Landhausmodenshop – Sie Sind Nämlich Fetischisten (Helmut And Isaac Newton Masturbating Secretly In The Country Life Clothes Store – They Are Fetishists, Namely)
- Helmut Und Isaac Newton Bohren Sich Ein Loch Ins Knie Und Finden's Wunderbar (Helmut And Isaac Newton Drilling A Hole In Their Own Knee And Finding It Wonderful)
28th December 2000: Thomann reserves tables for 'Georg Paul' and 'Schorsch Thomann' for New Year's Eve in 30 Vienna restaurants, but does not show up in any of these. He then writes a reader's letter to the lifestyle editors at all the major Austrian daily newspapers, and complains about the poor standard of the service in restaurants.
January 2001: In Bamberg, Thomann begins work on the series Die Zukunft Ist Ein Unermesslicher Themenkreis Der Menschlichen Gestaltung (The Future Is An Immeasurable Subject for Human Intervention) for the tenth edition of the Mainz pop-theory journal Testcard, dedicated to contributions on the history of pop music based on the theme the music of the future. However Thomann demands that the submitted images are published in full-colour. This cannot be done and Thomann and Johannes Ullmaier of Testcard fall out with one another as a result. The paintings In Zukunft Wird Es Städte Geben, Die In Seifenblasenähnlichen Kuppeln Über Der Unbewohnbaren Landschaft Schweben (In The Future There Will Be Towns That Hover Over The Uninhabitable Countryside In Soap Bubble-Like Domes); In Zukunft Wird Es Nicht Mehr Nötig Sein, Das Unmögliche Zu Fordern, Um Das Mögliche Zu Erreichen (In The Future It Will No Longer Be Necessary To Demand The Impossible In Order To Achieve What Is Possible); In Zukunft Wird Es Ganz Neue Formen Von Kunst Geben, Die Wir Uns Heute Noch Gar Nicht Vorstellen Können, Z.B. Durch Gentechnologie (In The Future There Will Be Entirely New Forms Of Art That Are Inconceivable To Us Today, E.G. Using Gene Technology and In Zukunft Wird Es Uns Von Intelligenter Mikrotechnologie Abgenommen, Einander Mit Toleranz Zu Begegnen. Fluch Oder Segen? (In The Future Intelligent Micro-Technology Will Let Us Encounter One Another With Tolerance So We Don't Have To Do It For Ourselves. Is This A Curse Or A Blessing?) are exhibited in Galerie Knöllchen in Wiesbaden.
12th January 2001: The action Optikerladen Geheim (Optician's Shop, Top Secret).
Vrääth Öhner on this action on Radio Orange/Vienna: "On Stumpergasse, in the 6th District of Vienna, almost directly opposite the popular bar Nachtasyl, I discovered an optician's – closed down long ago – with a beige-coloured facade. Thomann had clearly recently instrumentalised the space to fake his disappearance as the shop was called 'Viktor Thomann', as can still be read on the facade. Thomann had simply painted over the lettering with white paint, but in such a way that the words could still be read underneath the paint. In my opinion, this offers conclusive if surprising proof that Thomann has been successful and consistent in his own self-dissolution as the author of artworks, despite the fact that the action had not been announced anywhere.
On 26th January 2001 a panel discussion is held at the Depot/Museumsquartier on the subject of Wollt Ihr Die Totale Phantasie (Do You Want The Total Fantasy) which was, according to the announcement, to address the "relevance of Thomann's work in relation to current artistic strategies". Thomann is invited to the discussion.
Thomann declines the invitation per fax and sends the following brief text: "On 12th May 1996 the American Minister for Foreign Affairs, Madeleine Albright, is confronted by journalists with the fact that American sanctions against Iraq have cost the lives of approximately half a million children. After a brief pause for thought she replies: 'I think it was worth it.'
Subsequently, Thomann writes her an open letter in which he draws attention to a disastrous miscalculation: It was not half a million children who died but only 166,666.66. And anyway because they cannot be viewed as fully valid Central European subjects in accordance with the principles of enlightened humanism, they should be viewed as 'almost-niggers' and so the total needs to be divided by three. To accompany the letter Thomann plans the action 'Wie Süss!' 1-166,666.66 ('How Sweet' 1-166,666.66), in which he intends to send the American Minister concerned 166,666.66 photographs of children, each enclosed in a separate envelope. Having despatched 5,000 photos of children Thomann has to call off the action because he is unable to find a sponsor (applications were made to the newspapers Rennbahn Express and Music Man, the soft drinks manufacturer Almududler and the Österreichische Volksbank and BAWAG banks)."
He adds that he "would have liked to have done it, but was not in a position to do so." The letter is signed "G.P. Thomann".
February 2001: Thomann cancels his scholarship to Bamberg due to an argument with his fellow scholarship-holder Rainer-Werner Schnetz, and returns to Vienna. Here he launches the action Hitlerbilder Phase 2 (Hitler Images Phase 2): numerous Austrian stars (André Heller, Franz Vranitzky, Vera Russwurm, Jörg Haider, DJ Ötzi, Günther Tolar and others) are asked if they are prepared to have their portraits painted as Hitler by Thomann. The completed paintings are to be exhibited numbered and titled Top Hitler 1-N and offered for sale. The profits are to be donated to a project to build a school in Romania.
"I was not so concerned with simply making a really bad joke, one that basically covered all the bases, even though people would happily ascribe motives of the kind to me. After all, as an Austrian contemporary artist one should make productive use, come what may, of all the things that people reproach one for – yes, I like to provoke; yes, I'm an enfant terrible; yes, I'm a provocative member of our consumer society. Roll them on! Lyotard even once said that the downfall of capitalism will not be the result of a deficit of anything but of a surfeit! In my opinion this also counts for that other form of capitalism, the information market. However, as I said, I wasn't originally thinking about doing that but something completely different. A concerted effort was being made at the time to develop a totally average person on a computer or the most normal face or the human ideal of universal beauty – I can't remember exactly which it was anymore. In any case, to do it they took the faces of various people who were considered beautiful in different cultures and milieus and layered them over one another. And then the final result was so incredibly boring, bland and nondescript with, interestingly enough, Asiatic basic features. Then I thought about what it is in the physiognomy that makes it universal, which face can be reproduced with the minimum of effort from among all the faces on the planet. Two faces occurred to me as suitable here: Charlie Chaplin's and Hitler's. Of course the issue here is not really the face itself at all but certain self-determined attributes – i.e. the moustache and the parting with Hitler, and the moustache, the hat and the walking-stick in Chaplin's case. Although strictly speaking, the walking stick was no longer part of the face, or perhaps it was? There were, then, three reasons why I decided on Hitler in the end. I had my reputation to maintain, as described earlier. Secondly, Chaplin has already been prescribed into the aesthetics of the humanitarianly pedestrian by the culture industry, and is perceived by all concerned to be 'good'. And thirdly, Chaplin had already played Hitler, making Hitler the primary facial symbol or the 'suprasignifier' for my purposes, and Chaplin the secondary one if you follow me. Anyway, you know how stars are: despite the good cause and all that, nobody even replied except Hermes, which is good as I didn't have to paint so many of them and I think it still works as a provocation in itself. Then, later on I found the whole thing kind of problematic, so it was a relief that I was no longer commited to doing it quasi-due of the lack of interest from the people I'd asked to participate. The whole project had been the result of a whim anyway where I'd wanted to do something extremely asinine, something that nobody thought was funny or even good – not just with a moustache but that showed him with the Hitler moustache as quasi-iconographic, too (Thomann in a conversation with Thomas Edlinger/Im Sumpf)
April 2001: Thomann paints Wellness Mit Mombrezie (Wellness With Mombrezie).
March 2001: Works on the series of paintings Fussgängerzonenmenschenmitgefühlsquadrate (Pedestrianprecinctpeoplewithsympathysquare).
Early 2001: An article on Thomann is criticised and Thomann is attacked for being a fake in Kulturrisse 03/01, published by IG Kultur Österreich. Thomann replies with a letter and outs the author of the text as the defamation-activist Johnny Laibarös (Werner Leistner).
"...Finally, I would like to tell you that in the web one does not feel too old at 56, far from it, even if the long periods spent sitting are a little strenuous... You can find some excellent anagram websites, and if you had done so you would have been able to come up with something far better with the letters of my name than 'Anthon Pomgger'. In the dictionary of names in my well-progenied neighbour's apartment, which I even borrowed specially, 'Anthon' with 'th' does not even exist although 'Answer' does – but that is beside the point. It is quite obvious that you are in fact none other than the well-known (at least to me well-known, even personally acquainted) 'post-mail artist' (Falter 9/95) Werner Leistner alias Johnny Laibarös as with similar 'irritainments' (e.g. in Laibarös Über Laibarös – Laibarös On Laibarös) you have provoked a fair amount of 'productive confusion' already." (Thomann in Kulturrisse 04/01)
August 2001: Thomann paints Schon Wieder So Ein Aids-Fuzzi In Der U-Bahn (Another One Of Those Aids Fuzzy-Wuzzies In The Metro) and Freiheit Ist Nur Ein Weiteres Wort Für Freiheit (Freedom Is Just Another Word For Freedom). These are two of his most vivid paintings to date.
July 2001: Stay in Mexico. Thomann paints Con Mexico À La Victoria – Kommunalwahl In Michoacan, Mexico (Kommunalwahl = local elections).
October 2001: Thomann is invited by the curator Zdenka Badovinac to take over the conception and realisation of the Austrian contribution to the Sao Paulo Biennale 2002. Thomann agrees to do so. He develops the project "Yes, Sir, I Can Network It Out, Sir!" "Smells Like Team-Spirit, Sir!" "We Are The World, We Are The Children, Sir!" And invites young artists/artist groups to participate (monochrom, Tonki Gebauer, 320x200, Richard Wientzek).
Thomas Edlinger, Johannes Grenzfurthner and Fritz Ostermayer announce their intention to publish a discursive book on Thomann's work under the title Wer Erschoss Immanenz?/Who Shot Immanence?
December 2001: Thomann completes the four-part series Esperamos Verle De Nuevo, "critical colour photocopies on world events" in which he addresses the situation in Afghanistan, the introduction of the Euro and a lobster. He also completes the pieces Selbstporträt Als Kopierte Schilling-Euro Tabelle (Self-Portrait As A Copied Schilling-Euro Converter) and Materialstudie Mit Bierlaunigem Eigenfoto-Scan Und Photoshop-Kristallisationsfilter (Material Study With Scanned Photo Of Self In A Beer Mood And Photoshop Crystallisation Filter).
15th December 2001: Thomann writes the manifesto Zitierfähiges Material (Quoteable Stuff), which he intends to send out with the second press release for the Sao Paulo Biennial.
3rd January 2002: Thomann completes the digital photograph Für Amerika Ist Endlich Wieder Alles 'Halb Voll' (At Last Everything Is 'Half-Full' Once Again For America).
6th January 2002: Thomann presents his photographic performance Die Freiheit, Die Wir Meinen – Aber Bitte Mit Gummi (The Freedom That We Mean – But Please Use A Condom). Thomann claims that he has bribed an employee of a Viennese advertising poster firm so that a poster for the current FPÖ anti-Temelin, anti-Czech Republic Eastern European expansion referendum campaign, saying 'Yes To Life', is hung over a brothel in the 2nd District of Vienna. Apparently, a shoe poster should have gone in its place. Thomann publishes the digital photographs on the web.
End of January 2002: Thomann conceives his series Ohrwürmer Der Abgeschmacktheit (P-Ear-ls Of Poor Taste).
"Anyway, I don't think this ear can be themetised enough. I want even the Japanese and the 16 year-old Dark Wavers to have had it up to their eyeballs, van Gogh's ear. I'm currently working on a series of paintings on the theme, which I hope to get finished after São Paulo. The working title to the project is Ohrwürmer Der Abgeschmacktheit. I'm going to copy the ear concerned into the stupidest paintings in the history of art: for example David's Death Of Marat, where I'm simply going to replace Marat's face with van Gogh's ear. Or stick his ear onto the Mona Lisa's eyes. Just thinking about it gives me the goose-pimples." (Thomann in an interview by Almuth Spiegler in Die Presse, 19th January 2002)
February 2002: Thomann accepts an invitation for June to show "Yes, Sir, I Can Network It Out, Sir!" "Smells Like Team-Spirit, Sir!" "We Are The World, We Are The Children, Sir!" in Santiago de Chile.
13th March 2002: The release party for Wer Erschoss Immanenz?/Who Shot Immanence? is held at B72 in Vienna. Thomann's performance Tele-Massenheilung (Mass Tele-Healing; by the reunified group Die Offene Gesellschaft Und Ihre Feinde) is shown.