Friday, March 16, 2012

"Ugly means truth. I find ugliness honest."
Martin Eder for I Love You No.7 "The Wrong Issue

In addition to our video interview and the exhibiton announcement of Martin Eder's “Asymmetrie” here is the full interview we did for I Love You our latest “Wrong Issue”. 

What drives you? What excites you about your work?

Whenever I am asked this question, I always reply with the same answer: it’s anger that drives me. I am aware that it sounds too easy, since anger is too high-flying of a notion and yet it is anger. One is attacked and one strikes back. It’s a reaction shared by hedgehogs, turtles and prehistoric animals;it’s the moment an octopus discharges ink.

Who is it exactly that attacks you? The world?

Yes, and I agree that it’s slightly mad. One thinks one is attacked, although it’s obviously not the case. When you look at the riots that took place in England recently, you can see people actually beingattacked. People make you believe that it’s awesome to own three TVsand the latest iPhone, but unfortunately they cannot afford it. Suddenly the situation shifts and the strikers break panes and simply grab shit from the stores. It’s actually quite normal that this happens. I can understand that very well; the anger I feel is very similar.

Is beauty possible in this frame of things?

Beauty? Yes. I think that beauty lies in humility. Beauty mostly appears as a by-product, when one is busy with things that are not beautiful tostart with. Something lies still in front of you and you suddenly think, “That does not look too bad actually.” A flower, for instance. Aesthetics come as a surprise.

How did you stumble upon kitsch? How do you select the subjects for your pictures? Would you consider them kitsch? Did you have some kind of experience with kitsch in early childhood?
Nope. It’s actually quite old-fashioned. I’m totally old-fashioned. For example, I keep believing that art has a social responsibility. If you stand up on a fruit box in the middle of the street and yell something, people will hear you. But that “something” must interest them. It’s the same with art. You can’t just hang something on a wall or glue together three neon tubes thinking that that’s enough. You must wish to provoke or achieve something, something that goes beyond the formal. I rather consider myself a journalist, because I pick up what I see and explain it in a different manner instead of inventing things. I’m a storyteller. I don’t add anything, I don’t invent an image, I don’t make up a story around it. You can see it in the paintings most of the time, only naked figures are depicted on them. That’s how life is and that’s how that specific situation is. There’s no sense in adding something to the world that is not able to pull it forward. That’s why I claim quite pathetically that my pictures manage to pull the world forward by simply mirroring it. About the selection of subjects, I choose subjects that I like but that are also of interest to others. My art is very naive. I don’t make art for the handful of intellectuals, art critics and curators. First and foremost, I make art for the “others”. My exhibitions are not exclusive either, nobody is excluded, everybody is welcome: the intellectuals ant the intelligent, although I make art that can be understood by people from all walks of life. This is directly related to my complete conviction that art is eternal. My paintings are like bacteria or a bad virus that infect and proliferate. That’s why I seek to choose subjects that can last for a longer period of time and I use simple tricks such as landscapes, people and animals in order to express whatever I want to express.

What does the subject with the white dog in a bluish-black
background mean?

Nothing (laughs). No, I’m joking, of course it means something. To me it’s a small poor dog with a slightly sad expression in the eyes. Let’s say it’s a melancholic picture.

So Martin Eder stands on a fruit box and screams “white dog”?

Hm, yes, I do stand on a box and say “white dog”. People all around the world understand the message “white dog”.

Do you believe in kitsch? What fascinates you about naivety
and simplicity?

People want to arrive, they want to finally be there. I offer them a kind of hotel they can check-in to. For some the hotel is too unsophisticated, for others it’s too cheap, but my entry price is low.

To be honest, I find your pictures frightening.

Yes, I can understand that. Of course there is anxiety involved.

Why naked women?

To me, it’s not about representing sexuality. On the contrary, my concern is to represent desires, but also disappointments or failures of one’s own wishes. I don’t make images in order to arouse people. The person who gets aroused by my pictures needs to see a doctor.

What desires do you have? What wishes of yours failed?

I wish my paintings were understood in the way we talk about them right now. I long for communication. When I read critiques of my work and come across expressions like “lolita porn” or “cat kitsch” I think to myself: “What a shame they didn’t really look!”

Does it matter to you what the observer sees?

Definitely. As I said already: “Fruit box”. I do it in order to be heard. I don’t do it for myself.

Have you already had the feeling of having failed?

I’ve failed many times. I fail every time I come here, because each painting represents a battle. In addition, you always have to fight your self-doubts, as well as the inner battle you constantly carry around with yourself: “Is this right? Can I handle the process of painting this image? Do I have fun doing it?”

Do you have your own technique of hushing your inner voice? Something in the lines of “Shut up, I need to continue now!” ?

No, but I also feel a perverse delight in my own battle. The more my paintings please, the more I feel I’ve failed. I want to create things that are understood but that fail to please. Here an example: I had a stand with some paintings at an art fair years ago. They were bought by an old lady with the following reasoning: “Aaw, I loooove cats!”. I though to myself: “Shit, that was a mistake!”.

But don’t you think that you attracted this old lady with your
accessibility? You’re like a “Schlagerstar”of the art scene!

No, I prefer to remain slightly weird. I think art should always be a mystery. Thus, it’s important for me to have a certain amount of mystery and failure in my work. An image should look sexy and good from further away, like a fetish. One should be able to feel warmth in the body and the more one approaches the image physically, the more disappointed one should get, something like “ Ooh, this is badly done!”. When you face the image closely, it should never look “completed” or “painted until the very last angle”. The disappointment should begin 1 or maybe 1,5 meters away.

How come?
That’s my credo. Sloppiness for instance has nothing to do with failing. There should be plenty of effortlessness in every art piece, it should look as if it has been made in-between two phone calls. That’s what I mean with failure. One could improve these paintings by a thousandfold.

Would you say that you’re a good artist?
No, I’m not a good one. I’m not even an artist, I think. A real artist for instance always fiddles, sketches and doodles something on the table napkin and when you meet him, he will monologue about his rubbish and he will never be interested in anything else apart from his own barn smell. That’s the definition of a true artist.

You expect to meet an art collector soon, how do you conduct
yourself? Have you developed a certain “art attitude”, an acting technique in order to match the image of an artist?

Yes, definitely. There’s only one trick: you need to tell these people the truth. Most collectors who come here are prepared, there’s no need to fool them.

The rest runs through the gallery or exhibitions... grandmothers with cat paintings? I don’t think that grandmothers are so bad. If I were an artist, I would rather fear the disrespect of my passion or that people might merely consider my art as an investment. This makes grandmothers who are interested in cats seem rather sympathetic.

Yes, but why don’t they just buy pharmacy calendars?

Maybe they want something more valuable than a pharmacy

I view that differently. As an art collector you need to take your job seriously. If you spend a lot of money on art, then you should do your homework beforehand, otherwise it’s perverse. It’s immoral to spend 50.000 euros on a painting out of purely selfish reasons (“I love cats”). It’s more meaningful to donate these 50.000 euros to the hungry. Art and prices are difficult topics.

Do you wrangle with your success? Do you view it as a failure?

I am not particularly successful to be honest. What is “successful” anyway?

Isn’t success in art defined by prices your works fetch? If I
manage to sell a cat for 50.000 euros, it’s not bad, isn’t it?

Because it costs 50.000?


I don’t know.

You have called yourself an impostor, is that true?

No, that’s what people thought of me. I get a lot if criticism. 9 out of 10 people are critics. When you read something like that about yourself you do get offended. Being an impostor means that I tell things that aren’t true, which is not the case.
Does criticism hurt you? Of course it does. I’m not a robot.

You do polarize though by consciously taking the cat from the
pharmacy and transferring it into art?

What is polarizing about projecting something as ordinary as naked people or pets on a canvas? I think nobody would be interested by an image of people hanging themselves, but a painting of a pet is provocative. It’s an attack on home, that’s what’s so provoking. Art usually stops somewhere, mostly in a taxi ride home after an exhibition. OK, you do have people who have some kind of ridiculous painting hanging on a wall at home, but the attitude of “I am interested in art” fades whenever they put on their pajama, at the very latest. It’s only at this very moment that my art begins, just before the brushing of the teeth, to be precise. My art is located between pajama and falling asleep. In the subconscious, in the moment where you doze away and wake up for a brief moment just to shrug. All the things that run through your head, good and bad, in the context of being at home in your private space. Abuse and sexual assault don’t take place in an underground parking, but on your uncle’s lap.

You once said “I hate high quality”. Is that so?

In some sense, yes. Of course I respect high quality, I like things that are well made. But I hate prints that are perfect. I love black and white pictures with grains of dust. I love it when a tailor doesn’t stitch a buttonhole flawlessly. High quality has a lot to do with power and the so-called “anal fixation”. It’s about people who live in tiled spaces with house managers and well-tempered wine. I hate that, it’s so charmless.

One of your exhibitions was entitled “Ugly”. Is “ugly” more
appealing than “beautiful”?

Yes, “ugly” is good.

Is ugly sympathetic?

No, ugly means truth. I find ugliness honest. Do you consider the shopping mall “Gesundbrunnen centre” in Berlin ugly? Yes. But that’s normality, that’s how the world is.

But you could live somewhere else, far away from Berlin and
the “Gesundbrunnen centre”.
Yes, but 79 percent of the world’s habitable space is ugly. Of course one can construct a world that stretches from “Club Med” to the “Venice Biennale Party”. Everything has its own justification, but I want to see both sides. Then again it’s not about “seeing”, I might live on one side and sometimes go to the other, but I still prefer to live in the “Gesundbrunnen centre.”

Would you like to generate dreams and desires as an artist?

Yes, that’s what I do anyway. Maybe that’s the reason why, at the back of my mind, I always like to work for the audience that normally doesn’t go to art exhibitions. Because their dreams are stronger. This becomes very obvious when I photograph people for my work. I captured teenagers, many of whom live in the suburbs. They mostly arrive buried, but once they are inside, they open up and flourish. One girl talked about her hip-hop friends and shows she was watching on television and that she wanted her piercing to be seen. What do they think about the end result?
They like it.

Do they know that your pieces are being sold for a lot of
money? What is their opinion about that?

They appreciate that because they also live in a system where money determines quality. It’s also a sign of recognition.
Where do you find your models?
People come to me. I happen to know most of them. They are not models from agencies. I want normal people that are not idealized. Do they know that you will eventually photograph them naked? Yes, they see examples of works beforehand.

So you don’t approach them in the subway?

No, that’s silly and I am not courageous enough to do that anyway. It would be too cheesy. There are thousands of forums on the Internet. They come and I take a picture. We talk and I listen to their stories; often sad stories about abuse, of actors who got stuck and trapped in their role years ago. I come to ask myself: “How did they manage to cope with their lives?”. There is so much violence created by society and media out there that I don’t want to have anything to do with it. Look at those supermodel shows. It’s unbelievable what people are willing to do and give away. They suffer and almost kill themselves. It’s a good illustration of violence that exists in the world and the actual brutality of normality. “Vogue” wrote about me and my work some time ago. In addition they asked me to write 40 questions for a column that would be destined to their readers. I looked up some psychological questionnaires that determine if someone is bipolar, depressive or anorexic. I selected these questions, copy-pasted them and sent them to “Vogue”. Some questions appeared to be normal and ordinary such as “When did you eat properly for the last time?”. Others were unpleasant. The magazine instantly refused my offer: “We don’t know what you want, we can’t understand your intention. This is a big summer fashion special issue and your questions don’t fit into the program.”

You seem to take responsibility for your fruit box or when girls come and open themselves to you. Are there any days when you don’t feel like listening?

No, it’s a bit like going to the priest. He needs to be available and always carry around his ointment.

I must admit that the moment when girls come to you is very
intimate. You capture them after they’ve undressed. How do they handle that?

Nobody has to undress here. I specify that I am looking for nude models prior to our collaboration, thus everybody is well informed. They come for the art. But it is true that by undressing one simultaneously is stripped of one’s protection and status. However, I don’t want to generate eroticism. I don’t find it particularly hot when people take their clothes off. I just want to reach and touch the core of a human being. I think that with fashion photography or commercial
photography in general, people merely want to invent a story, to construct a world that doesn’t exist. I do the opposite. I want to dismantle this world.

Do you already know what you will do next?

Realism, more extreme, glassier, as sharp-edged as a broken glass. Some older works are very soft and tender. My oil paintings need to become more transparent, more laser-like. Colder. Much colder.

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