Philipp Gufler is an artist living and working between Amsterdam and Munich. He is also an active member of the grassroots archive Forum Queeres Archiv München.
As part of the project “Political Dimensions of Cultural Praxis and Knowledge Production,” we are publishing the 6th chapter of his artist book “Indirect Contact” that gives insights into his process of working with the environment of the Forum as an artist. Johanna Klingler gives an introduction to Philipp’s artistic practice.
Read more about the series — https://syg.ma/@sygma/political-dimensions-of-cultural-praxis-and-knowledge-production
Текст на русском можно прочитать по ссылке — https://syg.ma/@sygma/niepriamyie-kontakty-filippa-gufliera
Introduction to Philipp Gufler’s practice
Attending Philipp’s openings is always a pleasure. That is, particularly, because I have never felt any pressure on his side to perform any kind of exclusive focus or distant attitude towards the visitors. He doesn’t get tired of keeping an open eye out for strangers that might have questions about his works and uses his spotlight-time to explain to the public, over and over again, the stories behind them.
Philipp’s work traces back and mediates the histories of people that have been marginalized because of their sexuality and gender and, alongside them introduces the complex and violent structures of social and political repression and their remains, or rather their often only slightly changed existence. It is important to stress, that his artistic elaborations evolve from his engagement in social and political initiatives or from his close contact or friendship with people and communities, and doesn’t end with the realization of artistic projects. Philipp is an active member of the Forum Queeres Archive München (their Instagram account can be found here), a space that collects the history of individuals, initiatives and places, that through their queer backgrounds have been involved, affected or excluded in the history of Munich.
What has, since the beginning, interested me regarding the Forum was, how a majorly voluntarily led archive constitutes private matter — intimacy, sexuality, anger and fear — aspects that are mostly ignored in conventional state archives, as their main characteristic. Estates and donations, also of non-public individuals, form a core part of our inventory. How is history written, which stories become part of the canon, which are being excluded and why does it sometimes seem like history is repeating itself? A simple example: why is there so little known in Munich about the repression of homosexuals, sex workers and drug addicts in the 1980s at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, outside of an older LGBTIQ scene? At the Forum, another kind of history is practiced every day. Nothing is just a number in the archive, it is lived history, that is becoming understandable differently through personal contact.
Philipp Gufler’s speech for the 20th anniversary of Forum Queeres Archiv München
In 2014, Philipp produced the video installation and artist book Projection on the Crisis: Gauweilereien in München (Projektion auf die Krise: Gauweilereien in München). Alongside the material of the Forum Queeres Archiv München, the film elaborates on the violent and strategic political repression and public discrimination of gay people in general, victims of the aids crisis, sex workers, and community spaces like gay clubs and bars through the functionalization of the HIV virus by conservative politics, in particular under Peter Gauweiler, who — Philipp cannot stress often enough — is still an active member of the CSU (Christian Social Union, which is the Bavarian branch of the CDU, the Christian Democratic Union, a very powerful, right of the middle conservative party in Germany). It might be important to mention that until the just mentioned repressions begun, Munich was in fact a flourishing place for creative culture and contained a vivid club and gay scene, frequently visited by people such as Freddy Mercury or David Bowie.
When I visited the Forum Queeres Archiv München for the first time in 2013, I knew very little about the beginnings of the AIDS crisis in Germany and Bavaria, the social and political repressions of the former government of the Bavarian State, enacted through Peter Gauweiler, Hans Zehetmeier, Franz Josef Strauß and the so called Catalogue of Measurements, which included forced tests and the separation of HIV positive people. For many people, this AIDS-politics had and still has effects — although this does not count for Gauweiler and many of the formerly responsible politicians. Today, one rather keeps quiet about Gauweiler’s early AIDS- and cleansing politics, also because HIV- and homophobia can not be functionalized in the same populist manner anymore. Nevertheless, it still constitutes the base of his political profile. On November the 29th 2013, Peter Gauweiler was elected deputy vice president of the CSU. Early after that, I showed my video installation Projection on the Crisis (Gauweilereien in Munich) and the artist book of the same name for the first time.
Philipp Gufler’s speech for the 20th anniversary of Forum Queeres Archiv München
Since that, Philipp has worked on different concerns, as for example on the impacts of paragraph 175, which prohibited sexual interactions between men until 1969. In an interview with Erich Haas (1919-2019) in 2014 Philipp, in collaboration with Liane Klingler and Christopher Aoun, recorded Erich’s memories of his life as a homosexual man under the paragraph and initiated an exchange on the subject matter both within the art sphere and the community of the Forum Queeres Archiv München. Erich and Philipp continued their “professional” relationship as friends, and met regularly until Erich passed away last year, shortly before his 100th birthday.
One of Philipp’s Quilts, silkscreen printed textiles, is dedicated to Erich’s Petit Café, which he had run together with his partner Klaus from 1958 until 1960. It became one of the first queer bars in postwar Germany. Ever since, the series of Quilts became an index of Philipp’s artistic research and is strongly connected to his research at the Forum. His most recent artist book Quilt #01–#30 gives an over view about the series of textile sculptures.
Besides many projects that have been realized since then, Philipp has most recently engaged with the life and unfortunate early death of Lana Kaiser, a transsexual German singer and figure of public life, who was known to a broader audience under her birth name Daniel Küblböck, a participant of an early 2000s German casting show. Back then, she was publicly considered as being a bit “crazy” and speculations on her sexual orientation and gender were made. For Philipp as probably many others, Lana appeared as an identification figure during a time when queer life, even more so than today, had no place within the concepts of society mediated through public structures. He recently produced a video installation and magazine about the life and work of the entertainer.
Coming back to the theme of this publication series, which looks at methods that are creating political scopes of actions within the field of art as well as at the interaction of theory and praxis — what I have tried to articulate in the above is the particular way Philipp intermingles his social and political engagement with his artistic production. His works are not being produced as artefacts within a highly specialized, self-referential or exclusive sphere. His concerns derive from an actual engagement in social and political structures and are at the same time supporting these environments, in which they are also being distributed and perceived. Thus, he goes beyond a mere depiction; one could say as a mediator. He doesn’t get tired to reach out, take his visitors by their hands and tell them the same stories over and over again, because they matter — not only to him.
The artist book Indirect Contact accompanies Philipp’s experiences in the Forum Queeres Archiv München. As his fictive persona Jäcki, borrowed from the author Hubert Fichte, he visits the Kakadu Archiv, the transformation of the Forum.
Introduction by Johanna Klingler, 2020
’Jacki is for Jäckies‘
(Indirect Contact, 2017, BQ, Berin, p. 1)
JÄCKI IMITATES AN ACTIVIST AT THE COCKATOO ARCHIVE
— Maybe enthusiasm is the only thing I can offer you.
On videotape at the Cockatoo Archive in Munich, he hears:
— Moreover, there was a plan to arrive with busses at the main homosexual meeting points and to submit them to a forced test.
Like Ronald M. Schernikau, he meets with Dr. Jäger, who tells him:
— And upon entering Gauweiler’s office, there were two crossed swords above his desk, which I found a bit strange, and behind the door was a dachshund, which I found quite likeable — a living dachshund. He somehow quietly conveyed the message to me, and by that I mean in a way not at all upset: “Mr. Jäger, you are still aiming to be someone.”
On 22 November 2013, just before Jäcki publishes his work on AIDS politics in Munich during the 1980s, Peter Gauweiler is elected Deputy Vice President of the CSU.
Jäcki wants to exclaim:
— For many people, his AIDS politics had, and still have today, material consequences: temporarily implemented occupational bans, stigmatisation, and social exclusion — but not for Gauweiler and many other politicians of that time who are to be held responsible. Today there is silence regarding his former AIDS and goodie two shoes politics, also because populism surrounding HIV and homophobia doesn’t take such a form these days. But these policies remain the foundation of his political profile up to today.
— In face-to-face conversations with Gauweiler — of course we came to seek exchange with our enemies — he told me that the destruction of gay subculture may well be considered one of his goals.
Jäcki asks Guido Vael:
— So the distribution of condoms was also prohibited, then?
— It was a criminal offence and categorised as aiding and abetting amoral behaviour. Additionally, it was claimed that condoms in bars violate shop closing laws. This was supported by the claim that a condom doesn’t have anything to do with the functions of a bar. A pub, Die Spinne, was closed down by Gauweiler on this basis. It was a meeting point for transsexuals. They found condoms in there, somewhere.
Jäcki does not want to be an intruder at the archive.
— To empathise with everything, not just to do research.
— Can I stay until I have lived through all of it as well?
Man himself is not historical: to him, time does not originate from himself, he forms himself as a subject of history through the imbricated history of living beings, the history of things and the history of words.
— In my thoughts, the bodily fluids of semen and death are in close proximity.
— When Michel Foucault learned that he had AIDS, he flew to San Francisco. He had his soul fucked out of his body at the gay sauna, so they tell Jäcki.
— One virus must go first and its name is Strauss. Stop Strauss. Stop Strauss. Stop Strauss.
For fields to appear as fields, their borders must be demarcated, because borders are the significant property of a field.
— I want to reach into the virus’s throat! Kurt tells him.
He changes his position:
The common Cockatoo illness was no longer the intruder.
Kurt attacks the virus.
His documentary »Waiting for Sodom« tells of his last months before he dies from the implications.
Kurt does not want to be the victim who is stigmatized and silenced. For Jäcki, this is most evident in a scene where Kurt plays his own doctor and imitates the objectification of people with AIDS:
— Raab is ill and he will not get well again. Thus, I don’t understand why Mr. Raab agrees to be marketed in that way. Let me tell you something. In my opinion, Raab isn’t a hundred per cent sound anymore, psychologically, which of course relates to his disease that also infects the brain. I have to protect the patients, including Mr. Raab, who I don’t think is even capable of deciding whether or not he wants to make a film.
— By writing, you dissect the virus from Kurt’s body.
— If you are that deep inside a certain thing, it easily happens that you adopt the slang of the disease. This seems hard to understand from the outside.
A way of thinking that confides to the disease also has the chance to unmask »the healthy« as a construction.
— You can’t take time off. The virus doesn’t take a vacation either. Jäcki himself becomes part of the Cockatoo Archive:
— What you experienced back then, you passing through and thinking: all of these houses are full of registries, and these registries determine you until the end of your life. And now all have withered away, and you have to watch out so you are not once again forced to pass through a street and feel like there are registries to the left and registries to the right.
— We can’t deal with potential death every second of our lives.
In the middle of the conversation, an artist tells Jäcki:
— I hope you have AIDS. It leads to deeper experiences. Exaggerated identification.
The counter-movement to Jäcki’s intoxication with rites. But also, the counter-movement to Jäcki’s urge to disobey rites.
— I don’t want to turn into one of those who hunt for the panoramic shot.