Henning Lohner

This 1990 performance of 4ʹ33ʺ, devised by John Cage and Henning Lohner, represents a film adaptation of the composer’s famous piece from 1952. Recorded shortly after the fall of the wall near a former checkpoint on Invalidenstraße, the film consists of a still shot. It is one of only two recordings of the piece that John Cage realised himself; the other is the recording he did together with Nam June Paik at Harvard Square in Boston, which is part of his Tribute to John Cage. In the lower third of the image, you can see the rubble of the checkpoint, which has been torn down. In the middle of the frame, Cage and Lohner sit silently in front of a crane, which was evidently used to remove the checkpoint. The demolition site is framed by a busy road branching out to the left behind the crane, with a slow but steady and seemingly endless succession of cars snaking past. Occasionally the shadow of a passer-by falls on the rubble waiting to be cleared. Instead of staging a classic concert situation and accentuating the audience’s awareness of ambient sound, Lohner’s film adaption focuses on the two men’s silence, their lack of emotion underlining the historic nature of the event and turning it into a quiet, drawn-out moment of introspection that plumbs the innermost reaches of the psyche. All the while, the hustle and bustle of everyday life goes on, creating a dynamic momentum that unfurls around a gravitational pivot in the centre of the frame. The video thus becomes a silent, encoded, uncommented metaphor for a moment of bliss at a turning point in Berlin’s history.

Anke Hervol


In the exhibition:

Henning Lohner
Performance for video of 4’33” at the former German border checkpoint Invalidenstraße, Berlin, August 1, 1990
4:33 min, sound optional, 1990
Private collection Berlin + Los Angeles