Interview “Pixel-Collage” for Musee Magazine (November 15, 2017)
Q: With Pixel Collage you juxtapose abstract images with the stark reality of death and violence. Can you tell us about the evolution of this project?
Nothing is un-showable. The only thing which cannot be shown is what has no form. Everything in our world that is Form is showable and viewable, even when incommensurable. In order to confront the world, to struggle with it, with its chaos, its hyper-complexity, its incommensurability, I need to confront reality without distance. I want to do an artwork today, in contact with complexity, in contact with reality, in contact with the time we are living in and in contact with the world. This has always been my engagement and my position.
Q: Images of destructed human bodies are a recurring theme in your work. We saw them in Abstract Resistance (2006) as well as your more recent Pixel Collage. How has your relationship with these images changed and developed over the last decade?
More than ever – as artist – I need to face the world in its reality and step into the hardcore reality. I don’t think in terms of ‘decades’ – I think in the ‘here’ and the ‘now’. This counts for the “Pixel-Collage”-work as well. The exhibition at Gladstone Gallery will mark the ending of the “Pixel-Collage”-series that I have been working on for the past two years. My engagement with the problematic of ‘pixelation’ and ‘de-pixelation’ comes from the decision to see and look at the world at it is, and to insist upon this. ‘Pixelation’, blurring or masking, and furthermore censorship or self-censorship is a growing and insidious issue, also in the social media today. I don’t accept that, under the claim of ‘protecting’ – protecting me, protecting the other – the world is pixelated in my place. ‘De-pixelation’ is the term I use to manifest that pixelating no longer makes sense. Pixels, blurring, masking and censorship in general can no longer conceal fake-news, facts, opinions or comments. Fake-news, facts, opinions, comments entirely take part in the “Post-Truth”. We have definitely entered the post-truth world. Pixelation stands for the form of agreement in this post-truth world.
Q: Can you tell us about your process in creating these collages? The protective plastic covering on each piece is striking. Is this a statement about the futility of “protection”— be it of art, the self, or our eyes?
“Pixel-Collage” are collages. A collage means pasting together at least two existing elements to create something new, a new world, a new image, a new light. Doing this means giving a response – through Form: Form is not just an idea, Form is the core. I want to give Form, because giving Form is the most important thing. The plastic covering is part of this form. The plastic is not a protection but the will to frame my work myself – I do not want someone else to frame my work, I want to keep it thin, fragile, two-dimensional, it is a decision and an affirmation. The plastic sheets I use – are the same as what florists use to wrap flower-bouquets. To me this material seems appropriate regarding the collages made with photocopies and transparent tape, enlarged from magazines and standard sized paper. The plastic, as well, is the form I found that enables me to include the empty spaces which appear as part of a real collage work – which never fits completely, in doing the “Pixel-collage” or in any collage.
Q: In a recent interview you mentioned the “stupidity, the easiness, the velocity” of doing collages. Your choice of words intrigued me, especially the word ‘stupid’— what do you mean by this? And what are some of the materials you like to work with, other than images and pixels?
‘Stupidity’ is – to me – an absolute positive term. It’s not antagonistic with intelligence, sensitivity, or being awake. I am for stupidity, for energy, for non-economization, for generosity, for expenditure, for exaggeration, for blindness, for restlessness, for acceleration, for precipitation, for excess, for self-transgression, for headlessness. Therefore ‘Stupidity’ is a form against security, quietism, economization, good quality, capitalization, harmony, consumption, obedience, correctness, anxiety, naiveness.
Q: I read a little about your time with the Communist group, Grapus. It sounds very punk rock— and you’ve clearly maintained your desire to create public and non-exclusionary works to this day. Was moving from graphic design into collage a natural transition for you? How does the medium help you tell your story?
Thank you for giving me the occasion to clarify something: I never worked with ‘Grapus’, not one single day! Because they simply did not want me! To work with ‘Grapus’ was one of the reasons why I went to Paris in 1983. But I quickly understood that there was no common work possible – on an equal level – and because I did not want to work for them as an executor, I had to confront my first failure. I don’t know why people think they are informed with the idea that I worked with ‘Grapus’. Actually, I found myself even more isolated in my lonely arrival to Paris on my own. The love to do collages and to work with already existing elements, such as blind texts and found images, helped me establish my own path away from what I thought wrongly to be graphic design. It’s not that my way was a transition from graphic design to art. It was – to me who wanted to do graphic design “coming from my own” as I called it then – the cruel understanding that graphic design is not possible without an order or on commission that I did not need. I understood that with art I had to agree and was happy to encounter the only possibility to emancipate my own understanding of form, what form should be and what importance it should have. I had to emancipate from the limitation or self-limitation of ‘graphic design’. And art opened the welcoming field for confronting my ideas, my artistic will and my understanding of form. Suddenly critical questions arose: What work of art can I do? What work of art should I do? What work of art makes sense to me – what work is to be done?
Q: In your press release for Pixel Collage you state, “Pixelating a part of a picture might imply and indicate that there is worse, much worse, and that there is something incommensurable that is concealed.” Would you say that by placing pixelated fashion images next to images of death, you’re not only making a statement about the reality of war, violence, and censorship but also of advertising? Or are you drawing connections between distinct and disparate realities?
Pixels stand for different meanings. I identified nine meanings – ‘the worse is concealed’ is one of them. It means that by pixelating a picture or a part of a picture there are commensurable and incommensurable parts of the picture pointed out. But to me nothing is ‘commensurable’ or ‘non-commensurable’ everything is important, everything can have its importance, nothing is unimportant. To pixelate is always an authoritarian act. What interests me is that pixelating – as an aesthetic – meets the demand for authority, for protection, for de-responsibilization and for de-emancipation. What interests me about this aesthetic, is that through pixels, abstraction can engage me in today’s world, time and reality. How can I redefine my idea of abstraction today? What interest me is that I can understand abstraction as thinking, as political thinking. What interests me is that pixels build up a new form opening towards a dynamic and a desire for truth, truth as such, truth as something reaching beyond information, non-information or counter-information. Paradoxically – the authoritarian will to use pixelation in order to hide, ‘protect’, not show, or make something not visible, has become an invitation to touch truth.
Q: In an interview with The Louisiana Channel you said that we are living in a time of “facelessness.” This is a fascinating topic— could you expand on what this concept means to you and your work?
Living in the time of “facelessness” means to be busy with hiding the face, my face – completely occupied with myself and entirely narcissistic – instead of being occupied by how to get in touch with the world. I want to get in touch with the world, in conflict or in agreement – but in touch. I must show what I see, what I understand, what comes from myself without explanation or argumentation. It is necessary to distinguish ‘sensitivity’, which to me means being awake and attentive, from ‘hypersensitivity’, which means self-enclosure and exclusion.
Q: “Facelessness” is a complex issue, and calls into question an age-old dilemma within photography: do you think individuals own the rights to their image?
Before I want to discuss the right of the face, of the image of my face, I want to understand the face, my face – as the first and the direct contact with the other, with the world. If I do not offer my face – what else will establish the contact with the other? With the world? The question of the right of my image is hysterical. What matters and is essential is the question of how to be in contact with the world.
Q: Who are some of your artistic influences (ex. Emma Kunz)?
Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Meret Oppenheim, Elena Guro, Helio Oiticica, Paul Thek, Emma Kunz, Otto Freundlich, Anna Viebrock.
Q: Censorship is a thread that runs through your work, understandably so, as an artist and citizen of the world. Are there some other themes you’d like to navigate in future projects?
I am working on the “Robert Walser-Sculpture” for next year, a work in Public Space in Bienne/Biel Switzerland the hometown of the Swiss writer I am fan of. With this work my ambition is to give an answer to the question: ‘Why Non-Permanency Persists’. I am also working on my series of collages ‘A Ruin is a Ruin’ with different new works and future exhibitions. One of the challenges to me with this body of work will be to combine ‘Destruction’ with ‘Creation’ in one work.