Just after I posted about Valeska Gert on Friday, I found out that a new book about her was being published. Not only that, it was to be launched that very night, in Berlin. Most exciting of all, for someone who has always wondered why Valeska Gert isn’t better known in the Anglosphere, it was a bilingual German-English edition.
The launch was in a Kreuzberg gallery, where an exhibition of images of Valeska Gert was also on display. They were stills from video footage shot in 1969 by Ernst Mitzka who was there to talk about his encounter with Gert. A precocious example of video technology (early adopter Andy Warhol, for example, wouldn’t get hold of a video camera until the following year), the footage provides a hugely valuable impression of Gert’s performance. This recording is included as a DVD included with the book, along with another disc which collects film and TV appearances.
The book itself (issued by Berlin publishers Hybriden in a limited edition of just 100) is a thing of beauty, evidently crafted with love and insight. Dressed in scarlet – a colour favoured by its subject – Bewegte Fragmente/Fragments in Motion builds on the 2010 exhibition curated by editors Wolfgang Müller and An Paenhuysen at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof gallery. That show sought to bring Valeska Gert in out of the cold of obscurity and into – if not living rooms the world over – at least the art world. The book further solidifies the case for viewing Gert as an outrider of conceptual art rather than just an idiosyncratic leftover of the Weimar era. Among the texts are an unpublished interview with Gert dating from 1977 as well as a radio piece wherein she discusses her theories of dance. Her words are complemented by essays examining her utterly forward-thinking approach to art, performance and life.