Dieter Soldan Stuttgart
“Inching towards interactive art“ When Wolf asked me to give a little speech at this conference, I asked myself: What makes Wolf’s art so fascinating and challenging for me? I realized I had to go back to my early days of dealing with pictures to find an answer. I will tell you a story in three chapters: Chapter 1: Picture Junkie Me and the Pictures, or rather: The Pictures and Me followed by: Picture Junkie – Chapter 2: From the material world to w.y.s.i.w.y.g. in graphic design and finally: Chapter 3: From Wolf’s Selfportraits at zwischenKunst to I_am_we Interactive Image Let’s start with: Picture Junkie Me and the Pictures, or rather: The Pictures and Me Like many other creative people – as far as I know – as a teenager and a young man, I sometimes had to face strong turbulences in my head. At the time it was painting and drawing that helped me to express myself, to capture ideas and visions, to establish tranquility for a short time. Language was – at the time – not much of a help to me. When I started my studies as a communication designer, I – in addition – used more and more photography. And I think it was then that I considered myself a “picture junkie” for the first time. I noticed that on the one hand, I liked to catch as many (real) impressions and, as a consequence, pictures as possible, on
the other hand I had great respect, sometimes fear, to – somehow – overload my brain, become addicted. And there was another typically, maybe “Prussian”, German aspect: As far as my work was concerned – be it photography, painting or graphics – there was a dominating, unexpressed claim: You have to be good, you have to be exceptional, you have to be perfect. You have to compare with the big-shots. Our whole educational system, our philosophy of life in western societies is based on rating and judging. And I am a child of this culture – whether I like it or not. For those two reasons moving forward “creatively” was not easy for me. Surprisingly, I picked up helpful ideas in my very “applied” studies: The core value in studying communication design was “trial and error”: No good solution without a well-filled trash can. And: No critics allowed in the creative process. In reality these rules have been broken many a time but the claim persists. For me it was a kind of new, healing position. Just do it – and throw it away if it does not work. But nevertheless – as far as picture junkie Dieter was concerned – I was for the longest time captured by this unpronounced belief, handicapped by this voice in my head saying “You have to be exceptional, you have to be perfect.” So I gave up drawing and painting more and more and switched to photography and graphics. A world with – supposedly – clearer rules, more defined criteria. But my dialogue with “picture junkie Dieter” remains ambivalent … Picture Junkie – Chapter 2: From the material world to w.y.s.i.w.y.g. in graphic design ((Beispiele analoger Prozess)) When I started my studies, making layouts was a complete analogous process: Starting work with scribbles, sticking blind text and photo-sketches together on layout-sheets, making exact plans and requirements for the typesetting etc. But during the course of my studies the world started changing completely: Beginning with really complicated Berthold Typesetting machines, slowly but surely “w.y.s.i.w.y.g.” started appearing on the horizon. “What you see was now what you get”, no longer mysterious endless chains of tags, commands and codes, suspense about the results, possibly followed by nasty surprises upon seeing the outcome.
And at once it seemed as if there were countless possibilities, no waiting times, no surprises. It was so much easier to try out ideas, no longer depending on some stupid typesetter – very often somewhat strange guys. An interesting perception, by the way: I never once met a woman typesetter … It was a new exciting field between fascination and overtaxing, endless possibilities and arbitrariness. And for me, as a professional: a simple necessity, a matter of course. But what did it mean to “picture junkie Dieter”? For the time being, not very much. For a long time after finishing my studies I used my analogous reflex camera although I did all my graphic design – of course – on a Mac. And I liked this mysterious process of developing the pictures. Maybe I feared disenchanting the photographic process by using a digital camera. When almost all of my friends – one in particular, a professional photographer – switched to a digital camera, I was confused. On the one hand I was curious and excited, but on the other hand I was disappointed. I cannot really explain why. Maybe it was too much “immaterialization” for me. And so, for a long time I stopped taking photos altogether. This really was a problem for “picture junkie Dieter”: The number of pictures stored in my head increased continuously but there was no way out any more, no expression for the impression, no handling outside the brain. It was a kind of block. When I filled up my picture memory too much – for example, when I was travelling – I was for a short time in a state of euphoria. Followed – you won‘t believe this – by a real hangover. Both conditions without drugs or alcohol … And then one day the time was ripe to buy a very good small digital camera – about ten years ago. I did not know that this would be the cure to my picture disease. This is what happened: On a trip in South Africa I took pictures all day long – for about ten days. Sometimes I looked at the pictures right away, sometimes not until the evening. I deleted most of the pictures immediately, keeping only very few. Taking photographs was at once a playful, a liberating process. My picture overload had been sorted, reduced and structured. It was a release for the whole creative work, not only for photography. The fixation on the outcome, the score had become second. The joy of taking pictures was becoming more important than the wish to show pictures. But – what on earth – has all this got to do with Wolf’s art?
A lot! Chapter 3: From Wolf’s Selfportraits at zwischenKunst to I_am_we Interactive Image Wolf and I have been friends for many years and when I started my gallery “zwischenKunst Schauraum”, Wolf was the second artist to show his work, inter alia his work “selfportraits”: 365 photographs – one picture taken a day, snapshots of small discoveries, life situations. It was Wolf’s one-year, day-by-day investigation into “Am I what I see?” In our gallery we had to prepare 365 photoprints to fix them all on the wall, in a flexible yet organised way. This was the process: Glueing the print on a board, cutting the prints, taking a template, fixing two hangers, putting a grid on the wall, driving in two nails – 365 times or 730 times. At first glance a crazy expenditure, work for several days. But: The r e s u l t was quite impressive. And, again – the process was really surprising, more interesting than the result: The perception of the dimension of one year changed. Normally a year shrinks dramatically once it has passed, it feels like just a few minutes. Looking at all these pictures, remembering the dates, recalling what I experienced at the time stretched the memory, filled it up. And this process was intensified by the manual work, the thoroughness needed to fulfil the artist’s intention. And – of course: 365 pictures – what a celebration, a feast for picture junkie Dieter! Furthermore: No Helzle art work (almost none) without participation: Everybody was prompted to select, to combine three favourite pictures to take his or her personal three copies away, thereby becoming a part of the artist’s work. As a next step this analogous join-in-art was transferred onto an internet platform, where it is much easier – but also a bit more superficial – to come up with new combinations again and again. A process of immaterialization. I’m almost done.
It is absolutely consistent – regarding this work and former works, that Wolf has now started I_am_we Interactive Image: It is just a logical extension of his investigations now combined with the invitation to all of us to participate all over the world. This idea has become possible thanks to the world wide web and an intelligent platform. Exactly, simply: Interactive Art! As much as Wolf likes digital tools, he loves face-to-face communication, too: which is why we are all here. And Wolf is probably not really interested in this difference – are you, Wolf? For me – picture junkie Dieter – Wolf opened the window a little further just to use pictures to extend my visual options, my possibilities to communicate, just to enjoy the plentiness of impressions – – – without – or with as little as possible – purpose, judging, and assessment. Thank you, Wolf.