Gerhard Rühm

born in 1930 in Vienna; lives in Cologne and Vienna

Biography

Son of a player in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and grandson of a Viennese musician in the style of the Schrammel brothers

1945–1951 Studies piano and composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna

1949–1954 Private lessons with twelve-tone composer Josef Matthias Hauer, whose piano works Rühm is the first to record on a long-playing record, in 1964

1952 Takes an interest in Oriental music during an extended stay in Lebanon

1972–1995 Professor of free graphic design and cross-disciplinary arts at the University of Fine Arts Hamburg

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Initially trained as a musician, Rühm undertook work straddling several different artistic genres throughout his career. In the 1950s and 60s, he was part of the Wiener Gruppe (Vienna Group), a loose circle of writers. Other members included Friedrich Achleitner, H. C. Artmann, Konrad Bayer, and Oswald Wiener, whereby only Artmann and Bayer saw themselves from the outset as poets, while Achleitner (architect), Wiener (jazz musician), and Rühm came from other disciplines. These artists shared a fundamentally experimental, language-critical approach, not considering language to be an adequate tool for describing reality or for making valid statements about it. They therefore rejected classical descriptive literature. Instead, language was understood as a material per se they operated with in a wide variety of forms and whose potential they explored – an approach that inevitably led to cross-genre work.

Rühm started out producing concrete poetry (constellations of letters, numbers, words, and sentences), into which he soon also integrated images and finally transitioned to photo-montages. In addition to these works, for which he mainly used material found in newspapers and magazines, he has also produced handwritten text and pictorial works, including calligraphic and body drawings, as well as a few sculptural works and films. These have been joined by various performative works.

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Author: Eva Badura-Triska

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Music

Music

Rühm’s musical works and activities are just as diverse as his pictorial work. The spectrum ranges from experimental music to chansons, usually with an ironic or sarcastic tone.

At the two Literary Cabarets organized by the Wiener Gruppe, legendary happening like evenings in 1958 and 1959, Rühm performed chansons, but also smashed a piano to bits with Friedrich Achleitner in a piece of performance art. The artists understood this action not only as a protest against the bourgeois concept of music and concerts but also as a sound event.

In addition to further works of sound and noise music, as well as experimental music pieces that have the character of happenings, Rühm has also drawn on what he learned from Josef Matthias Hauer to produce compositions committed to constructive, serial, and reductive principles, chief among them the pioneering Eintonstück (One-Note Piece) from 1952. He has also composed jazz pieces using the twelve-tone method.

In the early 1970s, he participated in the concert series titled Selten gehörte Musik (Seldom Heard Music) with artists from and associated with the Wiener Gruppe and Viennese Actionism.

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Author: Eva Badura-Triska

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In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Gerhard Rühm

eintonstück / single-tone piece, 1952, 2:18 min

recording Vienna, 11. 6. 2018 with Gerhard Rühm

Film: Michael Krupica

Rühm’s eintonstück from 1952 is a composition for piano that operates exclusively with the basic note A »as sound per se« (Rühm), however, in seven octaves and with subjective rhythms. The work premiered in 1952 on the occasion of a one-day show by Arnulf Rainer in the basement of Café Landtmann in Vienna.

»The concentration on one note and the primary interval of the octave to me symbolized the ›tao of music.‹ Like Rainer, I was delving at the time (and often later as well) into radical mysticism like that of Meister Eckehart and Johannes vom Kreuz, as well as the upanishads, the Tao Te Ching, and Zen Buddhism.« (Rühm)

For the exhibition at mumok, Rühm recorded his eintonstück on video in June 2018, since only sound recordings had been done previously.

Rühm, eintonstück, 1952



Gerhard Rühm

die mutter hat das fleisch / the mother has the meat, 1966

recorded on the occasion of Gerhard Rühm’s exhibition at Bank Austria Kunstforum Vienna, 2017, with Gerhard Rühm, 2:21 min

Film: CastYourArt

Author:

Eva Badura-Triska