We are the robots
If you’re among the many people who crashed Tate’s phone lines last month in a fruitless attempt to get tickets for legendary German band Kraftwerk’s performance in February, you may be able to console yourself with a trip to this photography exhibition in the group’s home town of Düsseldorf.
The show brings together large-format Kraftwerk photos shot by Peter Boettcher over the past 20 years.
But as the gallery blurb says, ‘The photos on display are not stereotypical examples of music or rock photography. Backstage photos, private portraits of the protagonists, snapshots of ecstatic moments in time, audiences going wild… none of this is to be found in Peter Boettcher’s photos.’
Instead we get a series of precisely-composed photographs of the Kraftwerk mannequins (or is it the band members themselves?) in a number of orchestrated poses.
Live performance shots, meanwhile, are consistently taken from a central perspective, and brutally cropped.
Boettcher has been photographing Kraftwerk since 1991, when he was invited to the band’s legendary Kling-Klang Studio in Düsseldorf to shoot the Kraftwerk robots for SPEX magazine.
In the two decades since, Boettcher’s photos have helped to build up Kraftwerk’s image as ‘music workers’ rather than a traditional band. The four current members of Kraftwerk are, as in Boettcher’s images, interchangeable with the mannequins that are frequently used to replace them in press conferences and ‘live’ performances.
As Kraftwerk founder Ralf Hütter has said, ‘Even in the early days, we sometimes left the stage in the middle of the concert; the people just kept on dancing.
‘That was the whole idea: the musician withdraws or even abolishes himself. The music plays itself, becomes part of a globally networked system, spreads like a virus.’
Kraftwerk – Robots is at NRW-Forum Düsseldorf, Germany, from 12-30 January. Kraftwerk will also be performing each of their eight albums in its entirety from 11-20 January at NRW-Forum Düsseldorf.
You can also see the band perform each of their eight albums in its entirety at Tate Modern, London, from 6-14 February (as long as you’re one of the lucky ones who got a ticket…)