Interview with TOMAK | Choking at second glance

artandsignature

http://www.artandsignature.com/interview-with-tomak-choking-at-second-glance/

 

 

TOMAK – the Posterboy of Antikunst does not seem to believe in relaxation. After several exhibitions and collaborations in the last year, he now presents his current drawings at the Bruseum in Graz in the exhibition “The Marked Self”, publishes his next book in September and still keeps on working fanatically. Daniel Lippitsch sat down with TOMAK to discuss the boringness of contemporary art, why art students have to show resistance and why galleries take themselves far too seriously…

 

Looking at your body of work, one thing that stands out is the ever-expanding range of media you use. How does working with sculpture, collage, painting, drawing, etc. influence your creative process?

My work is always based on a some form of specific, existing image, or on reality in general. For the sculptures, I had busts made of myself. The way politicians used to, since antiquity. Sculptures always served as proof of a person’s existence. These existing images or subjects are then processed, disturbed, fragmented, or approached through a variety of media. I burned one of the heads, cut another bust into cubes, to others I added metal elements like huge steel teeth. I caricatured myself, transforming the solemnity of the political bust into a richer, more artistic, more aesthetic approach to the subject.

 

So it’s more about self-destruction than self-glorification?

At first glance, people who don’t know me notice a certain bathos when looking at the self-portrait drawings or the busts. At second glance, and this second glance is crucial, you become aware that the topics are addressed in a very substantial manner: I, the EGO. The EGO is the basis of every artist’s work. We all see the world differently; we express the things that affect us, transmit them out into the world. This act of “transmitting-into-the-world”, for example by self-portraits, certainly bears the risk of coming across as bathetic. My interest in the self-portrait was sparked by Frida Kahlo. I saw one of her drawings. I hadn’t drawn since I was thirteen, and then I went to an exhibition where suddenly this work by Frida Kahlo stood out; as an incredible beacon of light. It was a small drawing, in a style similar to her paintings, on which she wore a heart on her forehead,. That picture inspired me to start drawing again. Until that point my drawings had actually been texts.

 

What do you mean by that?

They consisted of text. Sheets of drawing paper that only had text written on them.

 

And why do you see them as drawings?

Because they’re pictures. Because as soon as I frame it, a sheet of paper with writing on it becomes a picture. Then I started to add drawings to the text. I would draw in very small things. The content always provided the framework. The content made the pictures. Then the themes got bigger. I started making series. There were five text sheets with lines drawn on them, five millimeters apart. Here the Vienna Group with Gerhard Rühm, who also uses text-based work with added drawings, had a crucial impact. These pieces evolved into series. That’s something I always really liked, because with a series you can manage to achieve a theatrical effect. One thing builds on another. The text sets the tone. Then the image follows, then another text, and then maybe a larger image.

 

Was literature the origin?

My origin is in the act of writing. But also literature, because when you go out on the street and look at people, it can be hard to capture this experience solely with pictures. You do need words as well.

 

Is that why you integrate a lot of writing into your work?

The writing is crucial. Because the text describes what I’m feeling, and naturally you also try to develop a style. To make the texts readable. So that the texts can also be published in book form. At the same time though, I’m a very visual person. The visual impressions that I get on the street, in the supermarket or in the countryside … When I see all these morons, at some point I have to start writing. A person needs an outlet, and it’s the writing that constitutes my actual outlet, not the visual arts. Otherwise I’d just have to set certain people on fire…

 

Would you agree that in the pieces that incorporate text, the text itself is the primary medium?

You have to get people’s attention with nicely drawn elements, which at second glance – and maybe it is all about the second glance today – end up getting stuck in their throats. These nicely drawn things. Of course, you can also paint brutal things. There are also forms of painting that manage to get things stuck in your throat. But these days not even the curators are capable of judging painting anymore. You can see that on the art market. You can see that at art fairs. Finding art there is like mushroom hunting.

 

Do you see art fairs more like shabby sales events?

They’ve become design fairs.

 

In my opinion, art, especially when viewed from the perspective of the 60s and 70s, has largely become rather an aesthetic accessory than a medium of criticism.

That’s right. It could also be a medium of aesthetic criticism, if we’re talking about “just” painting. But look at Picasso’s late pictures. To me, late Picasso is the greatest there is. It’s always incredibly refreshing, to step into any museum anywhere in the world, and to come across one of his monsters. Wild. Raw. Brutal. Colorful. Insolent. Fresh. I don’t see that at art fairs today.

 

The art is becoming too tangible. Too simple, to some extend.

That’s slick, polished design …

 

Things become beautiful, aesthetic, pleasant. Digestible.

Nothing sticks with you. There are certainly a few exceptions. You can also club the recipient over the head once in a while. That’s the purpose of art, after all. That’s my opinion. That has always been the purpose of literature. I’m an Austrian. And Austria has produced some tough bastards. Hypersensitive people who are exposed to this society and have to find a way to deal with it. Because they can’t help it. Otherwise they’d have to go home and do something drastic to themselves. If you go to the local bar somewhere in the countryside, you’ve only got two options at the end of the night: either to punch someone in the face or to go home and write about it. Or you punch them in the face, take a picture of it, and write something underneath. And that brings us to my drawings.

 

That already explains the process.

Yes, exactly. And it’s not just like that in the countryside, it’s the same everywhere. People aren’t just idiots in Austria, but also in Germany. They’re idiots in England as well as in France. Basically, people are idiots all over the world. We could perhaps contemplate why they are idiots. Most likely we would find out that it’s the various moral constraints or child-rearing measures that keep people stupid, and make them stupid on purpose; unfortunately also socialism also has that effect on people.

 

Watzlawick has addressed that.

That’s just how it is, humankind is kept stupid. Then an artist comes along and criticizes that. Art exists to sharpen the senses. That’s why it’s about the second glance. As head-on as my pictures in part may seem, there’s also a lot of content in that directness.

 

I’d like to quote Elsy Lahner briefly: “For the artist himself, TOMAK is a fictional character, an antithetical position, the opportunity to counter what our society considers acceptable.” How important do you consider the breaking of taboos, these excesses of the everyday? Especially in your current series you refer to the Marquis de Sade in one of the titles and work with a Chanel logo. Does that reflect this need to cross lines? I mean the images are powerful. They slap you in the face. They stimulate. How do you see your use of text in this regard? Especially the literature used has a very distinctive content.

I look for abysses. I don’t know if these are my abysses, or whether it’s necessary to expose others to those abysses. Because de Sade is the anti-Kant. I want to represent a certain antithesis. That brings us back to the TOMAK persona – a nom de guerre as Gerald Matt put it so well. Like Lenin.

 

It also communicates strength.

TOMAK says he is TOMAK, and Falco says he’s Falco, and Madonna says she’s Madonna. Let’s stick to Madonna. She has always embodied the opposite of the Madonna. This OPPOSITION is a very important point of art in general. The OPPOSITION is also ANTI. That’s why artists like Nietzsche bring up the Antichrist. You have to present society with its opposite, put an abyss in your picture that might not constitute an actual abyss, but rather a different perspective on a problem. The problem of humanity. The problem of God. The problem of civilization. Using these artistic possibility helps to refine the way we look at a problem. The problem of viewing art. The problem of networks, for example.

 

Networks? To what extent is that expressed in the work?

My pictures are woven together by networks. By veins, for example.

 

So, in the anatomical sense?

In the symbolic sense: these veins, these networks, these lines, these webs. Just like nature, which is woven together by networks. When you look at a river from above, it’s like a system of veins. My handwriting is the same, and it is meant to be read that way. The same goes for machines, circuits, computer circuitry. That gets also woven into these pictures to illustrate these networks. The interesting thing is that I come from a time when a household still only had one phone.

 

A lack of networking, that is.

A lack of communication. The communication mania we have now obviously brings about its own problems, especially in the sense of eavesdropping, for the purposes of spying on the public. That’s always been the goal of the state, and it became reality long ago. You can also take a terrorist approach to that. I can even imagine doing performances on that topic at some point.

 

You would do performance- and intervention-based work?

Yes. I’ve always done performances from time to time. There were about ten performances, I think, at Kunsthalle Vienna alone. These were always performances that originated from my ‘drawing texts’, which I then staged.

 

What were those like?

With actors. Projections. A rock band. It was always a huge spectacle. Gerald Matt encouraged it. Initially he thought that I was a performance artist. Until he saw my pictures at the Kunsthalle. This was also a big achievement for me, showing 25 paintings at the Kunsthalle, in a country where painting has always been neglected. That’s something you cannot emphasize enough. We’re suddenly talking about graphic art again, because here you can talk about the content. But it’s very difficult for curators and other decision makers in the arts to talk about painting.

 

It’s become an antithesis by now.

The perception of course is that painting is something sensual. But my paintings come from the graphic work, which comes, in turn, from the word. But in the end a good picture is a good picture. Who is able to judge what a good picture is? Not many! Having this ability to judge takes you further and further away from people who, for example, have studied art history for two or three semesters. It takes them forever to understand what Martin Kippenberger, for example, meant with his “Handpainted Pictures.” Curators are only now beginning to understand these pictures. And when a curator understands it, a gallerist will understand it, and in the end a buyer will understand it. That takes a while.

 

What do you think about the theorization of art in general?

It’s inevitable.

 

I am rather talking about something that comes from the outside. Thus not directly from the artist, not even necessarily from the curator, but rather the general theorization of art, the exaltation of art, the auratic aspect of art that is often added, and a lot of people are ‘puking’ their opinions all over it. In the end, no one really knows anything. What do you think about this overtheorization? The idea that art, respectively the deeper meaning of art always has to be something sublime? Maybe it’s meant to be direct and not sublime? Maybe it should slap you in the face.

Kippenberger matches this question perfectly. Because he actually kept bringing this auratic aspect of art back to its essence, though to this day not everybody understands that. I have been to Frankfurt recently, where I spoke to two gallerists, and I realized that the Germans have gone back to the Biedermeier era. It started with the Leipzig School, and now they’re painting hedges.

 

It’s easily digestible …

It’s bourgeois – German! So I said: “But you have people like Jonathan Meese.” And he says, “Yes, but he doesn’t sell.” Then I said: “Sure, a fucking hedge, of course every German Biedermeier industrialist is going to hang one of those up in his drawing-room.” But it isn’t art. Today, people discuss art in terms of ranking. Of course, an artist who sells well is going to have a good gallerist. That good gallerist will then get the artist into a good museum.

 

It really is a kind of commercial treadmill.

These days, if it’s tasteful and pleasant it can be easily sold to a Russian prole. What kind of people are art buyers? They’re real estate people, construction magnates; they’re a bunch of proles with money. They have no understanding of art. They visit an art fair and buy a fucking hedge or some other nicely painted shit. They understand that. That’s the art market. The word “art market” didn’t exist twenty years ago. Take pop music, for example. There’s good pop music, but up at the top there’s the worst crap ever. That’s how you have to look at it. The slicker the shit they make, the more people will buy it.

 

So it’s better to dissociate oneself from this commercial treadmill and these buyers?

I earned a lot with the drawings, you know. Every idiot wanted one of those drawings, and they all got one. Until I said stop. I could still be doing that. Then I’d be known for the drawings, I’d probably be in the Museum of Modern Art. It really was a treadmill. But I said to myself, this constant, daily repetition of the same shit is so boring. I have too many ideas. So I started making sculptures. It was a disruption to what I had been doing, though it still had the same theme. But I made sculptures. Then I made these collages, in which I completely destroyed this image of myself. I thought I was done with that. During the past two years I had some great exhibitions of my paintings, some great achievements. My work was bought by major collections. So I thought I was finished, and then suddenly I am invited to participate in the portraiture exhibition The Marked Self.

 

Isn’t it nice though to return to drawing? Or do you look at drawing differently now?

I want to make it even better. I want to make it even more sculptural. I want to give myself more time. I’ll only make six or seven drawings, and then go back to painting. I’m happy to do it for one-off things like this one, for a museum. You have to. It’s an accomplishment, after all, and should be celebrated. You can always challenge your own work. Your own oeuvre. There are only a few artists who did that over and over again, Picasso for example. Closure is always a wonderful thing in life. I mean, to spend a lifetime with the same woman, that’s boring. You have to be able to bring things to a close. You have to make new conquests, new discoveries. That’s what it’s about. What’s on the other side of the mountain? Is there anything? If you don’t go, you’ll never know.

 

But won’t this restless pursuit of life kill you eventually?

No, I think that those who are really driven live to be very old.

 

If they don’t happen to slam into a tree.

This state of being driven has something beautiful to it as well. The point at which I felt the worst – mentally, physically, and emotionally – was when I was stuck in this commercial treadmill. Another five drawings here, another twenty there, and the collector wants another five, and so on. I had to make a clean break, and it had to be rigorous, in terms of the gallery as well.

 

That was difficult in your case. You left the gallery. You’re working together with LISABIRD Contemporary now?

Exactly, and I work with others as well. These are young people. With Lisa Kandlhofer I’m participating in fairs in Istanbul, have solo shows in Dallas, maybe solo shows in Vienna, and so on. She’s also in the process of establishing herself. She has a good international network. That’s very important to me.

 

She generally promotes good artists.

And makes a good impression as well. Travels a lot. That’s very important. The older the gallerists get, the more likely they are to sit around in their galleries and instead of going outside, they let the people come to them. That’s the wrong approach. I need a young mind. I need a young spirit. I need a young will. I need interaction.

 

Why are galleries still expected to have a cultural obligation? That’s what the museums do. And they do it well. They make an effort. I think that galleries per se are no longer entitled to put on brilliant exhibitions. They don’t even need to have a physical space anymore, theoretically. Their job is to sell. To increase artists’ visibility. Auction houses don’t flaunt wonderfully curated, political exhibitions either.

Most studios are bigger than galleries. But the galleries have 25 artists, and you can’t represent 25 artists. My advice to gallerists has always been that you can represent a core group of five people. That’s plenty. That means an exhibition of two-month at the gallery, and the rest of the day is spent getting these artists known to museums, collections, art associations, to do little promotions, to get to know the artist. In a case like that I’d be happy to be represented exclusively. But not when everything just gets fired off quickly. And that’s what usually happens.

I am always surprised by what’s happening today. I came to Vienna at a very interesting time. Influenced by people like the Wiener Gruppe, Günter Brus, Attersee. Attersee did some really great things and had some big successes. Because his paintings took an opposite stand to the negativity in Austrian art at the time. Which makes some of his paintings seem all the more malevolent. My criticism of all this Actionism stuff is that it actually constitutes a violation of one’s own soul, the soul of the poor little sensitive artist. And then this poor little sensitive artist points to his distress and helplessness in the face of society. But I’m a child of the 80s, where people just set fire to things. That’s more my kind of thing, of course. Though the visual language and also the physicality of Actionism are still incredibly fantastic and influential.

 

Especially Brus, I would say.

Brus, Schwarzkogler, etc. – Muehl is also very important. All of them are great artists. Already during the worldwide hippie phase – the Fantastic Realists, who also came from Austria, were a part of it – they made work that was thoroughly anti-art. You won’t find the Fantastic Realists anywhere today. And maybe that isn’t the fate they deserve, I have to say in all honesty. But there’s just no lobby behind them. That’s the market for you. Who knows what will happen to certain things being hyped right now, and how low they’ll sink. That’s my point. It’s similar to stocks, to real estate. Warhol is always at the top because of two American collectors. One of them always puts the work up and the other buys it.

 

They also maintain his value.

And that brings us to the auctions. This is where it is done. In reality it’s manipulation.

 

You probably have manipulations in any market. You have to keep the market value up after all.

That’s totally legitimate. They keep Andy Warhol’s market value up. Suddenly instead of 50 Marilyns there are 500, wherever they might come from…

 

You almost have to respect the forgers.

I hope they’re getting a cut of the profits. That’s the market. This word “art market” is to blame for certain undesirable developments, especially regarding young art, respectively modern, contemporary art. There are Documenta artists you’ve never heard of before and will never hear of again afterwards. In the past, exhibiting at Documenta meant you had it made. Today things are different. There’s artistic development and then there’s market development. I like the artistic development. If I were to follow what the market dictates, then I would only draw. Easy. But I want to develop artistically. I’m lucky enough to have recognition. The only recognition that’s really worth anything is that of other artists. And I have that. I look for it. What constantly gets publicized, though, are these nicely painted pictures. We should really be finished with these nicely painted pictures. That’s my opinion.

 

But maybe that’s exactly what needs to return. Maybe you have to see this more cyclical.

Of course, everything is cyclical. Just like fashion is cyclical. But then we’re talking about fashion and not about art. In art, if we’ve seen it before, it isn’t art, unless it’s an excellent citation. For example the technique recently used by this Triegel guy to paint the Pope so exquisitely, isn’t new. The composition isn’t new. Anyone who paints the Pope this uncritically can kiss my ass anyway. But these are the people who are basically printing money. These are the people who can function in a market. Because some random degenerate idiots say “I understand that.” There’s nothing to be misunderstood anyway. But if there’s nothing to be misunderstood about art – it isn’t art.

But that also has to do with the new wealth spreading all over the world. The opening of markets, which then affects regions where there has not been any education for almost seventy years. Yet that was when the most was happening in art: during the last century. They missed all of that because they were isolated from these ideas and thoughts and developments for political reasons. These developments do exist, we’re talking about Mike Kelley, Kippenberger, etc.. They didn’t come out of nowhere. Mike Kelley is very important to mention. He’s mentioned far too little. Punks like that no longer exist. Where are they? I mean, they all act as if they were punks, but they don’t do anything punk. That’s the problem.

 

The radical attitude is somewhat missing.

Yes. The freshness. The rawness. The brutality. The fucked-up-ness. And still, or maybe because of that, it’s good.

 

But the focus doesn’t always have to be on the radical. It doesn’t always need to be radical.

No, not radical in its idea, but in its the execution.

 

What do you think of street art in general, and what’s emerging from this whole conglomeration?

Street art in a gallery isn’t street art, in my opinion. Street art is rather a social statement. Spraying or installing something on a wall, or setting a car on fire, that’s street art. Street art is just today’s hype. What’s happening today happens because it’s hip and some young collectors are into it. They want something hip, colorful, cheeky.

 

Cheeky, like a naughty little sprite.

They want a naughty little sprite on the wall, saying ”cunt.” In which case they ought to get it spray-painted on their fucking car, and then I’ll smash the windshield with a sledgehammer five times or so, and then it will be street art. Taking street art off the street and putting it in a gallery is stupid. Then it isn’t street art anymore. Street art is supposed to communicate something to the public. A gallery isn’t the public.

 

It’s not a cultural institution anymore.

There are no more discussions in the gallery. There’s no brawling there. There’s no fighting for something. There’s no fighting over positions, everything is simply accepted. Everything is consumed and everything is made consumable.

 

I’m always a little ambivalent reagarding that issue. Also when it comes to the commercialization of the artist per se, for himself. I think it’s logical and I would do it as well. The artist virtually has to commercialize himself to a certain extent otherwise he won’t survive. He can’t live on air alone.

Commercializing means marketing. You have to market yourself today in terms of curators, in terms of directors. That’s a big task by itself. To meet these people, to communicate with them, to inform them that you exist. That’s not as simple as it once was. In the past, there were five galleries. Today there are countless galleries in Vienna alone. Of course, in the end there are only five that have the connections. The general public becomes an additional factor during an exhibition or performance. Then the press joins in and does an interview. Obviously that’s a forum that you can utilize as an artist.

 

Yes. And also need to utilize. It’s something you should do. I think this concept of the lonely philosophical artist in his garret is a little over the top.

That’s over anyway. You have to go out and put your head on the block. After a while you end up with a pretty hard head. And at some point you become such an incredible smart ass, and you have to become that way in order to keep all of this stuff at bay. And going out costs such an incredible amount of energy, it takes a lot of energy to constantly expose yourself to attack.

 

But you, for example, do it very well.

Well I also have a nom de guerre. They are shitting themselves when I show up. That’s something you have to learn as well. Being an artist means being sensitive. You have to be highly sensitive, after all. So you need to put on this virtual battle gear, to protect yourself a little. Recently a curator came up to me and said  – and this is the best line ever –  after she had seen a larger exhibition of mine: “It seems to me that there is rather little content.” My pictures. Little content? How do you respond to that?

 

Take another look.

I said: Ah, that’s interesting. Afterwards I sent her things to let her know about the content. I mean, if someone doesn’t see what it’s about … Among the subjects was degenerate art. There was the subject of religion. There was the subject of humankind, God. I mean everything, the whole world. All this worldly wisdom was on display in the exhibition. And yet she didn’t see it. Maybe it’s a consequence of the individual’s cultural background and the resulting problems when one is not able to recognize things. But then you are in the wrong line of work as a curator of modern art. If you were born Catholic, your ability for discourse will surely be limited. This discourse that no longer takes place, but is still important. I can explain in one sentence why it no longer takes place: Because the Jewish culture is missing.

 

In what context?

Jewish culture is the culture of discourse. If you wipe out all of the Jews, you can’t expect to find a discourse happening fifty years later, because that discourse no longer exists. That culture no longer exists here. That culture no longer exists in journalism, in art, or in literature. They all write like rednecks today. That’s the way it is. Try being a writer who writes sophisticated literature in Austria. Try being a painter who paints sophisticated pictures in Austria. It’s the same everywhere. The stupider the shit is, the greater the recognition.

 

Yes, it almost has a Sunday brunch atmosphere. It hurts to watch. Might as well have Thomas Bernhard as a coffee table book. It does get brutal at some point. Education was also something t I wanted to address, because you made theWaldorf-Astorias.

I explored the subject of the chalkboard with a selection of students. That was a very interesting experience. Because I didn’t show up like the professor of a painting class, instead I went there and told them: The theme is the chalkboard. I set the parameters. There is a paint for chalkboards, that’s what it’s called: chalkboard paint.

 

You mean the actual paint?

Right. The paint you use to make a chalkboard. You can draw and write on it with chalk, and of course you can also paint on it. The chalkboard as a picture. It’s not new. Joseph Beuys did it in his diagrammatic drawings, and Rudolf Steiner made chalkboard drawings. I was invited to go there and came up with this concept. And it showed how misguided the young people are about art. Because art education tells them what art is. It was interesting to see that only five out of 25 students really understood what it was about. They ended up staying on and made great pictures.

 

And how did you integrate them?

I didn’t integrate anybody at all, because art doesn’t integrate …

 

No. I am talking about the pictures. What happened to the pictures? How did that work?

Well, it worked as follows: we primed an incredible number of surfaces, and everyone chose their own. I chose twenty large surfaces and painted some right at the school. I was always ready to communicate with the students, who could come and see how I approached it. For the first month they couldn’t get the hang of it at all. None of them. Until they started making little drawings and writing short texts, making little things. And then suddenly you could see that something was happening. It started to become art.

I had to abduct them from their education, from their miseducation, their delusion, I would almost say. Because in the beginning they all painted a bunch of sunsets and impressionistic shit. I didn’t restrict their freedom, but I restricted the technique. They had to come up with the messages themselves. They could have simply put a pink splotch on it and I’m sure this would have been good, and it could have been declared art if it had turned out well. I kept this last option open for myself. They were all free to do as they pleased. Only the final word on art was up to me. I had a Muslim girl in the group who was very reluctant at first. Then I discovered her sketchbook, which was full of nothing but sadomasochistic drawings.

 

De Sade.

A Muslim girl with a headscarf, 17 years old. So I told her I thought it was very good. So then she mustered up the courage to try working on the surfaces, the large big ones, and made three great paintings. One of them I wasn’t allowed to exhibit. Because it looks like – at least I interpreted this way – as if she were penetrating herself with the crescent moon. It’s great. And she wants to continue painting. I apparently inspired and liberated her. This act of liberation – that’s what it’s about. Resistance makes the best art. Where there is resistance you get street art, poster art, text, you know? That’s where the energy is. Where the fire is. Where the fire needs to be. That’s where art happens.

 

So the goal was virtually to dismantle some of the domestication of the character as well as the way art is seen and dealt with.

As an adolescent you do have to be roughly aware of what previously existed, otherwise it wouldn’t interest you. It’s just the educational approach that is completely wrong. They start with the Impressionists and all that crap. That’s the last thing you need. What you need most, in fact, are those insane gothic pictures. Some of that stuff is really trippy. And they should go to modern art exhibitions and look at the work. That’s not boring either. If you communicate it the right way. What’s boring is fucking Monet with his fucking water lilies. It’s boring for a 16-year-old, who is connected to the entire world through his iPhone. And then he has to look at this garbage that may have been artistically important, but doesn’t correspond to the vocabulary of a teenager.

 

You can’t knock Monet, now. Those are some incredible things.

I don’t. I’m only knocking him now because that is where the concept of art seems to stop.

 

Yes, because it returns to the purely aesthetic.

No, because it stops there, actually. That’s what they teach: That’s it. But that was 120 years ago. The last century is the century of art. Period. And that starts with Duchamp. You have to teach art starting there. You have to know what came before. You have to teach art differently. That’s my approach. That’s why I’d say to a 16-year-old: “Why do you want to paint like Monet?” There’s culture. There are advances in science. There’s your world. And that’s the culture you live in.

Painting is a really old medium, which once had the same purpose as a poster or a movie or a picture on Facebook or a photograph has today. Nothing else. They’re all pictures. The culture of image-making arose in order to communicate something, especially for people who couldn’t read. That’s why a picture is still a good thing, because many people can read now, but not in the same language. That’s why images are still powerful. That’s why we have a picture on every cover of every magazine instead of a sentence. Except maybe “We are the Pope.” That’s certainly unbeatable. But otherwise an image is the strongest medium, and you can play with that. You can make people aware of that play. That doesn’t mean that the image always has to be a poster or always has to be powerful. It can also be very quiet.

 

Maybe just an abstract line.

You can also be very quiet. We’re being very loud here when we talk, very male, very combative. But quietude is also my thing, of course. That’s probably something you only notice at second glance.

 

Interview by Daniel Lippitsch

 

This interview is an excerpt of the original version which will be published in “MALPRACTICE” by September 2015 in connection with a TOMAK solo-exhibition at Lisabird Contemporary in Vienna.

 

 

 

 

July 7, 2015