Excerpt of a talk with Hans-Werner Schmidt

You are working with letters be it a cumulative mass or straight words. This is, in a sense, a link to conceptual art, even though conceptual art seems to avoid material. How does that go together in your work?

J.H.: Right, that's conceptual art, but I do not want to be put in a category.

Let me ask you the following: We have a work of Lawrence Weiner outside on the windows of the Kunsthalle and also a display with some of his publications, because many people here do not know Lawrence Weiner. In 1969 there was an exhibition in Bern, "When attitudes become form", in which Lawrence Weiner has published a text that we also show here:
"The artist may construct the piece.
The piece may be fabricated.
The piece need not be built.
Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership."

Thats the way I see it. There is a concept in my work, yes. Why I do not leave it at that is because of always coming to a materialisation, or better: The material, its own language and fun of experimenting with it, are essential parts of the concept even though most of the latest works seem to be producable by any because of their geometry.

Do you do that by yourself?

Nearly everything. I could have the circle be welded, I could have the stones be worked, no question. But, why I do not let it be made is because I always have a proportional reference as an individual as well as the spectator, and a reference to the surrounding space. During the working process I want to check if it is true. And really, if something fails about two centimeters, it will be done again. That makes a difference which is deciding.

You have the idea and you want to experience the material which is quite intense work. On the other hand you could let the work be done by others and have time to develope further ideas.

Yes, but I had to run aganist other resistances. There are no individual experiences, but only reprocessed. That is like experiencing by doing and some sort of imagined experience like watching the tv.

When I look at these two spiry rings, one of which is made of steel, granite I guess the other. Hard materials anyway. Why don't you make the rings from plywood? Why that fierce and heavy fractious material?

That is to be understood from the work itself. The stone has much more weight than the rest of the sculpture. The stone is balancing the whole thing.

I am staying insistent: You can have balance with pick-up sticks - I ask myself why does it have to be these extremely heavy and hard to work materials? Can't other substances transcribe what shall be visualised like balance or the wearing of a writing?

Sure, but no other material can show exactly that heaviness.Thats what it is about, too. It is one aspect on a certain level that I take into respect, that is floating somewhere. You cannot translate absolute logical connections of the different levels with words. If that was possible I would consequently not make a sculpture. I would leave it at the concept and deliver a speech, for instance. That would be no problem to me. But I am always looking for a form that comes best next to these complex ideas.

You show the word. Do you start with the word, do you have a theoretic or literaric platform?

Working on a theme like babylon I will read what is there. You need that knowledge but you have to try to totally get rid of it and even forget it in order to not become illustrative.

Which comes first: Term or picture?

I cannot clearly separate that. In no case I would say to myself, let's work on this, that has an interesting context. In the process of working the semantic field becomes wider. I also discover new levels. That is an advantage of making things by yourself, because while making, at simple handcrafting, you discover things and that brings you on...

Dr. Hans-Werner Schmidt has been director of the Kunsthalle Kiel until 2000 and from 2000-2017 director of the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig. The interview was held in 1995 on the occasion of the Landesschaupreis to F. Jörg Haberland.


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