Conversation with Paul Philipp Heinze

closing step 1 / muring an oil painting (42cm X 20cm) / after exhibition photo © pph

Didem Yazıcı: Each time you are working on an art work, you choose to realize it with a different medium. As for many contemporary artists, it is almost impossible to speak about a specific medium. Rather than adapting a medium specifity, you adapt a style. We can perhaps start talking about that style.

Paul Philipp Heinze: It is about content that can also be an irrational one. If you have a feeling about something, it is indeed not important to explain it with the work. It is more about becoming aware of a mood which can be an irrational constellation. There is a content, and researching process that is like a journalist practice: reading, writing, collecting things, like hunting the content. It can be everything, a historical situation, a popular subject or something that catches you. The most important point here is being sensitive about what actually catches you. This is a starting point like a method. There are lots of materials in my work, sounds and images. I collect them and then have a unique approach within artistic praxis. During the research process, I have many materials. However, I do not want to present these materials, as a collection series. I’d rather transform them into something really unique, something that you did not see before, something unrecognizable to become aware of. It is about transforming the rational content into something perceptive that is functioning by itself. It is really a conceptual work, but as a viewer you do not need to know anything. I do not want to explain the content, I want the content to be experienced in a sensual way. I like to work like a scientist, getting deeper into things. After this process, you can experience the spirit of the thing and producing something unique that keeps this spirit.


You keep using the term ‘unique’. What makes uniqueness so important?

It is the uniqueness of my artistic position, it might not be the right word. I do not want to have an image, a painting or a photography which is not stable, not stable enough to survive and protect itself. It is not important who the author is, or I am not interested in who made the work, i want to see the work while it stands on its own. Then, the work should speak for itself. I do not need a sub-text what it is all about. I want to feel the spirit of a thing i was getting into.

It sounds like it is more about the spirit, rather than the idea of uniqueness.

It is important how the people get along with the work, and how the work is treating the people. Rather than the author, the surrounding is important. In the last 30-40 years, the art world has become more like a pop cultural scene: reputation, fame, celebrity. I can deal with that. It is not about the work itself anymore, it is the contextualization of reputation and in a way this is ok. There are such artists that I respect. Artists who do not care about art and just make business.

For the first time, we met in Istanbul and I know that you exhibited there. Couple of years ago, you made a site-specific installation in Istanbul.

It was the time when there were attacks on some art galleries in Istanbul, I was also there in one of those galleries during these attacks. The work that you mention relates with it. In the work, the sun is no longer turning black, the sun gets camouflaged in the public sphere. I just wanted to hide subject and make something that is really conceptual. It was installed at Black Door Istanbul, now the same work is in a collection in the Bronx, New York.

I remember one of your photo works called “Glove” simply beautiful colorful flowers. Can you talk about that work?

It is about fake flowers, and really simple. If you take a photograph, you freeze a moment and you stretch the time. The moment you make becomes eternal. However, when you have fake flowers, it is different. Real flowers are totally fragile, their blossom is super-mortal. If you take fake flowers, the moment in bloom is already endless, then I make the endless thing an eternal once again. It is sort of minus and minus makes plus. If you look at the flowers, you can see that the aesthetic of the images evoke funerals. Therefore, becoming eternal means dying in a way. If you look at the photo, you can not see that they are fake. But, if you look at them really closely then you can realize it, it is not obvious. It is nice and beautiful and at the same time a funeral image. This is the ambivalence.

There is an interesting aspect in your performance works. You, yourself do not perform the act but work with other artists. In these works, you become sort of a theatre or film director. You are directing a performance and instrumentalizing artists.

All those people that I work with are professionals in the field of visual arts and for me this is really important. In these works, the artist becomes material, they are like materials like a stone or wood. It is a bit mean and weird. Using an artist as a material means that I am focusing the situation of an artist itself. People think that I am torturing the artists. It is a little bit like what Santiago Sierra is doing, but totally different, since he is not working with artists as material. I could also work with graphic designers as material or curators as material.

What do u mean by situation of artists, can you elaborate on that?

What I mean is the condition of the artist today, and how to survive as an artist. I am not focusing on the economic situation of artist, I am more focusing of the role itself. I have to admit that I am very happy to live in these times, the bohemian thing is thankfully over. This bohemian situation dominated the role of the artist. It was about standing outside the society and observing the things and the system with this arrogant view. I am not part of this game. It was like saying “I am free and I can do whatever I want and I have nothing to do with ordinary people”. Well, I am in the middle of society and among the people. What I recognize is that most artists are living a cliche, an artists lifestyle, like in a magazine a super affected form of living. I have the feeling that the artists are victimizing themselves.

Your performative works victimize artists, so it makes this situation obvious.


I think that your main practice is closely connected to capturing a situation and working with it. This process would end up with a sculptural installation, a photography, an act, or a performance. I remember that when you first started to talk about your works with me, first you started by saying that you work with many different mediums. Therefore, it is more about revealing the content through the feeling of the work and the emotion that the work gives you.

That’s right. The idea is like capturing these feelings and moments. There is a journalist kind of work that can be irrational. After that, I need to build up the form out of it to see if I need to photograph it, or if I need artists as material for that. This is why it maybe could become a little hard to handle the works that I do, it is actually a lot. But, you can see that people always tell me that I make quite specific works, and they can recognize my personal works among thousands. It is a specific style, that’s what they say. One of the important things is to reflect on the quality-level of the work. When I finish a work, I always check whether the quality is good enough. What I do is, I try to feel how it would be to be the work itself. We look at it and that can be art, but how does it feel to be the work itself? And if it feels comfortable to me to be the artwork in person, then i give it a try in an exhibition. sounds a bit strange but it makes sense to me.

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