Peter Weibel, internationally renowned media artist, curator, theorist and director of the Centre for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, died on 1 March 2023 at the age of 78 after a short, serious illness. He would have turned 79 on Sunday.
Peter Weibel was born on 5 March 1944 in Odessa, in the Soviet Union. He grew up in Upper Austria and studied French and film in Paris. In 1964, he began studying medicine in Vienna, but soon switched to mathematics with a focus on logic. He began his career as a visual poet in 1964 and later moved from the page to the screen in the spirit of post-structuralist methodology. His work has evolved into conceptual art, performance, experimental film, video art and computer art.
In 1965, drawing on semiotic and linguistic reflections (Austin, Jakobson, Peirce, Wittgenstein), he developed an artistic language that led him from experimental literature to performance. In his performative actions, he not only explored the language and forms of “media”, but also looked at film, video, television, audio tape and interactive electronic environments in their own right, critically analysing their effects on the construction of reality.
As well as participating in joint events with members of the Viennese Actionists, from 1967 he worked (with Valie Export, Ernst Schmidt Jr. and Hans Scheugl) on ‘expanded cinema’, reflecting on the ideological and technological conditions of filmic representation. From 1969 onwards, Weibel elaborated these reflections through video cassettes and installations. With his television action ‘tv und vt works’, broadcast by Austrian Television (ORF) in 1972, he transcended the boundaries of the gallery space. In 1966, he participated in the Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) in London, with Gustav Metzger, Otto Muehl, Wolf Vostell, Hermann Nitsch and others.
In 1978 he turned to music. Together with Loys Egg, he founded the Hotel Morphila Orchester. In the mid-1980s he explored the possibilities of computer video processing. In the early 1990s he created interactive computer installations.
His lectures and publications have focused on contemporary art, media history, media theory, film, video art and philosophy. As a theorist and curator, he has argued for an art and art history that encompasses both the history of technology and the history of science. As a university professor and director of institutions, he has had a major impact on the European media arts scene through conferences, exhibitions and publications.
Since 1976 he has been a lecturer at the Universität für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and the Gesamthochschule in Kassel. In 1984, he was appointed Associate Professor of Video and Digital Arts at the Center for Media Studies at the State University of New York, Buffalo, New York, where he taught for five years. In the same year, 1984, he became Professor of Visual Media at the Universität für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna. In 1989, he was commissioned to set up the New Media Institute at the Städelschule in Frankfurt, which he directed until 1994.
From 1986 he worked as an artistic advisor to Ars Electronica, and from 1992 to 1995 he was Artistic Director of Ars Electronica. From 1993 to 1999 he was curator of the Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. During the same period, from 1993 to 1999, he was the chief curator of the Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum in Graz, Austria. Since January 1999 he has been Director of the ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany.