Interview by Anne-Valérie Kirmann, June 2018
Can you introduce us to your artistic practice and to the concept of Der Stapel (The Stack)?
I started my work on Der Stapel in 2014. I tied all my works together into a stack and began putting all the other work that I made afterward on top of that and tied it again. Der Stapel is a way to visualize time. I use the A4 size, I cut or fold my bigger works to fit. In 2017, I began to tie, not only my drawings, paintings and other works on paper into stacks, but also meaningful objects, sheets of paper from my analog and digital mailbox, or screenshots and snapshots. I see Der Stapel as one unique artwork, but for practical reasons I need to split it in small units that are called Der Stapel 1, Der Stapel 2… I work on each unit until it reaches my own height, including the handles and wheels, and then all parts are tightly bound together.
When did you decide to dedicate yourself to Der Stapel? How did the idea form in your mind?
I decided to start my work on Der Stapel after my diploma exhibition at Kunstakademie Karlsruhe in 2014. I showed a series of drawings with which I tried to visualize time. After removing the frames and drawings from the walls I stacked the paperworks to ship them back to my studio. When they arrived, I opened the package and I had one of these “that moment”. I felt that all I did until then was insignificant. My interests and working practices were to try to visualize time and I understood that I would not be able to solve these questions with paintings and drawings. I started to think about what kind of visual language I could use for my process and developed Der Stapel. Anything that I do becomes a layer of my work and I will go on with this project until I die.
Don’t you feel unsecure to have paved your way through your full existence?
Well, I don’t think that I paved my way through my existence, I just developed a structure for myself to handle all the different things that happened and will happen in life. I do not feel any insecurity in my working practice with Der Stapel, I am going through this journey knowing I am a human being with drives and emotions. Sitting in this cage gives me a freedom of creation and the necessary discipline to focus on my ideas.
How do you choose the items you put in “Der Stapel”?
The first two parts of Der Stapel included only works on paper and on canvas like drawings, paintings and prints. I covered all my works with materials like wood, textiles, etc, not to hide them from the viewer, but to underline my process, which is not interested in the single work itself, but in the idea that anything I do is just a layer of the whole thing. As a logical consequence I started to stack and bound anything that touches my life into Der Stapel, except decaying and moldy stuff, but I hope to manage that soon, too.
In the context of our Abstraction & Architecture project, Der Stapel will be compared with tower buildings. Der Stapel can be seen as a series of constructions made of personal objects, but they differ from architectural constructions in their relationship with time. In a building, all the material used for the construction comes from the same period, even when some extensions or retrofits are made, you can always see a clear boundary between time periods. In Der Stapel, different periods of time are being mixed together, like in life where the past always interact with the present through our memories and experiences…
I have been working on Der Stapel since 2014, so we’re talking about a time period of 4 years. The first two years I only worked on Der Stapel 1. The production was very slow, because I had to manage a lot of questions that developed through my working practice. At this time all the materials came from one time period, I think. With Der Stapel 3 I started to live a very minimal life, anything that I needed to live fitted into my rucksack. I became very consequent in putting all my stuff into my artworks. You can see different time periods for example in Der Stapel 5 when I also started to bind materials that I would typically have kept in a box, like clothes that I used to wear when I was a kid, photographs from my past, letters from friends, small objects that have a special meaning, etc. I mixed them with everyday stuff, with drawings, paintings and prints from the present. That was one idea that accelerated the production of Der Stapel. I still have nostalgic items that are stored in my studio and waiting to become a layer in my work. I am looking forward to finish this process, to become synchronized again with the time period I live in, probably in two or three Der Stapel. I don’t know if different time periods will be in one Der Stapel again, but I know that Humanity develops. Humanity stops the production of some items by law and starts the production of new stuff instead. As an example we can use the plastic fork. The EU will forbid them one day. When I am out and fill my stomach with Fast Food I use them. And I keep them for Der Stapel. When the plastic fork will be forbidden and replaced by another fork, I know that I will eat my lunch with a new fork, keep it again and put it as a layer into Der Stapel. The Der Stapel that will contain both the plastic fork and the new one will show the viewer different time periods. […] The difference in the building of Der Stapel and an architectural construction is that I do not sketch a Der Stapel, I do not build it with the materials determined by my thinking process. I live my life and take what life gives me.
This fork story is quite interesting because it shows how the personal and the universal are bound together. It makes me think about Brie Ruais who uses her body as a starting point to go towards the universal. She puts her exact weight of clay in each of her work and each one of your Der Stapel piece has your own height! Do you relate to her practice?
I love the idea in her working process, but I see differences in our practices. While she uses the variable weight of her body to form beautiful pieces of clay, I use my height to build up A4 stacks on wheels which contain items that are part of my life. I am more a chronicler than a maker. An artist who inspires me a lot is the franco-polish painter Roman Opalka who started his series 1965/1-∞ and counted numbers on canvas until he died in 2011.
Illustration images (from top to bottom): Der Stapel 3 (detail), 2016 – 2017, 178 x 41 x 50 cm, aluminum, ballpoint pen, bronze, cardboard, concrete, cotton, crayon, felt-tip pen, foam, glass, hemp, jute, messing, paper, pencil, plantfoam, plastic, stainless steel, steel, wood Der Stapel 4, 2017, 176 x 35 x 41 cm, aluminum, felt-tip pen, filler, foam, glue, leather, oil, plastic, stainless steel, steel, wood Der Stapel 3, 2016 – 2017, 178 x 41 x 50 cm, aluminum, ballpoint pen, bronze, cardboard, concrete, cotton, crayon, felt-tip pen, foam, glass, hemp, jute, messing, paper, pencil, plantfoam, plastic, stainless steel, steel, wood All images courtesy of the artist