20. Hans Alvermann’s assemblage Homage to Goldwater - Gott mit uns (1964) and concentric text works by Ferdinand Kriwet
Alvermann felt art and artists should be socially critical and politically committed even if it was bad for the ‘art business’.
Hans Peter Alvermann (1931-2006) studied painting and graphics at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 1954 to 1958.
He was a politically committed artist involved in the movement against the Vietnam war and American right-wing politicians such as Barry Goldwater, who suggested that nuclear weapons should be treated more like conventional weapons and could be used in Vietnam.
Alvermann was also part of the 1968 leftist protest movement against the introduction of Notstandsgesetze (Emergency Laws) in Germany.
Alvermann exhibited several artworks at Strategy: Get Arts, including Homage to Goldwater – Gott mit uns (1964). Alvermann can be seen operating this strange object with a crank at documenta III (1964) in an 8mm film by Lutz Mommartz, who screened various films at SGA.
View the film by Lutz Mommartz on the filmmaker’s website
The origin of the phrase ‘Gott mit uns’ (God with us) can be traced back to the medieval Teutonic Order. Much later, it appeared on the Prussian Iron Cross and coins at the time of German Unification, and was inscribed on military helmets and belt buckles in the First World War.
The Berlin Dadaist, George Grosz, produced a lithographic collection entitled Gott mit uns in June 1920, which led to Grosz and his publisher Wieland Herzfelde being tried for defamation of the military. Grosz’s Gott mit uns was a caustic attack on German militarism and the officials who still governed during the early Weimar Republic, who utilised a militia to violently suppress the street uprisings of 1919.
Alvermann’s work can be seen as channelling the spirit of Grosz’s ironic Gott mit uns, but with his mind on the contemporary situation of the Vietnam war.
Unlike Gerhard Richter or Sigmar Polke, Alvermann’s work has not had an impact on the art market, but his art was, in many ways, a critique of such capitalist structures. He felt art and artists should be socially critical and politically committed even if it was bad for the ‘art business’.
Homage to Goldwater – Gott mit uns shown in one of the connecting corridors of ECA, alongside text works by Ferdinand Kriwet (1942-2018).
Kriwet was born in Düsseldorf in 1942, an artist and experimental radio play author, who also developed theoretical manifestos on acoustic literature.
He was a pioneer in the field of multimedia art, who explored the impact of mass media representations of major historical events, analysing the language of advertising and television in the process.
Kriwet displayed various concentric text-signs at SGA, whirlpools of words and sans-serif swirls on stamped aluminium.
The circular use of text could be seen as relating to the geometric configuration of symbols of the mandala, spiritual guidance tools that can be seen in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Shintoism.