After their string of sold out performances at MoMA, P.S.1, the Kunstsammlung NRW, and the Tate Modern, and hit exhibition at Munich’s Lenbachhaus, German electro pioneers Kraftwerk have come to Berlin for their first ever gallery show. For Sprüth Mager’s cavernous main exhibition space, the quartet has retooled the videos used in those performances, “The Catelogue” into a low-fi 3D, three-channel video installation.
Moving into the gallery is something of a homecoming for the band. Founders, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, took to numerous galleries, off-spaces, and institutions throughout the Dusseldorf and the Rhineland at large for informal performances during the area’s avant-garde boom in the 70s. “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8” includes some of those early efforts, presenting an over 40 minute long loop of “Autobahn” (1974), “Radio-Activity” (1975), “Trans Europe Express” (1977), “The Man-Machine” (1978), “Computer World” (1981), “Techno Pop” (1986), “The Mix” (1991), “Tour de France” (2003) edited together earlier this year specifically for the Berlin exhibition.
Perhaps in deference to the sanity of gallery assistants and monitors, however, the presentation comes off as slightly too polite in volume compared to their live shows. The image and sound fails to take over the space to an extent that made one visitor quip, “I guess Kraftwerk is video art now,” when leaving the exhibition space. For a summer novelty, especially for those of us too slow on the draw to score tickets to the live shows, and as a commentary on Berlin, a city whose current tourism boom largely rides on the coat tails of Kraftwerk’s innovations in computer-generated sound blurps, however, it’s well worth the trip.
Kraftwerk’s “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8” is on through August 31 at Sprüth Magers Berlin.
[Image: Installation View, Kraftwerk „3-D Video Installation — 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8“ Sprüth Magers 2013, Photo Timo Ohler]