Pre-interview: Felix Kiessling

Text and pictures by Bpigs team

In this new series bpigs will highlight artists and their work in progress just before their openings. An insider's scoop to an artist studio practise and the many many irrelevant thoughts that go through one's mind before the proverbial 15 minutes of fame. Artist-to-artist, Berliner-to-Berliner - these are their stories. Up first is Felix Kiessling, whose show at alexander levy is opening on May 2nd.

Based around the concepts of expansion, temporality, and connectivity, Felix Kiessling will open a show on May 2nd dealing with impact on environment -- ultimately implying that nothing is set in stone… Including stones. 3.5 tons of them, actually, removed by hand from the Elbe river in Hamburg and transported back to Berlin to create what will be the heaviest sculpture ever to be hung from the ceiling of alexander levy gallery. Although he is excited to be “working rough and heavy” again, Felix’s precise tendencies did not escape this work altogether: in order to distribute the overwhelming weight of the piece and avoid damage to the gallery, Felix has devised a complex system that will delicately hang the dense rocks from a central ring and evenly spread the weight.
Working around a similar conceptual framework but polar opposite in terms of scale, Felix has also used stones to reduce “northness” to the smallest physical mass possible. By taking the northern-most stone from the northern-most point of several coasts, Felix has then microscopically removed the northern-most point of the rocks, capturing the closest thing to a “true north” that he can.
Cheerful as ever and in seemingly calm spirits about his approaching show, Felix gave us a tour of his studio, an eventful demonstration of rock drilling (apparently, if not executed perfectly, they explode!), and answered a few questions about what goes on in  the crucial few weeks before an opening.

Is there anything that you hope your show accomplishes for you personally or for your audience?
Yeah, I hope everyone is going to get dizzy in there! I want them to have some sort of experience with themselves in terms of who they are and how their doings have an impact on everything. Of course there is the Butterfly Effect, and it is a term that we all know and have read about, but it’s actually quite physical - you can prove it mathematically. I think this is actually something that is quite amazing. Whether you are interested in art or not, it can give you some nice stability standing here on planet Earth. Of course, I have my own personal vanities about the show, but I want to do something good. I do not just want to put an object there and sell it.

Is there a Plan B, in case the installation is unsuccessful?
(laughs) No, there is no plan B. If the ceiling collapses - as long as nobody dies - it will be fantastic, spatially!

Do you have any funny "good luck rituals" that you perform before a show?
I do not know about before, but during I will probably be in kitchen, smoking… I hate openings.

Is it just the pressure of the opening that's so bad or that you do not like seeing people react to your work?
The thing is that they do not really react. Everybody says, "Oh great" and you are just like, "Yeah, thank you" and you know that you have to say this so it does not really help. On that night you definitely will not get a real critique. And [an opening] is also usually after a week where you have not slept and everything comes down on you at once. I guess I do not really have a pre-show ritual though. Probably the night before I clean my flat. If it is finished Thursday night, I will probably try to spend Friday a little bit calm.

Do you have a pre-show food you like to eat? Maybe some comfort food?
Maybe I am just saying this now because I have a huge appetite at the moment but there is this nice Japanese restaurant in Mitte which I go to occasionally - Makoto. It is kind of working class place; it is not one of these stylish Sushi restaurants. I love it. So, yeah, I think I will have a Japanese ramen soup there.

Do you know what you are going to wear?
I have favorite clothes - not just for the opening, but for all the time. I have one nice pair of trousers for example, that I feel comfortable in, and once they get worn out, I buy them again and again. Black Carhart pants.

When do you usually arrive at your own shows?
I will be on time, my parents are coming…

What's the funniest comment that you've overheard at one of your shows from someone who didn't know you were the artist?
Usually if you work on a minimal level, people will say, "What the fuck is this?" and "I do not understand this". If you work minimally and try to reduce things in order to open it up to other levels of showing, then just showing an object or celebrating yourself; then half of your audience is pissed off. They say, "I can do the same" or, "This is nothing", or things like this. Yeah, I think the most common thing is, "This is design!"

Let us say a super big gallery in New York comes to you and says, "Okay, we want to give you a solo show”. How much time would you give yourself to produce a solo show from scratch? Idea, execution, installation.
I probably need, like, three weeks to one month. If the budget is no problem, I could do it in two weeks. I could bang it out if I do not sleep. Two hours can be the same as two days. It will not be as elaborate, but you would do it on a small scale or in a less complex way. You can always say what you want to say.


Pre-interview: a preliminary preview-meets-interview; see also pr'interview

'Ausdehnung' by Felix Kiessling is open at alexander levy from 02.05 through 21.06. The opening reception will be held 02.05 from 19h until 21h. More information can be found here.

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