June 3, 2015

Literary Dining 1: Metamorphosis with Wolfgang Müller

Wolfgang Müller and the translation of Goethe's "Metamorphosen der Pflanzen" into Icelandic by Jon Atlason, published by the Walther von Goethe Foundation.
Photo: Stefan Müller

What is a punk attitude in 2015? Now that even the car producer Oppel uses Iggy Pop’s The Passenger in its advertising , punk seems to have lost its aesthetics and its content. However, I can tell you that the punk attitude is still very much alive. Wolfgang Müller, guest of honor at the first literary dinner of Entretempo Kitchen Gallery, is the living proof. In the 1980s, when Müller had the artist band Die Tödliche Doris, his punk attitude didn’t manifest itself so much in leather jackets decorated by razor blades and safety pins. And also on this Friday night, May 2015, at Entretempo Kitchen Gallery, Wolfgang Müller didn’t look particularly punk  -  I mean, he was not even wearing his cap of the Icelandic Kaupthing bank, which crashed in 2008 and ruined the country. But of course, the blue eyes were there and especially in combination with a blue shirt they transmit this kind of subversive punk energy that makes you feel a little nervous but also wide awake. 

Preparing the Grüne Soße in the kitchen of Entretempo Kitchen Gallery.
Photo: Stefan Müller

How is Wolfgang Müller punk in 2015, you ask? It’s in the way he touches upon things, which manifests itself not only in his art work, but also when he talks. Wolfgang Müller likes to talk a lot and it can actually be considered to be an intrinsic part of his art work. At the dinner table, while eating Goethe’s mother’s grüne Soße deliciously prepared by Tainá Guedes, he was talking as the Director of the Walther von Goethe Foundation Reykjavik. While talking Wolfgang Müller manages to change the rhythm of things. This has to do with the way he touches upon a subject that has this certain corporeality, this fixated body to it (in this case “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe”). He cracks it open to a level that transcends this body so that a metamorphosis can take place - more in particular, in the head of the observer, slightly shifting beliefs, convictions and conventions that existed before. It can be seen on the faces of the dinner guests, changing during the evening from being amused to being confused and back again. Laughing is a most common reaction when things get out of one's control. The punkness of Wolfgang Müller is, as guest photographer Stefan Müller put it, “complete chaos and fun! As it should be.”

Having a blast! Wolfgang Müller showing us his art piece "Incredible Women", consisting of autograph cards - this one by Leni Riefenstahl, exhibited in Reykjavik in 1998
as part of the Walther von Goethe Foundation. Photo: Stefan Müller 

Fitting to our 20th/21st century Zeitgeist, Wolfgang Müller’s talking involves repetition. His repetition is comparable to The Philosophy of Andy Warhol’s “From A to B and Back Again”. That's why I had heard the story of the Walther von Goethe Institute before but it was only at Entretempo Kitchen Gallery, upon hearing it again, that it dawned on me what it really was about. The official Goethe Institute closed in Iceland in 1998 because of so-called budget reasons, whereas simultaneously new Institutes in other countries (I forgot which ones, somewhere East) were opened. The original purpose of the Goethe Institute was to show that Germany (after World War II) had also something like a culture to offer. But this cultural aim became more and more defined by politics and economy over the years. When culture is solely defined by economy, culture disappears. So Wolfgang Müller opened the first private Goethe Institute in Reykjavik. Its symbol was the mirrored Goethe Institute logo and instead of German the science of sex, dwarfs, and elves was taught. 

Literary Dining. Photo: Stefan Müller

Müller’s private Goethe Institute itself metamorphosed, changing in the perception from being an art project to being a reality that attracted people like the Icelandic Ambassador. Finally the legal problems that followed this shift in perception made Müller change the name into the Walther von Goethe Foundation, named after the gay grandchild of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Walther von Goethe was the last in line of the Goethes. Plenty of metamorphoses took place during the literary dining night at Entretempo Kitchen Gallery - me included. I was wearing Müller’s bird ring with the number 252 461. When I die, it has to be returned to the ornithological station of Helgoland together with my travel itinerary. Also here Müller touches upon the new rhythm that started in the 20th century when people became like birds, flying around all the time. And at the very end of this literary dining evening, we were all metamorphosed in such a way that we considered Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to be the proto-punk origin of punk history. 

Wolfgang Müller displaying visual evidence. Photo: Stefan Müller

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