At the honest place
A conversation with Silas Kreienbühl conducted by cultural journalist Pirmin Bossart about “The Museum of the Future / KKLB Berlin” in Berlin’s metropolitan area. From January 2017, there will be guided tours of a maximum of 12 people per group for this project in the German capital. Project description: Project KKLB Berlin. Booking and visiting information (German): www.kklb-berlin.de
KKLB Director Silas Kreienbühl has co-created a lively place for art and his own art work at the historical site of the former Swiss radio transmitter in Beromünster. In 2017, “The Museum of the Future / KKLB Berlin” will bring him for a year to Berlin. This conversation is about the possibilities of finding inspiration in extremely challenging places.
Pirmin Bossart: Your art seems to be very direct and taken from real life. How can you explain this?
Silas Kreienbühl: I find that the longer my engagement as an artist lasts, the more it’s becoming apparent that art should tell us something about life. Art is then capable to enthrall me. Art awakens my interest when I conceive it as an analogy helping to come to terms with something that I still don’t completely understand. Art may also open up new pathways and can equally offer insights into the unknown or exceptional. In doing so art brings reflexivity into play.
Pirmin Bossart: You have launched “The Museum of the Future / KKLB Berlin”. What will the “Museum” accomplish that conventional museums aren’t engaged in?
Silas Kreienbühl: I sometimes use to ask myself: What’s the relevance of a thousand Picasso exhibitions that our time has seen? How would an artist from the penultimate century respond to issues that are of concern these days? He or she might indeed have something to say. There’re certainly good contemporary artists who have absolutely still much more to say. One way or the other, it doesn’t make sense if the public isn’t properly included in the discussion. Therefore, conventional museums seem to me rather superfluous. Because there’s no real engagement on the side of the viewer in this old-school context.
Pirmin Bossart: What gives you this idea?
Silas Kreienbühl: In such an institutional and hundredfold pre-chewed framework things are already given: Picasso’s paintings are fantastic; he clearly is a star and an outstanding artist. Over decades, there has been a throrough preoccupation with his preeminent work. In the meantime, however, only sales records—also those of other famous artists—have come into focus. And the public debate is often limited to these issues. What I miss is that there’s no friction with topics that take us further as human beings and society.
Pirmin Bossart: Are contemporary museums not capable of accomplishing this task? Or do they miss the audience?
Silas Kreienbühl: Of course, established institutions have their audiences. Yet, those who typically expose themselves to works of art don’t represent society as a whole. If fine art wants to be meaningful today, then a much broader art debate is necessary. Unfortunately, artists and cultural workers are ill-prepared for these needs. We’re often a world away from the questions that arise in contexts where art is discussed with broad audiences. The result is a pseudo-debate. And that’s why I think that we could equally take a step ahead and even completely exclude the art work.
Pirmin Bossart: How would you describe your “Museum of the Future”?
Silas Kreienbühl: “The Museum of the Future” doesn’t require an edifice and no specific location; it has no collection or exhibition programme. “The Museum of the Future” is enveloped in human perception. Everything depends on attention that’s given to it as well as the meaning attributed to it. A “Museum of the Future” arises as soon as anybody will come up with a definition for it. And it’ll be alive as long anyone will support it with his or her appreciation and perception.
Pirmin Bossart: But, your “Museum” becomes also very tangible when we take a look at the photographs through which you refer to it. It entails spaces and situations of everyday life, for example, a sort of junkyard in Berlin with uncontrolled growth and waste. Where’s art buried here?
Silas Kreienbühl: This is exactly the place where genuine contentions and frictions take place. Where do we find art, if not there? It’s a very honest and thus particularly thrilling place, which has its origins in everyday life. This place was not designed. Nobody has devised its appearance. In a way, it’s a symptom and it stands for the life in Berlin.
Pirmin Bossart: Life is not just orderly and follows function. Is it the direct way how art is working and attracting you in this context, or a particular aesthetic concern?
Silas Kreienbühl: Why should only that which has been designed and constructed, or the artificial be viewed as beautiful? Beauty should also be seen in the truly genuine, in that which is really existing. Perhaps this is the only way for us to make progress, whether in art or as individuals or in society. To open oneself to a place, which simply has become what it is, without a presupposed concept, not only sharpens our awareness. What such a place can eventually prompt is much more juicy than the standard agreements about beauty that we all share.
Pirmin Bossart: Art is getting in touch with reality: Is there an impact on our lives everyday?
Silas Kreienbühl: It’ll have an impact. I find it in fact restrictive when beauty is maintained to be beautiful because something was made with a great effort so that it may appear as beautiful. That’s the way we behave in life. We rate somebody highly who is rated by everybody highly. We love what everybody loves. But the point is to discover things, to make experiences, and to make decisions based on our own personal values. It’s already a giant step to start asking the question how our perceptions could change in order to turn a place into an appealing place. Completely new worlds can be found on so many levels.
Pirmin Bossart: So what’s happening when we’re faced with the junkyard art scene?
Silas Kreienbühl: In such a place, my judgments aren’t predetermined. I can only be biased against the place or dismiss it on principle, find it distasteful, or simply reject it as “trash”. Approaching the place as unprejudiced as possible and conceiving an idea of it is the challenge. The place throws you back upon yourself. Perhaps even beauty could be found there. Not prejudice or a fix on something would then be in play, but one’s own experience is simply what counts. In the end, this means that something quite different than expected may be found. Is this not a brilliant life lesson?
Pirmin Bossart: Communication is an equally important aspect of your photographic and installation art work. You aren’t only a producer, but also a serious thinker who is interested in the viewer and his or her expectations. How will you familiarise people who show interest in “The Museum of the Future”?
Silas Kreienbühl: Photography is a medium of abstraction for me. I offer the viewer a perspective: The designed photographic image facilitates access and makes incremental approaches possible. On the occasion of a Museum visit, I will initially discuss my photographs and whatever they may provoke people to think. Only then we will visit the place on-site.
Pirmin Bossart: Why are you putting your photographs in-between?
Silas Kreienbühl: Photography is for me a way to figure out what I am doing. I can experience the perception process the same way an audience may become aware of it. As a consequence, questions arise and reactions are the result. Change and impermanence become omnipresent.
Pirmin Bossart: To sum up, one could say that the interplay between reflection and image, imagination and reality, will create new tensions and contentions.
Silas Kreienbühl: Absolutely. The place may not even be in existence anymore how it was pictured. For example, the weather could be much different than on the picture. There’s really nothing to hold on to. Finiteness and change become central issues. And these are exactly the particularly challenging topics for any traditional museum. Another possibility is to start reflecting on other places and questioning them while being on the way to the real places. It’s always about something we still aren’t aware of—in life as well as in art.
Photographic work “The Museum of the Future”
“KKLB Berlin” website (German): www.kklb-berlin.de