Never Ending Stories

The Loop in Art, Film, Architecture, Music, Literature and Cultural History

October 29, 2017 – March 4, 2018



In today’s world, the loop seems to be virtually ubiquitous—whether in music, on the internet, in video art, or in hotel lobbies and living rooms, where monitors present the endless crackling of an open fire or fish swim around in aquariums. At the same time, the self-contained circuit, the endless loop, has been an essential topos of cultural history and philo­sophy since antiquity. With “Never-Ending Stories”, the Kunst­mu­seum Wolfsburg presents, for the first time worldwide, a formally and thema­ti­cally, as well as spatially and tempo­rally wide-ranging research project dedicated to the inter­di­sci­pli­nary pheno­menon of the endless loop in art, film, archi­tec­ture, music, litera­ture and cultural history.

The archi­tec­tural parcours developed especially for the gallery and the great hall in the Kunst­mu­seum Wolfsburg enables numerous mental rotations as well as spatial-physical looping experi­ences. The scope of the show ranges from the “Ouroboros” octagon—a treasure trove of cultural history—via the “Zen” hall to a square, mirrored “Music Hall”. Anthro­po­lo­gi­cally oriented chapters of the exhibi­tion, such as “Endless Eros,” “The Digestion of the World,” “Politics: Between Vicious Circle and Carousel of Issues,” and “Archi­tec­ture without End” conti­nu­ally expand into cinema, instal­la­tion, and self-awareness spaces: spacious black boxes with video loops by, among others, Salla Tykkä, Rodney Graham, and Omer Fast meet up with immersive instal­la­tions by the likes of Douglas Gordon, Ragnar Kjart­ansson, and Bruce Nauman. Downright contrap­unt­ally, we can experi­ence Yayoi Kusama’s trance-like, four-by-four-meter infinity of light and Gregor Schneider’s ultimate, five-hundred-square-meter spatial loop “Bad”(Bathroom).

In the museum’s “Loopo­drome,” the rarely focused endless loop of happiness in arche­typal fairy­tales—“ …  and they lived happily ever after” (Nedko Solakov)—is juxta­posed with the “Circular Reasoning and Reading Machines” of litera­ture, exempli­fied by James Joyce, Raymond Roussel, and Gertrude Stein, as well as by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Georg Büchner, and Julio Cortázar. The chapter “Miracle Machine Film” is dedicated to the multi­media use of the loop from the first kiss in film history in 1896 via Marcel Duchamp’s hypnotic “Anémic Cinéma”, created in 1925, to Thomas Bayrle’s Film “Loop” from 2008. “Man and Machine in a Round­about” unites Frank B. Gilbreth’s early inves­ti­ga­tions into work effici­ency with the Samuel Beckett-related ineffi­ci­ency absurdity of Juan Muñoz’s “Living in a Shoe Box”. “The Artist in the Loop” brings together circular self-reflec­tions of protago­nists from modern and contem­porary art. Whereas Markus Raetz concen­tra­tedly spatia­lizes his life’s work, which is permeated with endless loops, Max Grau allows us to experi­ence a fulminant film-score meta-loop: the audio­vi­sual endless loop comments itself.

At the end of the exhibi­tion, a circle in a circle in a circle is closed for the last time … in Sandra Filic’s sound and record player instal­la­tion “Loop”. The crackling, hissing, and rustling of the lead-out grove of a vinyl record can be heard, over and over again—media-historical nostalgia and, at the same time, idleness in perma­nence and pure culture: the endless­ness of the last groove of a record is but a small signal, and yet, at the same time, the grand finale, where form and content become one.

The Artists

Adel Abdes­semed, Abramović/Ulay, Francis Alÿs, Rosa Barba, Robert Barta, Thomas Bayrle, Max Beckmann, Joseph Beuys, Michel Blazy, Étienne-Louis Boullée, Marcel Broodthaers, Philip Corner, Julio Cortázar, Attila Csörgő, Salvador Dalí, Wim Delvoye, Marcel Duchamp, Thomas A. Edison, Maurits Cornelis Escher, Juan Esteban Fassio, Omer Fast, León Ferrari, Sandra Filic, Robert Filliou, Fischli/Weiss, Robert Fludd, Frank B. Gilbreth, Douglas Gordon, Rodney Graham, Max Grau, Anton Henning, Seikô Hirata, James Joyce, William Kentridge, Athana­sius Kircher, Ragnar Kjart­ansson, Kraftwerk, Yayoi Kusama, Stanley Kubrick, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Tim Lewis, Sarah Lucas, Guillaume de Machaut, Michael Maier, Matthäus Merian the Elder, Robert Müller, Juan Muñoz, Eadweard Muybridge, Bruce Nauman, OMA, Nam June Paik, Giambat­tista della Porta, Barbara Probst, Markus Raetz, Bridget Riley, Peter Roehr, Raymond Roussel, Erik Satie, Markus Schinwald, Gregor Schneider, Richard Serra, Shunsô Shôjû, Nedko Solakov, Daniel Spoerri, Gertrude Stein, Donna Summer, Roland Topor, Salla Tykkä, Günther Uecker, Andy Warhol and many more.

The Catalogue

The exhibi­tion is accom­pa­nied by an extensive reference work, edited by Ralf Beil, that sheds funda­mental and scholarly light on this multi­fa­ceted theme and moreover brings together commen­ta­ries on the indivi­dual exhibited works. The 13 essays written especially for the catalogue by Aleida Assmann, Jan Assmann, Ralf Beil, Norbert Bolz, Claudia Dillmann, Michael Glasmeier, Joachim Kalka, Stefan Klein, Peter Kraut, Niklas Maak, Peter Sloter­dijk and Franziska Stöhr encounter work texts by Stephanie Lovász and Michael Schultze as well as source material by Étienne-Louis Boullée, Julio Cortázar, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Kraftwerk, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato and Simon Reynolds. Designed by Eggers + Diaper, the catalogue is published by Hatje Cantz Verlag. The hardcover publi­ca­tion in a German and an English edition encom­passes 360 pages with circa 650 illus­tra­tions and costs 45 € in the MUSEUM SHOP.