Contemporary Art @ Boğaziçi - Interview Project, 2010
Karl Heinz Jeron (Germany, 1962)

G. Aslıhan Gönç,

Karl Heinz Jeron: a German artist born in 1962, Memmingen, now living in Berlin. He has various creations and works in many fields such as, installations, interactive works containing video art and new media arts. One of his latest works the“We Work Food” campaign captured my attention, and led me to want to have an interview with him. When I contacted him through e-mail, his response was very polite and welcoming. He answered my questions about “Will Work For Food” as well as his other projects and also gave detailed information about his next project. I asked him about New Media arts and how he defines himself and his works, and his answers were quite refreshing to our minds about his works. So here is the interview. I hope you will enjoy it!

Aslınhan Gönç: You name your works as the prototypes of the real life situations, and as the investigation and treatment of popular social issues. You use interactive media, internet, and many other mediums to create your works... So, how would you define todays new media art after contemporary art? Or both in relation?
Karl Heinz Jeron: Finally new media art has arrived in contemporary art. In opposition to the early days, new media art is not that self referential any more. Right now, computers and such are just tools to express your ideas. I don't feel the need to have a niche labeled as new media art – contemporary art is totally sufficient. (I don't attend Ars Electronica anymore)
Aslınhan Gönç: Labor seems to be a very important concept that you are using so far in your works. When we look at one of your latest works we see 9-5 robots which have an ability to draw randomly and work for the minimum wage.. You say that they are created to raise the awareness in society, and to express the repressive and authoritarian culture. Could you explain this a little bit further?
Karl Heinz Jeron: In the ’50s and ’60s of the last century many people thought that robots would handle all the unwanted jobs in near future. Right now we are in a situation where full employment is out of reach. So, we should reconsider our attitude towards the people who are reluctant to work. German politicians are not the only ones still trying to make people believe that there is unlimited growth.
Aslınhan Gönç: Also in 2008, with your project Will Work For Food, you used these small robotic vehicles as the "communication catalysts" who can sing and draw, and then you collected food as the cost for the usage of the robots, and a dinner was prepared with all the collected bartered food... Many dynamics are involved in this art piece such as robots whistling, interactive environment correlation through internet (i.e. from Berlin to Istanbul), food, social consciousness, people involved and many more… How do you think these many different dynamics shaped the projects meaning?
Karl Heinz Jeron: I hope so. I am always happy when I find out that there is more than one interpretation of one of my works. I like the idea of openness. Therefore, I add participatory or interactive elements.
Aslınhan Gönç: How did you feel beforehand and after the project? Any come-ups you never thought of or any surprises?
Karl Heinz Jeron: To be honest, I was absolutely surprised about its success. I thought it would run for a couple of weeks... now it’s more than two years. It was meant as a contribution to a group show, but WWFF soon created its own “life”. This is obviously a result of its openness. With WWFF, I slowly developed a kind of a performance or happening. After institutions started to invite me to present WWFF, I came up with the idea of the public cooking of the bartered food. People gather around a big table. I am cooking. We are eating and talking. It is always a smooth but serious situation.
Aslınhan Gönç: In its explanation you say WWFF aims to find a new definition for labor and the act of working, could you explain how the project changed this definition with its refreshing interpretation?
Karl Heinz Jeron: Hopefully the project was (or maybe still is) able to create awareness. Is the basic income without conditions the better social system? Is without conditions fair? Since people can't just give some money to take part in the project they had to think about value and what value means to them. It is a lot to make people think about their system of values.
Aslınhan Gönç: All over the world in different cities you used the project, it sounds like real fun. On the other hand, what about the inspiration to this idea and what was the background of the project?
Karl Heinz Jeron: There are two topics in my works which always pop up every now and then. One is the economics and the other is representation which includes interpretation and the problems which come along. Actually, I started with a robot which did drawings for the minimum wage. Then I came up with the idea of WWFF as a barter project. Later, I got back to the minimum wage idea during the 9-5 project which is about representation too. You see, there is a lot of forth and back. I never look at a work as a finished thing. That’s why I feel free to push it in any direction I like.
Aslınhan Gönç: Doubtless, all your works are like your children, but which one of them was the most exciting for you in the production phase, and afterwards?
Karl Heinz Jeron: The production phase of Horde was very challenging because it was a collaboration with a scientist. It was the experience of two competing languages - the language of art and the language of science. Surely WWFF is one of the most exciting projects to me.
Aslınhan Gönç: What about your future projects? Will we see you soon (in 2010) with another project refreshing our point of views of daily life routines or of questioning our general judgments?
Karl Heinz Jeron: Right now I am working on an enactment of Händels Water Music with robots on a river boat. See
(Mr. Jeron is now working on the project Händels Water Music; 20 tiny self-developed robots will improvise over themes from the Water Music by Georg Friedrich Händel. The Water Music is one of the greatest hits in Baroque music and consists of three suites. "The movement of the robots is directed by dance scores spread out on the ground. The robots are equipped with light sensitive sensors which allow them to move along the drawings.")
Aslınhan Gönç: And will we see you in Istanbul soon?
Karl Heinz Jeron: Hopefully I will bring Water Music to Istanbul this autumn.
Aslınhan Gönç: Thank you for your time and for your interest...