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The Religious Affiliation of Performance Artist
Harry Kipper
(also known as Martin von Haselberg,
the husband of legendary entertainer Bette Midler)


Harry Kipper is the stage name of German-born performance artist Martin von Haselberg. Although successful in his own careers, Harry Kipper may be better known as the seemingly unlikely but successfully-married husband of legendary Jewish-American singer and actress Bette Midler.

Harry Kipper was in Scientology at on time. Given the relative paucity of information or media reports about his association with the Church of Scientology, it seems likely that his association with the denomination was limited in its duration or significance.

From: Tilman Hausherr, scientology celebrities FAQ" of alt.religion.scientology, last updated 1 July 2005 (http://home.snafu.de/tilman/faq-you/celeb.txt; viewed 11 November 2005):

Name: Martin von Haselberg
Profession: commodities trader, performance artist
Status [in Scientology]: [uncertain]
Achievement: Bette Midler's husband!

Sources [confirming that he was/is in Scientology]: Jon Atack:
"I coached him [Martin von Haselberg/Harry Kipper] on TRs 6-9 at St. Hill UK in 1976. I coached tens of people on different TRs, but I never met anyone who was as good as von Haselberg. He never smiled, never fluffed a line. Nothing distracted him. But then he told me he was an actor, so he was already well trained in bullbait lockjaw. He described the performances that he and his partner did. They had shaved heads and communicated only through what sounded like cartoon noises. They packed a set of suitcases one inside the other. Each suitcase contained a 'ceremony'. In one they had toothpaste, which they squeezed all over one another. They performed in Germany and had recently annoyed a leading politician, so he said. It was very much in tune with what Joseph Beuys and his chums were doing in the German art world. I liked him, he was bright and interesting and far from being a drone."
From: George Mair, Bette: An Intimate Biography of Bette Midler, Birch Lane Press/Carol Publishing Group: Secaucus, NJ (1995), pages 176-178:
Bette and [offbeat performance artist] Harry Kipper first met in 1982, but neither was attracted to the other. In fact, at the time, he had no idea who Bette Middler was. When they met again while going to clubs in Los Angeles in 1984, it was instant chemistry and they saw each other full-time for two months. He proposed to her on Saturday night, she said yes, and soon after they were driving from her Los Angeles home to Las Vegas. It was Sunday morning at two A.M. when they got there, but the marriage license bureau in Vegas is open twenty-four hours a day, and they soon had the license and drove to Caesar's Palace. After they checked in, they changed clothes and went out in search of an all-night wedding chapel. They selected the Candlelight Wedding Chapel, where, to a tape of Juliet of the Spirits, a minister who moonlighted as an Elvis impersonator joined the two lovers as man and wife, Mrs. and Mrs. Martin von Haselberg, on December 16, 1984. ["Harry Kipper" was von Haselberg's stage name.]

"The Elvis impersonator was an accident," Bette later told her friends. "We wanted to get married quickly, and Vegas sounded like a good place to do it. We didn't know he was an Elvis impersonator till the end of the ceremony when he handed us his single. It was the Chapel of Twilight or something. We had fun. We got all dressed up... The long drive to Vegas had been a lot of laughs. But the long drive back from Vegas was kind of quiet. We were fairly shaken. We went there on a lark, but now it was going to be real."

The Midler career, idling in neutral in 1984 after the disaster of her 1982 movie Jinxed, was essentially shut down for the next several months while the newlyweds got to know each other and consummated their marriage. harry, for example, didn't know Bette had been born in Hawaii and had never seen any of her movies or stage productions and was only barely acquainted with her albums...

When one reporter asked Bette why she was rarely seen in public during this time, she responded, "Why go out? The only reason you go out is to find someone to bring home."

One of the most sensitive issues the two had to face was their respective ethnic origins, since Harry was German and Bette Jewish and very uncomfortable with the whole Nazi experience. She had even been nervous about touring in Germany.

"I have to say it was a trouble spot," Bette said after the wedding. "Harry has shown great restraint and patience when I've talked to him about it. He says all Germans don't hate Jews and he does insist upon it. I'm still not comfortable being in Germany. . . . The truth is that even if we were married forever, I don't think he could change my mind about it. But I don't resent him because of his nationality. He is an individual first and the citizen of a country last."

Bette said she nightly expressed gratitude to God (or whoever) for her marriage, apparently in a 1986 interview, from: Mair, page 179:
"Since I got married [in 1984], I say every night, 'Thank you' to God or whoever it is who's listening up there. The word blessing: I never paid much attention to i, but I've been so happy the last year, in a way I didn't think was humanly possible."
Mair, page 232:
Bette doesn't make many public appearances anymore because she has concentrated her life on her home and family, with her career being mostly in movies. "I really have decided that the outside world doesn't have a lot to offer. You have to make your own heaven in your own home. How many after-hours bards can you go to? How many vodka gimlets can you drink?"

Married seven years by this time, Bette and Harry admitted to some rough times adjusting to marriage in the early years because of different upbringings and different personalities. She is a yeller like her father, and Harry is quiet like his father. She felt she had married the best person she knew who wanted to marry her.

An article written by Achille Bonito Olivo is posted prominently on Harry Kipper's official website, as a way of providing some sort of context and explanation for Kipper's unusual act. From: Achille Bonito Olivo, "Kipper the Phantom-catcher", posted on the official Harry Kipper website (click on "Statement" main menu button at: http://www.harrykipper.com/; viewed 11 November 2005):
One of the strategic principles of the avant-gardes was scandal, a slap in the face aimed at the good taste of an audience reliant on the guarantees provided by the museum context, with a yen for a quick dip in the marshy entropy of established values: code as "confirmation". For Harry Kipper art, on the other hand, is slippage, catastrophe, landslide, telluric motion, a bursting of the subjective image-bank in the tectonic equilibrium of languages: introduction to breakage. At first this meant working as a duo (with Brian Routh), a miniscule squad that forged its way to the most "avant" outposts, ahead of the rank and file of artists and collective tastes, in veritable performance-ambushes.The expedition to the future organized by the avant-gardes with the precise objective of disrupting the tectonic equilibrium of language becomes a mudslide of aesthetic actions about the present, in which the duo operates by experimenting with new forms of behavior, producing a line of artistic practice based on the polarity anorexic vs. bulimic. In this perspective Duchamp is undoubtedly an anorexic artist, who attributes value to the conceptual skeleton rather than the skin of things, the urinal becomes a (ready-made) fountain. Picasso, the century, leading cannibal, is bulimic, Warhol is anorexic, the Transavanguardia bulimic. The lines intersect, and they are always driven by an effort to communicate. An art that paradoxically speeds up its own creative processes, fleeing the present and seeking refuge in the future, from which it expects the confirmation of a renewal of life and behavior. Entropy becomes, so to speak, a sort of obsession for H. Kipper, vexation art has always felt with respect to communication. Communication of what? With the indeterminacy principle Heisenberg helped art to remain "open work", and the artist to think that an utterly indeterminate something exists, to be completed later by the observer, perception and contemplation.

This leads to the production of physignomically distorted photos, digitally altered. With Kipper avant-garde art finally begins to give dignity to the audience, in search of the art, completion, openly declaring its incompleteness. No longer a total system of knowledge and representation, it new leaves a split, an opening.

This strabismus of the artist who lives in the present looking toward the future to represent the present can offer an idea of this opening, which gradually becomes a philosophy of being and appearing to represent and produce forms. For Kipper the "open work" spoken of by Eco springs precisely from the possibility of utilizing indeterminacy in strategic terms, and restores the determining role of the audience, complementary to that of the artist.

From the slap in the face to the offer of responsibility assigned to the voyeur, the person who looks upon the work assumes a role of completion with respect to a formal system organized in terms of problematic reception and active partnership. This is not, in any case, a pursuit of consensus, but instead the acceptance of the microcosm of the work, of the indeterminacy principle that becomes structural. This is not the result of desperation but of the assumption of a historical awareness on the part of the artist: the position "of the traitor", a lateral position. The traitor is he who looks at the world, does not accept it and considers modifying it, but does not act, because were he to act he would be a revolutionary. Instead, he retreats into the mental reserve represented by allegory and metaphor. In this space he broods over the need for cross-eyed communication.

In this sense, in its ambivalence and ambiguity, the art of H. Kipper discovers the capacity or the possibility of escaping entropy, one-way meaning, significance. In the awareness of being a continuous signifier, a bouncing ball, a "coil" that descends the steps and takes advantage of social distraction to act more effectively, in channels and in broad daylight.

In indeterminacy art discovers its own useful black hole, the ideal opening for the development of a conflictual possibility of socialization. Because the artist, in the moment in which he creates the work, also produces a maximum level of asociality, domination of the world and reduction of the vision of things to his own impulses. Cioran speaks of the elation of the writer at the center of the sentence: imperial inebriation, through the apparent anorexia of writing, the author, art critic, philosopher or artist, condenses a bulimic attitude of absorption of the world.

Therefore the indeterminacy of H. Kipper represents an opening to be utilized, the possibility of restoring power to the audience after the slap in the face, offering it a positive, constructive role of accompaniment or completion of his imperious meaning.

In other words, the art incites and at this point obligates the audience to take part, to go to work: a "laborer audience". The viewer can push the button and retreat, in skepticism about contemporary art, or accelerate, be intrigued, enter into a relationship of effort, participation, interaction, creating the link for the imperious meaning of the work.The link of meaning calls for a distance that permits the emission of the signifier, an efficient communication. The present proxemics measures a different distance between art and a society now dominated by communications technologies.

The dematerialized work travels on the web, the phantom has taken the place of the body. Detached from the sedentary spatial condition of the wall or the floor, it rapidly slides past the eyes of the spectator, with an acceleration that produces a vaporization of meaning.

Therefore H. Kipper uses art as a phantom-catcher, capturing social attention to impose the fossil radiations of his own imagination, through a cheerfully dream-like utilization of photography and computer techniques.

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Webpage created 11 November 2005. Last modified 11 November 2005.
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