Founder of @hortberlin
Professor at HFG Offenbach, University of Arts
FEELINGS, 2020 & PAINTED VALUE PROPOSITION, 2020
Modeling Paste and Enamel on Canvas
April 16, 2020
W: Historically have you found yourself feeling the most creatively fulfilled by the work you do professionally or outside of that?
E: Professionally, but there was a trick in that question. I think it's a combination and that is how your identity is built. What are you doing and who are you talking to in your private and professional work? They both influence each other. I'm never fulfilled just job-wise and also not just life-wise. If I'm doing well in my job, but I'm very saddened as a person I don't feel fulfilled at all. It really needs to be in balance. I think I can enjoy myself and feel fulfilled way more if all the little parts that are important to me somehow are doing fine.
Conversely, if I'm happy being with my family or something like this, I would still need my work. I can only completely enjoy doing nothing or doing different things without having thought about what happens professionally when I am on holiday. Here in my routine of daily life I really need to have this balance. Especially now since I'm doing more fine art and less commercial work. My inner dialogue is very much influenced by what's happening in society and also what's happening in my relationships. I can't keep it in my mind because I will never solve any problem just in my mind. Doing the work helps me to feel relieved and empowered. It's very complex. The question isn't straightforward. It's not something you can answer in just one way.
W: What types of design or art do you partake in to fuel your need for creative outlet?
E: I hate the word creativity, sounds like magic, you know, fueled with creativity. I think everyone is creative depending on the problem they are dealing with.
Especially in my profession I feel like it's just a label. It's an argument for selling your work. It's like you're a creative person and other ones are not. What interests me intellectually is a lot of things. First of all, my main interest in my personal work is the language itself, especially the written language. I'm also very much interested in spoken language, but written language is the main source of research that I'm working with. I see it as an organism that is growing and changing, dying and adapting and so on. I'm very much interested in the context of language and how it's used. What happens if you decontextualize something and put it in a new context. I just love the power that language has. You can say extremely different things. For example, you can say, "I love you," but you can also say "I'm going to kill you" in the same sentence from the same mouth and the same mind. I also really like that there is so much space for interpretation. Whatever I am saying is nothing that will really touch in its pureness a listener and there's so many losses in between. That's what I also find very interesting in my own personal work. I'm trying not to make a statement, I try to leave it open as much as possible so the audience can have their own thoughts on it. Different people can read totally different things in it depending on their cultural background, the mood they're in, or the context I'm putting it in, etc. I tend to not be the one saying, “this is bad” or, “this is good.” I have my position in this and each work has a very specific meaning for me, but I don't want to give this meaning to anyone else. I'm very liberal in the opinions of other people or their lifestyles or whatever.
There are eight billion people on earth. Everyone has their own opinion and that's okay. I'm not the center of mankind. Accepting this gives me a lot of freedom and many possibilities to start a conversation or dialogue with someone else who has a totally different opinion or background. I'm very much interested in the reactions of the people. Even if I don't ask these people, sometimes I just get a reaction for free and that's kind of interesting. I am very critical of my own work.
I'm using Instagram as a means to put things out into the world without judging them too much by myself. I've figured out that the work I really find most interesting or is closest to me is work not many people like. Sometimes, with the art I'm doing, a lot of people do like it and it's working very well. If you look at Instagram as a tool that you can use as a part of your work, you can even use these algorithms as part of your work. Sometimes I paint or do something where I am expecting a lot of people to like the work. It helps me to see what people like. It's almost like a test tube.
I don't want to go anywhere specific with what I'm doing. I'm just walking through my life day-by-day and with things that pop up and are interesting to me, I will start to integrate into my work.
I think that back to the question, I'm very much fascinated by language and amazing artists who work with written language. I find it quite interesting because the subject is it's own job in fine art. The same with graphic design. I think typography is the foundation of graphic design and for most problems you can define a very nice type based solution. Imagery is often an add-on to make it more visual or pop more. I'm not against pictures, I think they're more powerful than words. Especially because I am using mostly English and because of that I am creating a boundary. Not everyone can understand it and to them they just see the shapes, color, and the material. Language is defining the community who you invite to your work and who you would like to exclude from your work. Pictures are way more of a universal global representation of ideas.
"I think everyone is creative depending on
the problem they are
W: How do you find your creative drive impacted by times of high stress? Including right now as we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?
E: Massively. First, everything got cancelled. So no more shows, no more studio visits of collectors, etc. But also our commercial jobs got cancelled. So I had to take care that I don’t have to fire someone from my team. I started this 50/50 charity campaign on Instagram—half of the money is donated and with the rest I am paying the people involved. That’s a good way to keep everything up and running.
But a bigger impact has been the social distancing on my own life. I am used to eating in restaurants and meeting friends all the time. I also used to travel a lot and be in different places … I miss this a lot. Our son, Wolf, can’t go to kindergarten anymore and Anne, my partner, works in our home office so we are together 24 hours. That’s fine, but we also need personal time and this is hard to organize at the moment. We really have to take care that we don’t end in a fight just because of the intense time. So most of my energy I am putting in right now is how to still enjoy our time as a family, but at the same time organize the time I need for doing art. I think we are getting better and better at it.
But crises are the best environment for creativity, all the new topics popping up right now, the massive changes in our social behavior, the fear of an uncertain future, the BIG depression we might all enter, civil rights being taken away that might not come back, opinions against facts, etc., etc. So I feel like I HAVE to comment on some of them.
W: What are 3 tips you have for finding creative inspiration/outlet when in isolation or a high stress environment?
E: I find inspiration everywhere. Reading, walking with open eyes, theater, architecture, movies, art … but mostly I feel inspired by the people I am close to and to whom I talk a lot. But I don’t have any tips.
W: If you could create any project right now with unlimited time, energy, and resources, what would it be?
E: Build a house.