Togay Tanyolac interviews Jurgen Trautwein as part of the Contemporary Art @ Boğaziçi - Interview Project, 2010/11, Instanbul Contemporary Art Museum (IsCAM)
In what ways do you feel pessimism for the society with a catchy title like "Niesatt"?
NIESATT is a neologism consisting of the two German words NIE and SATT, which means never full, never enough, never satisfied.
If one substitutes the double T of the word NIESATT, it becomes a palindrome to the word DASEIN a German word used by Martin Heidegger in his work Being and Time, which generally translates to “being there”, "existence" or "presence".
NIESATT has nothing to do with pessimism, it’s a project that questions if we are as evolving, globalized societies doomed to be mere insatiable, exploitative and oppressive beasts, which cant get enough and will never be satisfied.
You play with words of many different languages. How is your relation with (native & foreign) languages and in "rien et rouge" do the mood of the assigned sounds to languages have a language-specific meaning?
I’m too foreign to be native but sometimes I’m native but foreign. I am a lover of foreign tongues not that I necessarily speak a lot of languages, but I am living in San Francisco, a melting pot of languages, where I’m constantly confronted with a multitude of languages. Rien et rouge are minimal love poems attributed to the process of moving through a city, sensing overlapping, fragmented sounds and phonetic pleasures of various languages.
In "9/11" you end with a call to humanity. What is the key aspects of humanity in your ideals that you are referring to with that piece and how should art contribute to its establishment?
To answer your question, I like to use a fragment of Albert Camus’ Nobel Prize banquet speech from 1957, which is to me as relevant today as it was then.
“…Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself. Heir to a corrupt history, in which are mingled fallen revolutions, technology gone mad, dead gods, and worn-out ideologies, where mediocre powers can destroy all yet no longer know how to convince, where intelligence has debased itself to become the servant of hatred and oppression, this generation starting from its own negations has had to re-establish, both within and without, a little of that which constitutes the dignity of life and death… The artist forges himself to the others, midway between the beauty he cannot do without and the community he cannot tear himself away from. That is why true artists scorn nothing: they are obliged to understand rather than to judge. And if they have to take sides in this world, they can perhaps side only with that society in which, according to Nietzsche's great words, not the judge but the creator will rule, whether he be a worker or an intellectual.
Sometimes in your pieces the scenes move so fast, the perception is almost subliminal. What's your intention in "bombing" in this overwhelming speed?
With those sound/ image terrorism pieces I intend to create spaces of discomfort within an environment of annoying repetition that unconsciously might infiltrate once mind. These pieces refer to image/ sound pollution to a torturous sensory overload, the hallmark of information age.
Who would you say are the artists that have a particular influence on you?
Bosch, Beuys, Bacon and Beckett
In your artwork, do you value a piece that took weeks for you to combine the different elements in your imagination and took only 10 minutes to create or a piece that was just a simple idea that required weeks of realization; in short, do you value brain work or hand work more?
There is brainwork and handwork to any artwork, even if it’s conceived in a “wu wai” no thought method. It ‘s all a process, some pieces come fast others involve lot’s of time and work, both mental and physical depending on the project.
There are many artists who imitate others in content and in style. Does that bother you and do you come across other artists that want to imitate you?
It takes a long time for some artists to develop their voice. They might need to imitate to develop; others have their own vision, which they rigorously follow. I personally prefer artists who don’t copy. Real Art speaks of uniqueness not copyists, who re-chew pre-thought concepts. Usually, it’s an honor if ones work gets imitated.
In one of your works in jtwine.com there is a piece created possibly with a screen capture where the mouse cursor was deliberately left on the video. Do you consider that transparency or absurdness, in any case do you feel it contributes to the artistic value?
It’s ridiculously absurd and reveals transparency at the same time, but basically it’s just an aesthetic element that provokes a dialog between a static or frozen cursor and the cursor set in motion by the viewer. Whether it contributes to the artistic value of the piece, I don’t know. The artistic value of a piece lies always in the eyes of the beholder.
You have made a tribute to German artist Joseph Beuys. Was that due to his "a German in U.S." concept or his extension of the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk, which legitimizes many "controversial" art forms? Where do you stand on that "controversy"?
Both, I’m intrigued by his concept of a “German in US”, like me, and the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Beuys is an amazing artist, to me; he is the Dalai Lama of postwar art, the last visionary modernist, who is intellectually spiritually and visually challenging until today. He was an artist with a ueber-aura, an artist who opened up the possibility of free from experimentation. He was teaching the path of crossing boundaries and regarded art as a cure for alienated humanity.
To me, controversial art equals real art, only controversial art challenges our understanding of the world; all other art is system glorification and beautified mainstream, commodities for the monetary market.
What do you think about Pixel Art, do you consider it a new art form?
No, I don’t think it’s new. 5000 years ago one could speak of the earliest forms of pixel art, the cone mosaics of Uruk in Mesopotamia. In modern times there where the Pointillists, like Signac and Seurat, and there was Klee long before the term pixel art was published in 1982.
You are creating a sound space in your work like a perception game where upon repetition, one starts to hear things? Was that you purpose, and if so why?
Some of those pieces are controlled accidents playing with minute differences with the same looped sound files repeating themselves over and over again. Overlapping sounds, locked up loading times and perpetual repetitions result in no purpose no intension sound-scapes, that seem to have their own life. These pieces refer to Walter Benjamin’s’ concept of the eternal reoccurrence of the same.
There is a certain attitude of yours against consumerism and TV culture in general. Do you consider yourself a politically involved artist?
I see myself as an artist being visually active and reflective on contemporary issues. I’m not necessary activistic, which is not reflective like art. Political is associated with propaganda and propaganda is not art, it just makes me puke.