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Carlfriedrich Claus

The autodidact, sound poet, illustrator, language artist and thinker, utopian communist and universally educated "existential experimenter" Carlfriedrich Claus (1930 - 1998) was one of the most independent artists in the GDR. He created a complete oeuvre of several hundred tape cassettes with articulations, speech sheets, hand drawings, books, prints and letters.

From 1951 Claus was engaged in linguistic and phonological phenomena, and between 1953 and 1957 in portrait and landscape photography. In the beginning Claus wrote concrete poems on a typewriter. Beginning in 1955, he called his poems Klanggebilde and increasingly incorporated the surface of the paper into the conception of his texts. In 1957 he produced 80 sheets of the Automatic Diary as well as paper collages. He called his works, in which handwritten text was graphically superimposed from the beginning of the 1960s, "Sprachblätter" ("Language Sheets"). While making his speech sheets, he articulated (partly) simultaneously, so that a work was created on several levels. At night, in a trance, he drew what fantasy landscapes had been created in his head. His main work, the cycle Geschichtsphilosophisches Kombinat (1963), which was created after substantial impulses from the work of the philosopher Ernst Bloch, refers to a dreamed alternative communist future.

Carlfriedrich Claus was only able to exhibit privately, if at all; it was not until 1980 that the first solo exhibition (tolerated by the state) took place in the Kupferstichkabinett Dresden. The State Security attempted to decipher his linguistic images, because they suspected coded messages behind the sheets covered with miniature writing. He was under surveillance by the GDR's State Security Service, and they suggested that he leave the country for West Germany, which he firmly refused. Claus maintained contacts with other concrete poets, especially Franz Mon, and especially with the Czech avant-garde. Franz Mon organized exhibitions for him in the West.

In 1975 Carlfriedrich Claus became a member of the Association of Visual Artists of the GDR. In 1977, together with Michael Morgner, Thomas Ranft, Dagmar Ranft-Schinke and Gregor-Torsten Schade, he founded the artists' group and producer gallery Clara Mosch (1977 - 1982) in Karl-Marx-Stadt. In 1978 he won the 2nd prize at the Graphic Biennial in Krakow. Claus received the Max Pechstein Prize of the city of Zwickau in 1989, the Jerg Ratgeb Prize founded by HAP Grieshaber and Rolf Szymanski in 1993, and the Gerhard Altenbourg Prize in 1998. In 1999, the AURORA experimental room was installed as a permanent exhibition in the building of the German Bundestag in Berlin.

Both visually and acoustically, Carlfriedrich Claus has explored and reflected on the dimensions of human consciousness, making a singular contribution to 20th century art.


Works for listening