Alison Knowles

Sound and Space
17 March – 9 July 2023

in THE GÄLLERY – Space for Photography


The exhibition shows over 100 photographs from the holdings of the Sohm Archive. On display are events and actions in which an artistic world comes to life. In the middle of it all we find the US artist Alison Knowles, sometimes as part of a group of actors, sometimes as a solo performer. The view of the events through the camera is exciting: What possibilities does photography have to convey an event that is designed for the short-lived moment? How can artistic processes be explored in their perceptual complexity? The photographic approaches are practical approaches to an art form in which the encounter of media plays a central role.

With the acquisition of the Sohm Archive, the Staatsgalerie has possessed a unique collection on intermedia art since 1981, especially on Fluxus, Happening, Beat, Underground, Viennese Actionism and Concrete Poetry. The beginnings of the archive go back to Hanns Sohm, a dentist who used to live in Münchingen and Markgröningen near Stuttgart. Parallel to the rise of the Fluxus movement, he built up his collection in the 1960s. The focus is on Alison Knowles as a co-founder of Fluxus. Her pieces 

»Make a Salad«, »Nivea Cream Piece« or »Newspaper Music« belong to the fixed repertoire of action art. In these and other works, she positions herself in the borderless space between art, music, theatre and poetry.

With the kind support of

Logo der Wüstenrot Stiftung
Logo Freunde der Staatsgalerie
Logo Prolab für die Kunst in Stuttgart

Performance Videos for the Photographs

As an extension of the exhibition, here you will find videos of Alison Knowles' performances. In the videos, both the artist herself and other people implement her instructions for action.

The video selection was curated by Maximilian Friedrich (FSJ Kultur, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart).


What a salad! In her performance »Make a Salad«, artist Alison Knowles transforms the everyday preparation of a salad into a spectacular event. The event premiered in 1962 at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London. 50 years later, the piece is being staged again in New York on a large scale for 1,000 people: The video shows how the ingredients for this salad are thrown and mixed together from the former High Line railway track in the Chelsea Market Passage into the floor below.



Alison Knowles' 1961 piece  »Shuffle« was first presented at the Advertisers' Club at the National Association of Chemists and Perfumers in New York in August 1963. The sequence of the piece was described by the artist in her book »by Alison Knowles« In it, a group of performers quietly shuffle in and out of the performance area, together or alone, criss-crossing. In the video »Alison Knowles: Shuffle (1961)« uploaded by the artist label »Live Art Denmark« hochgeladenen Video »Alison Knowles: Shuffle (1961)«, the piece is performed as a snow version on the Faroe Islands.


Everyone talks and everyone understands? Several vocalists sing a different song at the same time on a signal from the conductor. This is Knowles' piece »Piece for Any Number of Vocalists«, which was recorded online with 10 different vocalists from 6 different countries and uploaded to YouTube by the artist group »Santa Sprees« of »The Now Or Never Intuitive Music Ensemble«  An online live performance of the piece by the artist group will take place soon. More information on the social media channels of »Santa Sprees«.  The original was first performed in 1963 at the Hardware Poets' Theater in New York during the »Yam Days« arts festival.


Inspired by Alison Knowles, the University of Michigan Museum (UMMA) organised an interactive performance as part of the exhibition »Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life«: Old pieces of furniture in poor condition are allowed to be further ruined and destroyed according to Knowles' instructions for action - just as in the original performance in 1965. The »wounded« parts are covered with gauze, glue and red paint. The resulting video by Jonathan Biskner was presented during the 2012 exhibition at UMMA.


What magic is there in Nivea cream? The current Alison Knowles exhibition at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart shows a photo reportage of the performance »Nivea Cream Piece« from 1966. This performance was later staged in September 2012 by the Berlin ensemble »Maulwerker« using the instructions for action from Knowles' publication »by Alison Knowles« and captured on video by Hartmut Jahn. The recording shows a performer stepping in front of a microphone and beginning to massage his hands with Nivea cream. One by one, other performers join in, apply cream to their hands and melt their hands into each other, then they successively leave the performance again. You can find more about Fluxus by Hartmut Jahn in the audiovisual archive »FLUXUS FILM ARCHIVE Hartmut Jahn«. Performances and information about the Maulwerkers can be found on the homepage  Homepage of the ensemble.

In der Ausstellung