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Alexander Kluge

Born in the town of Halberstadt in 1932, Alexander Kluge is one of the leading intellectual voices in Germany today. His huge body of work, which includes fiction, social theory, film theory, television programmes, and political action on various cultural fronts, can be regarded as a continuation, in words and moving images, of the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School and constitutes a unique venture in the cultural history of post-war Germany. The motives, themes, and formal strategies of Kluge’s radical cinéma impur, raise questions on representation and gender, history and memory, theory in its relation to practice, and the ongoing vitality of modernism.

After completing his high school education in Berlin, he studied law, history and music at universities in Marburg and Frankfurt am Main and received his doctorate in law in 1956. During his studies in Frankfurt, Kluge met Theodor Adorno at the Institute for Social Research where he completes his traineeship and starts to write his first literary works. Adorno introduced him to Fritz Lang, for whom Kluge worked as an assistant on the making of Der Tiger von Eschnapur (The Tiger of Eschnapur, 1959). In 1960 Kluge co-directed his first short film with Peter Schamoni entitled Brutalität in Stein (Brutality in Stone), and became one of twenty-six signatories to the Oberhausen Manifesto of 1962, which marked the launch of the New German Cinema. That same year, with filmmakers Edgar Reitz and Detlev Schleiermacher, Kluge establish the Ulm Institut für Filmgestaltung, to promote the critical and aesthetic practices of Young German Film and the New German Cinema. His first feature film Abschied von Gestern (Yesterday Girl) won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1966, the first German entry since 1945 to garner the prize. In 1987, Kluge founded the television production company Development Company for Television Program (DCTP), which produced late-night and night-time independent television slots on the private channels RTL Television, Sat.1 and VOX. Not unlike his films, these programmes employed a diverse variety of image and sound fragments intended to give the television viewer a multi-sensory and multi-dimensional experience. In 2008 Kluge presented the almost nine hour film Nachrichten aus der ideologischen Antike: Marx/Eisenstein/Das Kapital (News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx/Eisenstein/Capital), a reinvention of Eisenstein’s unfinished project of filming Capital by Karl Marx, and one of the most complex and monumental films of recent film history.

Kluge is also one of the major German fiction writers of the late-20th century and an important social critic. His fictional works, which tend toward the short story form, are significant for their formal experimentation and insistently critical themes. Constituting a form of analytical fiction, they utilise techniques of narrative disruption, mixed genres, interpolation of non-literary texts and documents, and perspectival shifts. As Fassbinder wrote in 1982, his prose does “document, after all that it is one of his chief aims to call every kind of institution into question, particularly those of the state.”

Alexander Kluge’s major works of social criticism include Öffentlichkeit und Erfahrung. Zur Organisationsanalyse von bürgerlicher und proletarischer Öffentlichkeit, co-written with Oskar Negt and originally published in 1972 (Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere), and Geschichte und Eigensinn, also co-authored with Negt.

In 2017, Kluge and his studio were featured in the film Finite and Infinite Games by artist Sarah Morris. The film, which focuses on the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany, includes debates between Kluge and Morris on architecture, music, and the religious philosophy of American academic James P. Carse.

His most important exhibitions include: dctp - Alexander Kluge. The Interview as Artistic Form (ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2008), “The Boat is Leaking. The Captain Lied.” (Fondazione Prada, Venice, 2017) and Pluriversum (Museum Volkwang, Essen, 2017).

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