LIKE A MAGIC WAND
Fragments of a conversation
GERDA LAMPALZER & CORNELIA MITTENDORFER
CORNELIA MITTENDORFER: The last conversation was about finding a common thread through my work. My path is intertwined between private and artistic, difficult, complicated, political - I never make it easy for myself, where does that come from?
GERDA LAMPALZER: You have chosen a certain way of working - a certain mixture: research-based, hung on a detail - a person, a story, and it is also strongly about the contradictions.
CM: For me it's always about the personal, about being human. - In my view, perception and everything that is connected to it, is a fascination that is, of course, also present in the socio-political themes.
GL: You also have a curiosity about other societies and accordingly about their perception. How much one doesn't know or forgets! How many mistakes you make as a result!
CM: How do I work? How do I show that? I start with a diffuse idea - then comes a lot of research - sorting - forgetting - it goes in waves. I always try to find also the intuition, the humorous or the poetic, but without a proper basis it doesn't come off for me, and I'm always looking for beauty as well, although that's not very en vogue.
GL: That's an important point. That certainly conditions decisions. There is always an aesthetic in your work, the craftsmanship, of course, is also part of it.
What I sensed, or why you contacted me, is that you want to become more personal and try something new, but at the same time not too much.
CM: It's interesting that this resonated with you, because I wasn't so aware of wanting to become more personal, but it's true.
GL: I think the solution lies in the ritual. The common thread could be something that is not so much how the works relate to each other, but more like a prop, that something is added. If you think about how you work and what you work with, and how that relates to you, something could come out of that - maybe like a magic wand. I think of something symbolic. Your works are very clean, rather opulent, precise in their technological execution, in a classical way. Also in terms of approach to themes, no problem with large-format things, that creates a certain mood. Is there something that mixes it up a bit?
CM: Yes, I notice this in the reception of my works. They are so dense that people often only perceive the surface and not what is behind it. Making the working and thinking process visible would be good for my work. I always see myself standing rather on the edge, my work is so brittle, it's good to make the access to my work easier.
GL: If the need is there to make the person more prominent, can that be performative? It's about: how do you work out your way of working? So that it gets a meaningfulness and doesn't just remain a pure symbolic action, that one sees where you drill into, where it becomes exhausting. If you don't feel like talking about it, it can also be in the form of a text that you hear.
Spontaneous idea: to make visible the process of sorting, selecting, arranging, reflecting. The exhibition could change again and again in the course of the month. Your performance could consist of rearranging the exhibition again and again, or parts of it, and make the thinking process visible and also the effort that lies in it. People would see something of you, but indirectly. With "working hours" where you can watch. That can be very minimalistic. Thinking about the exhibition being mobile, that could be good.
CM: That's exciting. Maybe not putting a lot of new things in the space, but putting or hanging things differently - and seeing how that works, as an insight for me, that might also be interesting for viewers.
GL: Yes, exactly, if you work in the space like that, and if someone comes twice, then he/she sees a different exhibition. That can be very interesting.
There we are perhaps with the shamans and the magic wand. The artist as shaman. The fact that you can't always explain everything, that could be preserved in such an idea. You would then be in a mediating role, a "servant" of art - that fits with your desire that you not become too "important". I find it crucial to think about this role, because ideas then come out of it. Who do I represent in this role? Especially a non-art audience loves to know how artists work, it's also enjoyable to watch, the art audience often looks more at whether it's well done or not. But this could cover both.
You talking about it would be the most straightforward way. You could also put it into a general text and present it as an audio piece, for example. Or you could have someone tell it and do something associative yourself. Then it becomes more of a performance.
CM: I want to think about which works I definitely want to have in the space, whatever they are and how many pieces of them. Then this will be a process of going back and forth, thinking about what could be an additional layer to this or that work.
GL: You can also address or portray feelings, but in a formalised way. Questions to the world. Questions to oneself as well. With that, you can also say: those were the starting points for me. You can show something with it without becoming too biographical. It is ritualised. That is the purpose of a ritual.
In such a ceremonial it could also be that you come with a portfolio and frame the works there and try them around so that one sees the steps and doesn't forget that this is also part of your work, which you reflect on, which is not self-evident - on the contrary, this is very important with you. It depends on how formal these actions are, it's a question of presentation. If it has a proper choreography, then you know exactly what you have to do.
CM: That gives me security. Reflecting beforehand and giving it a form corresponds to me.
GL: Yes, it's important to shape it exactly. That also suits your work much better. Miniatures where you do something at certain times - that would be part of the work, ceremonial like a Zen exercise.
CM: Yes, that suits me, the "again and again", because I am like that, too.
GL: It also has an elegance if there are hours when someone can come and look at it. I think that would be a good mix, because I'm sure you don't want to change your aesthetics now. It will always be like that. You also mentioned beauty. But when you perform and actions come along, they can possibly be incomprehensible or special actions that don't need to be explained. You can also do something that is related to your childhood, for example, that is only recognisable to you. The ceremonial here is about getting away from the directly religious, but if you pull it into the cultural, then that is also the basis of theatre, of official dress, etc., and there one can think about what an artist is.
CM: Based on the idea that reception also varies according to appearance, I could wear different clothes in the ceremonial miniatures, put them on and take them off, and so on.
Vienna, July 2020
GERDA LAMPALZER is a media theorist and media artist whose special focus is artistic research. This encompasses curatorship, lectures, workshops, and publications in the field of video and media art. Her art works include installation, photography, video, concepts, and texts. She has participated in innumerable international exhibitions and presentations. Since 1993 she has collaborated with Manfred Oppermann; the artist duo LAMPALZER/OPPERMANN operates mainly in the areas of staged photography, transdisciplinary media projects, and lecture performances. www.lampalzer-oppermann.at