Thursday, June 7, 2012
An excerpt from Susanne Kippenberger's "Kippenberger: The Artist and His Families"
"He was my big brother. My protector, my ally, my hero. Whenever I got into a fight with my sister, I only had to yell "Maaaartin, Bine is..." and there'd be something, a "Cologne Cathedral" (Martin yanking poor Bine up by the ears until she was dizzy) or an Indian burn. He wrote me letters like this from his boarding school in the Black Forest: "Dear Sanni, How are you? I think about you every day. Are you baking cake yet? Don't snack so much, you'll get a tummy ache. Do you brush your tiny teeth every night? I hope so." He was ten at the time; I was six. Now I'm 54, ten years older than my brother was when he died.
It was on March 7, 1997. Almost exactly the same people came to Burgenland for his funeral as had celebrated his marriage with Elfie Semotan there a year before.
He was so looking forward to 1997—it was going to be his year, his big breakthrough at last. A "Respective" in the Geneva Museum in January, then a few days later the opening of The Eggman and His Outriggers in Mönchengladbach, his first solo show at a German museum since 1986. In March, the Käthe Kollwitz Prize and an exhibition of his Raft of the Medusa cycle at the Berlin Academy of Arts, then Documenta in June, and the sculpture exhibition in Münster—but he didn't get to see those. Hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer: six weeks after the diagnosis, he was dead.
Is it possible, advisable, permissible to write about someone so close to you? My first reaction, when asked if I could imagine writing about my brother, was No! No no no.
Martin Kippenberger is a public figure. A pop star, a brand name, a classic contemporary artist. He is written about, spoken of, and judged. Newspapers and magazines that kept deadly silent at best about him while he was alive now praise him. And he—who let nothing escape comment—can no longer say anything. Night and day (especially night), he used to manage his image as an artist, but now he has lost control. That is what he was most afraid of.
He shows up as a character in novels, there is a hotel suite named after him, a play, a restaurant, a guinea pig (at least one). You can buy him as a notepad. Ben Becker dedicated a song to him: "Kippy" on the album We're Taking Off. His early death has turned him into a legend, especially for younger people—a kind of James Dean of contemporary German art. A devil for some, a god for others. The picture of the human being is fading away."
Labels: Martin Kippenberger