Emil Schult’s programme at South Street on the evening of Saturday 22 July included a memorable piece of film from Düsseldorf in 1969 which he shot while he was a student at the Kunstakademie. Members of the audience who remember those times were immediately transported back to their own youth.
Emil Schult explained that he had moved to Düsseldorf when the University of Münster closed after student protests. One of his teachers was the artist Joseph Beuys who, in his unconventional and revolutionary approach to art and education, opened up his classes to all. The film captured Joseph Beuys, James Lee Byars and students at an outdoor artistic event. The atmospheric soundtrack was composed by MIT and Schult.
Emil Schult is one of 30 artistes from Reading’s twin city who performed at this year’s Reading Fringe Festival. Düsseldorf is a centre for electronic music; it is where Kraftwerk of the hit “Autobahn” fame started their career. Emil Schult collaborated with them in the 1970s and early 80s writing songs and producing artwork. In 1992 he returned to Düsseldorf after a period working in the Bahamas. He now works on painting, film, video and multimedia shows throughout Europe, the US and Asia.
A major work which took five years to complete was the meditation room for students at the Robert Schumann Musikhochschule in Düsseldorf. 360° photographs of the room covered in gold leaf and dramatic kaleidoscopic murals accompanied one of the musical performances.
The enchanting evening opened with a tribute piece written in memory of Caroline West, “Going to Reading”. Originally from Bracknell, Caroline West was the driving force behind Rhinebuzz, a Düsseldorf arts and culture organisation for the international community who live there. She had brought together the acts to come to Reading this July, but her sad death in March meant that she was never able to see the final outcome of the project.
The multimedia performances by Emil Schult and Emma Nilsson took place behind a blue screen with projections of film or artwork onto a second screen above the stage.
Between pieces, concert goers were engaged with stories of the composers or those who had inspired the works and the history of the avant-garde and electronic music scene. Its pioneers and stars Henk Badings, Herbert Eimert, Charles Ives and Karlheinz Stockhausen, may not be all household names but it was fascinating to hear about them. The final item was The Universe a tribute to Charles Ives.
We wondered why it had taken so long for Emil Schult to perform in Reading and hoped that he would return soon for another magical appearance.