David Chesworth
Richter/Meinhof-Opera, 2010

2 performers, 2 musicians, 5 channel audio, 2 channel video
Performances at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art/Melbourne Festival, Melbourne (2010), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2012)

Artist Statement and historical background
Download the Art Gallery of NSW Program pdf file
Sound files from 'Art and Politics: Unfinished Business' forum at Art Gallery of NSW

About the work
What happens when the German artist Gerhard Richter and the jailed journalist turned terrorist Ulrike Meinhof are placed in the same room?

Richter/Meinhof-Opera has its origins in the controversial painting series October 18, 1977 by Gerhard Richter. The paintings depict scenes surrounding the apparent suicides of jailed members of the notorious Baader/Meinhof Gang responsible for a deadly campaign to overthrow the West German establishment. Derived from archival newspaper photographs, the paintings caused a sensation when first exhibited in Germany in 1989. Richter’s technique rendered the images ambiguous, his intentions obscure.

Drawing on the writings of both Richter and Meinhof and records of actual events, this intimate performance artwork is set to a series of compelling soundscapes by David Chesworth. Richter/Meinhof-Opera entangles art with politics, the real with the ritualised and the personal with the State.

'A cultivated, erudite and disorienting journey'
Cameron Woodhead, The Age, 19 October, 2010

'A multimedia installation with forays into music and voice, it's an interrogation of art's process, dramatising the ways in which art's subject (and so often the terrorist's object) lies forever beyond its grasp. Opening with a glamorous Meinhof (Kate Kendall) reading from her manifesto, it dissolves into an expressionistic sequence intended to capture the psychic effect of Meinhof's solitary confinement. Kendall shuffles towards the audience, emitting muted screeches against the harsh scraping of an industrial soundscape, while parts of Meinhof's revolutionary tract are flashed up on a wall. Enter Richter (Hugo Race), whose painstaking approach to art is sung. The lyrics, here, can be turgid, but intriguing connections appear in performance. The most successful scene - a duet between Richter and Meinhof, where Richter proclaims his art free of ideology, while Meinhof sings lines from Brecht's The Measures Taken - gestures hauntingly towards aria.'
Cameron Woodhead, The Age, 19 October, 2010

Kylie Northover, The Age, 13 October 2010
Fiona Gruber, The Australian, 14 October 2010
Cameron Woodhead, The Age, 19 October 2010


Direction, Music and Sound Design - David Chesworth
Project Curator - Sonia Leber
Performers - Luisa Hastings Edge (Sydney) Kate Kendall (Melbourne) and Hugo Race
Musicians - Andrea Keeble, Kirsty Vickers, Caerwen Martin
Text by David Chesworth from the writings of Gerhard Richter, Ulrike Meinhof and Bertolt Brecht
Lighting Designer - Travis Hodgson
Costume Designer - Anna Cordingley
Video Camera and Editing - Bruce Permezel
Photos - Sonia Leber
Stage Manager - Amy Turton
Produced by Wax Sound Media

is supported by the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria and the Australian Government through the Australia Council. We acknowledge the support of NGV for location filming at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia.

Special thanks to our creative development colleagues Tony MacGregor, Bagryana Popov and Jennifer Barry. We gratefully acknowledge the support of Brett Sheehy and Simon Maidment at Melbourne Festival, Juliana Engberg and Jane Rhodes at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and Tony Bond, Michelle Munro and the team at Art Gallery of New South Wales.


The Way You Move Me
Almost Always Everywhere Apparent (II)
We, The Masters
Field Formation
Now and Forever
Rewards of Silence
Landing Place
Almost Always Everywhere Apparent
Oceanic Endless
Reiterations (Elizabeth Street)
Gordon Assumption
The Persuaders
The Master's Voice
5000 Calls
David Chesworth's Music (external link)