Design Kompakt Records and the artistic legacy of electronic music

Kompakt Records and the artistic legacy of electronic music

Tommaso Berra
Kompakt |

The artistic legacy of the subcultural movements most connected to the undergrowth of society does not shout outwardly with the power of large installations, does not always have the space reserved for more institutional art, but tells precisely from the bottom up how haunting art can proliferate, capable of engaging everyone, dictating trends, and telling historical moments in a completely unique way.
One of these many, infinite, subcultural layers is techno, minimal, ambient, and experimental music, linked to the club world and which in Europe finds its strongest connection to the social fabric in Germany, not only in Berlin, but in other cities such as Cologne, home to what in the 1990s was called “The sound of Cologne.” It was here that one of the largest record labels in the genre, Kompakt Records, was born, which has cemented this bond not only through music production but also through care toward the graphic and visual aspect, following the pop-art aesthetic.
In March 2023 Kompakt celebrates its 30th anniversary, and it does so through a unique exhibition set up not by chance in a club but in an art gallery, at Contemporary Cluster in Rome, to raise awareness of never-before-seen aspects of an artistic journey that was fundamental to European music culture.

From Thursday, March 16, 2023, KOMPAKT meets CLUSTER, a four-day exhibition-event curated by Claudia Attimonelli, in which the narrative of the Kompakt Records label will be entrusted to the visual side of music, will be on view. Among the artists featured and who have collaborated with the label over the past 30 years is Wolfgang Voigt aka GAS capable of translating the concepts of loops and samples, paying homage to the principle of sampling as an aesthetic practice. Another leading name in the exhibition is Veronika Unland with her graphic study of colors and movement, which will flank the famous reworkings of the logo with the eagle and the one with the multicolored dots, clearly pop-inspired.
The relationship with the artistic current is central in the reading of the Kompakt cultural phenomenon; in fact, Voigt himself declares that “Kompakt is a pop label that operates under the aegis of techno,” explaining how the link between the aesthetics of sampling, quotation and repetition is direct, with Warholian pop-art, the artist who most used these same concepts in his works.

The artistic concepts on which the activities of Kompakt Records have been based over the past three decades have been poured into the produced tracks and vinyl covers, a linear representation of the connection between sound and image, and the way in which the audio track can become a digital painting. In this sense, the vinyl becomes an object that is no longer only physical, but also the medium of an abstract message to be explored in relation to the incessant circular movement.
KOMPAKT meets CLUSTER before telling the story of a record label, tells how a phenomenon of collective participation such as electronic music chose art, graphics and colors as symbolic imagery part of a liberating liturgy.

Written by Tommaso Berra
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