– Spring 2009

Workshop Defended Against Its Admirers

David Grubbs

Tags: The Red Krayola

Stephan Abry, Kai Althoff and Christoph Rath in Cologne in 2004. Courtesy Sonig Records

Stephan Abry, Kai Althoff and Christoph Rath in Cologne in 2004. Courtesy Sonig Records

Why has Kai Althoff's music been included in exhibitions of his art? There doesn't seem to be any way in which his recorded work passes as audio art, in the ways in which audio art has become a familiar genre in the last decade. It's not site-specific, and it just as easily could be listened to at home as well as - or perhaps even better than - in a museum. All of the examples of Kai Althoff's music that appeared in the exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, in Boston, 'Kai Kein Respekt' ('Kai No Respect', 2004), were commercially available. Even works produced in relatively small editions sold for a typical list price. At the time of the ICA Boston exhibition, his solo LP Fanal (produced in an edition of 500 by Galerie Neu, Berlin in 2003) was still available. As was the album Engelhardt/Seef/Davis (1996), listed in the catalogue as existing in an edition of 50. A little research revealed that it was still available at its €15 list price from a distributor in the Netherlands.

The point is that it's not difficult to find these recordings, meaning they exist in various listening contexts. It's available in the museum, yes, but it's also in record stores, online and so forth. Like the artist's music itself, its dissemination is resolutely unfussy.

Workshop is Althoff's long-running project with Stephan Abry and a cast of occasional conspirators. The idea for the group dates back to the beginning of their teens. The name 'Workshop' was chosen in homage to the Children's Television Workshop, the production group responsible for Sesame Street. From their records alone - especially the

  1. Olaf Karnik, 'Attraction and Repulsion', in Nicholas Baume (ed.), Kai Kein Respekt/Kai No Respect (exh. cat.), Boston and Miami Beach: Institute of Contemporary Art and Bridge House Publishing, 2004, p.40.

  2. Ibid.