Peter Weibel, genre-defying artist and provocateur, dead at 78 

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Credit: Profimedia

Karlsruhe, Germany (dpa) – The internationally renowned Austrian artist and provocateur Peter Weibel, whose inventive work spanned decades and genres, has died in Germany following a short illness. He was 78.

Weibel died at hospital in Karlsruhe, the western German city’s Center for Art and Media (ZKM) said on Thursday. He would have turned 79 on Sunday. Weibel headed the cultural institution for almost a quarter-century.

Born in Odessa, Ukraine, Weibel produced sensations as a conceptual, video, performance and computer-based artist. He also dabbled in music and was a theorist of new media.

In the late 1960s, his partner at the time, the avant-garde artist Valie Export, led him through the streets of Vienna by the collar. In 1973, he had his tongue set in concrete to protest a verdict for causing a public nuisance. A bit of his tongue was lost as they chiselled it out.

Under the motto “I am the screen,” he had porn films projected onto his naked body.

In 2004, he placed a huge luggage handle in the middle of a meadow in Graz, Austria and called the work “The Globe as a Suitcase.”

“My main quality is speed,” he once said. And that’s exactly how he spoke: he rattled off his views on art and the world at breakneck speed, always friendly, always precise, always full of ideas.

In the course of his life he taught in Vienna; Halifax, Canada; Kassel, Germany; and New York. From 1989 to 1994 he headed the Institute for New Media he founded at the University of Fine Arts in Frankfurt.

From 1993 to 1999 he was commissioner of the Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and artistic director of the Neue Galerie at the Landesmuseum Joanneum in Graz. 

He headed the art centre ZKM in Karlsruhe from January 1999. His term there was due to run until the end of March.

Weibel was known for being an energetic presence in Europe’s art world. But age and health eventually wore him down. A few weeks ago he told dpa: “It’s getting more difficult. The winter of discontent is beginning.”

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