Combined artistic positions of an artist-group since 35 years
2013 Graz, edition keiper, D/E, 344 pages. Price: 29,90 Euro
ISBN 978-3-902901-07-1

In memory of Gottfried Fabian, the initiator of Gruppe 77

Gruppe 77 – Taking stock and looking ahead

a joint venture

Luise Kloos

The existence of Gruppe 77 since 1977 prompts us to take a look back, to take stock, to reflect and evaluate, but also to look ahead. It all began with reorientation, protest against existing conditions, and overcoming traditions. The philosophy has always been and still is turning to experimentation, searching for new things, orienting oneself towards quality, and examining theoretical and socio-critical questions. All of this as a group. In overcoming one’s own creative intent, in the sense of selfish thinking, a group demands altruism, consideration and, at the same time, concentration on the common aesthetic denominator. It is a struggle, a process-based development which also calls for the unconditional agreement to create something together. Gruppe 77 is exemplary at a time of individualism and above all singular artistry. But Gruppe 77 is also a haven of permanence and sustainability, with many founder members still making up an important part of the group. The spirit of the group, as defined by the founder members, is timeless and still valid today. The challenge of group dynamics is always to remain receptive to young, new colleagues who are willing to join the spirit of the group, to tackle the socio-critical questions, and to take part in creating the joint projects together.

Most people feel, either consciously or unconsciously, at the mercy of conditions which ultimately lead to the destruction of their inward life. “There are two aspects to this sense of impotence. The first aspect refers to existing power structures, when these do not permit any genuine possibilities of participation. The fact that a clearer awareness and the will to change this came about is evidenced by the numerous alternative initiatives. I too see this as a way to overcome the power structure which may be referred to as the dictatorship of parties or functionaries. We must, however, remember something very important in this respect. What good would allowing as many people as possible to participate be – something which is rightly demanded – if these people had not developed any reasonable solution models, that is to say, ideas.” (Josef Beuys: Das Geheimnis der Knospe zarter Hülle. 1978, page 247).
Gruppe 77 focuses on elaborating socially relevant and forward-looking ideas. Joint aesthetic solutions are developed together by means of active exchange and discussion and the various members’ different insights into the questions.

Discourse and experimentation are the key factors of the work process. Now as then, Gruppe 77 also tackles the generation issue. It is constantly developing new formats in order to promote young artists and invite them to take part. As such, the group reacts to a time of constant change and the related needs. The awareness of future questions of time and society is honed in a theoretical and aesthetic dialogue and by means of encounter. In the artistic work process it is of prime importance to the group not to align their activities to capitalist ideologies, but rather, on the contrary, to develop the evolving work exclusively in keeping with ethical and aesthetic criteria.

Although the group made a significant contribution to contemporary art in Styria, by seceding from the prevalent conception of art of the day they relinquished the rights which they had acquired to exhibit at the Künstlerhaus gallery. Gruppe 77 works were positioned internationally, too. They have a strong reference to public space, and the search for adequate spaces for carrying out ideas is a constant challenge. On the one hand, then, Gruppe 77 fights against the ignorance of the establishment in the local art industry, on the other counting numerous patrons and supporters, both nationally and internationally, among its friends.

“The exploration of boundaries in the avant-gardes has come to an end, the playful element of post-modernism has freed genres and theoretical approaches of assignments of value. Today painting is as much a contemporary method of artistic analysis as interventions in social space or conceptual approaches. The exciting thing is how the development will go forward. Young artists in particular are once again interested in fundamental questions, those inherent in art and those pertaining to society.” (Astrid Kury)

The course is set to tackle the challenges of the day and to express them in art. Gruppe 77 will therefore remain a vibrant art network in Styria and in the international context.