Alicja Kwade

Alicja Kwade. Foto: Christian Werner

Artist Alicja Kwade answers our questionnaire: »Not being sad about not having to constantly smooch people.«

What are you working on at the moment?
That’s a question I often get asked and I can hardly answer it, because I’m always working on a lot of things at the same time, usually in no logical or chronological order. Right now, it’s my exhibition at Berlinische Galerie, which was postponed three times, an exhibition in Korea, another exhibition in Paris, a big public project in North Rhine-Westphalia, some competitions for art in public spaces and so on. . .

Who or what has influenced you in your work?
I think more philosophers than artists. Questions of self-knowledge, society, consciousness. . . all kinds of things. I used to read a great, great deal—now I unfortunately don’t really have the time anymore. This used to a lot of science: Steven Hawking for the most part, but also Niels Bohr and Nicola Tesla, Hegel, Kant, Freud, Marx. I also looked into a lot of new stuff such as Markus Gabriel, Yuval Noah Harari, Elena Esposito, and Karen Barad. For me, it’s less about the authors and more about the things that are being examined. That’s the main influence, because I ask myself the same questions, though I try to resolve them differently for myself through what I do: art.

What artwork do you return to again and again?
I can’t look at Michelangelo’s ›Pietà‹ often enough. I still find it incredible that something so amorphous, soft, gentle, and poignant can be carved out of stone.

What would you do if you weren’t an artist?
There are so many possibilities. I could be a real estate mogul and change whole cities, shape them, design them differently. . . (haha) or keep trying out various start-ups. I have ideas for a bar, for a business for things that have something to do with the sun, perhaps I could design children’s playgrounds or parasols. In my pipe dream of a life without the burden of things, I would be an extremely successful writer.

What are you reading or listening to at the moment?
Unfortunately, not much, because I really have very little time and my days are very busy. I hope that will change again soon. So, at the moment I’m basically only reading things that friends give me and that I therefore have a personal relationship with. I’m not really interested in novels at all and generally consider them a waste of time, but if I know the author, it’s different. I usually read several books at once, for example Timon Karl-Kaleyta’s ›Die Geschichte eines einfachen Mannes‹, ›August‹, the new book by Peter Richter, Jacky Thomae’s ›Brüder‹ and Rafael Horzon’s ›The New Book‹. Accordingly, I almost only listen to things that I and my partner put out at Grzegorzki Records, or things we want to release: Paar, Anne, Susanne Blech. . . and of course Rosin, the new young artist in the firmament.

What should art today be able to do, in your opinion?
It has to do something. It has to engage society, it has to work on people and with people outside the educated and privileged circles. It has to offer opportunities for identification in order to displace other ideologies. Art is the only sensible thing that we humans can do at all and have managed to do so far. That needs to be more important!

What aspect of the pre-pandemic world do you grieve—and what things do you not miss at all?
I never bemoan anything in general and I’m an absolutely future-oriented, stoic social optimist. Everything always has pros and cons, but I’m also not exactly sad about not having to constantly smooch people. I’ve never been particularly comfortable with that. A certain old-fashioned distance is fine with me, and if someone isn’t standing right behind me in a queue, that’s not necessarily the worst thing, either. Besides, a lot of things have speeded up—digitally, administratively, in terms of delivery and so on. That was long overdue, and I think there was a good push. That said, I’ll never be a fan of the idea of a home office in my profession. Of course, I enjoy big dinners with friends, co-workers, family, preferably all together. I hope that will be the norm again soon! But I enjoy nothing better than sitting outside on the street in the summertime. And luckily that’s possible again at the moment, or at least almost.

If you had to sum up your work in one word, what would it be?

Do you have a daily ritual?
I’d like to, but I don’t. My life is far too hectic for that.

What art or culture-related events do you look forward to in the near future?
I’m looking forward to an exhibition that I’m doing spur of the moment and just for fun, together with Gregor Hildebrandt, at Kunstraum Konrad which is about an hour outside of Vienna. It will be an incredibly great and beautiful exhibition. Sometimes things turn out well just when you don’t really try very hard. Unfortunately, it’s very hard for me not to make an effort, but this time it worked out. Because I’ve completely lost track of what’s open or closed and when, and what’s happening when, I can’t really focus on or look forward to anything yet. In a way, I can’t really imagine that the Biennale di Venezia will actually take place next year, or Documenta, etc.—it’s all still a bit abstract to me. So I hardly know what’s happening outside my own radius at the moment. . .

Alicja Kwade. In Abwesenheit
18 SEP 2021—4 APR 2022
Opening 17 SEP, 7—10pm