for Vogue Uomo, May/June 2007

Ideas rock and rule!

Carlo Simula: Come definiresti la tua arte e quali temi ti interessano?

Rainer Ganahl: So far I have been more concerned to resist definitions since I find them not only very limiting but mostly misleading. I call my art work “langweilig” – the German term for boring made up with the words “long” and “lasting”. My interest lies in contemporary life in general, but my focus is on educational issues, foreign languages, and media. But I am also moved by politics, ecology, war, love, bicycles and revolutionary movements; for ex: Lenin and Dada, in short: Dadalenin. Lenin was a founding member of Dada in Cabaret Voltaire, Zürich 1917, where he was trained in the art of governance with the terrorist manual Ubu Roi, a text about the killing of the Royal family and all aristocrats, written by the bicyclist and pataphysician Alfred Jarry. Today, they would have all risked to end up in orange jumpers at Guantanamo.

Carlo Simula: Quali sono i materiali che usi nella tua arte?
I use anything I need and what suits best for the purpose, including video, photography, drawings, but make also paintings, objects, neons, t-shirts and doormats. At the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, I just opened a show with the title, “Use a bicyce – The Apprentice in the Sun” focusing on the bicycle with bicycle parts made in bronze and porcelain. My piece “Don’t steal my Mercedes-Benz bicycle” consists of a new bicycle, and three chains: one in bronze, one in porcelain and one Kryptonite chain.

Carlo Simula: Nei tuoi progetti c’è sempre un interesse verso l’acquisizione della conoscenza, come in “Reading Karl Marx” o “Leggere Antonio Gramsci”, in cui tu dai vita a dei seminari sui temi trattati da questi intellettuali. Cosa ti interessa indagare tramite questi tuoi lavori?

Reading Marx’s early philosophical writings as a teenager changed my life and helped me to better understand the dynamics of our society. Since I like to share these intellectual experiences with others I have been organizing communual readings with people as my art work. The same goes with Gramsci an Italian writer who spoke of “organic intellectuals” and saw in everybody an intellectual the way Joseph Beuys saw in everybody an artist. At this Venice Biennial I am showing 44 photographs of my series “Seminars/Lecutres” which show lecturers and with their audience. We get an idea how these sometimes famous people look and where they work. We also see places for which students might have to pay up to 40 000 dollars a year, something nobody can imagine yet in Europe and places which are still free. I am also showing a wallpainting entitled “Searching ‘the politics of education’ on,” a piece that addresses the infrastructure of our information and knowledge ecology. The video I m showing is called “Homeland Security” for which I reiterate the same sentences in all the 11 different languages I have been learning as part of my art work. Corresponding to the title, they read “I’m not a terrorist” , “Im not a religioius fanatique”, “I don’t download dangerous information from the internet” and two others that are typical for the current “war on terror”. You can see me uttering these sentences like in a language lab, but filmed like a mug shut at an US police station or immigration office.

Carlo Simula: Mi sembra che tu sia relativamente interessato ad una produzione artistica convenzionale, quella che si traduce nel creare opere “materiali”. Credo ti interessi di più favorire la circolazione di idee, creare una coscienza sociale condivisa sui dei temi importanti. Che ne pensi?
You are right, the most important things for me are ideas. Does this or that make some kind of sense? Do we need it? How can we safe sinking ice bears? But even if I produce what you call conventional stuff like pictures, objects they remain a market place and vehicle for ideas. Ideas rock and rule!

Carlo Simula: Ti potresti definire un artista “sociale” o “politico” ? Sia che la tua risposta sia si o no, mi diresti il perché?

Oh, more definitions waiting for me - I try to escape from. Any art interesting for me relates in one or another way to the (in every sense overheating) world and is as such social and political. Social and political is the way we see and understand art, any art for that matter, and if we don’t see cultural products through that lense, we are missing out on it – which is yet another way to be political. There is not only the politics of change, the politics of responsibility and consequences but also the politics of ignorance, of non-fare niente, of sticking our head in hot sand and pretending that everything is cool and fine. I disapprove of today’s global turbo-capitalist politics of surprises, accidents, desasters and hate neo-imperialist war fueled “new world orders.” I simply opt for a politics of self-sustainability, and promote bicycling as a viable urban solution for transportation and obeisity as well as a philosophical principle to rething our world we consume to death – and doing so, our own future.

Carlo Simula: Ritieni di avere una “cifra stilistica” che ti sta a cuore e che collega come un fil rouge tutti i tuoi lavori? Se si quale?
Without wanting to sound narcisistic, but if you look for a threat in my work, it is me, my interest in and my conflicts with the world and its inhabitants.

Carlo Simula: Alcuni tuoi recenti lavori , gli “Email Errors”, sono basati sul riportare – in forma pittorica – le tue email con tanto di errori, in cosa consiste la tua ricerca di questa serie di lavori? Li spiegheresti in breve?

My E-mail errors are a series of pencil drawings based on my written correspondence with friends. Always interested in writing, I soon understood that the most interesting prose today comes out of emails, a format that changed the way we write, life, love and lie. Email writing has helped us ignoring orthographic rules, and losen up. It’s is part of a revolution in relationships due to our electronic proximity and distance and is worth playing with.

Carlo Simula: Senti di appartenere a qualche corrente artistica?

No, since I never really adhered to groups I would have liked to belong to. But I’m specially indebted to the bicycle wheel and pissoire of Marcel Duchamp, Dadaism, Russian Conceptualism, the Bauhaus, conceptual art, plus literary figures that have nothing to do with art, like Marx, Freud, Adorno, Benjamin, Kafka, Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Gertrude Stein, Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak.

Carlo Simula: Potresti accennare ad alcuni momenti, esperienze, mostre che secondo te sono stati fondamentali per la tua formazione-iter artistico?
Bicycling and hitch-hiking across Europe as a teenager and beyond have most likely turned me into an artist. Studying philosophy, history, literature and foreign languages helped me as well on this road. But I stopped to study at the academy Düsseldorf with Nam June Paik and moved to New York to attend the Whitney Independent Study program which confronted me with the cultural and political ideas that have transformed and defined America over the last 30 years. Concerning exhibitions, here is a selection of crucial shows with larger: Dallas Museum of Arts, Dallas1992; Person’s Weekend Museum, Tokyo 1993; Generali Foundation, Vienna 1997; Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria 1998; Austrian Pavillion, Venice Biennial 1999; Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York 2005; Museum of Modern Art, Vienna 2005; this year: Biennale Moscow; Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Dandee, Scottland; Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart 2007

April 2007 New York -