Peter T. von Tresckow

On the occasion of our 25th anniversary, we are showing Peter T. von Tresckow’s works in a virtual art exhibition. The focal points of the exhibition are his “Nachbörsen” (“Aftermarkets”) designed for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as well as the environmental spots he conceived for ARD and WDR in the 1980s and 1990s: “Nature doesn’t need us, but we need nature”. Take your time, stroll through the virtual exhibition and discover highly topical issues that Peter T. von Tresckow already put on the media agenda several decades ago. If you would like to experience the exhibition with VR glasses (for smartphones), download the Artsteps app for iOS (link to App Store) or Android (link to Play Store). You can find detailed instructions below. Please note: Artsteps is currently working with Apple to fix a display bug in the VR functionality of the iOS app. The normal iOS mobile view of the art exhibition works fine.

My great thanks to Hubertus Väth,
who gave me the opportunity to
reanimate some of my work with this virtual
exhibition on the occasion of NewMark’s 25th anniversary.

Peter T. von Tresckow

Peter von Tresckow – Ambitious, Unyielding, Generous

The Frankfurt School of Finance & Management has transformed itself into an island in honour of Peter von Tresckow. In this virtual exhibition set for eternity, the windows of all the simulated rooms full of graphic flashes of inspiration open onto sunlit sea surfaces. One thinks one can feel the breeze blowing from the shores: this suits the fresh breeze that Peter’s art signifies.

It aired out the musty Federal Republic when a book appeared in 1963 that became one of the founding pillars of the New Frankfurt School: “Die Wahrheit über Hänsel und Gretel” (The Truth about Hansel and Gretel), written by Hans Traxler and illustrated with photos by Peter von Tresckow. This was his first major appearance, and in it one could already admire his delight in pictorial play, which in the six decades since then has produced the most beguiling and disturbing effects. Peter never did the expected, he always chose the principle of surprise. This made him a teacher of the New Frankfurt School who did not want to send himself into the required curriculum. Accordingly, his stay in the college of this school was not long, because consensus was more important to him than nonsense. Not in the sense of agreement with the majority, but understood as a desire for a higher reason that strives for the good of all. Peter is the most humanistic head among humorous minds.

Yet he has unlimited wit, as his caricatures and cartoons show, which are above all cartographies of his own state of mind: An exhibition of Peter von Tresckow’s work is more introspection than exposition. But in the individuality of his world view, a generality is revealed that would be inadequately described if one said he was ahead of his time. Rather, Peter’s draughtsmanship has always been in the chase lane rather than the fast lane, because he is not at all tempted to set himself apart: The strong is weakest alone, strength comes from togetherness. In Tresckow’s work, therefore, themes and theses are presented whose social relevance is constantly proving itself anew – and each time more urgently, but without the conclusions being drawn from them that Peter has so far thought out.

This does not speak against him, but against us, who want to see only inklings in his admonitions and impositions in his encouragements. Peter was an ecologist and moralist when that was economically and politically derided, but he persisted in his reflections and convictions, and thus this veteran of communicative art has become more youthful today than the two or three generations of creatives after him. And I am inclined to say that he is younger in his thinking than youth itself. In fact, not ahead of his time, but once again catching up with it. Not a driven man, but a go-getter. And an unyielding one. And at the same time generous – in his art. The sea around this virtual exhibition will not dry up any more than his creativity.

Andreas Platthaus, chief literary editor of the F.A.Z.

Peter T. von Tresckow
Environmental spots for ARD-WDR 1985

The S-Bahn station Hohenzollerndamm is an inconspicuous stop on the Berlin Ringbahn that is over a hundred years old.  When I got off there, I saw a wall full of clever quotes from famous people like Einstein and Gandhi.

In the middle of this collection, the sentence; ” Nature doesn’t need us, but we need nature” jumped out at me. It is the only saying there for which no source is given. The sentence, which I know Peter von Tresckow developed for his ecospots in the 1980s in a hard and protracted struggle with himself, has become a catchphrase. Everyone knows it, but hardly anyone knows where it comes from. Unfortunately, the ecospots to which this phrase belongs as a leitmotif have disappeared into the archives of WDR, and today’s employees have no idea how prophetic and ahead of its time the station was back then. From today’s perspective, one can say that ARD and WDR, which broadcast these spots in the early 1980s, took their social task very seriously and recognised the signs of the times very early on by making these spots possible. As an editor at the time, I remember heated debates about this at the station. The tenor of the opponents of the production of the spots was that one should not put the environmental problem on the shoulders of the individual, that the big industries are the polluters, so they must also solve the problem. Peter von Tresckow does not dispute this, but he is concerned with our awareness and big politics.

And he has achieved a lot. For instance, water wastage in men’s urinals was curbed by installing individual flushes, to reach just one example among many. He drew attention to nitrate contamination in the fields when the public had little knowledge of it. The production method of the spots was unique, Peter von Tresckow created everything himself: Drawings, camera, editing, acting, voice, everything. There were also conflicts about broadcasting, a spot targeting the responsibility of entrepreneurs was not to be broadcast at first. But the head of culture and science at the time, Dr Hansjürgen Rosenbauer, prevailed with his defence of freedom of content. CNN has the slogan in English, “Nature doesn’t need us, but we need nature” – simply adopted it and spread it internationally.

The ecospots were also in the discussion for the coveted Grimme Prize, the most important award for television programmes in Germany, but at that time there was no category for this form. Peter von Tresckow’s work is about the awareness of all of us. The fact that his sentence is engraved on the wall in Berlin is the best proof that he succeeded in moving our thoughts and actions. No one can deny that today.

Prof. Dr. Sabine Rollberg, Former Head of Arte Germany (2019)

Small agitations

The biggest problem was the broadcasting slot. Get into the programme! Get a responsible editor involved (Peter Meimeth). P.v.T. didn’t want a “supervisor”. He wanted to do his thing, reach a wide audience. With all means. By hand: graphics, caricature, animated film, a bit of Loriot. Sometimes subtle, often striking. Clichés when they seemed appropriate, sledgehammers and folk art. For the good of humanity and nature.

His slogan took on the character of a proverb. The talking carrier bag was a hit! Environmental awareness grew in West German society, the “ecospots” helped: “Social Advertizing” in the late 1980s.

Prof. Dr. Rosenbauer, former head of culture at WDR and later director of ORB

* Please note: Artsteps is currently working with Apple to fix a display bug in the VR functionality of the iOS app. The normal iOS mobile view of the art exhibition works fine.

The illustrations by Peter von Tresckow can be licensed for various purposes. You can submit a licence request on the homepage of the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung.

This page is an automatic translation of the original German version.

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