What is a GESAMTKUNSTWERK?
A gesamtkunstwerk, translated from German to mean “total work of art,” is a work that strives to incorporate all mediums. Composer Richard Wagner famously used the word in two 1849 essays, “Art and Revolution,” and “The art-work of the future,” to propose a unification of all art forms within the theater.
Alex Poots, Park Avenue Armory’s Artistic Director, has described Paul McCarthy’s WS as “a true Gesamtkunstwerk,” a thought echoed by Co-curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist: “McCarthy’s monumental new work gathers together the many dimensions of his singular practice, amplifying them in a complex dialogue with the architecture of the Park Avenue Armory.” The artist has drawn from the performances, sculptures, drawings, sets, writing, sound, and video of his nearly fifty-year career to offer WS, his largest work to date.
Each week during the run of WS we’ll investigate a theme, form, or concept that runs as a thread throughout McCarthy’s practice and also appears in the total work of art that is WS. Stay tuned!
(Image: The Hannover Merzbau by Kurt Schwitters. Photo by Wilhelm Redemann, 1933. Source: moma.org)