From 12 to 30 January 2013, the NRW-Forum Düsseldorf
is exhibiting photographs by Peter Boettcher, who has been documenting the performances of Kraftwerk for 20 years, in the upstairs gallery.
Photographer Peter Boettcher hails from Cologne and has been a well-known music photographer since the mid 1980s. In 1991, he photographed Kraftwerk's robots in the legendary Kling-Klang-Studio in Düsseldorf for the independent magazine SPEX. This was the beginning of a close and intense partnership that continues to this day.
The photos on display are not stereotypical examples of music or rock photography. Backstage photos, private portraits of the protagonists, snapshots of ecstatic moments in time, audiences going wild ... none of this is to be found in Peter Boettcher's photos. This exhibition, which is entitled 'Kraftwerk Roboter' (Kraftwerk robots), brings together more than 30, mostly large-format works on the central Kraftwerk theme: the interaction between humankind and machinery.
Ralf Hütter, co-founder and lyricist with the electronic music project Kraftwerk, describes this theme thus in an essay: 'It feels good to be part of the machine. It is a liberating feeling. For one thing because I, as an individual, take a back seat. We play the machines, and the machines play us.'
Boettcher's portraits of the robots and his photographs of the group's stage performances during concerts around the world capture the essence of the Kraftwerk universe. Through the reduced forms and colours, the graphical severity of the photos, and the consistent use of the central perspective for concert photos, Peter Boettcher captures Kraftwerk's image world in a congenial manner. In this way, he has created photographs of almost monumental clarity and concentration. When you look at these photographs, you can almost hear Kraftwerk's music, feel the rhythm, and almost automatically start singing the relevant lines of the song, as if on auto-pilot: 'Wir sind die Roboter ...' These are photos that make the beholder want to look twice every time, just to be sure of what he/she really sees (are we looking here at the musicians or the robots?). They also make the beholder understand that ultimately, such differentiation is of absolutely no importance whatsoever.
Boettcher's documentary photographs undoubtedly contribute much to Kraftwerk's image system. Since its establishment in 1970, Kraftwerk has been developing an independent, autonomous world of images that it has deepened and refined down through the years. The musicians consider themselves to be 'music workers' or 'technicians', i.e. as part of a system. On this point, Ralf Hütter once said: 'Even in the early days, we sometimes left the stage in the middle of a concert; the people just kept on dancing. That was the whole idea: the musician withdraws or even abolishes himself. The music plays itself, becomes part of a globally networked system, spreads like a virus.'
It is, therefore, only logical that the robots appear instead of the real musicians as alter egos during press conferences and, above all, during concerts.
Kraftwerk's central theme is the creation of 'sound pictures'. Today, they perform in front of breath-taking synchronised 3-D projections on the back wall of the stage, immersing the audience in the flow of the music that seems to develop itself incessantly and of its own accord.
Since their performances at the Venice Biennale in 2005, the 3-D video installation in the Kunstbau at the Lenbachhaus in Munich in 2011, and the retrospective at the New York Museum of Modern Art in April of last year, it has become clear in the artistic context that Kraftwerk is a complete audio-visual work of art in its own right, and Peter Boettcher is its photographic chronicler.
Kraftwerk, the globally acclaimed pioneers of electronic music, will perform its entire body of work at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf.
Every evening from 11 to 20 January 2013, Kraftwerk will be focusing on one of its legendary music albums as part of the series of concerts entitled 'Der Katalog 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8'.