enrique marty

 

 

The interview with Enrique Marty was conducted on August 13, 2010 in Salamanca – in his studio, in his apartment, in a café at Plaza Major, in restaurants, in the Convent of San Esteban, during a tour of the old town, and in the alleyways away from the flows of tourists roaming through Salamanca. This text is an excerpt of our conversations held during the 13-hour tour of the city. They offer a far more intensive exchange on issues of Marty’s artistic concept, his working method and the exhibition idea developed for the Kunsthalle Mannheim than originally expected.

 

 

SM Enrique, when one immerses oneself in your labyrinthine, frequently networked and multimedia-oriented work, it is hard to evade the visual intensity of your artworks. No matter whether I have encountered your paintings or video animations, the painted sculptures or entire spatial installations – the extremely captivating and at the same time alienating images have clung to my mind. Your direct picture vocabulary, the excessive realism and the penetrating iconography – coupled with theatrical scenarios – always revolve around the human creature. What kind of communicative function does art possess for you? Are you in a similar position as George Grosz, who wanted to hold “the mirror in front of the grotesque face” of his contemporaries to “convince this world that it is ugly, sick and hypocritical”?

 

EM I work because I need to communicate and at the same time it's my way of dealing with the world. I want to create a confrontation with the audience and the public. I feel more connected to the line of art as magic than to art as exerting a social influence. I want to talk about the social, but I don’t want to be a social painter. I've seen a lot of artists who have worked against the system, and the system just sucked them in. I am more connected to a subtle approach, to using symbols in different layers. I want to show something that attracts attention, because I don't really think that art should be so cryptic that something disappears. Like in the theatre, you need some kind of dramaturgy, because art shouldn't be boring, because art should also be there for normal people not accustomed to art. People should feel attracted. Otherwise you are just doing something like masturbation, talking about art to people specialized in art, and people specialized in art talk about this work to other people specialized in art. This is too close. You must have different layers, a layer and another layer and another. As a model, I have The Simpsons in mind, who can be enjoyed by children and adults alike because they are very deep. They criticize society; sometimes they are absolutely cruel with everything, and at the same time they are positioned to the left, politically, but everybody likes them.

 

SM In your exhibition at the Kunsthalle Mannheim, a total of five works will be on view, presented for the first time in this constellation. At the center is the group of sculptures, Fanatics: With its 80 figures, it is your largest sculptural work until now. Here, too, you maneuver along the interface between fiction and reality, between the oppressive, the ecstatic and the everyday. For this work, you installed an enormous number of smaller than life-sized clones that appear to progress through the space as an anonymous, uniform mass of pilgrims, apparently afflicted by something extraordinary or fatal. What was the starting point of this work?

 

EM Specifically for the Fanatics, I was thinking of doing something coinciding with the worldwide collapse of the economy. The economic crisis started a couple of years ago, and I decided to start working on it as a reaction against what I was thinking of the people just working towards a war. I've been working on the Fanatics for maybe two years in total, simultaneously working on other stuff and gathering a lot of background information.

In the past few years, I've been completely amazed and thinking a lot about the phenomenon of crowds, of people and how they tend to be a crowd. At the same time, I'm completely obsessed with the phenomenon of people forming a line. It's incredible how people feel a magnetic link to be joined together and create a mass. It was Carl Gustav Jung who said that there is a collective mind, that the intelligence and the capacity of the crowd is much lower than in a single person. It's as if the intelligence were divided up between all the people of a crowd.

As Buñuel said: “I'm a fanatic against fanaticism.” And I completely agree with him. Fanaticism is very destructive for society and for the human being, for the individual, for everyone. A crowd is very easy to control because the mass is more controllable than a single person. That’s why religion, politics or sports are created: to control the individual more easily.

SM The title of the work charges the group with meaning: With what kind of ideology, radical notion or impassioned conviction are these Fanatics obsessed? Is this mass movement evoked by political, sociological, ideological, or religious blindness? They are all driven by an unrestrained emotional force, so much is certain…

 

EM I tried to create a character in order to develop a symbol of uniformity, of the crowd, of the line worshipping ahead towards nothing - it’s ambiguous. I can show you millions of images of this phenomenon of crowds.

(He shows me lots of photographs and documentation on his PC …)

I’ve collected a lot of quite ridiculous documents: of people receiving a pop star at the airport … of children in a religious trance, which is like hell, with a boy hitting his head with a knife, people in religious self-punishment, really injuring themselves, with real blood… of marines training in North America … of feasts of Spanish legionnaires … of parades of Chinese soldiers, several thousand boys and girls. I have also collected a lot of communist propaganda photos and pictures of pilgrims all looking the same: hundreds of men in a line all staring at the same spot, all walking in a similar manner in the crowd. In Fátima or Lourdes, they walk on the knees and in the end the knees are terribly damaged; on the Philippines they still crucify people nowadays! This is all real. They are all worshipping something, but what? They are hypnotized because they are in the crowd and they just follow the group. It’s the same as supporting a football team. You are part of a group, the group protects you. As an individual, you have to make your own decisions and be responsible for them. If you are part of a crowd, you are not responsible. I wanted to create an image of an archetype of fanaticism, combining religious, military, even sports references, dressed in camouflaged uniforms.

 

SM I noticed that your sculptures are all smaller-than-life and bear the same physiognomy. They merge into a blind herd, yet they all reveal an individual facial expression and differ in regard to their gestures: They stand, kneel, crawl, and act in different physical and psychological states. A whole kaleidoscope of different faces reflecting surprise and fear, despair and pain, enthusiasm and euphoria.

 

EM Yes, in the first rows, the figures are the more fanaticized, vomiting, like in a satanic possession, because they are closer to what they are worshipping, what they are fanatical about – which is in fact nothing. Others are only a bit discomposed, again others are completely desperate, the followers a little bit less. At the end of the line, they are entirely bored and apathetic. Some of them look amazed and want to be part of this spectacle. They don't care about the others, but they are already in line - like the one with his hands in his pockets, who doesn't care at all. But after taking a few more steps, they are going to be like the others: wounded, bloody, vomiting.

 

SM What lies behind the excessive pictorial fixation on human emotions and expressions?

 

EM It’s because, as I told you, I’m dealing with the world surrounding me and at the same time I'm creating a new one. That’s why I need the dramaturgy, that's why I use a different scale, another dimension. If I used the same scale, it would look like a reproduction. But I’m creating a new, a different world based on the real one. I like to watch people, but not to analyze anyone – I think that the faces and gestures really say a lot about people, about what they are thinking and what they are doing – you only have to look closely. This is what I want to show in the sculptures and also in my paintings and drawings. There is a difference between my individual sculptures and this group sculpture of the Fanatics. In the expression of a solo sculptures, I would like to show the viewer a certain kind of inner loneliness, even some kind of fear. They are all a little bit scared of the viewer. The viewer, then, is the intruder who is advancing into the environment. The group of Fanatics is more self-confident. They ignore you as a viewer, as they are completely obsessed with worshipping something.

SM I thought a lot about the fact that you have depicted yourself in multiple ways as a “fanatic.” Why did you make yourself the leader of these clones?

 

EM I used my own face for different reasons. Firstly because - maybe it sounds crazy - but it is the most anonymous face I could find, with the fewest connotations for me. I'm also not using any other person as a model in this case, because someone might complain about calling him a fanatic (…laughs). I can use my own face more easily because, at the same time, I feel like a fanatic in different ways. I also wanted to bring out the fact that each of them corresponds with one state of my own sometimes fanatical, sometimes happy, sometimes unhappy mind.

 

SM Why did you dress the Fanatics in identical soldiers’ uniforms? The same military look not only blends the figures into a collective mass, but also intensifies the latently threatening and aggressive character of the entire installation.

EM I thought about using different kinds of uniforms or just dressing them in the same way. First of all, I made some sketches, precisely drawing the anatomy to get the arms and legs in the correct position. But then I was drawing something like a little mass, a compact mass.

At a certain moment, I was quite convinced of dressing them in typical suits, like the ones bankers and politicians wear, then I thought of religious clothes. But it didn't work because there are too many connotations. Finally I tried out simple clothes, trousers and T-shirts, and painted them in neutral gray. While I was working on the faces, the idea of the camouflage pattern came to mind, because the military look is quite strong and at the same time camouflage is not only military. Beyond that, it’s not only important that my sculptures are dressed in camouflage but also that they are wearing socks, but no boots, no arms, nothing else. It’s totally contradictory and ridiculous at the same time – they disappear because they are not individuals, they are part of that crowd. Now they sometimes look like just one body, like one big monster.

 

SM The 80 sculptures all move in the same direction – they are marching toward their idol, toward a dramatic endpoint. When I saw the work for the first time – still with 60 figures – they virtually walked into emptiness. You had a sketchbook along in which you had gone through the different possibilities of positioning them in the planned exhibition: The Fanatics were to be directed toward a common goal. At the same time, you sought to retain the ambivalence of the message conveyed. We spoke about it at length, and now there will be a large, extensive wall painting in the exhibition space in Mannheim.

 

EM First of all, I consider the exhibition spaces as mental spaces. If you go there as a viewer, you are invading this new work. You are the foreigner there, as the sculptures are occupying this space. Among all my ideas about the Fanatics, I always imagined there being something weird at the end of the line, like a guillotine or a hole, where you commit suicide by jumping like the lemmings. In the end, it’s more powerful that the viewer himself can imagine what is happening there. But instead of letting the crowd fade into nothing, it is prolonged on the walls. The idea is to have the first fanatic, the first sculpture, almost touching the wall. And I regard the painted prolongation as a line of its own thoughts. I always think of the wall paintings as ghosts, as thoughts that are so strong that they adhere to the walls like symbols. There’s a movie by the Italian director Dario Argento called Profondo Rosso, which I really love. One medium in the film says that she can feel thoughts; she feels the thoughts of other people like a spider in a web. It’s like the way thoughts are put together in comics. I use this kind of symbol to represent these obsessive ghosts’ thoughts on the walls. The Fanatics are thinking about themselves again and again, all the time. All around, we are surrounded by their thoughts about themselves in an endless loop.

 

SM In your watercolors, which you have done as studies, one sees an endless chain of figures whirling about each other – originating from the sculptures, they will span all four walls of the space and involve the viewer in the events.

 

EM It’s like a monster, like an obsessive and repetitive thought that is so attached to your brain that it cannot be removed – like violence, sexual obsession, killing, religious obsessions, really stupid obsessions. Art portraits of existing soldiers inspired me; at other times I used posters as homage to Goya or other painters. There is also a guillotine that represents my own obsession with it. The Fanatics carry the guillotine in the same way as the angels in the Sistine Chapel carry the cross. Some of them are wearing a camouflage outfit like the sculptures, others look like kings with golden crowns - being Spanish, it's quite strong to combine kings and guillotine. The installation will be a mental space divided into an outside space and an inside space, into your relation with the world and your relation with yourself.

 

SM In your work in general, the relationship of space and time plays a crucial role. At first sight, the spatial and temporal situation of the installation of the 80 Fanatics appears ambivalent – various approaches and interpretations are possible: Is a procession of an anonymous mass of like-minded persons set in motion here? Or are we looking at the different degrees of assimilation of an individual like in time-lapse?

 

EM It’s a very interesting approach, I have though about it a number of times but never talked about it. Remember the 15 Fathers, for example, also a group of figures with the same character: 15 sculptures of my father standing in a line. They all have exactly the same shape, but their color changes gradually from black to white. In this work, I wanted to create a special effect: if you look at it in an exhibition room from one specific point of view, you will only see one figure, but if you move a little bit, you will see all of them. At the same time, they are in the decreasing line in order to work with the idea of space and time, since it’s the same person in different times. In documentaries on time and space, scientists often talk about time travel. They take a person and divide him into a lot of time periods. I wanted to play with this – it’s the same character divided up over a long period of time so you can see the same character at different moments.

 

SM I regard narrative openness and ambiguity, subjecting the viewer to a feeling of insecurity, as further characteristics of your work. This mainly has to do with the selected moment in time at which your figures act in both the paintings and the three-dimensional pieces. They move through time and space as if the climax were already behind them or as if they were on the verge of the actual catastrophe.

 

EM It’s true, I never show the climax. It’s the moment afterwards or beforehand. As a very typical example, I did a series of paintings called Shame, Humiliation. In these watercolors, there are only empty rooms, mostly bedrooms, with only a bed. You feel as if something had happened one minute ago, or something was going to happen, or something was happening behind the viewer’s eyes: spilled milk, a single shoe, three nails, traces of blood. That’s what I mean, you feel something is going on even without showing it. It seems obvious that something weird is happening. I always want to be ambiguous in order to let the viewer figure something out that surely is more interesting than what I’m thinking. Ambiguity is very important for my work. I even ask the viewer to work, not only to perceive, linger or walk around.

 

SM The encounter with your works is indeed a total experience. In the past years, you have repeatedly collaborated in theater productions and designed stage sets. I recall the photos you showed me of your works for the Teatro Pradillo in Madrid, sculptures that later reappeared in the context of exhibitions. Everything is laid out as a Gesamtkunstwerk, in which you combine the modes of depiction of fine art, theater and film. Where do the interfaces between the world of theater and the fine arts lie for you?

 

EM I think there is a strong relation between art and theater. In theater, I only worked with sculptures and collaborated with people who have a complex concept. First I did a theater piece together with José Carlos Plaza and then with Angélica Liddell. We always talked a lot about the concept and discussed it. I think the connection is very strong because, when you visit an exhibition room, you see something that is filled with dramaturgy; it’s like in a theater. Maybe there are no actors, but it is a theater. The artist creates something that didn’t exist one month earlier and will only exist for the viewer in a certain time period. So the connection is the dramaturgy, which is important for creating an environment that attracts and imparts something to the viewer. Even a church is a theater for me.

 

SM Yes, your works and installations resemble a world theater in which the viewer is invited to reflect: Personal experiences, individual fate and the overall human drama are combined to a cycle of everyday psychological pathologies. In many exhibitions, your sculptures, paintings, drawings, and videos are arranged in such a way that they create a common space of images and experience. What status do you assign to the different artistic disciplines in your work?

 

EM It’s very simple in my case: I only have one work. The medium is not important for me because I work in every media all the time. Like in a circle, I even try to reproduce the painting process in the process of sculpturing: Maybe the idea came from a Polaroid photo – the Polaroid photo is the subject I copy in the painting, the sculpture comes from the cast of a model and then I take pictures again. Even my sculptures are painted in oil or acrylic. I don’t think: “Now I’m doing a sculpture, now a painting.” One general idea is floating in my head all the time, so I only have one work! It is divided in pieces and it’s continuous, but it’s only one single work.

I started with watercolors and pencil drawings – I kept a lot of them. Then I started with oil painting and then with sculptures. At the moment, I’m more attracted to sculptures; on the other hand I’m still painting a lot, not only with oil or acrylics but also with watercolors, partly in series of 6,000 sheets. I also like to use different styles in painting. One is a very elaborated, Pre-Raphaelite style, the other is more sketchy.

 

SM Your work evolves like a multiple networked work-in-progress: You treat individual elements like fragments which you combine to form new groups of works and transfer to ever new spatial and content-related contexts.

 

EM

When creating a work, I take let’s say the visual and twist it – I envision all my surroundings and twist them. Then I remove the pieces and put them back in different or maybe the same places. You use the same works and construct other sentences with them to reorganize things, to bring out new aspects. It’s like using a comparison in one sentence and then using it again in a different context. First I show Luis in one environment and then I show him in another, for example, together with a movie. He will remain the same in a certain way. In general in my work, there is a relation to everything, to the inner and the outside space, and to all the other elements. What I seek to develop is quite cosmological and complex. So my work is not growing in one direction, it’s growing all the time, from the center.

 

SM Let’s take Luis as an example: He exists in your work as a three-dimensional body, he appears in drawings and can be seen as the protagonist in an animation film. The sculptural counterpart of the real Luis will also travel to Mannheim and is in many respects a particularly impressive and dramatic specimen of man as a species in your oeuvre. Not only because Luis is life-sized, but also because he is naked – he is an antithesis of the group of sculptures 80 Fanatics while at the same time corresponding with them.

 

EM Yes, I feel there is a very strong relationship between the Fanatics and the sculpture of Luis. I see them as showing the same thing in two completely different ways of depiction. Luis is impressive, physically and mentally. So I’m talking about the person of Luis and at the same time about the general inner anger. In a certain respect, it’s another way of dealing with fanaticism.

 

SM Luis’ monumental body has the effect of a screaming black box. Along with his clothes, he has also shed the mystery of internal emotion and turned it outwards. His inner screaming appears on his skin, in his tense posture, his eyes, his entire expression. In addition to the sculpture, you have also proposed two watercolors depicting Luis for the show – in one of them he pulls a chariot with a heap of skeletons behind him.

 

EM I think the British have this saying that everybody keeps a skeleton in the wardrobe. That means that everybody has something to hide. You think, “He has a skeleton? Where is it?” Maybe unconsciously, but the skeleton of Luis is very much hidden by his body. In Spain, there is another saying: If someone puts something towards you that is a problem, we say: “What a big dead corpse that someone has put on you.” This is because in medieval times, one of the most terrible punishments was that you were free but tied to a dead body on your back. Playing with these sayings, I was imagining him carrying this skeleton on his back. He is hiding a lot of stuff, for he is a reserved person, not open at all.

Luis is mostly flesh, I found it very suggestive that in the sculpture there are no bones. He has the gesture of carrying something, but he isn’t carrying anything. We discussed where to put the two watercolors, New Subjectivity and Sac of Bones, showing Luis somewhere nearby in the collection room, like a hint for the viewer to make the connection, to recognize the same character, to make the connection that the chariot full of bones is there.

 

SM Luis has a corporeal presence that will isolate him from his famous neighbors in the collection room of the Kunsthalle – the sculptures of Rodin through Lehmbruck and Maillol all the way to de Fiori. I regard him as the epitome of an antiheroic sculpture. What connection do you see between Luis and the sculptural designs of your artistic forefathers of the past decades?

 

EM I think it’s an interesting play because all of them represent human bodies in different materials - in stone, metal and bronze. Luis is made of a completely different, new and synthetic material, even with hair and paint. But most of the sculptures are female, which is an important fact for Luis, who plays the role of an independent person for whom women are only a burden - except for one male figure by Ernesto de Fiori that is very thin and poetic, his posture is a little bit feminine. At the same time, Luis’ code of representation is completely different from that of the group of classical sculptures. Luis is the most alive figure and the closest to a real human being because of the colored surface and the hair. The viewer will be a little bit confused, because he is going to consider Luis as a sculpture but at the same time as a real human being. Luis is going to be standing there without a pedestal, that’s different, looking quite pathetic and absolutely not heroic. If you are naked and wear socks, you are even more naked. It’s part of anti-heroic sculpture. I hate the figure of the hero, I think it’s a mediocre and quite controversial figure. So Luis is going to be with them, it’s the perfect environment for him, enjoying the company and at the same time being paranoid of them.

SM Your sculptures are informed by an extreme realism and reveal aesthetic references linking the past with the present. They are close to both Southern German Gothic and the Spanish Baroque with its expression of inner spirituality and mysticism. Drastic gestures, dramatic lighting and soberness with regard to colors are the elements of an independent Spanish art tradition that has engendered extraordinary works addressing eerie and bizarre themes – from Ribalta and Ribera through Velázques and the sculptures of Cano and Mena all the way to Goya. Are these resonances – is falling back on the Spanish tradition – relevant for you and your art?

EM I grew up in the city of Salamanca, this altar here (we are sitting on the stairway at a window of the Convent of Saint Esteban) is familiar to me. It was very important for me to grow up in a city with a lot of churches full of sculptures and paintings. I can see a column behind you filled with flowers carved in the stone. And if I look to the ceiling, I see a wonderful decoration and that sculpture of Maria Magdalena. And I’ve had this background since I was small. More than being a very strong influence specifically from the country of Spain, it is a mixture of influences from the Spanish art and mentality, and both the Flemish baroque paintings and the German primitives. Like a lot of artists today, I also feel deeply connected to Goya. I don’t know why. Goya is so Spanish, and most people who feel connected to Goya are not from Spain. In Spain it’s not so common to say that you feel connected to the work of Goya, because it's so close. I think that Goya was not specifically journalistic, but one period in the history of Spain is explained by Goya. He not only painted the kings and all the important people, but also a lot of normal people at that time. He painted historical events as a witness. Yet he wasn’t only a historical painter but a very critical one. He didn’t take the part of one side or the other. That's why I feel a connection to Goya. Furthermore, it’s because I really like his point of view, the way he develops what he thinks about society and all the people around him. If you see a portrait by Goya, you immediately feel you know whether he liked that person or not. He lived in a very compulsive moment for the Spanish country.

SM Your sculptural figures are also extraordinary because they do not have marble or bronze bodies but are instead synthetic, dressed and painted, and possess real hair – as if by treating the surface you breathe life into them and thus anchor them in the here and now. Why is the elaborate treatment and painting of the sculptures so important for you?

 

EM The surface is everything! Showing a sculpture that is not painted is nothing for me. I reduce the sculptures, paint the faces and put clothes on them. The painting is the most important part! I can take a cast from another person, take a picture of you and then paint the sculpture so that it looks like you. Sometimes people say my works are like imperialistic sculptures or paintings. Not at all! If you look closely, the figure of Luis is painted like a painting. But I don’t try to imitate the surface and I also add layers of transparent latex to create the skin, the core – almost like a taxidermist. I learned this technique from a real taxidermist who showed me all his stuff. Then I use real hair and real clothes and finally I paint the skin. When I paint this layer of latex again and again, it’s like the technique the primitives used in painting their temples. They never mixed the colors on a palette but did so optically, because they also used transparent layers, first painting the dark shapes and applying the light colors afterwards – just as I do.

 

SM During my last visit to your studio, you showed me how complex and time-consuming the creation process of each of your sculptures is. It almost appears as if casting your models, repeatedly reducing the dimensions of the forms, working on the surfaces, and finally painting them were a ritual.

 

EM It’s a ritual not only because I learned the process from the taxidermist. I think that casting a person means that he or she was there – I had a relation with that person. I possess the space of that entire body. I’m the owner of that space and when I’m working on the sculpture, I have a very peculiar feeling. First, I take the plaster and then the next one until I have to put all the pieces together, work the surface again and again, because the cast is never perfect. Then I have to paint your picture on the sculpture, looking at your eyes and nose every day – but it’s never a simple reproduction. This sculpture is made for a specific purpose, for a work I’m creating. And sometimes, after six months or a year, when I meet this person again, I always say something like: “Look at you, you are here, you are moving.” It’s like seeing someone famous.

 

SM Your iconography is a conglomeration of elements drawn from inner and outer reality. Realistic, grotesque and baroque details are blended together, private and political mythologies are combined with art-historical and everyday fragments, and independent movies mingle with comic scenes. Who are the protagonists of your paintings, sculptures, drawings and video works?

 

EM Everyone. Mostly I painted a lot of people I know. At the beginning, I started to work with my family and my closest relatives - now I'm open. So I even used the figures of my father and my mother as a symbol for everyone’s parents, something that immediately connects to and recalls your own thoughts and memories. Sometimes I created a work around something that had happened to someone by working with symbols and twisting what had happened. I try to create a whole world: Sometimes one character finds another one and then they play different roles. I see Luis as a character in my world now. I deal with all of this in order to represent feelings, I empathize with that person and sometimes I want to say something to him. At times I even use pictures taken from the Internet but in general they are related to a specific idea, or I feel attached to images of other people in a certain way – it sounds a bit silly, but the Internet is part of the family.

 

SM In our exhibition, we will also install an animation video entitled The Birth of Tragedy II. It features your mother in the leading role, playing with a mask. Masks are a traditional motif in Spain and one that often recurs in your works as well – they offer the viewer the possibility of imagining himself in the masked figure and entering into an illusory world, as you have conceived it in the role play with your parents.

 

EM I work a lot with masks. The mask has always been an important symbol for me. As a child, I was disguised myself behind a mask as a kind of protection and to hide completely. In The Birth of Tragedy I, we see my father with another mask. The two parts are based on the book by Nietzsche. They play with the antagonism of Tragedy and Comedy. I wanted to do two parts because I really like this dualism. For me, maybe the part with my father is more tragedy and the other is comedy. In other works, I repeated this many times with my mother: She removes the mask of a grotesque face and adopts the same face afterwards. Here she does the same. The Joker is smiling and she removes the mask and she is smiling. I bought two disguises, one of “Batman” and one of “The Joker” and gave them to my parents as a present. “Batman” to my father, “The Joker” to my mother. In the end I didn’t use the Batman mask but gave my father a Venetian mask. It was, well, not shocking for them but... my mother told me that she preferred being Batman. It’s interesting that you are a completely different person when you wear a mask, you feel indestructible while wearing it. I have often represented movements or performances in series of paintings. Doing the watercolors for the movies, was one step beyond working on drawing series.

SM “Art and nothing but art! It is the great means of making life possible, the great seduction to life, the great stimulant of life,” says Friedrich Nietzsche, who plays a role in some of your other works. Did you read Nietzsche in Spanish?

EM I read the Nietzsche book in translation. “Thus spoke Zarathustra” is one of my favorite books. Originally that was one of the main reasons for me to learn German, but it was too difficult. For me Nietzsche is a very fascinating figure. First of all, if someone says, “I’m the most important philosopher since Aristotle, I’m going to change the whole of philosophy from the beginning” to me, there are two possibilities: either this guy is a complete idiot and pretentious, or, as in this case, it’s true! If someone says that and it’s true, you have to be careful with this guy because maybe he’s right. I find his history fascinating. His work is so contradictory, it’s incredible. He says the most important musician is Wagner, and he wrote a book against Wagner. It’s incredible. I could talk a lot more about Nietzsche…

 

SM With your work, you present to the viewer a repertory of cruelties and grief: sexual violence, missing children, burnt female extremists, wounded creatures, and bizarre mutants. What fascinates you about this kind of non-canonical depiction of the human body?

 

EM In a certain way I’m attracted by the dark side, but because it’s more interesting in the cathartic way. First of all, I believe in catharsis, it relates to unheimlich. If you are in Dracula’s castle and something weird happens to you, it’s kind of normal. But if you are at home and something weird happens to you, it’s cathartic because you don’t expect that stuff. When you get over it, you experience catharsis. Such an experience is like medicine. Freud wrote a lot about this, and I completely agree with him. At the same time, it’s incredible that viewers feel confronted by my works. For example, the work with three children you saw in the show in The Hague – that was not the first time I showed it. It was at the art fair in Madrid, where I built a kind of clinic. People I met told me: "You are a bastard, you are completely crazy. You can’t do this!" But nobody understood that I had worked with a lot of pictures from the newspapers that are exactly the same. If people see pictures like this in the newspaper, they think how terrible it is, but on the following page there’s an advertisement of Armani with a very beautiful woman. Sometimes people think that I’m talking about stuff I love. That’s completely absurd. I want to create confrontation. I want to put the viewers in front of a very real representation of what they see in the newspapers every day and don’t care about. When you put the same picture in a museum or an art gallery, everything changes. It’s very powerful there. I believe that art, the power of art, is very strong.

 

SM You frequently operate with voids – with details and sketchy backgrounds. The viewer is not able to decode all information at first glance, and contexts remain hidden. Is one witnessing an everyday occurrence here or is something uncanny going on? In my opinion, it is a decisive constant in your work that, in the end, the projections of the viewer, his or her own thoughts and obsessions, emotions and fears are evoked – something seething under the surface, something lurking around the corner suddenly becomes present.

EM

I’ve met a lot of people with a lot of obsessions in my life. I think it has something to do with being Spanish. In Spain, people live with obsession all the time. Remember what Freud said to Dalí, who was very interested in meeting him. Freud said that Dalí was the most typical example of a Spanish guy, so fanatical. Also, if you study the history of Spain, it’s full of fanatics and obsessive people, like the Conquistador Lope de Aguirre, who tried to conquer a whole continent. Even I consider myself an obsessive person in a healthy way. But I control my obsessions and, because of working on them a lot, I feel completely cured. I really like to observe and study people, their behavior and everything. There are a lot of complex but at the same time very simple links between these ways of dealing with people. This is all about obsession.

 

Stefanie Müller


· Stefanie Müller, … Everybody keeps a skeleton in the wardrobe, Conversation with Enrique Marty

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Published in catalog "PREMIERE", Enrique Marty, for the exhibition in Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim, Deutschland, 2010. Kerber Art.

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