Minus Delta T (1978-1988)

Minus Delta t (or -Δ t) was a group that created a barely classifiable form of “life art” on the intersection between the music and the art scene. The group, which had named itself after a mathematical phenomenon, was founded in Zurich in 1978 by Mike Hentz, Chrislo Haas and Karl Dudesek, three artistic autodidacts who had previously been active in the alternative art and music scene.

In the ten years of their activities, Hentz and Dudesek formed the personnel core of the group, which was joined by almost a dozen other temporary members during its existence (including Wolfgang Georgsdorf, Gerard Couty, Malika Ziouech, Gérard Couty, Padeluun) after Chrislo Haas left the group to make electronic music as a musician with the bands Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft (DAF) and Liaisons Dangereuses.

The Bangkok Project, 1982-1984:

Among the activities that made Minus Delta t known in the German art and music world were performances in the early German punk and new wave scene, such as at the “Geräusche für die 80er” festival in Hamburg’s Markthalle, of which a recording was also released on the Neue Welle label Zick Zack, and at the “Shvantz” festival at Frankfurt’s Städel School. Provocations and confrontation with the audience were important elements in these performances, and occasionally there were fisticuffs – as in their performances in the art context. Minus Delta t also released two albums with music: a double album with recordings made during the “Bangkok Project” (1984) and a triple album with their performance concert “Opera Death” (1987).

The “Bangkok Project” is the best known and most spectacular action of Minus Delta t. The group transported a 5 tonne stone from Wales to Asia starting in 1982. The journey went through Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan and India and ended in 1984 at the “Bangkok Festival” in the Thai capital. During the journey they met, among others, the Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, the Fluxus artist Ben Vautier, the Dalai Lama and the Pope, who blessed the stone in the Vatican.

Ahead of its time, from today’s perspective, was the fact that the “artistic field trip” was partly financed by the sale of “art shares” – long before the crowdfunding of the present day, but also before Joseph Beuys financed his action “7000 Eichen” (7000 Oaks) in Kassel by selling prints and share certificates.

Minus Delta t were invited several times to the Ars electronica in Linz. In 1987, the group was part of the performance programme of Documenta 8 – where Beuys’ completed “7000 Oaks” was presented after his death – as the “Kulturpolizei” (“cultural police”) and helped to organized the evening programme at the Kassel disco New York. Even if the body- and action-oriented situational art of Minus Delta t had little in common with the television projects of Van Gogh TV at first glance, there are similarities: One of the special features of the work of both groups was that it was always collective activities with often dozens of collaborators.

The Bangkok Project was just as much a tour de force as Piazza virtuale later on, both of which exceeded the scale of tradtional art projects. In order to be able to carry out such elaborate projects, the Bangkok Project as well as Piazza virtuale sought sponsors to take over these activities. Another common feature is that these actions often required the participation of the audience or sometimes even provoked them in a physical way.

Die Kulturpolizei (“cultural police”), 1987:

Last but not least, the work at Minus Delta t was always oriented towards working with the media available at the time: Just as a mini-studio with film and video cameras was already carried along for the Bangkok Project, when the group participated at the documenta in 1987, computers were already available in the group’s Medienbus (Media Bus) in addition to a video and sound studio with which, among other things, the American mailbox The W.E.L.L. could be used. The Medienbus is already strongly remindful of the container studio in which Piazza virtuale was produced; more importantly, the group also ran a pirate station from the bus, which was later legalized as “sound art” piece. So just like Minus Delta t provided the art show with a radio station and access to BBSes, Van Gogh TV brought their own television station to the show five years later.

In retrospect, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact turning point at which Minus Delta t ended and Van Gogh TV began. When the group set up a container studio next to the Bruckner House in Linz at Ars Electronica in 1986 under the title The Project and produced their own radio and TV shows there, this can be seen as a direct predecessor of Piazza virtuale. Another title of those actions, Ponton, became the name of the umbrella organisation for Van Gogh TV‘s activities in the following years.



Minus Delta t Plus: Das Bangkok-Projekt. Berlin: Merve Verlag 1984

Mike Hentz: Works 4. Köln: Salon Verlag 1999.

Hartmann, Walter: Silberne Ameisen, Trillerpfeifen und umgekehrtes Echo, Rock Session. Magazin der populären Musik Nr. 4, Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt 1980, S. 48 – 76.

Vogel, Sabine: Interview mit Minus Delta t in Lenins Arbeitszimmer, Kunstforum International Bd. 103, S. 115 – 119.

Interview with Salvatore Vanasco

Interview with Christiane Klappert

Interview with Ulrike Gabriel

235 Media inside the Media Bus of Minus Delta at documenta 1987, Kassel

Bangkok Project: Karel Dudesek, Wolfgang Georgsdorf, Bernhard Müller

Value paper for the Bangkok Project

Installation at the Himalaya

Transporting equipment in the Himalaya

Minus Delta t, Media Bus

Transporting the stone, Bangkok Project

Minus Delta t performing as cultural police at documenta 1987: Malika Ziouesch, Mike Hentz, Karel Dudesek

Minus Delta t visiting the pope

Minus Delta t, Shvantz-Festival in Frankfurt

Minus Delta t, Shvantz-Festival in Frankfurt

Minus Delta t, Installation, Shvantz-Festival in Frankfurt

Minus Delta t live

Minus Delta t, Media Bus

Minus Delta t with Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky

Minus Delta t, Opera Death, ars electronica

Minus Delta t, Performance at Ratinger Hof in Düsseldorf

Minus Delta t with Johannes Rau

Minus Delta t with Fred Sinowatz

Media Bus, radio literaire frankfurt, 1987

Equipment, Bangkok Project