Ten Questions: Susanne Winterling

Tonight, Fotogalleriet in Oslo opens an exhibition with Berlin-based artist Susanne M. Winterling.

From the left: Susanne M. Winterling, Stephanie von Spreter (director of Fotogalleriet) and Jonas Odmark Eggen (outside) during the installation at Fotogalleriet

Susanne M. Winterling is known for her contained, hermetic environments based on careful constellations of objects, collected images and film footage invoking a certain elusive atmosphere with a particular intimacy hard to pin down – not least because Winterling consciously blurs the relationship between documentation and imagination, between what is found material and what is a pure construct.

She often investigates the lives and practices of other women artists or architects from an earlier, preferably Modernist, generation. In her contribution for the 5th Berlin Biennale, Winterling pointed to the specific biography of architect Eileen Gray by dealing with Gray’s professional and personal struggles (notably with Le Corbusier) inside the cloak rooms at Neue Nationalgalerie (designed by another master architect, Mies van der Rohe). In such «woman-to-woman genealogies» Winterling provides the viewer with the material for making history, for constructing a kind of portrait or a possible identity, although the multiple layers of meaning and gestures deprive us of a set conclusion.

For the exhibition at Fotogalleriet, Complement for Company (skyline and skin), Winterling explores the relationship between photographic image, experienced space and subjectivity as it plays out in the aftermath of modernist theories of vision and architecture.

Susanne Winterling was born in 1971 in Rehau/Oberfranken. She was recently appointed Professor of Film, Video and Photography at the Academy of Art in Oslo. This is the first solo presentation of her work in Norway.

1. How are the preparations for your upcoming show at Fotogalleriet going?

Little steps, there’s always something new…Many stories, little disasters, amazing people. Installing is also very often like a film set, especially with site-specific, new work: regardless of how well you have worked everything out in your studio, with a model and floor plan, the place, the people, change things…

2. What do you consider the most important aspect of this exhibition?

Are you trying to frame it??? You just have to experience the space as photographic paper. The gray room will only give hints here: the relation of the experience of the space and its interventions to vision and perception, parts of the photographic process taken apart and rearranged, traces of light and traces of touch on photographic paper that will go on changing as it is exposed to light and not fixated, the urban space and its image as surrounding, maybe grassroots politics, a focus on the perception as a process in relation to the space of Fotogalleriet.

3. When, how and why did you become an artist?

For a while, I tried not to become one but it didn’t work out, I guess.

4. How do you see your role as an artist today?

I want to take the «your» out of this question… But creating an awareness would be the answer, in general—a vision and sensibility that can use different means, different realms of context, by throwing light on imbalances due to structures of power, illusion, beauty and perception.

5. How would you describe your working method?

Hmmmmmm…dedicated, analytical, poetical, critical, passionate, slow. Perhaps it’s related to something like Situational Aesthetics, and very much grounded in film – all its aspects, material, history, expanded in space and light and photography.

I’m a bit of a workaholic, I guess. And for a long time I’ve been living a nomadic life, dreaming of a house.

6. Can you mention current art or projects/practices that inspire you?

I guess there are always my few classics. But for the time being there is Beginning Good. All Good – an updated version of the futurist opera Pobeda nad solncem (Victory over the Sun) by Welimir Chlebnikow, Alexeij Krutschenych, Kasimir Malewitsch, and Michail Matjuschin, which premiered in Saint Petersburg in 1913. Since 2008, an ever-expanding group of around thirty-five international artists, musicians, architects, and authors have, in an ongoing project consisting of exhibitions, performances or publications, been considering how to translate this almost one-hundred year old material into contemporary terms. (http://www.aktualisierungsraum.org/agag/) Also the book Deutschland hysterisieren by Manfred Hermes on Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz comes to mind right away.

7. What role does theory play in your work and which theorists have inspired you lately?

I wouldn’t use the word «role»; its a different thing. But it has always been important in terms of finding soulmates. The same goes for music and literature. Political theory and philosophy has always been more important than art theory to me. And recently I’ve been into a lot of architectural theory: Beatriz Colomina and Marc Wigley have, for sure, opened up my mind—as have Luce Irigaray, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Paolo Virno, in the past. Phenomenology is always the base. Lately, however, I have been reading Chris Kraus, and environmental as well as urban theories.

8. How can visual artists make a living and still maintain a critical attitude towards the commercial art market and governmental funding bodies?

Very difficult question…I might not be good at talking about a compromise…a question of priorities. Stay true to your vision and soul, as well as your soulmates.

9. How can we theorize and historicize contemporary art?

Not so sure if we can…can we get out of our own skin??? Surely, there are interesting attempts.

10. What would you change in the world of art?

Power to the people…Maybe first do away with the underlying class structure in a global way.