Art and Autobiography

Art is what makes life more interesting than art, says Robert Filliou. My art and my biography are inextricable. After having spent almost half of my lifetime away from my German fatherland and outside the syntax of my German mother tongue, it seems important to me in this age of a presumably globally available catalogue of references, to address issues of origin, of cultural determination.

In my second manifesto, Dear Granny... (2003, Graz, Austria), I wrote, “If the term ‘universal’ still has a meaning in art, then it is this: in a wide-ranging readiness of everyone to engage with the multi-layered viewpoints of others. It is up to the individual himself–in a way that must go far beyond the ‘zapping culture’ if it wants to be consistent – to become capable of his very own synthesis of the universal. In this respect our era of the individual’s free will to act is a historical moment in which peoples’ claim to maturity presupposes the responsibility of each and every one.”

Currently I am working on a series of large-scale drawings pretending to be film posters. These fake posters —I am planning a series of a dozen —refer to fake films on German identity, history, and present affairs. All is made up, but all deal with “reality.“ I try to reconsider received patterns of reading myths and propose to link the communal to the intimate, using iconic imagery and my private archive. The “film“ may then appear on the beholder’s inner eye, provoked by the poster and developed by one’s own knowledge, assumptions, and prejudices.

Hermann–a hero of our time, refers to an Arminius chieftain of the Cherusci who defeated a Roman army in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (AD 9), and was rechristened “Hermann” by Martin Luther, becoming an emblem of the revival of German nationalism exhilarated by the wars of Napoleon in the 19th century. Hermann is a portrait and self-portrait at once, based on collaboration with photographer Tim Deussen. This painterly gouache pictures the artist as a human sample in an anti-heroic pose, with a world unfolding inwardly, rather than a triumphal gaze onto the world. Are the closed eyes the refusal of the heroic stance, or rather the sign of concentration on the essential? A hero of our times, does he still need to be a winner? We all can be heroes of our lives, for others and ourselves. It’s a modest stance, but (aw)fully aware of being alive.

Images of film stills, sound bites of dialogue, are now leading to associated portfolios of smaller drawings. I have started to write the plot behind the scenes, in order to—as in all I do, it seems—trace the physical consequences of a mental state that historic processes have generated.


published in: New York Arts Magazine, Summer issue 2011, pp. 176-177

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