Gerhard Rühm is an Austrian author, composer, performer, and visual artist. Majoring in piano and composition at the University of Vienna, he has worked since the early 1950s between word and image, language and music, writing and drawing, producing sound poems, visual poetry, photomontages, and book objects. In 1953, together with Friedrich Achleitner, H. C. Artmann, Konrad Bayer, and Oswald Wiener, Rühm founded the Wiener Gruppe, a constellation of Austrian poets and writers engaged in radical linguistic experiments inspired by Expressionism, Dada, and Constructivism. Their “Literary Cabarets” (1958–59) represented an inflammatory format of interdisciplinary manifestation, poetic acts for linguistic and dialectal experimentations, visual montages, and theater. The group disbanded in 1964, but a timely recollection of their activities is presented in the book Die Wiener Gruppe, edited by Rühm in 1967 and published by Rowohlt Verlag. A comprehensive retrospective dedicated to the group was presented at the Biennale di Venezia in 1997. The public reception of the Wiener Gruppe’s irreverent activities and Rühm’s own works was ruthless enough to cost him a publication ban in Austria, forcing him to emigrate to Germany. Settling initially in Berlin, Rühm organized together Wiener, Dieter Roth, Hermann Nitsch, and Günter Brus the Berliner Dichterworkshops, a series of gatherings that later resulted in the establishment of the music ensemble Selten Gehörte Musik. Several disciplines converge and often overlap in Rühm’s extensive body of work. A central emphasis is reserved for language, comprehended in the totality of its expressions, whether musical, performative, visual, or written. A substantial theoretical and philosophical framework is also present, expressed in numerous critical publications devoted to literature as well as theater, such as the extensive grundlagen des neues theaters (1962) and zu meinen auditiven texten (1970) dedicated to his radio plays. Drawing, automatic writing, photocollage, and graphic notations are the core of series such as Klangkörper. From 1972 to 1995, Rühm was professor at the University of Fine Arts of Hamburg (HFBK). Among the many recognitions Rühm received over his career are the Grand Austrian State Prize for Literature (1991), the Alice Salomon Poetics Prize (2009), and an honorary doctorate from the University of Cologne (2010). Rühm’s work has been displayed on numerous occasions, including the documenta in Kassel (1977 and 1987), the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (2017), and the Kunstforum Wien in Vienna (2018).

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