Collage is a technique used since ancient times. Maybe also mosaics, used by Minoans, Greeks and Romans, can be considered as a sort of collages, decorating walls, floors and beautiful furnishings.We have examples of this art also in China, around 200 BC, and then in the Middle Ages, with Gothic art, using this kind of decoration mostly in religious images.
In the XX Century we had the boom of collage: artists like Braque, Picasso, Hannah Höch, Raoul Hausmann, Max Ernst, Robert Rauschenberg, Domenico ‘Mimmo’ Rotella all worked with this tecnique, one of the most used for the creation of avant-garde artworks. And today we have Florian Kuhlmann, a German graphic designer who creates digital and chaotic collages. And you, what do you see in his works?
You were born in Hanoi and you grew up in Germany. First you were working as graphic designer and computer programmer, then you decided to begin your studies at the ‘Academy of Media Arts’ in Cologne. Can you tell us something about your background?
I left Vietnam when I was five years old, so there are not so much conscious memories to this country left. But obviously the Asian culture left its traces in my artwork, especially in the collages. After leaving Vietnam my family moved to the Blackwood Forest, in South Germany. We lived there on an old farm, quite fare away from the next villages. So I discovered the fax machine of my father and an old radio transciever and I startet to contact people from different countries. I developed certain communications models partly based on the fax-machine, partly based on the radio transceiver. It was hard to understand most of the people on air, so I sent pictures to them. Later my education as a computer science I went straight into the new economy, but left it after the first breakdown and made my way into the arts.
Your collages are sometimes defined ‘apocalyptic’, do you agree with this definition? What do you think it refers to?
I guess you refer to ‘Stillwaitingfortheapocalpyse’. I made this piece some weeks after my father died, so you can imagine I was not really in a great mood. The Apocalypse had a great fascination for me in this time, but I guess many people who share the experince of losing somebody would agree to this. Besides this, I think the Apocalypse has a great fascination for many people of the western world, at the moment. We live in a time of great political and social changes, nobody really knows how things will develop and most people are aware the things are developing in very bad direction. So I guess the Apocalpyse, and things like Doomsday, have a great fascination for many people. Perhaps it is a great wish for a big restart, to begin from new I am not sure.
Are there any symbologies in your works?
Funny question. I think art is about playing with signs and symbologies, so I guess yes, there are symbologies in my work.
So, the symbologies are unconscious? I mean, how do you choose the images that you use for your works? If we observe them closely we find a lot of weird and interesting stuff. The collages are very detailed…
It is more or less conscious yes. Making this artwork is a long process that takes several months. During these time I am influenced by many things and many of these things find its way into the collages. So they slowly grow untill they are finished. But there is also always a leading story weaved into the big picture.
After assembling the images, when the work is done, you share them on the web for free. So you have a very liberal vision of the web, you strongly believe in sharing and you encourage the cultural progress. How do you see the internet and its use in todays society?
To be honest I have no vision for the web at the moment. In my eyes its a tool and very interesting medium with some new qualitites and possibilities. I want to find out which possibilities are coming with this new medium. I would say I share my stuff online only because I can do it, thats all. I do things because I have the possibility of doing it. This is the freedom of an artist. But I wouldn’t ever connect it with a political agenda, or would say all people have to share their stuff for free in general. Eveybody and every artist should be able to make this decision by him or herself. For example, I absolutely do not share the position of the pirate-party which wants to give all artistic works for free. It doesn’t make sense to develop communism online, as long as we live in capitalism offline. On the other side it is obvious that copyrights are causing problems for cultural development like you already said. Copy and paste is a very old cultural skill, we should not forget this.
I know also that you organise some festivals, for example the Vierwändekunst Art-Festival. Would you tell us something about it?
The Vierwändekunst Festival has been a festival of the so called off-scene in Düsseldorf. More than thirty independent artspaces took part in 2010. It has been an exhibition and a symposium questioning the potential of artistic self-organisation. The festival was invented 2007 by the designers Denise Mewissen and Rieke Schillmöller, in 2010 Emmanuel Mir and me resumed the curatorial part.
You do also some performances and happenings, and now there are the ‘desktopperformances’? What exactly are they?
In my performances and happening I always try to connect on- and off-line world. I organized my first happenings in 2006, in Second Life and in a TV-studio in Cologne, both places where connected over lifestreams and video projections www.thegoingmobileevent.de People form all parts of the world took part through Second Life; people in Cologne joined physically and with there laptops. In 2008 I started the performance-series ‘The artist is present’, where I sit at home in front of my webcam at my computer. The livestream is sens into the exhibition-space for 2 hours. www.theartistispresent.de
More Infos on:
Interview by Chiara Sestini
© all artwork by Florian Kuhlmann
images are licenced under