33 Achim Kubinski
The Stuttgart Artist and Gallery-Owner Achim Kubinski is Dead
He had already died on the 17th of December 2013, in Berlin. Although in my life I only exchanged a few sentences with him, he played a fundamental part in shaping my life; to such an extent, that it was he who confronted me with the French philosophers and made them familiar to me.
The initial spark was, many years ago now, an invitation to his gallery at Number 109 on Stuttgart’s Olgastraße, to a lecture series with a to me as-yet unknown philosopher-author by the name of Jean-Pierre Dubost. In Stuttgart of the 1980s, this man was a phenomenon. Unchallenged, he represented the stance of French post-structuralism (in university circles one spoke only reluctantly of “post-modernism”), steadily growing the gaggle of student-admirers and connoisseurs. Good contacts with Paris facilitated visits to Stuttgart by famous personalities such as Lyotard or Baudrillard; the city became almost a center for postmodernism in Germany. In those days a prototype of postmodern architecture, the New State Gallery, was also under construction.
As a young journalist I made the acquaintance of Dubost for the first time in this gallery of Achim Kubinski’s.1 There, an illustrious circle attended a multi-week lecture series with the somewhat bizarre/off-putting title “Recapitulated Attempt at an Unconcludable Discussion on the Vanishing of the World.” The price of entry to these lectures was horrendously high, the whole event enshrouded in a certain mysteriousness, also novelty and exclusivity, which made me curious. Enough material and stimulus for a newspaper article.
As fate would have it, I would happen unto an event—as a neutral rapporteur—that was spontaneously repurposed to memorialize the death of Michel Foucault. A circle of about twenty young women, a few young men, sunk deep in contemplation—they could not be disturbed; that is, awakened, by my late arrival—listened to the slowly spoken words of Dubost. He read them forth into the space very quietly and almost atrabiliously. Every now and then a video sequence was incorporated, an overhead projector, sometimes music as well—all of it seemed captive and as if paralyzed under an æstheticistic spell (later one called it “performance”), such as I had never before experienced.
I was shocked, irritated, and disgruntled all at once. As a dedicated adherent of the Frankfurt School, here representing more the direction of my mentor Karl Otto Apel as that of Jürgen Habermas, I was directed my energies towards understanding, compromise, elucidation. This theater in the Kubinski Gallery, now, was miles away from any political discussion of a society, how it is, could be, should be. Miles away from the emerging discussions of the green/ecology movement, the opponents of nuclear power and war, or the prophets of the end of the world.
This was how I imagined the circle around George in the Nazi era, which still persisted in Stuttgart of the 80s. People in deep black clothes and a detached-from-the-world love of language, which evinced an erotic decadence.
In any case I wrote angry reports for days in the Stuttgarter Zeitung, which nevertheless gave me much to think about. The provocation in the Kubinski Gallery had an effect and was, I am obliged in retrospect to acknowledge, wholly successful.
It affected me further and drove me almost to the opposite end of the intellectual world. Above all, as Achim Kubinski also mediated contact with the philosopher Jean- François Lyotard, and opened his gallery doors wide for all the new and interdisciplinary influx wandering in from France.
Together with the publisher Patricia Schwarz all manner of new and fascinating books were released, such as Lyotard’s hermetic Dada Book, “The TRANSformers Duchamp,” which the translators Regine Bürkle and Gisela Febel found such a hard nut to crack.
Kubinski also took up one of my earliest books into the catalog, which I had written with and about Wolfgang Rihm. Its title was only the lapidary “Wolfgang Rihm,” with the two sections, “On Style, Artifice, and Play,” in which I presented myself with a new language which I never again attained, as well as the long interview with Rihm, “Open Places—Detour into the Other,” with which an English-language dissertation is presently concerned.
A high point was certainly the visit by Jean-François Lyotard in Kubinski’s Gallery. My contact with the philosopher took place via the Stuttgart Edition of Patricia Schwarz, who edited Lyotard’s books and under the label “Kubinski” also distributed his publications. The publisher had invited me to a private exhibition with simultaneous book presentation. Lyotard came in order to open, with illustrious remarks, an exhibition of concept-artist John Buren, on whom he had recently written a book.
Artists, authors, and philosophers, for example also Jean Luc Nancy, came and went in the Kubinski Gallery, until this time, as well, finally came to an end in the mid-90s. Kubinski resorted, along with his program and his ideas, to Cologne, then Berlin, finally even to New York. He was not only a gallery-owner and visual artist (the lovely Hegel quote in neon light on the Stuttgart Main Station, “that the fear of error is itself the error,” applies to him), but also a musician, composer, and much more.
Whether he was successful I cannot say. What does that mean, to be successful? – Should one quantify it with money, sales, fan-mail, or awards? James Joyce, in Triest in the 1920s, had occasionally only three people present to hear his reading his Ulysses. Plato’s speeches in the Academy were only ever heard in their entirety by his student Aristotle. Brecht read his books, full of his numerous beloved writings, and none knew anything of it. Foucault’s beloved, just before both died, published a book on “the man who did not save my life.”
Who might have saved Achim Kubinski’s live, might have traced his life, which doctor, which love, which possession?
Now he rests, not yet 62, in the Waldfriedhof, not far removed from the Dornhaldenfriedhof, where three other possessed, the Stuttgarter terrorists Bader, Ensslin, and Raspe found their place in all this possessed and innovative age, to which we refer as “the 80s.”
Adieu, Achim Kubinski, and thank you for everything. Also in the name of the city, which not least of all with the help of your gallery at 109 Olgastraße was briefly raised from its sedate deep-sleep and led into the limelight of the broader public stage. – Adieu!
1See also Blog-Posts 6, 7, and 19.