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The phenomenon of the "wiener gruppe" in the vienna of the fifties and sixties
from "die wiener gruppe: a moment of modernity 1954-1960 / the visual works and the actions", edited by Peter Weibel (SpringerWien New York), La Biennale di Venezia, 1997
Rühm on UbuWeb Sound
Rühm in UbuWeb Historical
"Concrete Poetry: A World View : Austria" in UbuWeb Papers
in 1946, one year after the end of the war, a number of modern painters, some of whom had been in exile, founded "artclub". paris von gütersloh became its president. "artclub" was to gain decisive influence on the future development of Vienna's, and thus Austria's, culture. it became a repository of the then, albeit scarce, new artistic trends. after seven years of enforced separation, there was an urgent need to recover lost ground and for us, the young ones, to rediscover modern art, which had been largely ostracized up to then. even before 1938, it had reached merely a small minority, especially in Austria; the big libraries had failed to collect its most important documents, or they had been purged. we had to rely on sparse material scattered in private archives. the fragmented information on expressionism, claclaism, surrealism, constructivism, was lapped up eagerly, passed on, pieced together with difficulty to provide a picture. first the most important names and titles had to be identified in order to know what to look for. this made every clue, even the shortest statement, an exciting discovery.
"artclub" made a name for itself; malicious articles kept appearing in the press. it very soon became obvious that the majority, although opposed to the nazi wartime policy, basically had little reservation about a healthy cultural policy. now that the so-called ""decadent" art could be encountered again freely, it stirred up emotions, occasionally not even stopping short of violence. anyone who showed an interest was declared insane, perverted, and even more so its representatives. the situation grew worse in the following years because so soon after the elimination of the nazi regime confusion and uncertainty were widespread, as well as the fear of exposing oneself as a nazi by some utterance. the victims of the nazi regime received compensation - and modern art was one of them. thus, in spite of all hostilities, it was possible, for example, for an avant-garde magazine such as plan, to establish itself for several years - for us an important source of information and at the same time a forum for the first tentative attempts of the younger and youngest among us. the few like-minded souls got together almost automatically. they had met at openings, concerts of contemporary music - in the first years it was always the same faces that appeared whenever there was an occasion to get in contact with modern art. those who wanted to do something themselves joined together more closely; in an atmosphere of ignorance and angry rejection one depended on each other to avoid total isolation. "artclub" - initially an association of representatives of the fine arts but soon attracting writers and musicians as producing guests as well - did not advocate a certain trend. it was sufficient to be un- academic, progressive. separate programmatic tendencies and groups emerged only later.
"hundsgruppe" then a group with a left-wing and aggressive orientation so-to-speak, was the first to split away from artclub". its main protagonists were erich brauer, emst fuchs, anto krejcar, wolfgang kudmotsky, maria lassnig and arnulf rainer trrrr - the most radical among them. their very first exhibition, "cave canem", in 1961, caused such an annoyance that, as far as know, it remained an ephemeral event. the pianist hans kann and myself performed our "geräuschsymphony" a montage consisting of nothing but noises on sound wire, which we had just produced, in this setting. unfortunately, it got lost later when hans gave it to somebody to have it recorded on tape. at about the same time, pierre schaeffer and pierre henry created their musique concrete, in paris, of which we were unaware. however, our "geräuschsymphony" produced under the most primitive conditions, without the technical facilities of a sound studio, was the outcome of a do-it-yourself effort. since prospects of improvement were nil, we were forced to content ourselves with this one-time demonstration. via hundsgruppe, i got in closer contact with amulf rainer, who autographed his works with "trrrr". we discovered that both of us were striving towards reduction to the elementary and decided to perform together. in 1952, for example, i created one-tone, music on the piano, demonstrated the experience of -rest- and uttered my first sound poems.
the circle of viennese avant- gardists expanded and became differentiated, cliques formed surrounded by those interested and onlookers. in 1952 i met h.c. artmann, who had returned from an extended visit to switzerland. his appearance stimulated literature quite decisively. he acquainted us with new figures: gent, beckett, ionesco, ghelderode - they were just becoming en vogue in france - and the modern spaniards, whom he translated in excerpts. a lot was going on altogether then. the gregarious, exclusive "strohkoffer" - straw box, - as the new "artclub" premises beneath adolf loos' kärntnerbar were called because of their limited capacity and reed-covered walls - attracted new, almost exclusively young visitors not least because of some turbulent festivities. the exhibitions changed regularly, recitals and concerts were staged. uzi förster and his combo played jazz until day-break - occasionally friedrich gulda as well, with whom i had studied piano with bruno seidlhofer at the academy of music. visits by jean cocteau, benjamin britten, orson wells made artclub, attractive officially as well and furnished proof of its international renown. soon it became difficult for us to protect ourselves from an unwelcome influx of guests. when, finally, the situation became unbearable, artclub, moved to the much quieter domcafé in singerstrasse (which does not exist any more), whose owner made the upper floor available for exhibitions and events. the sectors for the consumption of food and drinks and the consumption of art were separated only by a narrow spiral staircase. however, the stairs leading upward attracted considerably fewer visitors than the ones that used to take you down to the basement - a fact which was not excessively deplored.
by 1953 my contact to h.c. artmann had turned into a friendshiplike relationship. we met more and more frequently, had a lot to discuss - also as we walked a stretch together on our way home to breitensee when we had missed the last tram, or spent our last groschen on a small espresso rather than saving it for the ticket. artmann possessed a well-used copy of albert soergels's dichtung and "dichter der zeit - im banne des expressionism us" which we explored zealously, especially the chapters on "sturm", august stramm and dada. we also had got hold of anthologie der abseiten, by carola giedion-welcker (berne 1946). at the amerikahaus, we discovered the dast operas and plays, by gertrude stein, arno holz, paul scheerbart, carl einstein, august stramm, franz richard behrens, kurt schwitters, otto nebel, hans arp, benjamin péret - these were poets who, if known at all, were hardly taken note of
and dismissed as outsiders who had been deservedly forgotten. for us they represented the rediscovered, true traditions with which our poetic work linked up organically. from where else should we proceed if not from the so-called "end points"? a glaring example was presented in music by anton webern, who was denounced as "end point,".
while my own interest focused on the "constructivists", who, unlike the surrealists, worked with the language and not just in the language (perhaps also because music had taught me to think in formal disciplines), artmann drew on black romanticism and surrealism, which apparently could be combined surprisingly well with austrian traditions - such as the fairy-tale extravaganzas of the vienna volkstheater. initially, the surrealist group was also the strongest one among the painters. "surreal istische publikationen" published by edgar jend and max hölzer in klagenfurt in 1950 aroused interest and provided a good source of information on this art trend. alain bosquet's anthology "surrealismus" (berlin 1950) contained valuable material as well. however, we rejected what was just coming into fashion as "postsurrealism" as represented by paul celan, for example, which we regarded to be a symbolistically adulterated rehash - and for us this smacked of the formation of a myth, and everything mythical had been brought into discredit forever by national socialism. the conclusions we drew from the experience of french surrealists were different ones. in april 1953 h.c. artmann proclaimed his Eight-Point-Proclamation of the Poetical Act:
There is one statement which is irrefutable, namely that one can be a poet without having so much as writen or spoken a single word.
The precondition for this, however, is a more or less strongly felt desire to act poetically.
after the summer holidays, support was solicited for the first poetic demonstration. "une soirée aux amants funèbres" was the name of the ritual procession, which on august 22, 1953 walked through downtown vienna in the evening and was broken up by the police because the huge crowd it attracted obstructed traffic. what was typical of this demonstration was that the macabre and the poetic were put on the same level, which is a trait peculiar to the viennese, and the protest against the conventional, normative, anonymous, which, however, rather than manifesting itself in aggression against the outside world was expressed by the deliberate wish to be different, individualistic, provoked by the annoyance one caused by the slightest deviation from the norm. by the way, konrad bayer participated in the procession. he had appeared previously around artmann and was soon to be part of his immediate circle. a most fertile period began. a lot was discussed, a lot was written. almost every evening one of us came up with something new. oswald wiener, whom we had known so far only as a jazz trumpeter, came out with his first poems and brought along more as he realized how well they were received by us. we discovered things in common: a radically progressive attitude towards literature, and not just towards literature, that took us off the beaten track. for all the other writers around us we definitely were overstepping the mark - in these years this also applied to artmann although his older works had earned him some prestige that allowed him greater leeway. thus, internally and implicitly, a group began to form which later became known as the "wiener gruppe" the viennese group. initially its common basis was by no means a binding, defined program but above all personal attachment and pleasant harmony. faced with general disinterest and violent rejection, we were friends who all wrote poetry and appreciated each other. nothing had to be "laid down" because we understood each other. if we criticized each other, we did so conscious of an exclusive level on which our own criteria alone were adequate and acceptable. it was this very gap between our own and the (absent) criteria of our colleagues that set us off from them as a "group". a noticeable change in writing style was observed in artmann in his "reime, verse & formeln", a stronger emphasis on the formal. pandering to his fondness for remote languages, the sound of foreign words, he let imaginary words seep into his poems, thus blurring concepts, evoking associations by phonetic irritations: "expanded poetry".
the more differentiated sound of spoken language, the vernacular, was discovered, the peculiarities of dialects, their "(surreab, figurativeness - if one interprets sayings in their literal sense. encouraged also by the use of vernacular elements in the poems by federico garcía lorca, artmann attempted something similar using the viennese. i was deeply impressed already by his first "dialektgedichte" dialect poems, and inspired to produce something on my own. we availed ourselves especially of the macabre, the "abysmal", which the viennese offers so lavishly, and relished the shocking effect of unusual associations, occasionally of vulgar character. alienating dialect as a culinary vernacular by "abstract," treatment, a practice i began in 1955 especially in my dialect pieces, including the reduction of the viennese dialect to its phonetic pattern, its tone, in dmaginary dialect poems", are characteristic features of my own productions in this genre. contrary to the folksy "wien wörtlich", vienna literally, poetry by josef weinheber, for example, dialect thus became included as a specific, maneuverable category of expression into the existing stock of new literature. artmann and i attempted to agree on a uniform and binding phonetic spelling, which for the sake of simplicity should make do with the normal alphabet, but in the end we deviated in some minor respects.
wiener formulated the "cool manifesto" (unfortunately it got lost). it bore our signatures as well as a number of others. a pun was regarded as something piquant, because what counts after all is the way in which it is used and how it is understood. we rehearsed distancing ourselves from the environment by indifference, the banal was declared to be the essential, the arbitrariness of value standards unmasked. we were able to draw on plentiful sources. we could choose according to our tastes. wiener and i declared everything possible to be literature, wrote jokes without punch lines (every statement could be regarded as a punch line anyway), wiener used to write in the style of forms, collected lists, jotted down shop signs; i based my "poems" on the vocabulary of crossword puzzles, autographed public announcements, obituaries, used blotting paper and so forth, combined strange photographs from magazines and (medical) textbooks with terribly fitting texts such an in the (cool series IN MEMORIAM) (1955). the effects of the (cool manifesto" extended from "kinderoper", children's opera (1958), to the operetta "der schweissfuss", sweaty foot, (1962). we received new stimulus from our encounter with young chilean anarchists, whom artmann had bought to our table at café glory opposite the university thanks to his knowledge of languages. we discussed ways of how to produce literature methodically, which should enable everyone to compose poetry on an artificial level. marc adrian, a constructivist sculptor, was quite instrumental in the development of this "methodical inventionism" he referred to the usefulness of the fibonacci series for the permutative processing of the accidentally, intuitively or schematically created stock of words and gave some examples. everybody picked up this idea in his own way. artmann's approach in his "lyrische verbariem" and "inventionen" was an intuitive one, simulating the method as it were. bayer relied on syllables, i transferred certain principles of serial music to language. dictionaries were consulted eagerly, absolute artificiality was to be achieved by permutative arrangement of highly disconnected expressions into internal structures. poetry as an instruction manual. dissociated from any causality of terms, the linguistic material was to reach a state of of semantic floating as it were, to generate "mechanically" surprising sequences of words and images. to some extent this represented a kind of systematization of alogical combinations of words in the sense of a consistent surrealism - as adopted by the highly appreciated benjamin péret; however, syntax, as a means of displaying the discrepancy between packaging and contents (determined sentence structure and free sequence of words) was usually abandoned in favour of newly designed structural principles.
early in 1954 i had begun to make "konstellationen" (as they are called in "konkrete poesie", concrete poetry) with single terms - a kind of "isolateted" poetry, in which the individual words gained independence. in the attempt to objectify and reduce the "poem"' as much as possible to the totality of the individual term (because the mere confrontation with another one limits its spectrum of associations) i ended up, in extreme cases, with "one-word tablets", giving up the hierarchic principle of the sentence in order to rid words from their commitment to conveying meaning and to make them available as elements of equal value. konstellation" made a significant choice from the existing supply of words. their character (which constitutes the opersonal)) element) is determined by relationships that are established: the semantic ones as well as the material, the "concrete" ones. what is not expressed by a symbol is shown by its applicatiom (ludwig wittgenstein), the differentiation between contents and form is no longer valid: putting something in a slightly different place lends it a different meaning. a "sound constellation", on the other hand contains (like music) only material relationships, viz. phonetic- sensory ones. a friend to whom a showed my word and "sound designs" (as i called them initially following modrian) drew my attention to "spirale", a new swiss art magazine. eugen gomringer, diter rot had published similar constructs there. gomringer had introduced the term "konkrete poesie" concrete poetry, for them. in brazil there were already a number of artists that wrote "concrete poetry" the noigandres group. all this was most exciting, and the fact that such creations emerged independently of each other at different places only confirmed their compelling up-to-datedness. transnationality, a new phenomenon in literature, is an important aspect of "concrete poetry", which caters to the need for a simplified world language, albeit limited to the realm of estheticism. its model- like clarity complies with the contemporary demand for condensed information. the appearance of the writing - optically striking - is of crucial importance. the economical use of means together with their differentiation becomes a central esthetic feature. consistent with the aforesaid, conditioned by the material, a distinction suggested itself between visible and audible texts. hardly foreseeable new means of expression and potentials opened up.
in september 1954 i wrote the programmatic play "rund oder ovab" in which the principles of "concrete poetry" were applied for the first time to theatre. "concrete poetry" was soon produced by oswald wiener and friedrich achleitner as well, who joined us in 1955 and exerted some influence, inter alia on artmann. in forgingb a synthesis between reductive design and exuberant imagination, characteristic trait of his, he achieved extraordinary originality. starting in the autumn of 1954, his short pieces "aufbruch nach amsterdam", departure to amsterdam, "die fahrt zur insel nantucket" the journey to the island of nantucket, "das los der edlen and gerechten", the destiny of the noble and the righteous, "nebel und blatt", fog and leaf, "lob der optic", praise for the optics, were written in quick succession.
animated by artmann, we began to deal intensively with baroque literature. the studies soon expanded: we re-discovered german literature and pursued a tradition that was different and had been withheld or discriminated by german linguists, a tradition which we believed to be the true one throughout history.
on december 13, 1954, a larger group of artists got together and founded a club called "exil" alluding to our situation in austria's cultural life. we rented a place called "adebar" at 3 annagasse, a street off karntnerstrasse. the group was comprised of poets, composers and painters - marc adrian, maria lassnig and friedrich hundertwasser, for example, were responsible for the painting section. the walls were always hung with pictures that were exchanged by the painters at random. we had our own jazz band where wiener and bayer (banjo) played from time to time. young architects and film avant-gardists such as peter kubelka joined us later. the close contacts that were held between the progressive representatives of the various arts were typical of our viennese group and had a most fruitful effect. at the beginning of january 1955, i demonstrated my visual "word and sound designs" for the first time. at the end of the year we cleared out of "adebar" with a lot of hullabaloo because the owner of the now always overcrowded "adebar" thought that he no longer needed us as animators and all of a sudden took back the agreed discounts on food and drinks granted to exile members. accompanied by new orleans sounds, our exodus formed into a spontaneous demonstration. austria had become free. artmann wrote - it was the year 1955 - a manifesto, against rearmament, which bears 25 signatures. a protest rally with banners and a total of seven participants ended right away at the police station.
1956 we wrote our first joint pieces of work. artmann was browsing his dictionaries (books on foreign grammar and encylopaedias were among his favourite literature), rummaged up a textbook on the bohemian language from 1853, by a person called terebelski; there he came across a collection of simple sentences that, given their arbitrary sequence, were bound to catch his attention - his eye well-trained by inventionism - as poetic alienation. artmann and bayer selected the most appealing sentences, regrouping them somewhat - the first "montage" was completed. as we met again at artmann's crammed but inspiring place in kienmayergasse, i joined them in their continued exploitation of the book: the outcome was "magische kavallery", magical cavalry. the pleasure we derived from our explorations fuelled further montages. it was only natural to use other books and written documents as well, and different ones at the same time. the mere selection of the material was exciting and, of course, of decisive importance for the end product. selection and arrangement, the tension between neighbouring sentences, accounted for the quality of this kind of poetry. everybody contributed suitable material: we got more and more used to each other's ways, tossed sentences to each other like balls. although we each individually made use of the potential we had tapped, montage proved to be a technique particularly conducive to the production of joint works. frequently the discovered sentences were ""retouched"" oriented towards a special theme, for example. artmann sometimes even faked the montage or mixed the original sentences with sentences of his own. it was not least owing to these "poetic parlour games" (the joint text "stern zu stern", star to star, by artmann, bayer and myself, for example, was produced according to rules we had agreed upon before) that we developed a systematic approach to the material language as practised later by achleitner, bayer, wiener and myself in many sessions.
i had made friedrich achleitner's fleeting acquaintance in 1955 at a turbulent summer party (it was the time of the grape harvest) in amulf rainer's villa in vöslau. he moved in a different circle. he was then still practising his profession as an architect (in a team together with johannes gsteu) and had come with some colleagues. i happened to only know those from "arbeitsgruppe 4", working group 4, slightly better (holzbauer, kurrent and spalt, the fourth one had set up on his own), in short called "die dreiviertler" the three-fourths. it was not before winter that we engaged in a conversation that aroused our mutual interest when, after a concert given by the ensemble die reihe, that had specialized in new music, we sat together at a table in a tavern. achleitner, who was an outsider eyed with scepticism at first, appeared more and more frequently at café glory. he was especially attracted by our emphasis on the formal and the visualization of texts as best illustrated in "konstellationen". he soon joined us in writing dialect poetry, adding to it a new tone with his upper austrian "obdaennsa". we were all delighted with the dry humour and the formal precision of his dialect poems. there was not doubt any more, he was one of us. from 1957 he, too, produced some remarkable montages. finally, he gave up his profession as an architect to devote himself, like all of us (bayer, too, quit his job at a bank), primarily to writing. in summer 1956, when achleitner and i were in salzburg at the time of the festival, we used the geographical proximity to visit eugen gomringer at the ulm college of design. it was our first personal meeting with like- minded persons abroad. in lively discussions we tried to explore to what extent there was agreement among our ideas, how everyone had arrived at this particular way of writing. we exchanged our works. gomringer invited us to contribute to an international anthology on "concrete poetry", which was to document the texts by the protagonists of this new genre. as no publisher could be found for this project, gomringer published a consecutive series of issues on his own. issue no.3 contained collected dcleograms, by all members of the editorial staff: friedrich achleitner, ronaldo azeredo, carlo belloli, claus bremer, augusto cle campos, haraldo de campos, eugen gomringer, josé lino grünwald, ferreira gullar, helmut heissenböttel, kitasano katué, décio pignatari, cliter rot, gerhard rühm, oswald wiener, emmet williams. issue no.4 contained my "konstellationen", the advance issue no.10 achleitner's "schwer schwarz", deep darkness. no.8 appeared as a supplement to the swiss magazine "spirale" as a kind of substitute for the book, a small "anthologie konkreter poesie" anthology of concrete poetry, with portraits and exemplary "konstellationen" of and by the editorial staff. whereas for achleitner and myself this new connection was of far-reaching importance, wiener took only marginal notice of it. bayer, and even more so artmann, remained unaffected as this trend did not really appeal to them. they never practised concrete poetry, in a strict sense. but neither did achleitner and i consider ourselves to be exclusively ("concrete poets" for fear alone of having our field of work narrowed down by an indexing term. basically we had always sought to confront ourselves with language in its entirety, which makes any classification into styles or isms irrelevant.
in may 1957 the austrian cultural magazine "neue wege" (a rather ironic title considering its contents) presented us for the first time to a younger circle of readers. after some of my "more moderate" fairy-tales had been printed in one of the previous issues, as a preparation so- to-speak, i then published a short article on the new poetry and used two "konstallationen" as an example. new "sprechgedichte", speech poems, by emst jandl, which documented a radical rejection of the hitherto customary style of writing, contributed to the scandal that was to ensue (the magazine was also sold in schools) and cost the poetry editor his job.
on june 20, 1957, we presented ourselves for the first time as a "group" in a marathon reading, for which gerhard bronner had made the "intime theater", in the centre of vienna on liliengasse, available to us in a mood of generosity. achleitner, artmann, bayer, rühm, wiener - the poster bore the simple title "dichtung", poetry, below our names. we presented a representative selection from our works - individual and simultaneous readings, tape recordings and projections, interspersed with some theory - until the police forced us to break off at midnight, closing time. during the nonstop event emotions ran high in the packed auditorium, sometimes almost degenerating into a brawl.
on august 8, during the festival season, achleitner, artmann and i read our dialect poems at the invitation of the "gesellschaft für moderne kunst" at the salzburger residenz. this successful reading got artmann into contact, albeit in a roundabout-way, with the conservative publishing house otto mOller-verlag in salzburg. but it required considerable help from hans sedlmayr before they decided to print the volume "med ana schwoazzn dintn", in black ink, which unexpectedly became a bestseller. however, some of the "randier" dialect poems had been eliminated by the publisher. they appeared later in our anthology "hosn rosn baa", trousers roses bones. in spite of the sensational success (several editions were published within a very short time and the publishing house received a cash prize) the otto müller-verlag refused to accept any of artmann's further works.
from 1957 onward, events and readings increased in number both in vienna and in graz (from 1959), where - in spite of anonymous threats and unmasking criticism ("Ent-"Artmänner" in der Secession" - the un-ArtMen at the Secession) - a firm community began to establish itself.
in may 1958 fritz wotruba arranged the first major exhibition of my visual texts entitled "wortgestaltung - lautgestaltung" word design - sound design, for me in his renowned "galerie würthle" (9 weihburggasse, vienna 1). to my knowledge it was the first presentation of visual poetry ever.
then the name wiener dichtergruppe" viennese group of poets, appeared in an article, which clorothea zeemann published on us in viennna's "neuer kurier" (a daily newspaper) on june 23, 1958. heimito von doderer, who apparently held us in high regard and was well-disposed towards us, wanted to make the literary page which he edited in the "neue kurier" twice a month available to us. however, a responsible editor happened to set his eyes on the galley proof and stopped the printing immediately, whereupon doderer, insisting unsuccessfully on his right to take decisions, quit editing the literary page - a noble attitude, which one does not encounter very often.
in 1958 artmann began to withdraw from us discreetly. after all the years of having lived and written in rather humble circumstances and without meeting with official response, he rose to fame as the author of "schwoazze dintn" almost over night. tram conductors knew his name and quoted his lines. he enjoyed almost unprecedented popularity for a writer in austria - however, as a ""dialect poet", at the expense of his other works. vienna had a popular bard again.
achleitner, bayer, wiener and i got together even more closely numerous joint works evolved, theoretical discussions were carried on vigorously. at the same time it seemed that we entered a new phase in our individual work as well. achleitner, wiener and i developed more complex texts on the basis of "konstellationen". "frösche", frogs, was the overture to my series of "lesetexte", reading texts, which i continued for several years. wiener wrote his "erste studie", first study. another three followed. achleitner put together "die gute suppe" the good soup, a truly exemplary text. bayer completed "der vogel singt", the bird is singing, his first major poetic piece of work.
in july 1958 we were invited by bertl rauscher, head of the youth section of the socialist party, to read at the "secession" as part of the vienna festival. it would be wrong to claim that this party was particularly appealing to us; if we had had any left-wing ambitions, anarchism or trotskysm would have been our options. but rauscher was an open-minded young man with initiative and commitment. he founded a gallery that was also open to less appreciated artists and created the physical conditions for our two literary cabarets. the venue was a small theatre room in windmühlgasse, which was rented from the artists'society "alte welt" old world (a paradox, which amused us). hectic meetings and preparations began. everybody was eager to bring along material and outlines. but then most of the programme was conceived jointly and specifically for the event, particularly as the numbers would have qualified as "happenings, if that term had already existed at that time. to calm down the audience we planned to serve them chansons in between. and as it turned out they were received well. but also the other, more aggressive, numbers were a big success at this first "literary cabaret" which was staged on december 6, 1958. all the seats were occupied and throngs of people stood all the way to the corridor. in spite of the uncomfortable situation, in spite of smoke and sweat, we held out until we had to break off - the vast programme lasted much longer than we had anticipated. encouraged by the large crowd we had been able to attract and which exceeded all our expectations, as well as by the response afterwards (although the press reacted only after the second event, but then did so with a typical mixture of outrage and sensationalism), we decided to give a second performance, this time on a larger scale. the second literary cabaret, took place at the porrhaus near wiener naschmarkt on april 15, 1959. apart from the remaining sketches and chansons from the first programme, it contained so many new numbers, which were conceived for the capabilities of the big hall, that we were again forced to make cuts, not least by order of the police. basically we saw an opportunity of trying out aspects of a "holistic theatre" in the literary cabaret. some time earlier wiener and i had drafted the blueprint for a play which - based on a serial fundamental pattern - aimed at developing the manifold linguistic tools and means of expression by exploiting the as yet undreamtof technical capabilities of a "theatre unleashed,".
word had reached the viennese publishing house frick-verlag that artmann was not the only one to engage in the new dialect poetry. achleitner's and my name had been mentioned to them. alois englander, then the manager of the firm, suggested that we publish a representative anthology together with artmann. we were assured that we would have complete freedom in the choice of material and layout. nevertheless achleitner and i hesitated as we were afraid to be mistaken for a rehash of "schwoazze dintn"). therefore the book was to start with an instructive foreword by a competent outsider. heimito von doderer was the only person whom we thought to be eligible and he accepted readily. artmann welcomed the project. i think that he had not felt quite comfortable any more in the role and the new society in which he had all of a sudden found himself. for us it was a welcome opportunity to reestablish our relationship. our newly confirmed consensus was a relief to all of us - even if we did not work together directly any more, after all, we were friends. for the title of the book we found a significant word for each of the three of us: "hosn" - achleitner, "rosn" - artmann, "baa" - rühm. achleitner produced silhouette portraits of each of us and designed the book jacket. together we selected format, type-face and layout. save for few exceptions, achleitner's poems and mine were unpublished ones. artmann contributed, among others, a number of older poems that had been rejected by the otto müller-verlag as too "coarse". the volume became a summary documentation of "new dialect poetry, - for us it was already a closed chapter. "hosn rosn baa" caused quite a stir, but in a rather negative sense, notwithstanding the welcome and praise it received from a small circle of readers (doderer knew some poems by heart - the most extreme ones, of course, - and took pleasure in reciting them to the embarrassment of the ("high society,"). we had secretly expected it because this volume was much more aggressive than the lyrical "schwoazze dintn", both in content and form, and, naturally, we had failed to exercise preventive self -censorship. the petit bourgeois indeed felt that basic values, such as the "wiener schnitzl" had been disgraced and was deeply offended.
for a recital in december 1959 the publishing house had succeeded in engaging a popular actor from the burgtheater, the comedian richard eybner, to read from "hosn rosn baa" together with the authors at the mozartsaal of the konzerthaus. things went well as long as eybner read the more innocuous poems, but, when it was our turn, unrest among the audience grew, swelling to a chorus of catcalls and shouts like "insult to culture" and "off into the gas chamber". outraged, some left the desecrated hall. in the end we were not unhappy. only the good richard eybner was ashamed and mortified, "schamzerpört", as august stramm would have put it, about his participation in such a "debacle" - by the way, some of the poems in "hosn rosn baa" (four years after the book was published) made me the suspect in a shocking murder case at the opera (a ballerina had fallen victim to a sex murderer), and i was interrogated by the police (headline in the "express", morning issue of april 24, 1963, Opera Murder: Viennese Dialect Poet Has to Prove his Alibi 'coz of his Verses!").
early in 1961 achleitner and i were commissioned to write a one-act play for the "kapfenberger kulturtage" the kapfenberg culture , which were sponsored by the austrian böhler-werke. it was to tie in with the overall theme of the event "technology as an experience of modern art". we set about the task in our own way. to simply garnish the theme with some poetry, perhaps reflecting it by some imposed fable, was out of the question for us. it was quite obvious that to us that the relevance of artistic work would not have to reveal itself just thematically but in substance as well, that it was to document itself in its means and methods, in the handling of the material itself - in our case in the "language of technology"~. this idea was alien to most of our critics, because after the premiere of our play "SUPER REKORD EXTRA 100" with their usual arrogance, they declaimed the "discrimination against the theatre,". a month later, the vienna student theatre (die arche", performed eight short plays by bayer and myself entitled "kosmologie" which we had planned to publish before as part of our collection of short plays. in august of the same year "rund oder oval" had its premiere in sweden. ("starker toback", strong tobacco, a work written jointly by bayer and wiener, appeared in "dead language press" in paris. in september 1962 kurt fried exhibited my visual texts in his commendable gallery "studio f" in ulm, and at its first podium evening", the ulm theatre" showed, apart from plays by ionesco, spoerri, kriwet and pörtner, my play "gehen", go, too, which i had been commissioned to write by its artistic director claus bremer. i began to explore ways and means of building up an existence in germany, where the cultural climate for the kind of art represented by us, was much more favourable then.
in general, a certain restlessness was to be noticed among us, an almost oppressive impatience about being stuck in vienna. artmann already had left austria in 1960, we felt cut off here, wasting our efforts. save for a few texts printed in magazines and anthologies, our manuscripts kept filling our drawers. we hardly had a chance here. arrogant provincialism prevailed in-radio and television stations as well as in publishing. we had applied repeatedly in vain to the ministry of education for support to publish a small series of progressive poetry. in those days official subsidies were channelled to conservatives camps exclusively. inspired by artmann's reports, i travelled to berlin together with bayer in summer 1963. there the publisher wolfgang fietkau was preparing the publication of his stein der weisen), the philosophers'stone. we made contacts immediately. we were invited to readings on radio. a little later bayer travelled to a meeting of ("gruppe 47" where he made the acquaintance of the publisher rowohlt, who offered him a contract for his then uncompleted novel "der sechste sinn", the sixth sense. the publishing firm walter-verlag in olten accepted bayer's "kopf des vitus bering", the head of vitus bering, and planned the publication of an anthology with texts by the "wiener gruppe" with the title "die mustersternwarte" the model observatory. it seemed that the ice had been broken.
since around 1959-60, partnerships of changing composition had evolved from the ("production cooperative") of the "wiener gruppe". wiener distanced himself from his own texts of the past in a mood of general scepticism, which was not very beneficial to constructive cooperation. he completely refused to produce anything "literary" in the future. bayer acted as a mediator. he encouraged wiener to join us for new co -productions ("starker toback" and "folgen geistiger ausschweifung", the consequencs of intellectual extravaganzas) and to continue his novel, "the verbesserung von mitteleuropa", the betterment of central europe, which he had begun at the end of 1962. at the same time bayer and i worked to complete our monster operetta "der schweissfuss", which we had started in 1959.
in 1964 everybody developed their own activities, necessary changes were in the offing although their ultimate goal was still uncertain. uzi förster planned to open his new night club "chattanooga" am graben number 29 with several spectacular events. bayer believed this to be the opportunity of finally staging our joint product "kinderoper", which we had written as early as in 1958, and in which we played ourselves. he took care of the invitations, painted the posters. after a night programme with our chansons the day before, the world premiere of our "kinderoper" took place on april 10, 1964, at 11.00 p.m. the hall was bursting with people all the way up to the podium. the atmosphere was nearly more exuberant than at our "cabarets". as according to the manuscript we had to eat and drink a lot, and did so, especially the latter, and since the audience did not restrain themselves either (drinks were served during the performance), things ended in howling and chaos. bottles of donated champaign popped, pouring their contents right over the over-heated faces. glasses were flung through the hall, i saw one whizzing past above my head as i lay on the floor dead drunk.
this joint appearance of the group after a longer pause became its farewell performance. achleitner devoted himself entirely to the theoretical side of architecture again. bayer retreated to schloss hagenberg in lower austria to complete his novel. wiener had a job at olivetti's and worked on the "verbessserung von mitteleuropa." i moved to berlin two days after the performance. on september 3 an article appeared in "the times literary supplement" in which bayer reviewed the "wiener gruppe".
when bayer and i met again at the frankfurt book fair, we devised plans for a new cooperation under the changed conditions - unlike in the past, we should not be tied to one place. a month later konrad bayer committed suicide.