You operate in so many mediums, yet your work has a very specific colloquial message and appeal in the materials used. They tend to almost reveal the apparent falsehood in the socialization of social spaces, and the hierarchies, and false dichotomies of our social lives: the working from the non-working; the youth from the adult. In what way, if any does your day-to-day activities inform you of the subjectivity of your work and at once frame it for the audience?
In my work I am not interested in making such direct moral statements or raising awareness of apparent falsehood in the socialization of social spaces etc. I rather show what I see in front of me without a distance. My day to day activities constantly inform me about my subjective cognition. But I don’t give a frame to it, just a form. The frame is given by the people I am involved with. I try to create a stage, a missing platform, for things happening around us and for those who need to express themselves. I do that in a visual way. There’s no frame to this platform – its size and shape is constantly growing, there’s no limit to its expansion. The way messages occupy space and time varies, therefore I tend to work with different media.
I find your work with the flash of light from the uniforms of what seem to be police officers quite fascinating. I myself have been experimenting with that technique and have found the absence of the individual from the context of their institutional attire interesting way of exposing everyday subjectivities that are informed by institutional behaviors. That image almost seems to play a dual role as a performance for me. Do you see your work as captured performances, and I suppose for that work specifically, performance in themselves?
The photograph shows road construction workers, not police officers – this delusion already explains why I am not interested in everyday subjectivities that are informed by institutional behaviors. It might not be immediately possible to classify the specific context, but it is possible to limit the scope to an activity in the public sector. The flash of light in “Working Class Heroes” made the construction workers shine like popstars, the street being their stage. I don’t see my work as captured performances. My photographs are evidences of actions that have unforeseeably taken place at some point in time. It is important to separate performance from unpredictable action. Performances are artificial, they have a plan beforehand.
How far can you say you are directly involved in your images? Do you plan the shots systematically beforehand or are they shot by chance?
In my artistic practice there is space for different levels of involvement. For example in the legacies left behind in trees in the series “California Love”, action has taken place without my involvement beforehand but I also got involved in the moment when I was leaning at one of those trees, realizing the scratchings and capturing them by camera. Initially I had different intentions when going to Beverly Hills – then this happened instead. Also the work “Yellow Speed” was a shot by chance so to say. I did not know the motorbike would pass me by in that very moment but I was involved anyhow as I was ready for the shot when it passed by. So it is a mixture of fate and fortune by being affirmatively involved without a break. In my other series “The Message”, an ongoing series about text messages I obviously play a role in the interaction since it is a dialogue. Text messages are a side product of my everyday life, therefore the messages again have no performative aspect. They are not planned and not even their form is planned as the content determines the size and material of the print. It is not a question about being involved or not, it is more a question of the degree of involvement.
Some of your work definitely imply a collaborative nature to the production process. How often do you find yourself collaborating?
I do not only collaborate in the production process, but I find myself constantly in collaboration, wether it is an involvement with an object or a subject. There is also involvement when someone is not directly there anymore and has left a legacy that I capture and manifest in form, like in the “California Love” series. My way of collaboration shifts from observing actions to actively producing actions. In how far this is visible in the production process has to do with the form of collaboration.
What are you currently working on? Are you finding yourself experimenting with other mediums/display techniques?
I am currently working on a series of public sculptures. I am working on a billboard series made of steel – the starting point is a photograph called “The billboard” that I took in California last year. Also I am working on big letters made of concrete, text works. Another project I am working on are large prints on building sites and trucks. I spend a lot of time in public places trying to find out what a sculpture out there needs to fulfill and endure and how it can integrate itself in the environment and life of others, how it can simultaneously stay visible and invisible for a long period of time and how it can create a hood, create its very own environment within environments.
I’m not quite sure how the culture of automotive customization is as far as its ubiquity in your current area but it is a big thing in the United States especially with the “Fast and Furious” franchise and the popular American television program “Pimp my ride”. What is it about automotive prosthetics that you find interesting? It is of course something many of us can relate to especially in the car purchasing process when we must decide what features allows us to remove ourselves from the external environment of our auto or complete a certain task. Is this idea something you want to address with the content?
I am not interested in cars as such. I am interested in attitude. If attitude is reflected in the design, shape and power then I am probably interested in that object and its construction of power. What I do find interesting about cars is more the idea of them and aspects such as speed, motion, desire, flexibility, status symbol and freedom. To sit behind the steering wheel is a beautiful and simple allegory to life, the possibility to completely immerse into this world, self-determined on high speed. A car to me is not merely a commodity but an object that triggers fantasy. When I was in California last year I walked into a car workshop and asked the mechanic if I could stay and have a look. I was fascinated by a Chevrolet Camaro RS that was under construction, stuck, waiting, not being able to express its full potential in that environment. I came up much later with the title “Waiting for Lexus” when I was back in Berlin, sitting in the Görlitzerpark close to some dealers where I often heard the name Lexus, some guy they were always waiting for. The car has a symbolic and cultural value and the extraordinary potential of the car is altered by its waiting for repair and by its environment. The car in full perfection also constructs an environment that fulfills your needs and interprets your commands – things it cannot do while it is going through maintenance. The workshop saves the car from corroding and degrading but at the same time does not allow to express its full potential – like pressing pause.The park reminds me of a waiting room. Back in the days it used to be a train station which is such a perfect allegory for what I see happening there now.
Tell us a bit about how your recent shows in Amsterdam and London panned out?
The recent show in Amsterdam was named after my series “California Love”. In my studio in Berlin I had tried out wallpapering two of my works opposite each other, one from the series “California Love” and one from the ongoing series “The Message”. At Ps I was interested to install the works in a similar way in order to create a big time and space span way back to prehistorian cave paintings by blowing the images up into different sizes. After I was being dropped off at Beverly Hills by my brother and curious to see what remained of the image from 90210, I discovered the tree scratchings – a very subtle manifestation of love and legacy of being. The title of the show in London at Ancient&Modern was “Off the Wall”- a large wallpaper that I installed inside the gallery wall, showing the fassade of the bar “Ficken 3000” in Berlin at Urbanstrasse. Also I showed a concrete sculpture which was a cast of the upper body of Federico Epifani aka Ken Fatale – a person that inspires me very much. On the private view he performed the “Survivor (Ken Fatale)”. He was standing still and crossed armed on a plinth in the gallery window, the sculpture behind him captured his posture in concrete. The best view to see the performance was from outside, similar to a shop-window situation. Alongside I showed one piece from the series “The Message” as well as two photographs mounted in plexiglass boxes. In “Off the Wall” I created a space for bringing back to the wall what I had taken off the wall before- therefore the show was very much about an exchange of the inside with the outside. One of my upcoming exhibitions, I am very much looking forward to, will be in January next year at Schaufenster in Berlin with Knut Bäcker, Federico Epifani aka Ken Fatale and Felix Oehmann. Felix and I are the only ones who have Fine Art degrees, Knut and Federico both make art but did not go the ordinary way, which I find very interesting. Besides Felix and I we all met on different Sundays in Berghain in Berlin. But the show is not about the club- that is just the place we first met, which will also be reflected in the title of the show “Welt am Sonntag”, which is also the name of a Sunday newspaper in Germany. “United Colors” was the title of Felix and my first solo show we had together at Cruise&Callas in Berlin at the beginning of this year – also here the title refers to the first place where Felix and I probably met for the first time. Back in the days my dad used to run a Benetton store and after school I was always in the store standing in the window or doing homework in the storage. Felix mom sometimes used to shop clothes for him there, but we only met about 15 years later – so when Felix and I moved into our first studio which was a former shop, I had the idea to paste the logo of the Benetton store on top of our studio entrance. In autumn we will also be showing together at the debutant exhibition of the art academy Karlsruhe, where we also studied together in the same class. Every year the academy selects and invites two artists who have completed their studies there. It is the first time in the history of the Art Academy Karlsruhe that they invite two people who have studied in the same class. Another upcoming show will be on the 12th of june at Christopher Cresent, to which I am also looking forward very much – it will be my first show in Brussels.
If you weren’t making visual art, what would you have done instead? You have an interesting c.v. in that you moved from philosophy to fashion and art proper. Was the idea to make art something that you did not embrace initially in your academic career?
If I was not an artist I would probably be a rapper. Rap can be a mirror of society, demonstration and voice in the form of poetry and its language sustains a whole institution. I never moved from philosophy to fashion and so on. From the very beginning of my studies I enrolled in fine art and always stayed in the same sculpture class, therefore, I also consider my photographs as sculptures as I have a sculptural approach to photography. Also, I treat the photographs in a similar way like sculpture as there is no reproduction of a photo. There can be two or three versions of a photo in size and material, but usually there is only 1/1 + 1 ap. Alongside my fine art studies I studied philosophy for three years. After I finished my studies in fine art I wanted to study fashion for one year before I started to do my master of fine arts in London. Philosophy and fashion were precious extensions to my studies in fine art. During my studies I would also travel to other cities to ask artists for tutorials – for example after seeing a great work of Urs Lüthi at the ZKM, I found out his contact details and went to see him for a colloquy in Kassel.