Rotis in the Allgäu is legendary as the place where Otl Aicher lived and worked. What other designer’s domain has acquired such mythical status or become so closely linked with a designer’s personality? Rotis was both venture and vision – and an experiment in which a great deal more was involved than design. What remains?
20. October 2022 | 7 to 9 p.m. (Admission from 6:30 p.m.)
there is nothing here that gives shade
Location: Architektur Galerie Berlin, Karl-Marx-Allee 96, 10243 Berlin
One project, two motorcycles, four men and the confrontation with themselves, each other and the desert.
As part of the “otl aicher 100” project, Karsten de Riese and Michael Klar describe a photo reportage commissioned by BMW that took them to Tunisia in 1975 together with Otl Aicher and his son, Florian. When four strong personalities meet, the potential for conflict is relatively high. Sometimes, even the vastness of the desert is not enough to keep them out of each other’s way. What is decisive is that they always found their way back to each other – even following this trip.
It is a late evening in October 1975 when designer Michael Klar received a call from Otl Aicher asking if he would like to go on an adventure. Klar, who worked as a student representative at the HfG Ulm until its liquidation in 1968, directly agreed. Otl Aicher and photographer Karsten de Riese took a little longer to find common ground. De Riese, too, is a former student of the HfG. He didn’t finish his studies with Aicher: He wanted to go out into the world as a photographer and realize his own projects, which always revolved around people – his preferred subject to this day. Even Aicher’s request for him to join his team to develop the visual image for the 1972 Olympic Games was initially turned down by de Riese. Aicher was not deterred and tried again at a later date – this time with success. Aicher knew what he had in de Riese and was thus able to win him over for the trip to the desert.
For 14 days, the four adventurers walked the same path. They set off at dusk, straight into a cold night. Aicher drove ahead as always, showing the way. He had his own mind and always envisioned a clear goal. One night and a 24-hour crossing later, they finally arrived in Tunis – from there, on and on toward the horizon.
The desert had a special meaning for Otl Aicher: “the desert is a landscape of thought. you don’t just walk around between dunes, you go on walks of thought. your horizons of thought change.” The fewer external distractions, the more significant the immediate environment becomes. The focus changes. In the absence of civilization, people focus on what’s important. Not knowing in the morning whether you will reach your destination in the evening can evoke conflicting feelings. For one person, the focus is on freedom and the ambition to reach the set goal. For another, a resistance spreads within. The desert holds its own challenge for every human being, and, as such, it has become the scene for tests of human endurance. Sometimes even its vastness is not enough to keep travel companions out of each other’s way. The crucial thing is that the four of them always found their way back to each other – also after this tour.
Karsten de Riese’s slide show with the Kodak Carousel projector is a retrospective of an intensive and unique journey that left its mark on all participants. Together with Michael Klar, he places the adventure in the common prehistory of the protagonists and the later private and professional points of contact. Conflicts as well as cheerful anecdotes are illuminated, which in the end grew into friendships based on mutual respect and appreciation.
Slideshow and talk
Karsten de Riese
Born in 1942 in Eisenach. Trained as a photographer in Munich, then studied at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) in Ulm. Freelance work for news weeklies and magazines, institutions and commercial enterprises, as well as on his own projects. From 1969 to 1972 he was the officially commissioned photographer for the OC of the Olympic Games in Munich. Collaboration with Otl Aicher until his death in 1991. In the broadest sense, the human being is always at the center of all his work, especially his long-term projects. Karsten de Riese lives in the Isar valley south of Munich.
Prof. Michael Klar
Born 1943 in Berlin. Designer, studied at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, also with Otl Aicher. Collaborated with the Kapitzki/Ohl group for the Pavilion of the Federal Republic of Germany at EXPO 67 Montreal. As a student representative, he was involved in the disputes leading up to the liquidation of the HfG in 1968 by a resurgent political right in the Baden-Württemberg state parliament. 1972 Professorship for Visual Communication at the FH für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd, whose teaching concepts he significantly influenced. 1992 Professorship for Information Design at the Berlin University of the Arts and founding dean of the Faculty of Design at the University of Applied Sciences, Dresden. Today, many of his students teach at universities in Germany and abroad. Michael Klar lives and works in Berlin.
Born in 1972 in Osnabrück. Initiator and artistic director of the project “otl aicher 100”. Designer and managing director of Stiehl/Over/Gehrmann with offices in Berlin and Osnabrück. Has been working in the fields of corporate identity / corporate design, user experience / user interface design and design strategy since 1994. With his team, Kai Gehrmann advises companies on the design of their analog and digital brand communication. He is also responsible for the worldwide licensing and further development of the otl aicher pictograms.