Kraftwerk

The Robots. © Peter Boettcher

 

The electronic multimedia project Kraftwerk was started by Ralf Hütter (*1946) and Florian Schneider (1947–2020) in Düsseldorf in 1970. Combining music, sound-poetry, images, film and performance art, The Man Machine Kraftwerk have been a major influence on hip hop, electro, house, techno, new wave and synth pop.

 

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Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider met at Akademie Remscheid in 1968, and their collaboration began with a performance at the legendar Creamcheese in Düsseldorf. In 1970 they established their Kling Klang Studio and started the Kraftwerk project. A spirit of renewal characterized Düsseldorf in the late sixties, particularly in the realm of contemporary art. Happenings, Fluxus and performance art were part of the artistic life, and a thriving scene emerged around artists such as Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke. Kraftwerk created the soundtrack for the Rhineland art world with their performances at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, the Kölner Kunstverein, the Ludwig Collection in Aachen, Galerie Hans Mayer in Krefeld and the Rolandseck train station. The name Kraftwerk (German for “power station”) was emblematic of their industrial aesthetic and the electronic energy of the music they created.
 
Kraftwerk used a wide range of tools at their Kling Klang Studio, including synthesizers, rhythm machines, sequencers, vocoders and programmable synthetic voices. Ralf Hütter directed the videos and covers for their albums, and developed a visual identity for their photo sessions, as well as the concept for the 3-D The Catalogue 12345678 of their albums. The covers and lyrics for the albums Autobahn (1974) and Radio-Activity (1975), as well as for “Trans Europe Express”, “The Model” and other songs were created in collaboration with artist and friend Emil Schult, a student of Beuys.
 
The breakthrough album Autobahn (1974) was followed by a string of international successes: Radio-Activity (1975), Trans-Europe Express (1977), The Man-Machine (1978), Computer World (1981), Techno Pop (1986), The Mix (1991) and Tour de France (2003). Kraftwerk’s distinctive, futuristic sound opened up a range of new possibilities for music. The everyday poetry of the group’s lyrics—half spoken, half sung by a deadpan Ralf Hütter, and by programmed synthetic voices—reflected emotional states emerging amid a culture of increased mobility, information technology, data collection and globalization. Across five decades Kraftwerk has worked with various artists, musicians and technicians for studio recordings and live concerts. The current line-up consists of Ralf Hütter, Henning Schmitz (b. 1953), Fritz Hilpert (b. 1956) and Falk Grieffenhagen (b. 1969). From the beginning, in 1970, Kraftwerk followed the multimedia idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk— or total work of art—that encompasses music, visuals, texts and performance. Debuting at the 2012 retrospective of their work The Catalogue 12345678 at MoMA, New York was an immersive 3-D video and sound installation of the same name that revisits each of their eight classic Kraftwerk albums, enhancing the original compositions with a dense interweaving of live music and 3-D projections.
 
Kraftwerk’s artistic philosophy might be described as a kind of “technological existentialism”. The figure of the robot looms particularly large here (Ralf Hütter has repeatedly referred to himself as a “music worker”)—as an allegory for Kraftwerk’s artistic cause and as a model for the artists’ self-dramatization as hybrids of man and machine. Merging music, performance, images and language, Kraftwerk have created a psychosocial experiment that uniquely captures the texture of modernity and life in the present day.

 

Kraftwerk: It’s More Fun to Compute / Home Computer
Produced and directed by Ralf Hütter
© Kraftwerk

 

Kraftwerk:The Robots
Produced and directed by Ralf Hütter
© Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk: The Catalogue 12345678
produced and directed by Ralf Hütter
© Kraftwerk

Works
Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
Autobahn, 3-D Concert, Kunstsammlung NRW, Dusseldorf, DE, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
Autobahn
3-D Concert, Kunstsammlung NRW, Dusseldorf, DE
, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
The Man-Machine, 3-D Concert, Tate Modern, London, UK, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
The Man-Machine
3-D Concert, Tate Modern, London, UK
, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
Radio-Activity, 3-D Concert, Tate Modern, London, UK, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
Radio-Activity
3-D Concert, Tate Modern, London, UK
, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
3-D Video Installation, Installationview Kunstbau Lenbachhaus, Munich, DE, 2011. © Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
3-D Video Installation
Installation view, Kunstbau Lenbachhaus, Munich,
2011. © Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
Computer World, 3-D Concert, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, DE, 2015. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
Computer World
3-D Concert, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, DE
, 2015. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
Trans Europe Express, 3-D Concert, Akasaka Blitz, Tokyo, JP, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
Trans Europe Express
3-D Concert, Akasaka Blitz, Tokyo, JP
, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
3-D Concert, Movement Detroit, USA, 2016. © Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
3-D Concert, Movement Detroit, USA, 2016. © Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
Tour de France, 3-D Concert, Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris, FR, 2014. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
Tour de France
3-D Concert, Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris, FR
, 2014. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
3-D The Catalogue
© Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
3-D The Catalogue. © Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
1 Autobahn, 1974
2 Radio-Activity, 1975
3 Trans Europe Express, 1977
4 The Man-Machine, 1978

Kraftwerk
1 Autobahn, 1974
2 Radio-Activity, 1975
3 Trans Europe Express, 1977
4 The Man-Machine, 1978

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
5 Computer World, 1981
6 Techno Pop, 1986
7 The Mix, 1991
8 Tour de France, 2003

Kraftwerk
5 Computer World, 1981
6 Techno Pop, 1986
7 The Mix, 1991
8 Tour de France, 2003

Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk
3-D Video Installation - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, Installationview Sprüth Magers Berlin, DE, 2013

Kraftwerk
3-D Video Installation – 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Installation view Sprüth Magers, Berlin, 2013

Details
Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
Autobahn
3-D Concert, Kunstsammlung NRW, Dusseldorf, DE
, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
The Man-Machine
3-D Concert, Tate Modern, London, UK
, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
Radio-Activity
3-D Concert, Tate Modern, London, UK
, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
3-D Video Installation
Installation view, Kunstbau Lenbachhaus, Munich,
2011. © Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
Computer World
3-D Concert, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, DE
, 2015. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
Trans Europe Express
3-D Concert, Akasaka Blitz, Tokyo, JP
, 2013. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
3-D Concert, Movement Detroit, USA, 2016. © Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
Tour de France
3-D Concert, Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris, FR
, 2014. © Peter Boettcher

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
3-D The Catalogue. © Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
1 Autobahn, 1974
2 Radio-Activity, 1975
3 Trans Europe Express, 1977
4 The Man-Machine, 1978

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
5 Computer World, 1981
6 Techno Pop, 1986
7 The Mix, 1991
8 Tour de France, 2003

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk
3-D Video Installation – 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Installation view Sprüth Magers, Berlin, 2013

Details
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Current and Upcoming
Kraftwerk
Peter Boettcher

Electro. From Kraftwerk to Daft Punk.
Kraftwerk
Design Museum, London
July 27, 2020–February 14, 2021

In light of recent developments regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19), exhibitions, events and talks are subject to change.

What to expect
Evoking the experience of being in a club, the exhibition will transport you through the people, art, design, technology and photography that have been capturing and shaping the electronic music landscape.
Celebrate 50 years of legendary group Kraftwerk with a 3D show. Step into the visual world of The Chemical Brothers for one of their legendary live shows, as visuals and lights interact to create a new three-dimensional experience by Smith & Lyall – featuring Grammy Award-winning track ‘Got to Keep On’.

Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Press

Der lange Weg … zu Kraftwerk
Musik Express, text and interview by Albert Koch, August 2017

“Und plötzlich standen wir im elektronischen Garten”
Zeit Magazin, article by Christoph Amend, May 18, 2017

Boing, bum, tschak
Monopol, article by Matthias Mühling, October 2011

Kraftwerk in 3D
Wallpaper, October 2011

Wired for Sound
Frieze, article by Michael Bracewell, April 2006

Kraftwerk: Die Vision Mensch Maschine
Raveline, article by Hauke Schlichting, January 2006

Biography

Kraftwerk was founded in Dusseldorf in 1970 by Ralf Hütter (*1946) and Florian Schneider (1947—2020). US tours include in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2008 and 2005, South America in 2016, 2014, 2009 and 2004, Australia and New Zealand in 2013, 2008 and 2003, Japan in 2019, 2013, 2004 and 2002. They performed at the Venice Biennale in 2005. Multimedia presentations include a 3-D video installation at Kunstbau Lenbachhaus, Munich (2011) and a 3-D concert series 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, which was performed at MoMA, New York (2012), Tate Modern, London (2013), Kunstsammlung NRW, Dusseldorf (2013), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2014), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2015), and Museo Guggenheim, Bilbao (2016).

http://www.kraftwerk.com/

Awards
2014 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award