Purple Magazine
— Purple 76 Index issue #29 S/S 2018

Imhof anne

performance in the age of social networks

interview by JÉRÔME SANS


‘Faust,’ venice biennale 2017

JÉRÔME SANS — Your work is multifaceted. I feel that it explodes art’s many frames: you deal with painting, sculpture, performance, and music, but also cinematographic images and fashion. So, there are no more categories. Everything seems to have the same value and to interpenetrate each other. How would you define your work?

ANNE IMHOF — I am doing painting and performance. Drawing is another thing I do, which in a way precedes and mediates the two practices. I draw almost every day, and this is usually how ideas for a new piece first start to develop. I always admired master drawers, and I started copying their techniques and studying their sketches for paintings when I was quite young.

JÉRÔME SANS — You trained as a photographer. What did photography bring to your current practice?

ANNE IMHOF — I still work a lot with photographs — ones I find, my own, and those depicting the guys I work with. I love this medium. The photography that is out there of the pieces is mainly done by Nadine Fraczkowski, a friend and long-term collaborator of mine.

‘Faust,’ venice biennale 2017

JÉRÔME SANS — What does it mean to make painting nowadays?

ANNE IMHOF — I don’t know, you tell me. It’s what I do and what I love most.

‘Faust,’ venice biennale 2017

JÉRÔME SANS — What about your recent “scratch painting” series? Where does it come from? These scratches seem to me a kind of battle with the canvas, an attack on the painting, a nonreversible act. Is it a “post-punk-Fontana” attitude?

ANNE IMHOF — I started this series of works a while ago. They usually have multiple layers of lacquers in the same colors that are used by luxury car brands. I like cars. The four gray metal plates that flanked the portico of the German Pavilion [at the Venice Biennale] and covered parts of its façade were made in the same fashion — only, I left the surfaces intact for the first time.

‘Faust,’ venice biennale 2017

JÉRÔME SANS — Is there a link with music — I mean, the scratch used by the DJ to invent, from existing records, new sounds to play within another context?

ANNE IMHOF — I haven’t really thought about there being a connection, but I don’t think so, no.

JÉRÔME SANS — How important is the notion of “accident” within these works?

‘Faust,’ venice biennale 2017

ANNE IMHOF — It is certainly very important. I do them without any prior sketches for the most part. At first, I tried to develop it in a different way, but then I realized that it works best if I just treat these large canvases like I do with paper, only more aggressively because you need some strength to make a mark on this material. It’s always a fine line between abstraction and it becoming more figurative. The scratching of lacquer derives from an action on the streets.

JÉRÔME SANS — Your work seems to describe youth culture, your generation. Or, mostly, it refers to precise codes of a contemporary generation. The performers have precise attitudes, but no specific characters. Could we consider your work — especially your performance work — as a portrait of a generation?

ANNE IMHOF — I would never claim for myself to depict a whole generation with my work. And it’s not what I am aiming for, either — the idea of making portraits and portrayal more generally is indeed crucial. I’ve been making portraits for a long time, over and over.

JÉRÔME SANS — In the Giardini at the Venice Biennale, the monumental German Pavilion, of neoclassical inspiration, still fits in with the aesthetics promoted by the Nazi regime. It has been considered sometimes as a “concentrational space.” Your work takes into consideration architecture and context. How did you deal with this specific environment there?

ANNE IMHOF — It gets tiring to always talk about this work’s relation to its surroundings, although it’s obviously important and something I consciously engaged with. A lot of people wish this building to be demolished and finally be gone. But what would come after, in the end, would probably not be a change for the better at all. It is a throbbing wound, a reminder of its fascist builders — or renovators, rather. I thought it best not to try to cover it up, but rather point at it and emphasize its presence.

JÉRÔME SANS — In Faust, your work at the Biennale, we are in a way reminded of spaces like those in zoos: where the empty spaces designed for animals seem unnatural, maladjusted… Everything is made for the viewer to see well. What kind of reactions did you expect from this constraining scenography?

ANNE IMHOF — I did not expect anything in particular, to be honest.

JÉRÔME SANS — In the Faust performance, all performers embody a kind of new era. They act not like a community of people, but as a “one-person community.” What do you think?

ANNE IMHOF — We are all anti-Fausts.

‘Faust,’ venice biennale 2017

JÉRÔME SANS — How do you consider the power of communities?

ANNE IMHOF — It is very strong, for sure.

JÉRÔME SANS — Is your Faust performative work a critical view of our times, where everybody, through the social network, can be seen and observed at each moment?

ANNE IMHOF — This has been a common interpretation, because of glass being the dominant material in the installation and the notion of total tranparency. But in our times, of all the things to be critical about, the social network is not the one I would choose. When I go into making work, I am not going in with a specific agenda like this.

JÉRÔME SANS — In the original story of Faust, the main character makes a pact with the devil. In your Faust work, what kind of devil do we have to refer to?

ANNE IMHOF — You can choose. There are many.

‘Faust,’ venice biennale 2017

JÉRÔME SANS — The performers are also evolving with, like, secret codes between them. How do you organize this work, which seems to be a disorganized stage and story?

ANNE IMHOF — It’s an elaborate mode of on-the-spot decision-making. These decisions, as you can imagine, are not all made by me while the piece is performed. I think this sense of secrecy is just something that occurs when you have a group of people in front of you whose actions and motives you don’t fully understand. It can be scary to witness each other’s freedom.

JÉRÔME SANS — How do you prepare their partitions? Do you give precise instructions, or is improvisation important?

ANNE IMHOF — We never rehearse a single piece in real time. But we come very prepared. The general scenes, movements, and images I think of and work out in advance. A lot of space for decision-making is left open. New things always occur during the course of a show and so the piece is always being rewritten by everyone as it unfolds.

JÉRÔME SANS — I have seen that you give directions to the performers via text messages on cell phones. Why? How would you describe your relationship to all of them?

ANNE IMHOF — We are all both friends and colleagues. The text messages are short, and I write a lot of them during the shows. They could be read as orders, but I don’t direct. It is a form of checking in and arranging connections. I’m always trying to find the right words to say something in that weird format. Everybody loves to put so much meaning into it. Well, there could be. They often go unread, though.

JÉRÔME SANS — What is your relationship to music? How do you combine this universe with the art world?

ANNE IMHOF — I’ve been doing music for as long as I have been a visual artist. The concert as an art form is very exciting to me.

JÉRÔME SANS — It seems that mostly you don’t appear in your performances. Why don’t you perform by yourself?

ANNE IMHOF — I used to, and I also used to perform music myself in my earlier pieces, which had a closer resemblance to concerts. Faust and Angst, my latest pieces, are too complex for me to be on the outside and the inside of them at the same time.

‘Faust,’ venice biennale 2017

JÉRÔME SANS — Do you consider your work political?

ANNE IMHOF — I think Faust makes statements, but not in a literal way. What I hope has become clear by now — we are antifascists. We are many. We are strong. And ready to fight. We never rehearse. But we are prepared.

JÉRÔME SANS — Who are your references and/or the artists you feel close to?

ANNE IMHOF — I love [Jean-Michel] Basquiat’s work. And I feel there is a link in terms of drawing and composition. I also love the work of Balthus, Bacon, Blixa Bargeld, Joan Mitchell, Joni Mitchell, Eliza Douglas, and Dean Blunt. Arthur Rimbauld I love the most. But the artists I feel closest to are the ones that I work with: Franziska Aigner, Josh Johnson, Lea Welsch, and all of the others.

JÉRÔME SANS — You live between Frankfurt and Paris. As an artist, what does Paris represent for you?

ANNE IMHOF — I used to live in Paris. It feels like a city I can always can come back to. I love walking there, and it’s where I saw works by Picasso for the first time, which was one of the most impressive things ever.

JÉRÔME SANS — How do you see the future?

ANNE IMHOF — There will be rain.



[Table of contents]

Purple 76 Index issue #29 S/S 2018

Table of contents

Purple Index 76

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