Salon Nickel van Duijvenboden
Vielen versuchten umsonst das freudigste freudig zu sagen
Hier spricht endlich es mir, hier in der Trauer sich aus.
Nickel’s autumn in Berlin has been coloured by the music of Hanns Eisler, the epic novel ‘Der Turm’ by Uwe Tellkamp about daily life in the GDR, and the defiant cinematic language of Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub. He will attempt to synthesize these influences in a reading and listening session during a Sunday afternoon salon, enveloped by the classical record collection of antiquarian Volker Müller, and sustained by Koen Nutters on upright bass.
In the autumn of 1961, the socialist composer Hanns Eisler looked out at his garden from his house in East Berlin, just around the corner from the Wall. He then decided to set a handful of poems to music that he had started composing during the 1940s and 50s, when he was living in exile in Mexico City and Hollywood. The result, which was to be his final composition, is a brilliantly condensed twelve-minute cycle called ‘Ernste Gesänge’ (Serious Songs).
For Nickel, the life and music of Hanns Eisler reflect a deeply felt ambivalence regarding the artist’s loyalty: should his ear be tuned to his own private longings and the avant-gardistic matters of the day – something that is frowned upon as bourgeois, now as it was then – or should he be concerned with the great upheavals of the time and serve the masses?
This anxiety is beautifully encapsulated in a heated exchange of letters from 1926 between Eisler and his tutor, Arnold Schönberg, about precisely the question of loyalty. A dialectic tension underlies Eisler’s life and work, but also Tellkamp’s description of the decline of East-Germany and Straub-Huillet’s political-literary cinema. This ultimately concerns the artist’s sense of belonging, or rather, not-belonging.
Nickel van Duijvenboden (1981) is a writer and visual artist based in Amsterdam. After focusing several years on publishing, he centered his practice around autobiographical traces and private correspondences. His work has since broadened to include spatial installations, sound recordings, graphics, performative readings and, most recently, film.