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Dieter Roth, Tonbild (1975-1988)


Walker Art Center



Institution Walker Art Center
It's important to exhibit your mistakes. Man is not perfect. Neither are his creations. I've given up using sour milk. Instead I use music. I sometimes fasten a tape recorder onto paintings or objects and have the music pour over the spectator/listener. This creates a certain effect: those who look at the art don't realize how bad it is when they hear the music. For the music is even worse. Two bad things make one good thing.--Dieter Roth, 1978

For some 40 years, Dieter Roth's work has incorporated nontraditional materials, ranging from organic substances that include chocolate and cheese to ephemeral elements such as sound and light. This three-dimensional work is an assemblage of diverse materials from the artist's studio. In this piece, one hears layers of sound--separate recordings emitting from five cassette players, which include a tune from the music box in the upper left corner of the work and the ambient sounds in Roth's studio as he created the piece.

When Roth stopped working on Tonbild in 1988, four of the nine tape decks had ceased to play and had been marked "kaput" by the artist. It was his intention that all the tape recorders should play until they broke, a process of deterioration that reversed his process of creation. However, because of the Walker's mission to preserve the works it collects, the sound you hear is not coming from the cassette players but from a laserdisc recording of them.

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Type: Commentary, object label
Source: Label text for Dieter Roth, Tonbild (1975-1988), from the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 1999 to September 2, 2001.
Rights: Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009