Contemporary Art @ Boğaziçi - Interview Project, 2010

Andreas Maria Jacobs

‘My head is my life and my life is my head.’

Suze Hupkes, Yeditepe University / Hogeschool Utrecht, suzehupkes@hotmail.com

An interview with Andreas Maria Jacobs (1956), who is an artist, writer and editor. With urbanity as a main motif for his work he produces transmedial art. Since 1986 he publishes the online magazine nictoglobe.com and he use his website burgerwaanzin.nl as a trash bin for his work.

Suze Hupkes: At what age did you start getting interested in art? When did you start with making art yourself? Can you give a little summary of your background?
Andreas Marıa Jacobs.: When I was a student at Amsterdam University I was involved in music making, I played the renaissance lute and a self made electric hurdy gurdy I remember I made a huge mathematical based drawing  at the fourth grade high school when I was 16, it was a huge drawing with red and black colors and a kind of African aura, I remember I was confused when I made it. As a student in mathematics and musicology I started to compose music both classical modern as well as electro acoustical at the studios of STEIM, Amsterdam and at the Institute of Sonology, Utrecht  My background ( family): my father was a house doctor in Amsterdam, and my mother used to work for the German government during WW2 as a secretary. We were a big family of 7 children

S.H.: You studied physics and mathematics and electronic and computer music. What does this has to do with your current work? Do you still use your study recently?
A.M.J.: My studies in physics and mathematics and electronic and computer music helped me getting a sense of abstraction towards art and still guides me in making artistic decisions regarding the development of my work(s)

S.H.: Your work is defined as transmedial art. How would you describe transmedial art? To which genre would you assign your art?
A.M.J.: I think transmedial art is any art trying to escape the traditional boundaries normally applied to specific art fields such as painting, dance, performance and the like. For me the art genre I work in is best described by 'painting'.

S.H.: You are not only an artist, but also a writer and an editor. Do these 3 areas have a connection with each other?
A.M.J.: Like all art is about everything my writing is part of my art practice as is my work as editor. I can separate the different attention fields by concentrating on curating web-art as editor and write about it as a writer. My writing is not a separate thing although. As a curator / editor I organize yearly an exhibit, "Friction Research", in which artist all over the world are invited to show their works related to a specific theme. Until to date the fourth edition is on its way: "Reclaim the Mind". This project has to do with trying to develop a critic about current art practices in a broader art political societal sense.

S.H.: You are the publisher of the online magazine Nictoglobe, which is online for a very long time now. How did you start this magazine?
A.M.J.: The starting of Nictoglobe is a funny thing , it started as a stenciled paper distributed at the local night bus service by hand , by my brother and me with the help from contributors from leftist students / activists late seventies early eighties. We covered student related interests and also some poetry and art things, such as the occupation of the formal Academy of Arts in Amsterdam. When time unfolds, my brother lost his interest and I continued the idea online, first as a BBS and a Videotext service, both accessible by the then very new and exciting possibilities of telecommunication. Later on I moved it completely to the internet, where it evolved to its current state.

S.H.: How would you describe your project burgerwaanzin.nl?
A.M.J.:  Burgerwaanzin.nl is a kind of trash bin where I put a lot of stuff in which I cannot deal with at the moment. It serves as a kind of archive for loose ends and unfinished remarks, thoughts and ideas. Visually it helps me in pointing to a kind of cinematographic experience which is not confined to the strict boundaries of a computer screen. It also is a collection of 'bad' designed images. 'Bad' in the sense that it does not fit in the expectations of the 'average' internet user; it is more distracting than attracting is my experience. For me it is very important to break the expectation of the user experience, this has to do with the tense dualities between art and design. Especially the internet practice of website building is very conservative and tied to old fashioned attitudes towards accessibility. With burgerwaanzin.nl I intend to criticize this superficial and mundane policy towards visual experiences. I try to bridge the gap between cinema and internet, in doing so I am developing a kind of "Cinematographic Scraps", which either find their way as stand alone artworks or as experimental leftovers which I include in burgerwaanzin.nl. It also serves a political purpose in misleading the audience, pointing them to the 'wrong' direction in a Situationist / Debordian manner. It is sourcing information regarding the border between sane and insane, correct and deviant etc etc. Finally I like to stress that the project is best experienced when projected on a large scale and not when viewed on a computer screen.

S.H.: How do you get your inspiration for your work? Do you use your own experiences of life for it, or is it something that is in your head all the time.
A.M.J.:  My inspiration is coming indeed from my own experiences and the world surrounding me. In the sense that the separation between 'me' and the 'other' is always a problematic one and I use my work as a means to investigate this problematic duality. Inspiring philosophers who influenced my works are among others Jacob Boehme (a Renaissance thinker and Shoemaker), Spinoza (Dutch Renaissance Freethinker), Vladimir Solovyov (Russian 19th century Mystic) and the whole bunch of modern philosophers ranging from Karl Marx and Oswald Spengler to Deleuze and Pierre Bourdieu.

I cannot make a distinction between my 'head' and my 'life', my 'head' is my 'life' and my 'life' is my 'head', so what's in my head is also in my life and vice versa.

S.H.: You worked with a lot of different techniques and you did a lot of different things. What is the most important thing of your work and what do you like the most?
A.M.J.:  For me the most important thing of my work is the artistic investigation regarding subjectivity versus objectivity resulting in pieces, art objects questioning our perceived realities. As our experiential perceptions are tightly coupled to different believe systems, I investigate visual residues of hitherto unexplored societal territories. Using the internet as a rich resource of source material I reconstruct a 'new' spectular ecosystem linking various intellectual premises to a user experience. The most I like of my previous works is 'Gerausche aus der Helle', a performance/installation piece in which I combined several art disciplines in one single piece. I am periodically working on follow-ups. 'Fiat Lux, MN8 Amsterdam 2005', being the fourth and until to date, last incarnation.

S.H.: In your work you see a sort of noise in the images. It looks like it is alarming. Is this right? Is this your intention?     
A.M.J.:  Noise 'an sich' is not alarming, and in my works there is indeed a lot of noise. This is partly intentional and partly a matter of residual artifacts which spontaneously appear in media related works. From the works I made using video as source material, the original video recordings are old and weary, that's why they appear  'noisy', in the final results. These 'appearance' is part of the whole picture and serves a specific purpose. The purpose of using noise artifacts is that for me there sure is a lot of beauty in 'noise', for instance the series of works entitled 'Cinematographic Scraps' are derived from Betamax Video Tapes, nearly 25 years old, in these videos I overlaid different video sources using self developed electronics. The electronics triggers the vertical sweep frequency such that during the vertical blanking interval, only the other of the two signals was recorded. The resulting video was – so speak very, very bad – The moments were the signals should appear were distorted in a peculiar way. I kept those recordings to investigate on this phenomenon and later – when computer processing power was much higher r, than when I made these tapes -  I was able to extract these very moments. The alarming sense has to do with the 'brokenness' of the 'world', and is alarming like a thunderstorm, or an electrical discharge, intense and frightening as well as beautiful and admirable.

S.H.: In your work the industry seems very important. Why is this? And why do you choose for the industry. Do you criticize the society? Or do you just like the industrial landscape?
A.M.J.:  I rather use the term 'Urban' instead of 'Industry', urbanity is a main motif in my work. I both like and dislike modern cities, and I do criticize society for its alarming, alienating way in making everyday life more ugly than necessary. Particularly modern architecture is – in my artistic process – a means to put emphasis to the societal effects it has on the experiential environment. I do think that huge buildings – apart for its promotional and indoctrinating aspects, do not serve anything but a particular need to impress, and shows a lack 'normal' human size. I think the 'scale' is wrong and I try to express this ambivalent quality. The enormous amount of industrial waste surrounding us is very alarming and I accentuate its destructive message by deconstructing and augmenting on it using 'public' sources such as 'Google' search results and 'antiquated' video systems like Betamax

S.H.: Sometimes it seems if there is a big contrast with nature. Why is this? Is this for the nice (aesthetic) image, or do you want to say something with it?
A.M.J.: Nature 'in itself' functions as an image which is not polluted by opinions, for instance in the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich; nature is shown as it is, in all its harshness and coldness. In contrast industry and the urban environment as we experience it, is almost always related to visions, opinions or other forms of human influences. This contrasting duality is producing a continuous conflicting tension to its inhabitants and results in critical and sometimes schizophrenic visual interpretations of this very conflict.

S.H.: Your art is often almost abstract, but we can always recognize something of the reality. For which reason are you doing that?
A.M.J.: It has to do with how we 'see'  the world , most people – is my observation – are used to translate their visual stimuli towards direct and concrete images, which are easily interpreted as 'known' or familiar. What I do in my works is investigating the moments were these "known' or familiar forms disappear and unveil another sense of reality, which is broader and claims another 'view' on reality. By omitting 'meaning' and 'knowledgeability' of our surrounding world we are more able to experience this environment 'as it is', without prejudices and prefabricated opinions about it. 

S.H.: Some of your landscapes are having some kind of darkness. Would you call your work positive or negative?     
A.M.J.: Qualifications like 'positive' or 'negative' are missing the point as they are expressing a presupposed aesthetical framework to judge from. I certainly can see beauty in 'darkness' even progress in evaluating its underlying reasoning system. Landscapes as such can express a feeling of guilt or regret or any other human emotion, but it always will depend on the contemporary political and societal conditions. It is the interpretational quality which should guide the spectator in its appreciation of any work of art. I like to go to the point where there is barely any solid ground left to function as a qualifying framework. 

Andreas Maria Jacobs, Amsterdam 5 December