Dieter Roth has been widely acclaimed as one of the most unique and innovative artists of the 20th century, but a major part of his legacy remains largely unknown. The star artist of the 1960s and 1970s developed during the last decades of his life an approach to art that intimately drew in all aspects of his life, not least his family and his social surroundings. While art historians often suggested that he was past his prime by 1980, it is telling that almost all of the members of the DRA, not to mention a good many of his others friends and colleagues, were busily involved in major projects with him right until his untimely death in 1998. The recent exhibition “Roth Zeit”/”Roth Time” in Basel, Cologne and New York has rectified part of this misapprehension – at least as regards the sheer magnitude of Dieter Roth as an artist. But he was also an artist who actively questioned the status of the artist as a lone individual, and who actively sought a broader definition of artistic production involving all who in various ways participate. This aspect of his work remains marginalized by art history.
The Academy responds the this great legacy with two agendas: firstly, by finishing projects Dieter Roth was actively involved in during his last years, and by initiating new projects that are in keeping with Dieter’s plans and thoughts; and secondly, by acting as a forum for Dieter’s ideas, whether directly as a teaching academy (Dieter was very keen on the notion of an academy in this sense, see below), or as an academy of friends, scholars and interested parties to discuss and develop ideas that Dieter Roth has left us in his writings, work, and above all in his living example in daily life. Dieter Roth was a great teacher, not only in his years in art schools, but in his everyday dealings with his friends and acquaintances and the complicated world beyond. The Dieter Roth Academy is here to promote the artistic and above all human insights he gave us all.
The DRA was founded in May 2000 in Basel by a spearhead of fifteen of his closest friends and colleagues. It now includes several times that number. In his later years Dieter Roth, who worked for some time at art schools in the USA, UK and Germany, spoke of the idea of an academy as he would like it. Central to this was the notion of an institution unbound to any one place or building or curriculum. As a passionate traveller, he realised that the experiences that young artists require would be best gained by travelling and encountering new people and situations. Consequently the Dieter Roth Academy is located there where its members live and work – from North America across Europe to China. The students are encouraged to move from place to place and to contact the teachers – Dieter’s friends and collaborators – and gather their own experiences. The Academy members meet for their part once a year in different countries for a conference to discuss their future plans, often accompanied by an exhibition of works by the members, friends and students. This has resulted in a number of publications, including CDs. The intensification of communications between the various members has also led to a number of additional projects that can be seen as part of the DRA ethos.
This site remains true to the nature of the Academy’s spiritual founder by offering above all Links to other sites. The links, which cannot claim to be exhaustive but include praise as well as censure, encourage travel in the new medium of the Web. And the forum will hopefully develop one of the most fascinating aspects of the DRA: few artists have created so many stories about themselves as Dieter Roth. Almost every meeting between his friends inevitably revolves to a greater or lesser extent around such stories, as amusing anecdotes and as touchstones for future actions. Quite possibly the stories are one of the most important legacies that the DRA members have. The forum is here to tell stories, to exercise criticism, to test the ideas we have received from Dieter’s words and practice, and present not only the results but, in keeping with Dieter, also the processes involved in their development to all who are interested. And to draw in as many people as possible. Naturally the Forum should also act as a news desk.
The inauguration of the academy at the Volksdruckerei and Café Imprimerie in Basel, Switzerland, May 2000 was attended by:
Henriëtte van Egten, Eggert Einarsson, Malcolm Green, Kristján Guđmundsson, Sigurđur Guđmundsson, Gunnar Helgason, Dorothy Iannone, Bernd Koberling, Pétur Kristjánsson, Rainer and Agnes Pretzell, Björn Roth, Rúna Thorkelsdóttir, Andrea Tippel, Jan Voss and Tom Wasmuth.
Further involved in the Dieter Roth Academy are Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch, Emmett Williams,. Arnfinnur Amazeen, Les Coleman, Adalheidur S. Eysteinsdóttir, Isabel Navarro Garcia, Tilmann Haffke, Gunnhildur Hauksdottir, Gunnar Helgason, Dietrich Helms, Beat Keusch, Magnús Reynir Jónsson, Dirk Meinzer, Ann Noël, Gunnar M. Pétursson, Casandra Popescu, Karl Roth, Sigurđur Guđmundsson, Sirra Sigurdardottir, Dominik Steiger & Six Hands, Erika Streit, Helgi Thorsson, Tom Anke Wenzel, Ingrid Wiener, Dadi Wirz - among many more.