1. You are from Brugg, Switzerland, have received your academic training in Basel, have lived in New York City since 1990, and have exhibited in various cities around the world. How does exhibiting in New York City differ from other international locations/art hubs?
In New York people are generally curious and go out to see shows. In Europe exhibition spaces and galleries are frustratingly empty after the opening of a show. In Shanghai people who look at art tend to be very young.
When it comes to feedback the visitors in New York are much more used to showing and sharing their reactions. In Zurich, for example, you might have to live there for a good while to get a chance to hear a reaction –it might happen at your new show that someone finally shares how much they liked the previous one (and no word about the current one..). Both have their merits: the memory tends to stay longer in Europe and the blinking ‘heart button’ jolts your moment.
2. Your artwork, especially the installation “Matrix” on the first floor of Deutsches Haus at NYU, references an urban environment, since it seems to resemble a complex subway map of a futuristic city. To what extent is your work inspired by New York City? And from your experience, how has New York City changed in your time living here?
Living near the Hudson Yards for the past 20 years gives you a good perspective of urban renewal. My inspiration is not so much in the new buildings that shoot up (actually I find them quite boring and generic, considering what would be possible with new technologies) but with the construction process itself and the supplanting of a functioning neighborhood with a new, financially more invested one.
And the second part of your question of what has changed in New York over the years: I don’t think you want to hear the long version! So here is the short one: Look at JFK airport. Ever since I moved here it’s been a mess. They build and change and improve it constantly but it is still a mess.
3. In your artworks that are part of “Motherboard,” there are references to Robert Rauschenberg. In some of your former work, there have been connections to architectural buildings by Zaha Hadid or to poetry by T.S. Eliot. Which artists and writers inspire you presently? Where else do you draw inspiration from?
We are lucky to be exposed to so many cultural achievements. Most of the inspiration comes from passing through (spending) my daily life among friends and situations with a curious mind and open eyes. The question is always: does it touch me? Why? Sometimes this opens new doors. “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace is one of those books that I am not able to finish for years. Reading and at times not fully grasping it is comparable to those creative moments while wandering in some busy New York streets where realities and memories constantly negotiate my next steps forward.
4. Recurring visual elements in “Motherboard,” are strong patterns, vivid colors, transparent plastic sheets, and graphic elements. Can you provide us with a small insight into your choice of material? For example, what role do the transparent plastic sheets play?
I use the plastic sheets in the process to make my paintings. I lay down paint on plastic sheets first and then transfer this to canvas. Then I remove and discard the sheet. What you see in the installations at DH are these painted sheets – I can transfer the painted sheets to walls, to canvas, or just leave them as they are. I was always intrigued by their translucent qualities. This is the first time that I show paintings that still seem to be in the process of being formed.
5. Skepticism or admiration? A frequent theme in “Motherboard” is the electronic structure as a foundation of our everyday communication. What is your opinion of the increasing digitization of everyday life?
Well, I still like the illusion that I live a conscious life and am able to make some choices.
6. Your artworks highlight different perspectives of communication tools. In your opinion, what is the most intriguing form of communication?
Signs of friendship!
But your question is about Art. I am intrigued and dogged by every form of artistic communication.
7. You play with the exciting tension between new and old forms of communication. References to traditional paintings and symbols become vivid, be it via the painting “Flying Flags”, in which you capture an older form of communication, or via the golden background in “Motherboard,” which emulates a medieval painting. How important is the technique of traditional painting for your work? What do you think about recent approaches of technology-driven works like data pictures, 3D prints, or virtual reality installations?
Hm. I am a very old fashioned painter at heart. Today, because of the high costs of production, most of the cutting edge technology presentations have to be crowd pleasers (and industry promoters) and therefore make sense as circus attractions in busy public spaces. Painting is by nature more intimate and requires a different form of literacy. But all techniques are just means to an end.
8. If you don’t mind sharing, what other projects might you be working on?
As a long-term project I am working on a book.