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Object of the month: Tabea Blumenschein and “Die Tödliche Doris”

1. January 2022

Tabea Blumenschein was there – at parties, openings, happenings, and concerts. Everybody knew her in Westberlin’s subculture – and she was highly involved. She was not only an actor, a model, and a singer, but also designed costumes, worked as a director, photographer, and painter. In 1985, Blumenschein came out as a lesbian on the cover of the magazine Stern. Artist Wolfgang Müller asked her to be part of his collective “Die Tödliche Doris”, which she joined until its disbanding in 1987 – “totally self-determined, only when she had the time and when she wanted to”, Müller remembers in an obituary for his companion who died in 2020.

After the turnaround, Tabea Blumenschein disappeared from the limelight, moved to Adlershof, later to Marzahn. She noticed how Berlin changed, especially its club scene and lesbian subculture. Instead of mourning the glorious 80s, she looked for a new vocation and worked at the Amerika-Gedenkbibliothek. However, she didn’t give up art – she was just not interested in making a brand of herself. Blumenschein never had an email address or a Facebook account.

Instead of going out to party, Blumenschein painted at night during her last years. In the exhibition “100 Objects” in 2019, one of her paintings was displayed at the SMU: The “Bearded Lady” (1992), ornamented by serpents, symbolizing strength and renewal, an image reminiscent of iconography. Femininities, queerness, and feminist messages influenced Blumenschein’s work over decades. For the last album of “Die Tödliche Doris”, “Reenactment (I)”, Blumenschein designed 31 illustrations. The audio recording is composed of the sounds of 31 vibrators and dildos that Blumenschein drew (postcard on the right).

Tabea Blumenschein payed attention to the little things. For instance, postcards were also a medium of expression for the punk icon. Between 1980 and 2020, Tabea Blumenschein sent such little artworks (postcards in the center and on the left) to Wolfgang Müller, her colleague at “Die Tödliche Doris”, with whom she collaborated regularly also after the collective disbanded. She mostly showed herself on the postcards. Some of them look like spontaneous selfies – walking down the street or at home in her apartment – , others are designed like collages and coloured.

In November 2021, Wolfgang Müller and Hermoine Zittlau, another member of „Die Tödliche Doris“, dedicated a performance to Tabea Blumenschein at the Konferenz Fringe of the Fringe in Düsseldorf. The event’s aim was to investigate punk, post-punk, new wave, and industrial from a queer-feminist perspective, among other things – and Tabea Blumenschein needs to be mentioned! Müller and Zittau handed out postcards. And let one of Tabea Blumenschein’s traditions continue on.


Postcards of the performance „Zwischen Hünen, Hünin und Hühnchen“, Wolfgang Müller and Hermoine Zittlau bei Fringe of the Fringe – Die Privilegien der Subkultur im Gedächtnis von Institutionen – Düsseldorf, November 2021. Photo: Orlando Brix/SMU.