In this series, Bpigs highlights artists and their work in progress just before their openings. An inside look into the studio practice and many other irrelevant thoughts that go through an artists mind before their proverbial 15 minutes of fame. Artist-to-artist, Berliner-to-Berliner, these are their stories. We caught up with Martin Eder in his studio while preparing for his upcoming exhibition with Galerie EIGEN + ART.
Martin Eder's paintings must be seen to be undestood. They are elegantly executed oil paintings, that contain motifs and subject matter that can irritate as much as they satiate. Let's hear what he had to say....
Are there certain goals that you set for yourself, or your audience, in regards to the conception of an exhibition, from start to finish?
Goals, I don’t know how many goals you can have if you do paintings, or art. Once I had this idea I wanted to make a painting that makes people hungry, or makes people cry, or start a fight. But I gave up on that. I just want to do a painting that is so unbelievable that people can’t forget it, or get it out of their head. But this does not need to be very good. For example, remember that song A La La La La Long (by Inner Circle)? Something similar to that, a very bad melody that people have in their brains once they hear it. That is probably the goal.
Have you ever had a back up plan, or a plan B, if say your initial goal wasn’t working? Have you ever had to change something?
No. No it has always worked so far. If it’s not working it must be the people then. I spend so much time here preparing all that stuff that it can’t fail. I mean, that might sound a bit over-exaggerated. I just don’t want to think that I’m going to fail. That’s the wrong attitude. If you believe in failure, you will fail. At a certain point you can’t think about it anymore. When you bungee jump, it’s too late once you are standing up there. Or if you are in a public swimming pool, and you climb up the ten-meter diving board, and there is a row of people behind you, and everybody is watching you… it’s too late. You can’t go backwards.
Do you have any “obsessive-compulsive” behavioral traits that you might perform before one of your openings? Or some form of good luck ritual?
Yeah, I work day and night. And towards the opening, I work even more. Probably that’s a ritual. It’s necessary I think. Not much of a ritual that you may want to hear, only some hypnosis maybe. I have a degree in hypnotherapy, and that is always helpful at times.
Do you ever get any social anxiety when you see people looking at your work?
Not so much if they look at the work, more if they look at myself. I’m not a big fan of going to openings or to social gathering and those types of circumstances. I rarely go out to these places I have to tell you. If they look at the work, that’s fine, that’s why I do it. I mean if you make an exhibition, you can’t blame people for coming and looking, that’s insane.
Have you ever been in a situation where you overheard someone talking about your work, but they didn’t know you were the artist?
Yeah, all the time. People ask me if I am this or that, and I say, “No, it’s my twin brother. I’m the architect.” And they say, “Oh really, you have a brother?” And I say, “Yeah, you didn’t know that? No no, he is in Berlin etc.” And sometimes it’s very good because then you hear people talk about you. They are still a bit skeptical, but if they loosen up, sometimes it’s a good way to find feedback on yourself.
Is there a pre-opening food you like to eat? A form of ‘comfort food’?
Most of the time you don’t have time for pre-opening food because you are probably hammering something out until the last minute. Or other people hammer, and you just stand there. But still it is very heavy. Nutrition on opening days is a very tricky thing. You should eat, because you are hammered after half an hour of your own opening if you don’t eat. You should be very careful, very hygienic with yourself. But I’m very good with that. Nobody wants to be falling out of their own opening.
When would you typically arrive at one of your exhibitions?
Normally I arrive in the afternoon. Sometimes I leave earlier. I don’t want to be the last one there, switching off the lights. That’s such a sad moment, you talk through it and you are one of the last ones leaving. No, it’s better to leave when there is a peak, a good peak of people, then you should go.
Do you have an outfit you like to wear, or certain clothes you will dress in for your openings?
I am not sure. I live in this crazy world in here, and I deal a lot with magic and hypnosis and mentalism, I have lost track on up-to-date fashion. So when I go to one of my own openings, I sometimes look like a gay time traveler, with some velvet robes and stuff. I don’t do that on purpose, it just happens because if you work a lot, you lose track on reality.
Let’s say you were given a solo show today. Do you have a set time frame that you give yourself to produce something? Or does it depend on the space?
It depends on how big the room is. There are places I would take about fifteen to twenty years to do it. There are places I would take about eighty years, or even longer. There are places I would do it in ten minutes. It depends on the place, and the people. If people are nice and supportive and cool to work with you can do it quicky.
Tell me about the work you are now doing for EIGEN + ART.
It is a series based on battlefields, more or less, and fake history. You probably know the television series Game of Thrones or Vikings or have heard about them. These series’ are very successful. And what happens when people see them, younger people, is they think this is a part of history. It melts into your perception of reality. Memory is not existing, memory is always made up. It is the same with history. Let’s say we don’t have anyone recording history, then we won’t have it. It can be told or it can be written down. When you write down history, there are always a lot of politics involved. Even the writer themselves try to force it in a certain direction. It’s hard to do a complete neutral point of view on your present time. So with these television series’, people have a distorted vision of history, of medieval time. For example you see costumes that are absolutely non-historic because it is a fantasy series, and they are perhaps mixed with something out of the Roman ages or from the Renaissance. Real history gets distorted the more Pop-history is out there. This is interesting to me. Do you know these people performing L.A.R.P. (Live Action Role Play) games? They run through the woods and hit each other and so on. It’s a big desire of escape, and faking history. Being part of one of these L.A.R.P. games gives people a good feeling because they don’t have that past, but they adapt it. It’s a big bending of reality and I am interested in that at the moment.
Do you want to bend your own reality?
I do it all the time, because there is almost no reality. For example, if I say the word home, for you, you know what home is. You go there and say “Ahh what a busy day, tonight I will stay home” It only matters for you. If I were to go to your place, this would not be my home. It is just a place with furniture, it has nothing to do with me. So the perception of the quality of the word home is only in your brain. It’s your homemade reality. And this is just an example of how we all struggle and live in made up realities. There are common senses and common belief systems, like fashion, pop culture, current music, etc. There is a common consensus, a collective consciousness and then there are the private spaces. But we have to be aware that everything, even this room here is just made up. It’s a prop, a prop for your existence. Art is a prop for existence, with a common belief system.
Is this one of the reasons you are a visual object maker?
Yes, well when you do artwork… good artwork is very kitschy. And kitschy means it is a compression of expression. You put everything you know into one little object. It’s like a battery that is loaded up with electricity or energy. So in my case, a good piece of art, what I consider good, is a piece that is so loaded with meaning, energy, and a language that most of the people can understand. It becomes so overloaded and so heavy that it can’t fail. This question about failure before, it only fails if it is a liar, if it is too thin. If something is energetically really loaded like ancient temples, historic sites, or places like haunted houses it is because of belief. When people believe in a haunted house, it becomes just that. Even the ghosts move in because they think it’s a haunted house. It’s all made up. So a good piece of art is like a haunted house.
Do you believe in magic?
Of course I do.
Do you see the artist as a contemporary shaman or healer?
No, I don’t think so. It should be the opposite. A good artist should not heal, they should put the finger in the wound with a dirty hand. A good artist if they are a healer would be the worst. A good artist has to stir up and confuse things, create chaos, burn down houses and beat people.
What book are you reading right now, do you have time to read?
I am reading a book on Biocentrism by Robert Lanza. It is a very interesting book. It relates to a theory I was working on. In 1994, I created something called The Institute of Mental Physics, which dealt with the idea that in physics there is one missing link. That link is the power of thought, without being esoteric. You have the power of digits, neutron physics, you have quantum physics, but nobody is negotiating will power. Will power can be very effective.