“OUTPUT BEFORE INPUT – BUY A RICE COOKER.” INTERVIEW: TOM SACHS

An exhibition named “Timeline” by the American artist Tom Sachs is currently taking place at the SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen. The museum of contemporary art, only a few kilometers from Stuttgart, features a retrospective of the artist, the first major solo exhibition in Germany for over 15 years.  To learn more about the current retrospective as well as the artist’s work, an interview with Tom Sachs was conducted.

Tom Sachs Foto: Mario Sorrenti, © Tom Sachs
Tom Sachs Foto: Mario Sorrenti, © Tom Sachs

Tell me more about the show in Sindelfingen. How was this retrospective decided and organised. Which works does it include?

The title of my solo show at Schauwerk in Sindelfingen is “Timeline”, which is also the title of a piece I started in 2016 that tracks moments in my career and elements that have influenced me. Using Timeline, 2016—2019 as a reference point allowed us to include singular pieces like Chanel Guillotine and pieces from larger experiential works like Nutsy’s. The show features a room with our entire Tea Ceremony that just showed in Japan. And the scale of the Schauwerk space allowed me to debut World Trade Center for the first time.

When did you release you want to be an artist?

The key to ‘becoming’ an artist is to believe you are one. When I first moved to New York I believed I was an artist, but I couldn’t afford to make art all the time. I learned to weld in art school, so I took work as a non-union elevator repair man and that allowed me to do art 10% of my time. But that elevator repairs taught me a lot about work and that the reward for good work is more work. Even now that I am a full-time artist, on one day a year I take welding jobs and if you bring me something to weld on that day, I will do it.

What role does McDonald’s play in your artistic practice? And in
the works shown in Sindelfingen? Tell me more about it.

McDonald’s is a modern icon of culture and consumerism. I explored McDonald’s in the Nutsy’s show as the other side of the idealistic modernism represented by Le Corbusier’s 1952 Unit d’Habitation housing block. It was a massive 12-story structure that symbolises the integrity of modernism as well as its subsequent corruption.

Tell me more about your work Swiss Passport Office shown during Frieze 2018. How did this work evolve? What inspired you to make this work, have you ever been to Switzerland?

Swiss Passport Office, 2018 was about breaking down borders and eliminating the concept of nationality. Our liberal democracies are being threatened and people are being oppressed all over the world. So Swiss Passport Office represented a reprieve from artificial borders created by governments and the corporations who control them.
With Swiss Passport Office, every man and woman can be Swiss. I love Switzerland and I love its contradictions. I love the Swiss respect for nature and how orderly it is. But it’s also the place where bad guys stash their money.

Swiss Passport Office Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London October 5 - November 10, 2018
Desk 1 2018 Mixed media (customized tanker desk, chair with casters, chair without casters, file holder, lamp, type-writer, tape dispenser, security camera, clipboard holder, clipboards with pens) 205,7 x 123,2 x 76,5 cm (81 x 48.5 x 30.125 in) Swiss Passport Office Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London October 5 – November 10, 2018; Photo: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac / Tom Sachs

How do you deal with criticism?

Nobody loves criticism. Humor is one of the tools that I use and in my earlier work I was frustrated when people didn’t take the work seriously. I can’t imagine being any more serious than we are.  Hundreds of hours of work can go into a sculpture of a woodburning. However, I would remind the haters that no one ever got laid by boring
someone to death.

Has there been a turning point in your artistic practice so far? Is there something which influenced you in doing things a different way: using a different kind of material, in producing your artworks. And in your development as an artist.

Bricolage is my religion. Bricolage through sculpture. What I am inspired by is not newer, fancier materials. I am inspired to make things out of everyday items and show the hand of their making. In the studio we paint plywood white before we cut it so that you can see that it was cut. In my marquetry, which in traditional craft is meant to be seamless and not show the human hand, I leave the chips of wood. When I make porcelain chawans, you can see my fingerprints. There is evidence that says “I was here. This was made by human hands”. These systems have developed for me over time but they all stem from my relationship to Bricolage.

What are you currently working on?

Because of the quarantine in New York I have turned my basement in Queens into a workshop/studio and I have been spending most of my time there. I have been painting a lot and working on things for Space.

Program 4: Rare Earths which will be on view at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg in Summer 2021.

What is the role that artists should play at a time like now?

Artists need to pay attention to the machine. It’s not going away. And everyone – you, me, Exxon Mobile, Donald Trump – we all have a TV channel made up of all of our social media and our website and whatever else. It is clear we’re making our own identities and being able to craft them. We all present ourselves in the way we want people to see us, but now that there is a distance and an artificial intimacy through the machine.

Artists are always at the front of this, and I’m actually kind of surprised there aren’t better artist websites. What would Andy Warhol do? You could bet he’d have a great website, and he’d be involved in everything, and doing it like crazy because it’s cheap and it’s powerful and it’s a great mode of expression.

What is something you have learned, as a growing artist, that would be helpful to aspiring artists?

  1. Buy a Zojirushi fuzzy logic rice cooker! People think I’m kidding when I say this but when you are an artist you have to think about your art. And a rice cooker does your cooking for you and makes sure that you have cheap, easy sustenance so you
    can focus on your art.
  2. The most important rule of success is: first thing in the morning, output before input. DO NOT look at your phone first thing. Write in your journal, touch clay, dance. Important emails will find you. Donald Trump’s latest atrocity will find you. The phone will ring eventually. Use that eight hours of your irrational, subconscious mind called dreaming to solve the unsolved problems from the day before or inspire you for the next. Those minutes are sacred. That’s true for artists and businessmen. promote it in an exhibition, it dies on the vine. I think that’s true of anything.

Exhibition highlights

Thanks for reading!

Andy_Signature

More information:

TOM SACHS – TIMELINE runs until August 2.

SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen

Eschenbrünnlestraße 15

71065 Sindelfingen | Germany

www.schauwerk-sindelfingen.de

ABORIGINAL ART EXPEDITION IN THE SWISS ALPS: INTERVIEW WITH BÉRENGÈRE PRIMAT

Recently, Andy meets Warhol visited Fondation OPALE, the only foundation dedicated to Aboriginal Art in Europe, located in Lens, Valais Switzerland. The current show Resonances, as well as an interview with founder Bérengère Primat aim to shed more light on the topic of Aboriginal Art and founding and running an art foundation.

Tell me about Fondation OPALE, how did you start the foundation, why Lens and Valais? Why did you choose this location and building?

In 2018, the previous foundation located in our spectacular building encountered financial difficulties and had to close. Their last exhibition Country of the Dreaming already showed a selection of my contemporary Australian Indigenous art collection.

Eventually, and after talking to friends who are Aboriginal artists and my children, who all supported the idea, I decided to take over the place and created Fondation Opale to show the best of their art in Europe.

What is your earliest memory of art? How did you come across Aboriginal Art? What was the first Aboriginal artwork you bought?

I was very lucky to be raised in a family of art lovers. Not only the art created by humans but also the one created by nature.

My first encounter with Australian Indigenous art was in Paris in 2002, in a gallery where my « future ex husband » showed art realised by Aboriginal men in an exhibition named Wati, the Law men. A couple of months later, I was in Alice Springs, sitting with and listening to the artists and their families.

My first purchase was a work on bark from Arnhem Land by Jack Larrangai and a Rainbow Snake by Mick Namarari (Central desert)

Do you have a specific inspiring moment or meeting with Aboriginal artists you could share? Have you visited any ceremonies or performances or artist working in their studio? Is there something as Aboriginal performance art?

Every moment spent in remote Indigenous communities is inspiring… Very different from my speedy and stressful European life…! As in most desert regions, everything is quite slow, time has a different dimension. Every sentence or gesture, another meaning.

Aboriginal Art could also be seen as a performance, every painting is sung and danced either during its creation or once finished. Paintings are visual representation of poems sung and transmitted for thousands of years.

There are also remarkable young artists such as the Bangarra Dance Theatre, performing dance technique forged from over 65,000 years of culture, embodied with contemporary movement.

How does Fondation Opale aim to interact with the local community in Lens; how you think the works on display can relate and communicate with local Swiss customs and art?

The Fondation has an important role to play in the cultural diversity offered to the residents and visitors of the Valais region, and beyond. To our local community, we offer not only a public program made of creative workshops, themed visits, artist talks, concerts, etc., but also a friendly environment to meet up and have a taste of local food and wines.

There is a similitude in the way Indigenous peoples and the local population relate themselves to their territory: with respect and pride. These values, inherent in Australian Indigenous art, resonate in striking relevance with todays questioning about mitigation and adaptation to climate change, particularly important in the Alpine region we live in.

How do you find new artists, galleries or dealers dealing with Aboriginal Art? How about buying directly from artists? How do you ensure that fair trade and ethical principles are at work, especially benefitting the artist?

I travel to Australia at least once a year to meet with the artists and their families in their communities. As I have a long lasting relationship with many art centres, I usually buy directly from them. Those art centres, situated in remote Indigenous communities, are Aboriginal owned and operated not-for-profit corporations; their general purpose is to build and promote artistic endeavour, support cultural practices and work towards the economic advancement of Aboriginal people through the production, preservation, promotion and sale of their artworks.

It is very important, or even essential, to check that the artwork you want to acquire has a certificate from one of those art centres. Its a real guarantee of ethical principles as the provenance of the work is still a big concern today.

“Aboriginal art could also be seen as a performance, every painting is sung and danced either during its creation or once finished. Paintings are visual representation of poems sung and transmitted for thousands of years.” – Bérengère Primat

How important is it for you to meet the artist behind the artwork?

I always try to meet the artist if possible. I also commission works and the relationship, mutual respect and understanding of their stories (Dreamings) is necessary.

Has digitalisation changed the way you collect art?

Not really. Digitalisation was already common when I started the collection. I do sometimes buy works I have only seen on pictures but only if I know the artist.

Name three art institutions with or without Aboriginal Art you enjoy going back to.

Amongst my favourite art institutions, I can place the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, where they exhibited Mapa Wiya, your map is not needed last year. Fondation Beyeler in Basel (built by Renzo Piano, same as the Menil) and the Barbier-Mueller museum in the old town of Geneva.

What are you currently working on and what would you like to implement in the near future in regard to the Foundation; do you offer an artist-in-residence programme?

While we are working on our next exhibitions in situ and also in other venues (Brussels, Marrakech…), were also working with architects on a new building to host a media library, an auditorium and the recently received archives of Mr Bernhard Lüthi, a Swiss artist, activist and curator (a selection of these documents is currently exhibited at the 2020 Sydney Biennale).

We had our first artist in residence last winter, Walala Tjapaltjarri, who spent 3 weeks with us. 

What is the meaning of life? Is there an artwork in the Fondation which especially reflects your meaning of life?

A rather simple way to answer this, is to talk about circularity, transmission and cycles. In Resonances, there is an artwork from Mick Kubarkku named Dird Djang (Moon Dreaming), 2000, which is related to this subject. In local mythology, the moon is associated with the concept of mortality, rebirth as demonstrated by the waxing and waning of the moon each lunar month.

MickKubarkku_DirdDjang_RêveLune_c_Vincent Girier-Dufournier
Mick Kubarkku – Dird Djang (Moon Dreaming), 2000 ©️Vincent Girier Dufournier

What advice can you give to someone wanting to collect Aboriginal Art?

Please make sure that your artwork comes with a certificate of authenticity by one of the art centres. Otherwise you cannot be sure that the artist has not been pressured, in any way, to create or sell the artwork through questionable channels that are, unfortunately, still existing today. Moreover, this will guarantee that your purchase is not a fake.

What advice can you give to someone wanting to establish a foundation?

When you establish a foundation you have to think long-term. It’s not a “selfish” desire, it is unavoidably time-consuming and the biggest challenge is to ensure the financial revenue for several decades to keep it alive.

Georges Petitjean, your restaurateur and consultant: where did you two meet and how did the cooperation begin?

We first met in 2005, at the Tinguely Museum in Basel, during a retrospective exhibition named Rarrk where John Mawurndjul was celebrated for his mastery of said rarrk (fine-painted cross-hatching).

From 2005 to 2017, Georges Petitjean was curator of the Aboriginal Art Museum in Utrecht (AAMU) in the Netherlands, and he often asked me to lend works from my collection for his exhibitions. In 2017, we began our current collaboration with the exhibition Country of the Dreaming.

If you could commission an Aboriginal artist to create a monument to sit in some Swiss landmark, what artist would you commission and who would or what would you commission them to sculpt?

Good question… Unlike painting, sculpture is not a prominent means of expression in the contemporary Aboriginal art scene (except for younger „urban artists “, who use all sorts of media and new media). Rather than a commission, I would say that an iteration of Gulumbu Yunupingu’s memorial poles, which in our current exhibition echo the Red Lights by American artist Kiki Smith, would be a great symbol. In her works, the late artist and women’s leader from the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land expresses the unity in the diversity of humankind, which she beautifully compares to the stars.

What is your vision for the Fondation Opale?

As mentioned earlier, it is a long-term one. Fondation Opale is a platform, or springboard for Australian Indigenous artists in Europe. I truly believe in the mutual benefits of this exchange, as it enables local and European audiences to discover and engage with a contemporary art movement rooted in the oldest continuous culture on the planet, which is not only visually exquisite, but also carries essential messages. Art is a powerful catalyst for dialogue between people and cultures.

Highlights from Fondation OPALE

Pictures by Andy Hermann.

Thanks for reading!

Andy_Signature

More information:

RESONANCES runs from June 14, 2020 to April 4, 2021.

Fondation Opale

Route de Crans 1

1978 Lens, Switzerland

www.fondationopale.ch

 

 

 

SHUNK-KENDER: HIGHLIGHTS FROM A TRAVEL BACK IN ART HISTORY

Recently, Andy meets Warhol visited an exhibition dedicated to German photographer Harry Shunk and Hungarian photographer János Kender at the MASI Palazzo Reali in Lugano. The artistic duo began working together in the 1950s. Their long-term collaboration included the documentation of art openings, biennials and artists working in their studios or during public performances. Here are Andy meets Warhol’s personal highlights from a tour through the exhibition:

1. Raw art history & pre-social media documentation

While nowadays social media is a contemporary form of documentation, back in the days, Shunk-Kender used their camera equipment to document events and moments they were part of. The artistic duo captured artists such as Andy Warhol, Christo and Robert Rauschenberg in their private moments, while painting, playing with their pet or a piece of performance art. The photographic material shown feels quite raw, leading to the spectator “travelling back in time” to these years and being part of these moments. Characteristic examples are Shunk-Kender’s captions of Robert Rauschenberg in his studio, Warhol visiting Paris in in 1965 or Christo, travelling to One Million Square Feet Little Bay, Australia in 1968 – 1969, to wrap an entire coast. The use of video projectors, slides, posters and personal items such as notes or gallery opening invitations in the exhibition adds up to the vividness of the show.

2. Performance art which changed history: Christo and Niki de Saint Phalle

In recent years, Christo has received massive media attention on covering significant public buildings throughout the world. Probably lesser known is his performance art work named Wrapped woman” from the year 1963. Another highlight is the documentation of Niki de Saint Phalles shooting sessions in 1961. The artist built large white plaster coated wall paintings, incorporating objects from everyday use such as toilet pipes, axes, wheels and brooms, and then hiding colourful paint underneath. While firing  a pellet gun, the colour splashes and explodes, creating a polychromatic field of intensity and new forms of abstract art.

3. A room dedicated to Andy Warhol & Paris in the 60s

The exhibition is curated by Julie Jones, Chloé Goualch, Stéphanie Rivoire, and takes up the entire third floor of the recently reopened Palazzo Reali. One of the rooms is dedicated to Warhol. Shunk-Kender documented Warhols first visit to Paris in 1965 on the occasion of an exhibition of his work at the Galleria Sonnabend, and showing the pop artist in private moments such as brushing his teeth or drinking coffee – a very well-known portrait of the artist.

Characteristic here is the trust artists such as Warhol or Robert Rauschenberg had in the duo, letting them document these private moments, without the fear of these being leaked to press. Moreover, the artistic duo collaborated with Warhol on portraits of numerous Factory superstars for Warhols 1971 publication The Autobiography & Sex Life Of Andy Warhol.” 

4. Yves Klein & Nouveaux Réalistes

A part of the exhibition not to miss, is the documentation of Yves Klein’s work “Leap into the Void”. Several captions and from different angles are presented. It is also a good example of the important role, Shunk-Kender played in the documentation of the  Nouveaux Réalistes group’s work. This happened after they met the gallerist Iris Clert, who was a point of reference for the group, in 1957.

5. An exhibition place of historic significance

The exhibition takes place on the 3rd floor of the historic Palazzo Reali of MASI, formerly the Museo Cantonale dArte. The building, which was not initially planned to be used as a museum, invites its visitors for exploration of its collection curated by Cristina Sonderegger. Apart from the Shunk-Kender exhibition, the museums permanent collection features significant art from Ticino, religious art, as well as art from well-known Swiss artists such as Ferdinand Hodler. A surprise of the Renaissance building are Felice Varinis murals on hidden corners of the building as well as a juxtaposition between a statue named Spartaco by Swiss-Italian sculptor Vincenzo Vela and a wall mural by Niele Toroni.

Thanks for reading.

Until next time!

Andy_Signature


Shunk-Kender – Art Through the Eye of the Camera (1957-1983)

An exhibition conceived and realised by Centre Pompidou, Paris, in collaboration with Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana

Runs until 20 September 2020

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