Stage, bar, synthesis of the arts: the history of the spectacular Creamcheese dance club in Düsseldorf.

"Suzy Creamcheese, honey, what's got into you?" In the song "The Return of the Son of the Monster Magnet" (1966) by the Mothers of Invention, Frank Zappa talks with the artificial character Suzy Creamcheese about expanded consciousness and nonsense. After experimental sounds taken from pop, jazz, and electronic music, true to the title of the album, "Freak Out," the song ends with laughing and screaming: "CREAM ... cheese. CREAM-CHEESE! Cream, cream, cream ... CHEESE."

In 1965, Günther Uecker, who joined the Düsseldorf-based artists' group ZERO around Otto Piene and Heinz Mack in 1961, traveled to New York. He experienced Zappa's live shows and Andy Warhol's "The Exploding Plastic Inevitable," a multimedia event in the tradition of Expanded Cinema, during which The Velvet Underground performed, Warhol's films were screened, and strobe lights flashed. Uecker, who had already integrated dynamic elements such as light, movement, and spatial-temporal structures into his work in Düsseldorf and turned his attention toward kinetics, returned from New York with the idea of a conceptually organized dance club. The experimental combination of light, sound, visual effects, and music that he experienced at the spectacular productions in New York were to leave their stamp on the Creamcheese.

Uecker collaborated with the filmmaker Lutz Mommartz and the media artist Ferdinand Kriwet to develop a concept for the Creamcheese, which opened its doors in July 1967 in Düsseldorf's historic downtown area under the management of the gastronome couple Achim and Bim Reinert. The venue was at once stage, music club, bar, and as the director of the documenta, Arnold Bode, remarked, a synthesis of the arts. Inscrutable in the best sense of the word. When one walked into the elongated premises, one initially believed to be in an exhibition space: wallpaper by Ferdinand Kriwet in the entryway, an object made of round convex mirrors next to the cloakroom by the artist Adolf Luther, a "girl painting" by Gerhard Richter above the pedestal made of concrete steps, inflated rubber ducks attached to the ceiling by Konrad Fischer-Lueg.

Heinz Mack designed a twenty-meter-long bar, behind which now popular artists such as Blinky Palermo and Katharina Sieverding served drinks. Twenty-four televisions were lined up on two shelves and broadcast live images of what was taking place in the "action space" in the rear section of the Creamcheese, where concerts took place by legendary bands such as Can and Kraftwerk, or performances by Joseph Beuys and Valie Export. But the space was also available for theater performances, appearances by DJs, or avant-garde fashion shows. Uecker in a newspaper interview about the idea behind the space: "Anyone should be able to do whatever they want here. ... Action space means: they have the freedom to realize themselves."

According to the author Uwe Husslein, "Pop harbored the great promise of now being able to communicate its respective artistic ideas beyond the established distribution forms of galleries and museums, municipal libraries and book stores, to a broad public." Thus Pop stood in equal measure for the opening, the democratization of art as well as for the integration of as a genre and the negation of aesthetic categories and hierarchies. At the Creamcheese, a new concept was also set against the traditional notion that the perception of art is an individual, singular experience. Now, the public was to collectively indulge in a situation that made demands on all the senses: "An entity, a collective, developed in this process that--gesticulating, dancing, and acting--constituted a dynamic sculpture," said Günther Uecker.

Yet art is not only collective: art is information and art is entertainment. Ferdinand Kriwet and Günther Uecker proclaim this in their "Creamcheese Manifesto," which was printed in 1968 on the occasion of the "Cheese take off" event. With their appeal to "come and go and be yourself," the two artists once more demanded autonomy and self-determination.

In their policy statement, Uecker and Kriwet also underscore the relevance of modern media: "Contemporary art needs contemporary information media." Museum, theater, and concert hall become obsolete. By contrast, the newspaper, radio, records, light projections, discotheques, and festivals are to be the media of a new art. Ferdinand Kriwet's works are exemplary for such experimentation with mediality. His "circulars" unite words and image--a text, arranged in a circle, has neither beginning nor end and no prescribed reading direction, so that viewers themselves decide on the content. The "circulars" were projected onto the ceiling and walls of the Creamcheese, often superimposed with slides and light effects.

Günther Uecker's appeal in the "Creamcheese Manifesto" boils the concept down to an essence: "we need to leave our shells in order to transform our environment." It was a meeting place and a place for experimenting. The Creamcheese was the first German club to integrate intermedia elements and unite sculpture, performance, painting, theater, and music in dizzying interaction. When it had to close in 1976, the Creamcheese had long since become well known beyond the borders of the Rhineland, and its unique progressivism continues to have an impact to this very day.