April 13, 2012
“The country I grew up in doesn’t exist anymore”, remembers Klaus Biesenbach, curator at large at the MoMA in New York City. “The Bundesrepublik Deutschland vanished with the fall of the mauer. The FRG was the country of Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Kraftwerk. When I listen to Kraftwerk today, a part of me always travels through time, back into the disappeared Bundesrepublik. The other part of me understands that Kraftwerk are a present day enterprise. They are not only part of our present time, they also foresee the future.”
V2 Schneider had taken the M train to Queens, where he was warmly received by Klaus Biesenbach at the PS1 exhibition site for an in-depth interview and a cup of excellent Italian coffee with foamed milk. As it turned out, the coffee machine that produced the coffee was of the same brand as his own, a shiny, shiny Faema E-61.
The PS1 is the Queens outlet of the MoMA with a focus on communal integration. In the spirit of this idea, the PS1 performance dome, a circular white tent of immense dimensions, offers the experience of listening to Kraftwerk’s music in a crisp, clear surround sound while watching the stunning visuals laying on a huge black mattress. Immediately, he understood that this multimedia presentation and the eight shows for the chosen few were like two sides of a coin. He felt the urge to say this because on the international scale, everybody seemed to stress the fact that Kraftwerk were giving a series of hyper-exclusive shows, but forgot to mention the impressive PS1 set-up.
At a small Queens fish market, Schneider bought a plastic bag full of fresh tiger king prawns and a similar bag filled with clam shells for tonight’s aftershow dinner at Grand Street. To cool the seafood he asked for a third bag filled with dry ice. Thus equipped, he took the 7 train back to Manhattan and arrived just in time for the start of the fourth consecutive night of Kraftwerk shows at the MoMA—leaving the seafood in good hands at the reception desk.
He obeyed Biesenbach’s advice to see the show from right in front of the mixing desk—only here, at the very back of the atrium, the 3D visuals would unfold their effect in full. This was good counsel because the graphic narrative of the Man-Machine visuals was nothing less than state of the art. The track ‘Spacelab’ was a stellar experience in the true sense of the word: The camera perspective was out the window of an imagined space station onto the surface of the earth. In one sequence of the 3D installation, you could clearly recognize the northern part of the Italian peninsular—the Po delta, Milan, Bologna and Venice. The audience applauded when a satellite literally flew into the crowd. But the other sights were impressive as well.
To the sounds and words of ‘Neon Lights’, 3D animated films of noir-drenched, nostalgic neon advertisements slowly hovered through the transfixed audience. The motion of the neon lights kept floating slowly through the people even when there was a major break within the music. This is wonderfully anti-cyclic, Schneider thought, as Hütter sang the famous words with caring tenderness, for once leaving behind his robot alter ego: “Shimmering neon lights / And at the fall of night / This city’s made of light.” For a moment, Schneider felt that he was standing at the very center of the world—in New York City. When he stepped out of the museum he saw himself surrounded by the huge midtown high-rises, listening to the city’s constant bass drone in his ears.
Dinner around midnight at Grand Street. Pasta with clams and king prawns and chili.
Published April 18, 2012.