December 10, 2012 "Awful"
It's strange: I have taken to Lana del Rey. When she first appeared, about a year ago, I took one look and quickly dismissed her as a manufactured lifestyle product ("lifestyle" being one of my swearwords).
During Tiergarten runs, later, I kept passing a surprisingly longlived poster of a depressed looking young woman with luscious blond locks, staring morosely into the lens apparently "Born to Die" and noted with satisfaction how it's colours were quickly fading in the sun.
Then something awful happened: the H&M campaign, "starring" Elizabeth Grant, aka Lana del Rey. It was all over Berlin and everywhere, including just outside our house. I still hate it, this lifeless speculation in a time and an ideal thankfully past. That hair. That dour pout. It's beyond me how pictures like this can sell clothes.
Anyway, I hated it so much I got curious. Went to Youtube. From my prejudiced vantage point I was strangely unguarded for the actual music. Especially some live clips. Catatonic chanteuse on valium. The briefest of smiles. Beguiling.
Bought the (new) record. Keeps listening to it. Keeps looking things up. Performed a U-turn. Very impressed. Very impressed, indeed.
December 2, 2012 "Itäkeskus"
Ah... Helsinki at night, in winter.
November 30, 2012 "Land in Sight?"
I'm at the airport in Vienna, waiting for my plane. I've had a great week here, I feel happy and chaotic. So many things coming up: shows in Stockholm, Paris, New Delhi; chimney in Frankfurt; electronic music in Graz and in between all this teaching. However, the teaching and the relationships built through it (with students, with teachers), really does bring ME as a person something valuable, even when I feel I can hardly handle it all.
On Sunday I'm off to Helsinki. In the evening I will meet my old friend the painter Paul Osipow, the next day in the morning I will give a "keynote" at a gathering of supervisors for Artist's Research, organized by Jan Kaila of Kuva (where I used to work). This time... I will talk without a powerpoint and without a full manuscript. It should be possible. The language will not be French but English. My title: "Land in Sight? Reflections on supervising an artist´s research process". Now... what does that mean? I will have to find out.
November 24, 2012 "Jeu de Paume"
When I opened the software to begin writing a moment ago, I saw I had already written today's post one week ago. That was unintentional, sorry. I corrected it.
My book talk (on Écrire en tant qu'artiste/An Artist's Text Book) took place in a midsize assembly room at the Jeu de Paume. It went OK, thanks to an engaged audience and Anne Bertrand. I feel I could have been much more forceful in my presentation. Speaking French in public without a prepared script is indeed a challenge. You have to keep up the flow, the rhythm, even at the cost of content. I do know this, in theory, but it's not always possible to make good on what you know is necessary. Luckily, when my pace dropped and I started searching for a way to say what I thought, my interlocutor Anne would come in and save me in the most professional way. She would release the thought I had in me (or should have had in me) but couldn't get out. I was so grateful. Afterwards she was afraid she might have intervened too much. Absolutely not.
We had prepared ourselves in a loose way in the afternoon. We came to focus on an interesting thought, new to me, which we then tried to develop in the evening. The all important difference between an artist's "writings" and his "notes". Anne teaches writing to the art students at Haute école des arts du Rhin, in Strasbourg. Talking to her students about my book recently she had noticed that what they associate with "artists' writings" is private note making. The jottings in a note book of an artist trying to clarify his thoughts for himself.
In the context of my book and the talks I give in relation to the book I had never even thought about this kind of notes as having anything to do with my subject. Now as we developed the subject together, I decided to formalize my intuitive decision and squarely limit my definition of "writings" to what has been written in order to be published. If you're a famous artist you might see your private notes published later, or after your death, but that's not why you wrote them. What interests me is the strategies involved in the construction of a text which is to be interpreted which is to be read by an independent subject (= not the writer). What interests me is the artist's use of writing as a tool for furthering his work in public. What interests me is the dynamics of dialogue, not monologue.
Reading what somebody has written for you to read is dialogic, even when there is no answering back. Reading what you have written to yourself is not. When you engage in dialogic writing you will always need to consider how your text is constructed. You'll need to edit yourself. You're not alone. You will want to further and deepen your relationship to the other, your reader. Not ruin it.
Any artist engaging in writing a blog of some sort need to be aware of these differences. Even without a "comments" function, you're engaging in dialogue and putting forward a persona.
November 16, 2012 "Sweden & Paris"
Wednesday next week, 21.11, I will give a lecture at my old school in Stockholm, nowadays grandly called "Royal Institute of Art". It's the first time ever that anyone there (= Chun Lee Wang-Gurt) has asked me to lecture, although I did do some studio visits ten years ago. I will talk about "Printmaking as a Passion and/or an Analytical Tool".
The same evening I plan to attend a discussion on public art which takes place in my Uppsala exhibition. Luckily I'm not a presenter.
The day after I will talk about my book "Écrire en tant qu'artiste" (the French translation of an Artist's Text Book) at the Librairie de Jeu de Paume, in Paris. Luckily it will be in dialogue form, with Anne Bertrand. If she was not going to bee there, I would be really nervous...
The press release for the book is here.
November 15, 2012 "Review & Interview"
I'm in Vienna, where today I got invited to a show in New Delhi in February. I also heard from Uppsala today: a review of my show has been published. It's written by Sebastian Johans, who I have never met, but who I think is a very good art writer. I say this not because his review is positive, which it is, but because it manages to surprise me with observations I haven't made myself. Look at the last paragraph. The review is online here. Johans has written about me once before, also good, in similar manner: here.
The interview I mentioned before was published two weeks ago. It's also quite good, although I veered into talking of my very beginnings: Roland Penrose & Juliet Man Ray. It's online here.
November 10, 2012 "Fragment of # 10"
After three and a half day in Berlin I flew back to attend the opening of my show in Uppsala.
The exhibition has three rooms, the first and largest (although still rather small) empty but for "Fragment of # 10"; the construction Ronny and I built one week ago. It has the same proportions as will have the first 238 cm of the "Tenth Chimney", whenever it is built.
In the first of two smaller rooms I show ten new "Trial Drawings", made for this show. The "Trial Drawings" belong to a new body of work (drawings and paintings) that I have been exploring for the last couple of years. Until now I had not made any of it public. This is a start.
In the third and final small room I have installed two loudspeakers and between them, painted the phrase "I morgon är det allvar" (Tomorrow it's serious). From the loudspeakers intermittently five re-constructed songs by my band Svart, which existed in 1980-1981. It's all new, 31 years later. For me an incredible feeling to make this music public again, in a contemporary version, in the city where it was once invented...
The opening was very well attended, with friends new and old. Some who I haven't seen for 30 years. Thanks for coming!
November 4, 2012 Ronny
Thursday morning: drove all the way from Berlin to Uppsala, the car full of stuff. From Friday morning until Sunday noon I worked with Ronny Murare on my installation in Uppsala Konsthall. No breaks. Then I drove to Berlin again. On Thursday I will fly back, for the opening. This exhibition feels special to me.
Ronny is the only bricklayer I've met who uses a stage name ("murare" is Swedish for "bricklayer"). He absolutely loves his craft and has a keen analytical mind which he uses to analyse each operation in advance and to device solutions for all problems which will be encountered. He's the best, I love being his assistant.
I had a long interview with a writer for the local newspaper UNT and when the photographer showed up I had to tell him: "you may photograph anything except this thing that we're working on". It felt awkward but was necessary. Don't underestimate the surprise factor. He complied. I'm curious about the result.
October 23, 2012 Uppsala
I have finally added Johanna Uddén's interview with me, which was published in spring. It appeared in a glossy publication in my old home town Uppsala, called Biz&Art. (Quite some name.) I didn't know Johanna before. It then turned out we had both attended the same high school, although not in the same year. We have also both been members of this school's art association... Artis Amici. It's a long time ago.
Thanks to this encounter I'm now in the last phase of preparation for a one-man show in the exhibition space Johanna runs with a partner : Konsthuset Uppsala Konsthall.
The space is not large, but I'm preparing something quite ambitious, including an element I have never tried before. It will be incredibly exciting to see how it works. The opening is on November 9. Please do come! :)
October 23, 2012 Hand Print
I have forgotten to mention that yesterday was opened at the Karl-Renner-Institut in Vienna an exhibition curated by Philipp Maurer, called "PhotoGraphik Wirklichkeit und Druck". Unfortunately, I couldn't attend, I'm in Berlin. I have this work in the show: "Project for Drewen Monotype".
This work was not planned in advance. Niels Borch Jensen had printed about thirty copies of a four colour etching of the Drewen project image (which would be made reality first two years later). Hand-printing four colour etching is really hard, it has to be very precise. When I went through the edition I felt I could accept only fifteen. These I signed and numbered. I was then left with fifteen prints having been made with great effort, but looking just a tiny bit different from what they were supposed to. I couldn't throw them away! So, I got the idea to make my very first monotype, by adding a true and unique "Hand Print" to each hand-printed etching. On a few I even added two hands. This way I could save all the prints which I had just discarded.
And the funny thing is: today I much prefer the prints with the hand to them without; the ones which were supposed to be the "proper" ones.
October 12, 2012 Nuts
I'm preparing two talks for the coming week. That's one too much. I so much prefer to really digest and rehearse what I'm going to say, a process which demands concentration. Still, sometimes you have to take it as it comes. Apart from the book talk I will give my view on Documenta. For this reason I have finally been reading though a collection of texts by the curator, reviews and interviews.
Having written my September 10 post I came to feel a bit queasy about my happy embrace of the exhibition as a whole. At that time I still had read very little about it. Was I maybe a bit naive? Not critical enough? I started to get worried when I happenend on a number of references to how Christov-Bakargiev saw her theme as being "artistic research". Then I found other places where she was talking about other themes, and finally having no theme, no idea, which in itself led to hard criticism from many corners.
I wrote a month ago that she apparently did not see herself as an artist. Now I found a number of indications to the contrary. I bought the Logbook and found an exhausting "the making of the exhibition" though countless emails, travel logs and private photos, hmmm. Then today I found an interview from Süddeutsche Zeitung, published in May. It must have made a big splash at the time, a circumstance I managed to miss completely. In this interview she seems to make rather an effort to come across as plain nuts. Going on about giving the right to vote to animals, about there being no difference between a dog and a woman, about supporting not only the emancipation of animals but for plants too (what will we eat?).
I then came across a piece where Max Hollein (the director of Städel Museum) was quoted in the following way:
Ihre Taktik, im Vorfeld mit bewusst missverständlichen Interviews, minimaler Information, kurzen Provokationen und fragwürdigen Sprüchen, die Erwartungshaltung herunterzuschrauben und die negative Energie der Kritiker auf ihre Person und nicht auf die Künstler zu konzentrieren, ist vollumfänglich aufgegangen.
It's all rather interesting.
October 09, 2012 Book release
Here is the invitation card for the book release in a week. The design is by Tina Greisberger and Agata Pierzchanowska again. Today they also finished a poster, which has a "wilder" style. I'm looking forward to see it printed.
October 08, 2012 Feedback
I came back from Vienna Friday and moved into a Berlin hospital Saturday. It's the first time in my life that I have slept in a hospital and I'm not sick. Neither is Edvin, but he has had his tonsils removed and that entails seven nights in hospital. Now it was my turn to be with him. I – we – will get out tomorrow.
Actually, these two days have not been unproductive. I'm working on my presentation of Ein Künstler-Text-Buch for October 18. It will be my big coming out, I hope, talking about writing in front of a qualified and hopefully large audience at the Angewandte. Writing a lecture in German is always tricky. Especially this time, as my subject is about the use of language itself.
Talking about writing... some time ago I wrote appreciatively here in Talk about what somebody else has written. Last night, out of the blue, I got an email from this person who had been sent my piece (from whom I don't know) – and who appreciated what I had written. It was so generous to give me this feedback, it made my day. It illustrates to me what an incredible medium the internet is: with the potentiality to reach anyone in the world. Sometimes it does.
October 01, 2012 Pain
Today each staircase has presented a painful problem. My aching thighs. So sore. Still, the pain will pass but I will remember that yesterday in Berlin I ran the Marathon for the tenth time in twelve years, and this time I ran it faster than I ever did in the nine races before: 03:39:06. Until yesterday my best Berlin time was 03:40:30 in 2002. In the meantime I have gotten ten years older. It's an interesting thought.
That said, I once was faster: Chicago, October 10, 2010 (10.10.10): 03:37:19. It might be I will never top that time. I will try though. Even if time runs against me.
September 20, 2012 Two texts
I have just uploaded two of the very best texts I have written, in my own opinion. It's "Spying on Sparrows" which was written for, and published in, the anthology "Intellectual Birdhouse", with the sub-title "Artistic Practice as Research". For anyone who knows me it will be clear that I have some reservations towards the subject of Artistic Research. I don't deny that there can be valuable results produced within this framework. It has more to do with practical observations collected over the last 6-7 years as to how rare this is, and how un-acknowledged this rarety is. In particular the latter. There's a big machine out there, which is hungry.
Anyway, this is a prestigious anthology and I was happy to be invited by Florian Dombois to participate. I was even more happy when I found out they had put my text first...
The context of the second text is quite different, but there are indeed some echoes from one to the other, I realized just now as I prepared their web-presentations.
Soon two years ago I was invited by my friend Anne Bertrand to write the essay for a volume of French translations of Tacita Dean's texts. It's not a task to take lightly: Tacita is a brilliant writer, one of the very best artist-writers there is. How can one do her justice? Luckily this assignement came at a time when I had a little bit more time on my hands than now: I couldn't I say no. The result of my efforts is called: "Le Temps de l'écriture". It's a long text, using long quotes from Tacita's own text while building up to a surprising end. At least I think so. I really like the end... it came as a gift by chance as so often happens. But it will not work if you read only the end, you'll have to walk the distance.
September 12, 2012 (*) Non-white cube
I was back in Frankfurt. Contracts for my Städel sculpture were signed, but the building process is postponed until spring, because of factors having more to do with the other three permanent sculptures that are in the planning.
From there I crossed the river and went to the opening at ECB which was surprisingly fun and easygoing. Normally my work "Psycho-Mapping Europe", made in 1998, is installed in the reception area of another building I learned, but for this exhibition it had been hung on the wall of the cafeteria for the personnel of the ECB skyscraper. It's not exactly a white cube situation, but sometimes other aspects may trump narrow aesthetic concerns: I think that's a very good place for my work. I imagine how it will influence on a subliminal level the mindset of the Central Bankers, over the next couple of months.
September 11, 2012 (*) EKTB
The asterisk behind the date stands for the fact that I am actually writing this post a few days later... On 9/11 I was in Vienna, working in my office on preparing for the new term which will start on October 1. I was completely oblivious to a certain anniversary, I only thought about it now. The high point of the day was picking up my first copies of Ein Künstler-Text-Buch. It's the German translation of An Artist's Text Book, which was originally published in Finland at the very end of 2007.
The Angewandte (the University of Applied Arts Vienna) has a publishing deal with SpringerWienNewYork (so, not the German Springer entity of Bild-Zeitung fame). Their latest product is my book, which has been beautifully translated by Conny Habbel and designed by Tina Greisberger (inside) and Agata Pierzchanowska (outside). My collegue in Vienna, the philosopher Robert Pfaller has written an impressive afterword. Both Tina and Agata are my students. They've done a great job!
The book is already available on Amazon. Any day now I hope to receive a copy of the French edition, which has supposedly already been printed.
September 10, 2012 Knast
I spent most of last week in Kassel, with a group of students and some teachers. We walked around Documenta on our own during the day and convened in the evenings, when the show(s) had closed. Nights were spent in a converted prison, a "Knast". I just like that word.
I have been to every Documenta since 1987 and it is always a great learning experience, through its respective successes or failures. To me this Documenta is definitely a success. The curator, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, has not let herself be dominated by the market, nor has she applied an all-over theoretical concept to which all parts of the sprawling show must adhere. Instead, I get the impression of a keen and earnest intellect which has let itself be guided by intuition. This attitude gives a certain "lightness" to the proceedings, in a most positive sense, also when many of the artists work with issues and themes which are anything but "light". Even when installations fail to impress or to attract my interest, I did not generally question why they had been included. Making art is always about taking risks. You try, sometimes you must fail. Without trying, you cannot succeed.
I much like how art and artefacts from very different times and situations were incorporated into the whole, without giving the impression that the curator sees herself as an artist, too. I also appreciate how the exhibition does not shy away from historical references that do indeed lead right into the present. Or how Kabul has been made into some sort of mirror twin to Kassel, or for that matter Breitenau, just outside.
For me it was a personal highlight to visit the small, odd and idiosyncratic core exhibition in the Fridericianum rotunda, called the "Brain". There, right at the centre of everything, in the world's most important art exhibition 2012: the series of Lee Miller's photographs from Hitler's apartment. And opposite, the vitrine holding Man Ray's "Object(s) to be destroyed", paired with some objects stolen by Lee, from that same apartment. Objects and destruction. Art and history. Time and love. Lee Miller and Man Ray.
I never met them in life, but without the generosity and friendship of Lee Miller's husband and Man Ray's wife, I would not be who I am today.
September 3, 2012 ECB
Suddenly there's a lot going on in Frankfurt. The Chimney project at Städel is moving forward, and now there's an exhibition opening at the European Central Bank. Very topical. They own "Psycho-Mapping Europe", the first series of 20 prints made in 1998. Back then the European Union consisted of only 15 countries – and the euro conversion had not yet taken place. If you look at the development taking place within the series, there is – perhaps – a certain sense of premonition. Or not.
Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank, will speak at the opening. I'm quite curious what he is going to say.
September 2, 2012 Americana
While I work in the studio I like to listen to podcasts. My last week has been dominated by WNYC's high quality coverage of the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida. It's a poison. You shudder; you're fascinated; you're disgusted: how is it possible that politicians operating in a democratic system can allow themselves so many blatant lies? Lies designed to hit the media with such force that the echo will drown out the fact checkers' response, as well as the other side's retorts. A lie once planted in today's media will never be completely debunked, never be completely eliminated: there will always be somebody interested in its continued circulation. You just have to be shameless enough.
Another American experience last week: our family of three went to a concert on the night of my birthday: Green Day. Had you asked me before "American Idiot" was released 8 years ago I would never have been able to even dream of going to such a concert. However, that record had something very special. It was an attempt to get serious and get rid of the nonsense, which actually worked, against all odds. The music strengthens the message, and the message serves the music. "Don't want to be an American idiot..." We used to play the CD in the car, when Edvin was small(er), and Green Day became his first favourite band. Then they did it again, with another ambitious, serious, angry album: "21st Century Breakdown". Respect!
The concert was confusing though. Those two albums work so well because they proudly avoid all self-depreciating "fun" and just focus on hitting the target with as much passion and precision as possible. There are moments during the concert when this is the case as well, but these moments are interspersed with... "fun"... and worse: with endlessly repeated summons to the audience to sing along, or clap their hands. I just hate stage managed interactivity.
Towards the end a saxophone appears, there are silly hats – and an interminable "fun" potpourri of American standards.
Oh, the horror.
Then, as expected, the song "American Idiot" as first encore. But really: why insist on being one?
August 25, 2012 Wall space
All that Klimt stuff yesterday... here's to something else. Together with my group of first year students in Vienna (myself a first year professor), in June we painted a very large wall belonging to the company Posamentir (thank you!), in the Hippgasse in Vienna's 16th district. Actually, I did very little (try to figure out what :). I simply didn't need to intervene much. In fact, at the end of the process I was told just how to do my thing and I was happy to do just that.
August 24, 2012 Memory space
I went back to the Belvedere today. I wanted to see the rest of the house, which time didn't allow yesterday. And I checked that quote. It goes, in its original English version:
"Klimt is essentially an art for the few: the many cannot appreciate its subtle qualities, but how great is the enjoyment it gives to those who do understand it" (Amelia Sarah Levetus, The Studio, 1908)
August 24, 2012 Empty space
In the morning: two more notes on Klimt:
on the walls of the Belvedere's exhibition were various quotes, from the time. One of them read something like (sorry, I didn't write it down) "no artist is more difficult to comprehend than Klimt. The masses will never understand him, but for the few of us who do: what a joy!". Compare this sentiment to the riot of his popularity a hundred years later. Moral?
in the Wien Museum on Karlsplatz I saw a poster made by Klimt for the first Secession exhibition. It created a scandal because of the (almost) exposed genitals of the male figure in its upper part. A second version was created, with an overprint of some branches. The sign on the wall noted that what was really scandalous about this poster was not the mundane business of too much nudity, but the fact that the major part of the poster, the central part is empty.
August 23, 2012 Heat
I'm back in Vienna for the first time since June. Holidays are long gone, I'm working in Berlin, but I decided to use the fact that I can be a tourist here for a couple of days, with my own apartment and office. Let's do a bit of the Vienna experience! Finally :) The whole day I have been walking to different exhibitions, mostly Klimt, in a scorching heat.
Klimt is all over the place. His 150 year birthday is being celebrated, along with the fact of his massive pop culture appeal and success. I never spent much deliberate thought on Klimt before. Nevertheless, today it was easy to confirm that at a certain point in time I did indeed take inspiration from... his frames.
Today I didn't bother much with the frames. Earlier this summer I read The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, by Anne-Marie O'Connor. It's a very detailed, epic study centered around that single painting, but taking in so much more: art history, cultural history, political history through a singular focus on the life stories of a small number of people and a few objects which "fate" has brought together. Klimt of course, Adele Bloch-Bauer, of course, but even more so the first of the two paintings that he made of her.
The book has a structure which I find very attractive. It will start on an aspect of its subject and go so deep into this perspective that you feel quite unprepared when suddenly the perspective changes and another aspect comes into focus. Life is like this: it really isn't possible to seek safety in one choice of perspective, one attitude. Eventually, circumstances will force you to realize the transcience of any perspective, the temporariness of any sense of security. O'Connors' book therefore, is truly moving, and it has two especially strong sections (perspectives): the lively portrait of the painter and his model and their society before and at the time of the painting and much later, in detailing the horrors of the "Anschluss" (the Nazi takeover of Austria in 1938, which many non-Jewish Austrians welcomed with open arms): how it destroyed the lives of the Bloch-Bauer family and their friends. If you couldn't perform overnight the mental switch from being a pillar of society to being its opposite and flee, literally overnight concentration camps and death awaited you. Adele Bloch-Bauer herself had died earlier.
In our own time, long after the war and after a protracted battle with the Austrian state (which the book describes in utter legal detail) ABB's octogenarian niece manages to recover five stolen family paintings from the Belvedere museum (where I went today). Four of them are put up for auction at Christie's in 2006. They are sold for record prices but the buyer is and remains anonymous. It is at this point that one suddenly realizes that the expected righteous moral of the book is not going to be. The end is sad. What remains is money. And the title painting of ABB, which was sold for an astronomical sum to a private museum in New York before the auction, a museum which is indeed open to the public.
This well-publicised story is part of the background to what makes Klimt so extremly popular today, along with, I guess, a sometimes lingering taste of kitsch in the works. I found a lot to like today, and when I didn't like, I could still understand why it was like it was: I could easily empathize.
I get more out of Klimt who is more conflicted, less pure, more transitory than what I get from Schiele's extreme narcissism and styling. Kokoschka, I simply never cared for much. Also not today.
July 12, 2012 Bummer
I flew down to Frankfurt. There was a chimney meeting: Klaus Heins, my building contractor, was there, Werner Klein was there, several from the museum. It looks very promising. Basically everything is agreed but there is still the matter of finding out what is hidden in the ground on the exact site now chosen. The project may still prove difficult... or impossible... but I don't think this will be case. We'll find out, soon enough.
Our meeting finished, I went to see the two part Jeff Koons exhibition: "his biggest ever". Sculptures were displayed in the Liebieghaus, which is dedicated otherwise to Städelmuseum's collection of sculpture covering every era from old Egypt until 18th Century. Now, the collections were still on display, but with Koons' sculptures displayed in its midst. As subversive elements, or something. I really can't say. I was quite surprised at how utterly awful I found the result.
It was probably the first time that I have had a 100 % adverse reaction to Koons. Before, I have been able to enjoy the many layers of irony. Even admiring the artistry of the specialists Koons employs to work to unbelievably high standards of craftmanship, if not of taste. But here, in this situation, with his pieces set up in dialogue with 4000 years of non-ironic production of sculpture, his art is suddenly deflated (sic!) in the most astounding way. It was made very clear that you can't industrialize irony and the embrace of kitsch and stay artist. The result is just sad. Not funny, not provocative, not subversive. Sad.
I then continued to Schirn and saw the painting show. The whole long Louvre-like gallery filled with huge Koons paintings made by assistants from photoshopped and sometimes Illustrator-treated collages. The basic attitude stolen from James Rosenquist who was never that good to begin with but who did work on his own paintings, giving them life. I'm convinced he (Rosenquist) tried his best at making something meaningful. That's a huge difference to Koons' paintings, "executed" by anonymous assistants whose main brief seems to have been to paint e-x-a-c-t-l-y like the printouts they will have been holding in their hand. These paintings are drained of any meaningfulness. They deny the viewer any possibility to actually engage with the image in a way which makes the complicted production process worthwhile.
What a bummer!
July 4, 2012 Hybrid
At the moment I'm in Sweden and on Saturday Katrin and I open a show at Degeberga Konsthall. It's starting to become a habit, that we make shows together. It's something we had never even thought of as a possibility, not so long time ago. Which reminds me that I still haven't put the documentation online of our first such venture, at Ocular Lab in Melbourne in 2007. Just the other day I received from Tom Nicholson, who spent a month in Vienna, the beautiful book made about Ocular Lab's eight years of activity: "Hostings: Ocular Lab, 2003-10". In the book there are photos of that show! It was good: I have to get to work.
First priority right now, though, is to get everything in order for Saturday. I had fun making a combined poster / invitation card. The image is a hybrid, it exists only in this form... The title "Real Fiction" is Katrin's invention. It's so good, I'm already thinking about borrowing it for something else... perhaps the show Tom and I are planning...
Another exciting development: next week I fly to Frankfurt, to discuss a major, permanent sculpture commission for an important museum there.
June 21, 2012 Scheitern
Greece has got a new government, led by Antonis Samaras. I'm not jealous of his new job. I can't imagine what I would feel like if I were him, under the present circumstances. Proud perhaps (probably), but happy?
This site has got new documentation, of my exhibition in Cologne, which opened the day before the Greeks decided to trust Mr. Samaras with leading their country. I'm both happy and proud of my show. And there's a good looking little catalogue with one of my very best texts now translated into German, by Werner Klein, the gallerist. Kontrollierte Produktion virtueller geo-politischer Realitäten durch Scheitern.
"Scheitern" is one of my favourite words in the German language, I don't really know why. It has something to do with its taste. It's simply more expressive of failure than "failure". One of my least favourite words is "anspruchsvoll", which has less to do with taste and more with usage. Funny with words. Trying to explain my distaste for "anspruchsvoll" in Vienna the other day I realized just how often this word could be applied to myself and that it would be OK. Still I don't like the word.
June 15, 2012 Asia
As I write, I'm in Asia. I'm waiting for a plane to take me from the Asian airport in Istanbul to Bonn/Cologne. It's late, I will arrive after midnight. Probably not be able to post this until it's too late, but never mind.
I arrived in Istanbul yesterday, landing in Europe. My mission here was to give a keynote at a conference called "Staging Knowledge". at SALT in Galata. It was nice, my first visit to Istanbul felt familiar: I met a number of old friends here: from Helsinki, Gothenburg, Utrecht and Glasgow. And I did my piece, to good effect I hope.
My talk revolved around my experience in the Lascaux copy cave, with reference to a couple of my own works based on copying processes and on to David Lewis -Williams' fascinating theory on the beginnings of two-dimensional representation. From this I moved to a discussion of Markus Rissanen's experiences lately, as his Artistic Research doctoral project (for which I am the supervisor) has developed to include actual production of science, in the form of tiling mathematics. The core of my presentation revolved around the incredible time perspectives which present themselves, once you begin to take an interest in cave art. Lascaux is 17 000 years old, but the paintings in the Chauvet cave are even older.
I imagine the artist behind Chauvet's panel of multiple lions' heads, seeking admission to my class in Vienna, bringing work of similar quality... He or she would have no problem being accepted. Might be offered a professorship as well. But what language would we speak? The lions' heads panel in Chauvet was painted 32 000 years ago.
32 000 years that's about 1200 generations of artists. There were not many art universities to go to back then.
I have to think about my exhibition tomorrow.
June 6, 2012 Psycho-Mapping June 2012
I made the first work called "Psycho-Mapping Europe" in 1998. It's in the form of a series of IRIS-Prints, in an edition of three. After the EU had been enlarged I worked for a long time on a new version, this time in the form of twenty large oil paintings: "Psycho-Mapping Europe version 2.0", 2007-2009. It belongs to the Malmö Museum today. While working on the paintings I took care to photograph each one of them in their black and white state, and in 2010 used these photographs as base materials for a set of digital prints. Part of the joy of this process was to try to define digitally the colours used in the paintings. Of course it's not really possible that's the point.
In January this year it was decided I will make my fourth one man show at Galerie Werner Klein in June. When we talked about what to include, Werner proposed showing the two existing Psycho-Mapping Europe print series, and I decided to follow up the 2010 version with a 21:st image in the form of an elaborate woodcut (exposing myself once again to the problem of copyingthis time both line and colour, from digital 7 colour pigment print to handprinted woodcut) and then copying the woodcut as well, in acrylics on paper. Life goes on: genes get copied, maps gets copied, everything gets copied – never without fault...
The opening is in 10 days. Yesterday I finished the work on paper and an hour ago I finally received a correct print of the woodcut. I never imagined the schedule would become so tight. Meanwhile Europe has turned into a pressure cooker. Even though we in January did speculate some on the relevance of showing "Psycho-Mapping Europe" works at this time and place we still had no clue how hot this topic would become.
The opening is on June 16. The day after, Greece votes for the second time.
There is one work left of the 1998 edition. The European Central Bank bought one of the others in 2003.
I hope they keep looking at it.
June 3, 2012 The promise of overload
For a while now I've been in one of those periods marked by total multidisciplinary stress. So many different things to take care of, so many deadlines to uphold: it means planning months ahead with exact activities slotted in for each day, sometimes each hour. It's not always like this, fortunately.While it is, like now, you are so much looking forward to when it will be over. Nevertheless, experience tells me that these overload periods tend to coincide with creative discovery and development. I think it's a combination of two factors: on the one hand you're accomplishing specific tasks in as little time as possible (which will involve different forms of necessary research and creative tasks) and on the other you're so busy keeping life and work on track in a general sense that you have simply no time for dreaming and thinking in new ways. You try to shut these functions off, for the time being.
However, the brain doesn't let itself be shut off. Eventually there will be a sprout sent off in a crack between two blocks of stressful necessities. If that sprout finds fertile soil: then we're off again. The overheated environment will take care of that. Afterwards, when the stress slows down a notch or two (in my case I hope in July) and you look back and say "I did it all", that sprout might already have grown to dominate the view. The "all" might have faded (been shaded) into insignificance.
Obviously, I don't KNOW what I'm talking about. If I did KNOW, I would also know for sure that nothing would happen.
May 25, 2012 Gothic
I went to Leipzig, to meet Timo Hinze & Anna Gille, two young designers who I'm asking to give shape to the German version of An Artist's Text Book. Leipzig is strange. Last time I went there by train was in 2010, to attend the opening of Schnittstelle Druck at HGB, an exhibition organized by Katrin, where my photo-mechanical woodcuts were included. I remember the chock I had coming out of the train and be surrounded by masses of heavily made up Goths: in the station, on the streets, everywhere. In the warm sunshine they looked uncomfortable and out of place. And far too old, many of them.
I had not been back until today. It has been a very warm day serious sunshine in Berlin and in Leipzig. I step off the train... and yes, of course, here they are again! I'm surrounded by masses of heavily made up Goths: in the station, on the streets, everywhere.
Apparently there is a yearly gathering in Leipzig of these unhealthy looking descendants of Siouxsie Sioux. I have have now managed to interfere with it twice. Such luck!
May 10, 2012 The meaning of funky
Well, it's a few hours later and a number of proofs of my woodcut have been made. We still don't have the perfect one (i.e. the one were what needs to be right is right and all mistakes are good) but now there is no doubt we are getting there. Of course I'm relieved! And inspired to make new prints. That's the effect you get from hanging out in a print workshop watching your work happen before your eyes.
May 10, 2012 Reading aloud
I'm on my way to Copenhagen , to see how Niels Borch Jensen prints my 26 colour Psycho-Mapping woodcut. I really have no clear idea what will become of it. I have been working on the six woodblocks since February, and in Vienna Michael Schneider made a proof from the black drawing block, but that's what I know. The rest is conjecture, as always in printmaking. Yesterday, Niels told me over the phone that the first tests made in the press had led to far too much stretching of the paper: registration impossible. Worried, he tried handprinting on Japanese paper and later called again to say that he isn't desperate any longer: it might work. The result now is: "funky". I'm curious what that means...
Three days ago, last Monday, I took part in the Berlin launch of the anthology Intellectual Birdhouse, which I have already written about here. Two of the four editors; Ute Meta Bauer and Florian Dombois; were joined by two of the writers: myself and Tom Holert; to each read a piece of text aloud to a rather large crowd (I was surprised) at the bookstore pro-qm in Mitte. I have never read a text aloud before, in the way writers often do. I mean, I write my lectures, so when I lecture I read – but that's quite different because such a text will have been written in order to be communicated aurally, whereas a book text is written to be communicated via a visual interface: letters on a page.
I chose to read the beginning of my short essay "Spying on Sparrows", ending on the following question:
Can ‘precision’ be an expression of the unfulfilled?
The question is rhetorical, obviously. I really do believe that what all the best art have in common, is being very precise expressions of a certain state of "unfulfilledness".
The big question for me now, is how this idea will pertain to my woodcut.
May 8, 2012 Lens based printmaking
I'm on the S-Bahn, returning to Berlin from Potsdam. I was asked to photograph Katrin von Maltzahn's exhibition "Alphabet" in the Brandenburgischer Kunstverein, now on Freundschaftsinsel. Declining this assignment was hardly an option, due to family reasons. My schedule being what it is, I'm not exactly asking for assignments, family or not family. But this turned out well. Some exhibitions come together in such a way that photographing them can be a real pleasure. No matter where you direct your gaze (lens) there's an interesting configuration of light, space and work to be gathered. Katrin's exhibition has this quality. The qualities of her work are brought forward by the configuration of the space, and similarly do the work make you think: what a nice space this is. The show is open until 17.5.
I probably produced 2 Gb of RAW files. The way I (and everybody else) now use the camera in a situation like this has changed irrevocably. Ten years ago (actually, even five years ago) I would have brought my Linhof Technika Kardan with ten loaded 4x5" magazines of negative film = 20 sheets. I would have been very careful with every shot, in order to cover the whole show, with this limited number of pictures. For every shot I would have considered exactly how to focus and whether to restitute the camera in order to correct perspective. It would have been a slow, painstaking process. It would have put me in an intense, contemplative and edgy mood.
I still have my Linhof, and I sometimes use it, but more and more rarely. After having discovered I can correct perspective in Photoshop, and that there are filters to correct lens distorsions (which are so much more pronounced in today's zoom lenses), combined with the fact that I now have a Canon which produces 18 mp files – it's impossible to deny the convenience of being able to correct everything afterwards. So shooting is very fast, for every picture – and you produce so many more than before.
To me it is no longer photography as I once understood this term, but something else.
"Lens based printmaking", perhaps?
April 23, 2012 Marathon
03:55:26 in London yesterday is one of my worst results so far (it was my twelfth marathon since 2001) but it was exactly the time I was aiming for, so I feel strangely content. My preparations have been considerably less extensive for this race, due to time constraints. The body can only perform to the level it has been trained for.
One person died, 1 km before the end. A woman of 30. She must have fallen some minutes before I came: I saw two paramedics fighting for her life.
An observation related to the thought at the end of the post below:
Scientists tell us that the intellectual capacity of Cro-Magnon man (i.e. the painter(s) of Lascaux) was exactly the same as the intellectual capacity of us people here today. In other words: the difference between them and us is one of context and culture: physically we're the same. Now, if we imagine the discoverers of Damien's diamond skull 18 000 years from now, they will most certainly NOT be the same in any physical sense, given what is going on in the labs today.
April 21, 2012 Fish
I'm in London. I arrived yesterday with my friend Michael. We intend to run 42 km tomorrow, along with a bunch of others. It's a good idea to rest before attempting such a task, but right now London offers some very exciting exhibitions. It was necessary to see at least a few.
Gilbert and George presents an enormous body of new work at the White Cube: "The London Pictures". They have spent six years collecting newspaper headline posters, then organized these according to theme, like some Bernd & Hilla Becher without access to cameras. The end result is very visual, of course, as well as moving and disturbing. Photography not allowed in exhibition. I bought a signed poster for 10 pounds: "Hell". The no photography rule applied also to the retrospectives of Alighiero e Boetti and Yaoi Kusama, at Tate Modern. Boetti's pieces can be a little too brainy for them too really work, but when they do, like in the maps and the other works produced in Afghanistan, they combine brain and touch in an incomparable way. I have loved Kusama's work for a long time and this was the most extensive show I have seen. What a panorama! The last room is hung from floor to ceiling with large new canvases in square formats and rude colours with strange mixes between pattern and narration. The fact that many are very ugly only make them more convincing. I really regret not breaking the rules and snapping some spy shots there, or in the infinity mirror space.
Then there is Damien Hirst, also at the Tate. Here I did brake the rules. What can I say? A lot of his work will self-destruct, in so many different ways. It did occur to me though, that if you would take "For the Love of God" and hide it away in a closed off cave for 18 000 years, then, when it is found again, it would probably not have been physically altered in any significant way. Whoever finds it could clean it, polish it, put it back on a piedestal and (re-) start the discussion. As long as there's somebody there.
April 10, 2012 Ocular Lab
If you're in Melbourne, here's an invitation for the opening of the closing exhibition of Ocular Lab, at Margaret Lawrence Gallery on Thursday. I exhibited twice at Ocular Lab on Albert Street: with Tom Nicholson in 2005 and with Katrin in 2007 (no documentation available I realize – have to fix it!). During my first visit to Melbourne in 1998 I borrowed the space from Alex Rizkalla (it used to be his studio) for a few days and made some of my work for the exhibition at "h" there.
To celebrate the Ocular Lab years there will be a book, designed by the eminent Brad Haylock and published by surpllus. The opening on Thursday is the release. For this book Katrin and I have written a collaborative text, which is a first for us. Can't wait to see it!
April 6, 2012 Installation views
Having just made a few amendments to the text about "Lascaux II" that I wrote yesterday, I'm on a different planet to note that a full set of installation views of Katrin's and my exhibition of prints in Tidaholm, is now up. You can start here.
We're both pretty happy with his exhibition. It's far away from the usual art centres, so there might not be masses of visitors. Nevertheless, making an exhibition has a value beyond simple head count (or money count, for that matter). It's also about the organising of knowledge and expression in three dimensional space. For the effort to matter, the event must be public. Then it can be copied, reproduced and used, in so many ways. By the artists themselves – and hopefully by others too.
What ambitions did the painters in the cave have?
April 5, 2012 Copy Cave
Today I had one of the most remarkable art experiences that I can remember. And the intensity of the experience was so strange because:
A. what I saw was not the original work but a copy
B. many dispute whether this work original or copy can be compared with what we call "art" at all
C. the original was made about 18 000 years ago
As you may have guessed by now, this morning I visited "Lascaux II", near Montignac, in the Dordogne in France. I would advice any artist, and especially: any contemporary art theorist, to visit this copy of a cave at some point in time. (And I'd like to thank Markus Rissanen in Helsinki, for giving this idea to me)
Quick recap: The original Lascaux cave was found accidentally by four teenagers in 1940. With its 2000 figures painted on the walls and the ceiling of the cave, it quickly became a major attraction, drawing over a million visitors until it was closed in 1963 because of the deterioration to the paintings caused by the changed atmosphere in the cave (bacteria, fungus, mould due to the presence of those visitors).
Exactly twenty years later the copy cave was opened, 200 meters down the hill from the original. In this new cave the exact configurations of the main part of the original cave (the rooms containing 90 % of the paintings) have been recreated, with a tolerance of +- 5 mm (the guide said). An artist, a woman whose name I didn't get, worked for ten years to recreate the paintings, using the same materials and the same techniques as the original painter(s). She had special permission to visit the original every day, to compare.
The result is truly mind-blowing. The copy is so well made that on the one hand one feels totally in awe of the work by the artists of 20 000 years ago – and on the other hand one is flabbergasted to consider the "copy-aspects" of the work invested. Obviously, I am in no position to compare with the originals, but the aura of authenticity is so strong, there's no urge whatsoever to question what it is one sees. More importantly: no two-dimensional reproduction of these paintings can do them honour. They must be seen in their three dimensional configuration to be understood: the way the drawings have been executed on the bended, uneven surfaces is simply masterful. The way they play with these surfaces. The way the paintings interact with one another.
It becomes very clear that these guys these "artists" were working with a very similar understanding of line and dynamics and the tension between two and three dimensional space to what "we" have, we artists of today. We have a lot more, of course, as a result of 18 000 years of accumulation of interests, knowledge and obsessions. But for the core art experience as such, I'm not sure whether it makes that much of a difference.
Then again: I have only seen the copy.
The perfect post-modern experience.
April 4, 2012 Publicity
On Saturday, April 7, there will appear in the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel a page dedicated to my "Fourth Chimney". Since last fall this paper devote a page each Saturday to a work by one Berlin artist. Now it's my turn.
A long time ago, before I became a "Berlin artist", even before I became a "Stockholm artist" I was an "Uppsala artist". Uppsala, in Sweden, is the town were I grew up. I moved there when I was just turning eight, and I left when I was twenty-two. Important years. For me, especially, because of all the travelling I did from the age of fifteen. In other words, it was not so much Uppsala itself which was important, but the world surrounding it.
Anyway, some time now a new issue of the Uppsala magazine Biz&Art will appear, which includes an interview with me. And late this year, or early next year, I will for the first time make an exhibition of my own in Uppsala, at Uppsala Konsthall "Konsthuset".
March 30, 2012 Tactile Intelligence
The exhibition in Tidaholm is up and running. Katrin and I had great pleasure installing it and looking at it finished. Our works mix really well. I will soon add a full documentation to the site.
The day after the opening there was a public debate organized, where we discussed questions regarding the status of printmaking and its future. I spoke about "tactile intelligence" as a valuable concept in this context. My friend Petter, who is an expert on various craft practices, has noted since, that this notion is commonly used for describing the knowledge beyond language which the master craftsman has "in his hands". I use the term slightly differently, however. I have chosen this term to describe the dual attraction that various (more or less) analog printmaking processes hold on me:
In printmaking there is a very important aspect of having to be able to plan your image several steps ahead, and to being able to plan it speculatively in layers. The "intelligence" applied to this planning is then paired with an equally necessary aspect of being able to inject the project with tactile values in the actual making. When these two aspects come together in a dynamic way, that's when you have a good process.
Brain and Fingerspitzengefühl.
March 17, 2012 Joint Exhibition
Next Saturday is the opening of an exhibition I do together with Katrin von Maltzahn, my wife. This show, titled "Tools and Tricks" will be in Sweden, at Konstlitografiska Museet in Tidaholm, a small museum dedicated to printmaking. Nearby is the workshop where I made three lithographs in 2009, and a further three last year, although two of the editions have not yet been printed.
Katrin and I will show only prints, it will be like a joint print retrospective. I'm really keen on installing the series of six woodcuts I made in 1986, during my second year of art school. I usually think of these prints as the first deliberate works of mine which I can stand for today. Now I'll get to see if they hold up.
The invitation card has an image made from merging one of Katrin's lithos with one of mine. It was fun to do.
March 7, 2012 Google Problem
Today I gave a lecture in Vienna. It took off with Steve Jobs and ended with Ai Weiwei, having spent quite a bit of time with Leni Riefenstahl, Thomas Hirschhorn and Kim Jong-Un on the way. All old acquintances, except Thomas perhaps. I also managed to hang out with Pepper Spray Cop, Valie Export and Barbara Kruger. And Rick Santorum, who is the real reason I'm writing this. Along with so many others, I believe Dan Savage has had at least one moment of pure genius. His initiative should be supported. There are good reasons for it.
February 20, 2012 Neighbour
We had Martin Eberle for dinner. He is our neighbour. Of all people on Earth he is the person living closest to us, just across the landing. Martin is a photographer who makes superb portraits of empty clubs and tired performers. This evening he told us about another project he's been working on for a long time, centered around the golden records carried by the two Voyager space probes, which took off from Earth on August 20 and September 5, 1977. These records contain pictures and sounds of life on this planet. Martin's project revolve around the content and context of this message to those out there. No man made objects have travelled further than those two Voyager probes. Incredibly, they are still sending some information back. Their current positions in space is constantly updated by NASA. Right now Voyager 1 is 17,916,000,000 km from Earth. It is no longer transmitting photographs.
Voyager 1's last photograph of Earth was shot on February 14, 1990. No other photograph of Earth has been made from a greater distance.
At the time of shooting the probe had travelled for 12 years and 5 months and 15 days and was in the vicinity of Neptun. It has since continued on its way for a further 22 years and 6 days.
On February 14, 1990, the image of Earth was no more than a pixel wide.
February 16, 2012 Subculture
A couple of weeks ago I read Just Kids, Patti Smith's book about her relationship, love and friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. It's a deeply moving book, romantic and important in many different ways. Her version of the Rimbaud/Verlaine story, even when the details don't fit. I keep thinking about it and it made me buy, for the very first time, some of her records as well as a Mapplethorpe biography.
Today I finished Sarah Thornton's first book Club Cultures Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. It was published in 1995 and is based one her PhD dissertation. One year ago I read another doctoral thesis, it's subject very different, but I did indeed find some parallells... we either live on islands or try to build them. Thornton's book is a thorough study of the development of the acid house and rave movement in Great Britain in the late 80's and early 90's. The core discussion relate to the creation of what she calls "subcultural capital". This type of cultural capital cannot be directly translated to what is relevant in the art world. But there are interesting similarities and very clearly this study paved the way for Thornton's present career as a very clear-eyed writer on visual art. With her background in Media Studies she's not concerned with applying opaque art theoretical concepts to what she sees, instead she registers and relates how things actually function. With art having converged with the entertainment industrial complex, a background in study of clubs and DJs turns out to be a very useful point of departure for professional art observation. I ordered Club Cultures after having reread Seven Days in the Art World at the end of last year. A brilliant book, which – to my surprise – has made me deeply fascinated with Takashi Murakami.
February 10, 2012 Marlboro
In the last couple of weeks I have grown increasingly fascinated with an outdoor advertising campaign from the cigarette maker Marlboro. It started in a pure typographic manner with variations on the message "NO MORE MAYBE" or just "MAYBE" in capital letters, with the "MAY" part crossed out, the word followed by the image of a Marlboro cigarette pack. Message translated: "Don't waver, be Marlboro". It is not that unusual in Berlin to see advertising using only English language, but this campaign features a double coded message which I imagine would be tricky also in a native English speaking area.
In the last week or so, the typographic messages have given way to new billboards featuring hip and somewhat dishevelled looking twentysomethings; a boy with a guitar, a girl reparing a motorcycle, etc. No cigarettes in picture space. Messages: "Maybe will never write a song", "Maybe will never be her own boss"...
These cool looking young people could have appeared in a number of other lifestyle consumer campaigns, for other cigarette brands or beer or whatever. But this campaign is striking in an unusual way. It has to do with the ambiguity of the message, I think. It has been turned around so many times. What is actually being said here? And who is the target audience?
I don't imagine teenagers walking around pondering "should I start smoking or not? Maybe I should...?". Starting to smoke is seldom a considered decision, I don't think. But on the other side of the argument, society is full of messages, overt and implicit, that tell those who already smoke to stop. So, if I am a smoker (and indeed I am not) I will find myself thinking every so often "Maybe I should stop...". The Marlboro campaign thus turns out to be defensive action, rear-guard battle telling its diehard followers: "don't give up, stay with us. We're cool, not losers."
February 7, 2012 Waiblingen
I just received an invitation informing me that the exhibition "Neue Realitäten. FotoGrafik von Warhol bis Havekost", which was at the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin last summer, now opens at Galerie Stihl Waiblingen, which is near Stuttgart. I didn't know the place before. A quick Google search shows it is more impressive than the name let's on. In the exhibition itself will be my three woodcuts again. They will be in good, if not exactly gender neutral company. In the email is a list of all the artists in the exhibition:
John Baldessari, Mirosław Bałka, Christiane Baumgartner, Lothar Baumgarten, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Falko Behrendt, Jan Berdyszak, Christian Boltanski, Martin Borowski, KP Brehmer, Marcel Broodthaers, Nils Burwitz, Chuck Close, Tacita Dean, Olafur Eliasson, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Franz Gertsch, Richard Hamilton, Eberhard Havekost, Carsten Höller, Jasper Johns, Thomas Kilpper, Ronald B. Kitaj, Roy Lichtenstein, Michael Morgner, Eduardo Paolozzi, Sigmar Polke, Mel Ramos, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Dieter Roth, Kai Schiemenz, Peter Sorge, Klaus Staeck, Simon Starling, Jan Svenungsson, Al Taylor, Rosemarie Trockel, Wolf Vostell und Andy Warhol.
I'm just about to start work on a new, highly complex woodcut intended for my show at Galerie Werner Klein in June. Though it will not feature any dots...
February 7, 2012 Suicide
Mike Kelley committed suicide last Tuesday.
January 31, 2012 Birdhouse
I finally received my copy of Intellectual Birdhouse, an anthology of new texts on "Artistic Practice as Research" edited by Florian Dombois, Ute Meta Bauer, Claudia Mareis and Michael Schwab. As can be gathered from the fourfold editorship it's quite a heavy publication. Sarat Maharaj is contributing, as is Hito Steyerl, Tom Holert, Henk Schlager, Renée Green and many others. The book has been in production for a long time. I wrote my contribution in the summer of 2010. It's called "Spying on Sparrows" and is one more example of me mining for meaning in Hebdomeros. I use two long quotes from De Chirico's novel and construct around them an argument on the nature of "precision in a text".
I am certainly pleased to note that my text has been chosen to come first of the book's 19 contributions.
January 26, 2012 Seaside
Last night at nine, in the dark, I set out on a run in Vienna, along the Donau Canal towards the river itself. It's quite a particular urban situation; for a while I run on a footpath along the canal with an elevated motorway above me, blocking the sky. On wide concrete supports a changing exhibition of ambitious graffitti paintings. There are not many lights, no people, no other runners, just the canal, the implied presence of the road, the concrete.
Then I reach the river. As dark as it is, the other side (actually a very long island in the middle) can hardly be made out. To me, it feels like the edge of the sea, and there's an indistinkt smell of... something... which helps the impression of having reached a destination of some sort. I continue to run up the river, listening to a podcast from American public radio discussing the current race for the Republican nomination, while wondering dreamingly: where am I? How did I happen here? On my left side now, there are train tracks and on the other side a little mountain with vineyards. I can see an illuminated tower and a church floating in the dark sky. Now there's a little village on the left. I use a tunnel under the tracks to make a detour in small streets, with country houses. I imagine being far away, in the country side. Then I turn around and head back towards the city. In my headphones a report from the meeting in Davos going on right now. The worsening situation for Europe and the Euro.
The way back is easy, my body feels light. I could go on for much longer tonight. In my small apartment in Pramergasse I connect my GPS watch to the computer and check where I have been. Kahlenbergerdorf.
January 21, 2012 Looking at things
I apologize, I can't help myself: there is a website called Kim Jong-Un Looking at Things and it's too beautiful not to mention. Apparently it is a knock-off of another site called Kim Jong-Il Looking at Things – which I didn't know existed until now, but where many of the photos are known to me.
In Berlin I live down the street from the North Korean embassy. Outside of its gate is a glassed box display. It features a constant photo exhibition of the Great Leader (Il-Sung) and the Dear Leader (Jong-Il). What they're doing? Well, looking at things, mainly. (I even integrated this display in a little project once.)
In the embassy display the Great Successor (Jong-Un) has not yet shown up looking at things, so it's a great advantage to be able to keep up to date through this new site.
January 15, 2012 Kids
This Sunday morning I began reading Patti Smith's memoir "Just Kids". She describes her very first exposure to art, on a family trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, when she's about 12 years old:
... it was the work in a hall devoted to Picasso, from his harlequins to Cubism, that pierced me the most. His brutal confidence took ny breath away.
January 14, 2012 Kodak
A long article in the Economist about the death throes of Kodak, the company that personified the technology of photography for 120 years. Then two things happened: digital photography killed chemical photography among consumers (= everyone) and telephones became the dominant tool for its capture.
One of many ironies in this story of destructive development is that the very first digital camera was built at Kodak by Steven Sasson in 1975. Another is that when digital cameras became commercially available fifteen years later, Kodak was there first again.
But they didn't get their strategy right. And now, Kodak is facing bankruptcy.
It's both fascinating and very sad to read about this development from a business perspective. Seen from the vantage point of an art historical perspective, photography is a young imaging technology. Yet, there is simply no comparison for how this technique of capturing reality's shadow has been driving cultural development and political change over the course of its existence (170 years).
Over the past ten years virtually all photography based on securing the capture of reality's shadow using a chemical reaction (= a physical process) has been replaced by capture secured in code.
Code is abstraction, code is language.
January 7, 2012 New Year
It's a new year. I have made no resolutions, except to continue. Continue to work hard and trying to achieve... something... in all the different areas where I am active and where I have a passion. One big problem is how to organize my time so as to be able to concentrate on one thing at a time. I'm not exactly alone in having this problem. The whole of society seems hell-bent on convincing everyone multitasking is the greatest talent one can have. It is indeed a necessary talent. Nevertheless, a more important one in the wider scheme of things – and especially for any kind of artist – is to be able to switch the multitasking faculty in oneself off and be with one task long enough to make it pay...
I'm not very good at this. Should get better.