Strategy: Get Arts. SGA50
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15. Studio E.22 was used for the largest group display of artists

By far the largest group display at Strategy: Get Arts, involving some very significant artists of the ‘Düsseldorf Scene’, could be found in studio E.22.

Studio E.22 was used for the largest group display of artists.

In his diary entry for Tuesday 27 January 1970, Richard Demarco mentioned that on arrival in Düsseldorf he ‘dined at the Restaurant Spoerri, created by a famous local artist, Daniel Spoerri, and “meeting place” of all artists.’ Demarco added, ‘The walls are papered with correspondence between Spoerri and artists and directors of the international art world.’

Group display

In addition to cooking the infamous Banana Trap Dinner in the ECA Boardroom, Daniel Spoerri (b. 1930) also exhibited a series of fetish-like objects in cases known as Magie à la noix (1967) that had been created on the Greek island of Symi. Spoerri was good friends with the artist, André Thomkins (1930-1985), whose enamelled palindromes were exhibited in the same space at SGA. One of the palindromes became the name of the exhibition Strategy: Get Arts (confirmed on 22 June 1970).

This is a palindrome and a program that I dedicate to the Edinburgh Festival. It shows that one can ‘turn the tables’ on the idea that strategy primarily relates to the art of war. The success of this strategy versus that strategy is an advertisement for the arts: GET ARTS!

André Thomkins (1930-1985)In the 1970 SGA catalogue (translated from German)

Dorothy Iannone

One of only two female artists to be shown at SGA (the other being Hilla Becher), Dorothy Iannone’s work was also displayed in E.22. Iannone (b. 1933) is an American artist from Boston, whose paintings, texts, and visual narratives, often autobiographical, depict themes of friendship and erotic love, partly inspired by her interest in Japanese woodcuts and motifs from Tibetan Buddhism and Indian Tantrism. At ECA, artists and students were expecting the drawings and explicit artist books Extase (1970) and Story of Bern (1970) to be banned (her work had already been censored in Switzerland in 1969) and were preparing to walk out in support, but there was no need as the police did not seem to object.

Dieter Roth

Studio E.22 was used for the largest group display of artists. Photo
Photos © George Oliver.

Iannone met the Swiss artist Dieter Roth (1930-1988) in Iceland in 1967 and lived with him in Düsseldorf, Reykjavik, Basel, and London until 1974. There are no clear photographs of what Roth, an artist associated with Fluxus, exhibited at SGA. One clue is given in a review of Strategy: Get Arts by Nicholas Fairbairn for BBC Scotland’s ‘Festival Orbit’. He stated: ‘And Rot (?) has ten framed pieces of blank lavatory paper’, which Fairbairn states is an example of ‘an inability to create disguised as originality – the ultimate arrogance’ (see transcript in Richard Demarco Archive, SNGMA). It is possible to catch a glimpse of the ‘ten framed pieces’ on the back wall of ECA studio E.22, behind Stefan Wewerka’s deliberately misshapen bed, in a George Oliver photograph that shows Robert Filliou’s The Vocational Game in the foreground.

Robert Filliou

Filliou (1926-1987) was connected to Fluxus and he challenged the status of art as a finished product, instead favouring the handmade and indeterminate qualities of the artistic process. He embraced a variety of media and strategies that went beyond any conventional understanding of ‘art’ in his interactive and dialogue-based projects, including The Vocational Game. In conversation with Christian Weikop, Demarco has stated that ‘Eduardo Paolozzi refused to play it when he came in’, observing that ‘his reasons for making sculptures were rather different to those of these artists.’

George Brecht

Filliou was a friend of George Brecht (1926-2008), a key Fluxus artist. Brecht was unable to make it to Edinburgh in person and so Oliver’s photographs of Brechtian objects (a clothes tree, chair, six silk-screen prints, and an event-score) in this ECA studio are relics of a performance that never took place, although a ‘non-performance’ can also be ‘Fluxus’ strategy.

For much more detail on the contribution of these artists to SGA, please see Christian Weikop, Strategy: Get Arts. 35 Artists Who Broke the Rules (EUP, 2021).