SVEN SCHUMANN — Speaking of visiting museums, you have done two very successful photo series of people looking at art in some of the world’s most famous museums. What initially interested you in that concept?
THOMAS STRUTH — When I was young, I used to go a lot to the old Museum Ludwig in Cologne. It was still in the ’50s building by Rudolf Schwarz, next to the WDR, the German television station. It was a very bland ’50s building, very beautifully designed, and since there were not very many people, you were confronted with the artwork. And the collection was so interesting at the time. There was medieval painting, an asparagus still life by Monet, and Pop Art, which at that time was very recent. Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg, George Segal, Morris Louis, Joseph Beuys, works by Andy Warhol… It was very stimulating for a teenager. But there weren’t so many people. Then, in the late ’80s, the museum became a different kind of institution and more like a train station full of masses of people. So that’s the starting point for that work. The basis of every activity that you can have as an artist is your own experience, something that you might find worth examining further because it’s unclear. I started to photograph in museums around 1989. Then later on my Audience photographs came more from the question: “If I were the painting, and I would see all these people looking at me, what would I see in a close-up?"
Read more in Purple Fashion magazine #22. Click here to buy
THE QUESTION OF MATERIALS You are known for using cheap, recycled building and temporary materials, such as cardboard, tape, polystyrene, and felt pens — how is this a political choice?
Thomas hirschhorn — These materials don’t want to be intimidating. They don’t embody the exclusion so often used in contemporary art. They are materials which always leave an open door to another activity or use, construction or work materials. They are universal materials, available to all, with no added value. I use them because I want to work with what is around me, with what is available and accessible to me and therefore also accessible to others. That makes it a political choice. Besides, I pay the price for deciding to use these materials; people may accuse me of always using tape — a kind of criticism I can understand — but having made a political decision, I remain consistent.
Read more from the interview with Thomas Hirshhorn by Olivier Zahm in Purple Fashion magazine #22. Click here to buy