http://www.kuenstlerhaus.de/en/studio-program (Künstlerhaus Stuttgart / 3.rd Floor -studios. Photo by B. Kahrmann)
Located at the Reuchlinstrasse 4B in Stuttgart West, Künstlerhaus Stuttgart is a non profit art institution with an international exhibition program as well as workshops and studios. Here, some of the artists who have been working in these studios; Matthias Megyeri, JAK and Eva Schmeckenbecker have answered my questions related to their practice...
Bernhard Kahrmann, Untitled, 2011. Installation view at Galerie Reinhard Hauff, Stuttgart
Future Audience Feuilleton: Bernhard, I am very interested in the way that you deal with light, shadow and the physicality of anything appears in your photographs. In terms of the style, I can connect you with so many contemporary photographers today, in terms of how they are also obsessed with paper, print, ink etc. Talking about your case, how would you elaborate your obsession with material, color and technique?
Bernhard Kahrmann: If we are talking about the issues of technique, then the answers are quite closely linked to what it is truly about my work. The aim of my artistic research production is mostly based on creating vibrations between material and content. I am fascinated by the possibilities of developing new motives from diverse kinds of materiality, and experimenting with that sort of ambiguity in the process within a poetic kind of way. Light is magic! You catch it at such a moment that it will never be the same as it is captured in the camera. It raises the question how to mediate certain photographic moments. Only in three-dimensionality, the light clearly emerges as it is; the light and the shadow appear together… I'm interested in pure forms of material/medium within its possible deviations. Some of my installations, especially the ones with slide projectors, were composed into a sort of rhythm regarding the mechanical movements of image transfer.
FAF: You also collect some images that you are not "exhibiting" but "posting"? Tell me more about your blog.
BK: The blog entitled certainmemories.net is a collection of images that mostly come from my personal life, observations of daily life, and everyday reality. I am mostly trying to capture such atmospheric moments that freeze the real life for me. This comes with a peculiar interest in the image. Even it is just posting an image like many others, some of these images might be very different than some others… The title of the blog comes from the title of a series of video animations "certain memories", which were also created by the help of light and movement. The animations were shown via the Hantarex CRT monitors, on which the light literally shines… Everything loops in a sort of vague at one point when time and space juxtapose. That seems to be a good example of differentiating an artwork being exhibited and the blog as another format for presentation. Of course, I am not posting everything that I photograph since some of these pictures make the transition towards a process of becoming an artwork, which is shown only in exhibitions.
Matthias Megyeri, ‘sweet dreams security’ ™, barbed wire woven with butterflies, 2003 http://www.deardad.net/sweetdreamssecurity.html
FAF: Matthias, when did you start working for the project, Sweet Dreams Security? Is there any personal memory behind the artistic idea?
Matthias Megyeri: First thoughts towards this project started to develop in January 2003 through snapshots I took, first in Camberwell then later all around London, and through collecting odd magazines from South London corner shops like “Crime”. “Sweet Dreams Security®” is a reaction to and an outcome from the everyday surrounding I encountered. I guess, I was always interested in reflecting what pops up in front of me and transfers it back to where it came from — and there I saw a chance in a.) and amplifying what’s out there already, to make it perceivable for a broad range of people and b.) by doing that to offer an ambivalent approach to the obvious problem. Highlighting the issues of fear/paranoia and kitsch/cuteness but leaving the understanding of the work open to the audience/viewer/customer.
FAF: Sweet Dreams seems to be very generous to us in terms of showing how insecure we are in hiding behind stupid security solutions. How is the project going to continue?
MM: By starting a company and realizing deals with the industry (of many sorts), I would be tempted to say that the work proved that there is a realistic and lucrative market for “Sweet Dreams Security®” products. Looking at Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs I’d say the reason for this is based as well on the “Safety” need level but also on the “Self-actualization” need level — which gives me a lot of room to manoeuvre and play...
FAF: So are you currently mainly working on this project?
MM: No. As you know I’m currently teaching at the UdK as a guest professor for “aesthetic practices/fine art” and I’m pretty much absorbed by that because I very much like the fact that this course is situated within the faculty of design; meaning I’m taching the fashion and product design students. This could be exciting when considering fashion items and products to be potential vehicles for artistic questions, no? Also I had to develop my artistic practice, the “Hangings”, to get closer to my actual starting points. You have to see the book!
JAK, "Wonderland" 2010
FAF: Who is JAK?
JAK: I mostly deal with a sort of nomadic practice. His schyziophrenic actions with constantly varying languages, cultural characteristics and characters make him a stranger. The constant confrontation with the configurations of his artistic being, the friction and the productive process are central aspects which are now also reflected in a new work, a novel. In cooperation with the designer Demian Bern, EXP.edition, a new format of artistic action is being created and instruments for the perception and reflection of contemporary art. How does one create relations in the mind of the viewer? The novel as a fiction with connections to reality, as a Machina Didactica, to launch the myth of the artist and to create a protagonist with references to his real existence or the draught of itself. The Iranian author and director Hamed Taheri creates the artist as a literary figure who develops a new perspective “beyond the stranger“ by his constant personal as well as multicultural friction. The novel shows another artistic concept, which JAK initiates and in direct intervention further manipulates and thereby making it the artist's book with several levels. Taheri invents social environments in 12 chapters – the protagonist JAK travels through different time zones and towns like Bagdad, Paris, Davos or Istanbul to be confronted with political, erotic or poetic motives. JAK develops into the prototype of an artist who works, experiences and collects.
To initiate a direct dialogue between local and imported culture the artist has established himself in the art world and integrated himself as an active artifact into the work. Thus the literary format becomes an “active museum“ in which a speculative intercultural dialogue is articulated. Thus the project opens itself to an intensive contextualization and, starting with the mother tongue German, it is planned to be translated step by step into different languages. So languages are authentically added to the virtual construct which JAK imports to the respective places of his artistic production. An artistic position is created which, like a mobile exhibition format, designs through the story in a kind of “remote performance“ the character JAK and is respectively discussed in a global-local context.
As the novel is “narrative carrier” and “impulse giver” for the imaginative as well as the critical discussion between artist and his surrounding, such are new formats of space- and site-specific forms of presentation developed from the mixture of art figure and artistic work, briefly stories to be read and experienced.
"Who the fuck is JAK?"
This question remains - finally it cannot be evaluated any more which parts of JAK’s existence is incorporated into the novel and which literary relations as well as the perspectives resulting from it come as an addition. Myth and reality of the artist are mixed and thus allow a process of creative occupation as well as reflection of the artistic process.
Eva Schmeckenbecker, o.T. (Baustelle am Hauptbahnhof Stuttgart), 2002, C-Print
FAF: I have two difficult questions in my mind when I think about your work. I cannot differentiate them from each other. Let`s try if it does make sense. Do you improvise with your material? How do you approach your content?
Eva Schmeckenbecker: I'm interested in the links between my working process, the motives and formal aspects. In a way, my working process is accumulating the individual marks so that the content is changing. In the recent years, one aspect of my work was manipulating pictures in a physical way that means for example: ironing, skinning, cutting, scratching them - or transforming them into objects or videos. I'm trying to extend "the instantaneous operation of an integrated mechanism", to ask again if photography can dispense depiction. (Jeff Wall's sentence in mind: "Depiction is the only possible result of the camera system, and the kind of image formed by a lens is the only image possible in photography.") In this way, the content is about emancipation from the motive.
FAF: You have some personal references in your work, regarding family photos or stories from your grand parents... How do you transform them into images that is open for anyone´s attention, I mean public?
ES: I organize the pictures according to formal criteria, and sometimes put them into different contexts or into sequences. Some of the works with personal references became more and more abstract by the working process. They are at the same time about the medium photography and its (maybe wrong) promise to keep moments and to fix memories. I think that people are influenced by the past and construct and reconstruct their identities also because of stories they have heard about or pictures they have seen. As well, this aspect is included in my project about two former Adolf-Hitler-places (one in Biberach, one in Potsdam), in which I visited the inhabitants at home to take pictures of their windows and to interview them. However, my actual working processes are not about individual memories. I am searching for interactions between different media and realities by producing constellations between different kinds of pictures, objects and materials.