Ludwig Schönherr’s Happy and Stupid Structures

The Work of Ludwig Schönherr

For my contribution to the Living Archive project, I return to the work of German artist Ludwig Schönherr (also known as "Peter Schönherr" and "Ludwig Winterhalter"). In 2009 for the Forum Expanded / Berlinale, I curated a three-part presentation of Schönherr's work called "Stupid Structures, Happy Structures" that included an exhibition (of photographs, paintings, objects and texts), a four channel video installation and a three part film series. This event marked the first time that the, then, 74 year old artist had ever presented his work in public. Due in part to the widespread curiousity about an artist being "discovered" at such an advanced age, "Stupid Structures, Happy Structures" received quite a lot of media attention. Schönherr's films subsequently screened at the Stuttgarter Filmwinter (2010) and, fortunately, many of them found their way into the Arsenal archive. The idiosyncrasy of Schönherr's work, however, is not simply that of its sudden, belated emergence into the public eye. Over the past five decades, this shy, reticent artist has produced a varied body of work in film (predominantly on Super 8) and photography that engages with, yet remains peripheral to the dominant artistic currents of its time. This aesthetic position "on the sidelines" echoes Schönherr's fleeting personal and working relationships with a number of significant figures in the international avant-garde of the 1960s and '70s, including Otto Mühl, Jack Smith, Dieter Roth and Nam June Paik.

I am interested in exploring the breadth of Schönherr's work, including both the films in the Arsenal and the films, photographs, objects, and numerous texts in the artist's Berlin apartment. I do so with the goal of publishing a book that will not only document some of the artist's significant works but will also attempt to situate him – laterally – in relation to existing histories of the German and international avant-garde.

Forum Expanded program "Stupid Structures, Happy Structures" (PDF Download)

Biography of Marc Siegel