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A Questionnaire: Tom Kummer

Tom Kummer, 29.06.2017


Was war heute Ihr erster Gedanke?
Aufstehen? Oder liegenbleiben? Wahnsinn oder Genie? An was will ich überhaupt noch glauben? Brauchen wir Glauben? Und wieso sehe ich in Bern nie tote Vögel auf der Straße? In Los Angeles war das anders. Da gab es Road Kill überall!


Are you serious?
Very serious … to the point that people think I am lying or making fun of them.


Los Angeles oder Berlin?
Ich liebe L.A., weil die Stadtwüste und ihre Menschen immer noch so teuflisch schwierig zu »lesen« sind. Berlin ist mir zu soft geworden. Vielleicht fehlen dort die wirklich kranken Köpfe.


John McEnroe or Martina Navratilova?
Borg was my guy. But then I realized that McEnroe was the smart one. And Borgʼs image of the iceman
was just a sign of dullness. That was very disappointing. When I was 16, I thought Navratilova really looked hot. But I was afraid to tell that to anyone.


A question to which “yes” is always your answer?
Want to play some basketball, one-on-one?


Fahren oder Schwimmen?
Fahren. Der Blick durch die Windschutzscheibe bedeutet Kino, ein Raum, in dem fantastische Ideen zu Realitäten werden. Mit Nina hatte ich immer die schönsten Gespräche beim Fahren. Es floss einfach so aus uns heraus, und es gab kein Entkommen im Wagen.


What is the problem with solutions?
Everybody seems to be happy with solutions. Not me. I love chaos. My belief system tells me: only conflicts, disfunctionality, troublemakers like me, scandals, and more drive us forward, create progress …


Was macht Sie verrückt?
Stress. Zeitdruck. Arbeiten.


Blind or deaf?
Deaf … but nothing against blindness!


Welche Götter?
Film-Regisseure waren für mich Götter. Jedenfalls jene Autorenfilmer, wie man sie damals noch nannte, die an einer neuen Filmsprache arbeiteten.


Is it true?
No idea.


Wann werden Sie rot?
Wenn ich gelobt werde, für gute Eigenschaften, die ich eigentlich auf gar keinen Fall preisgeben wollte.


Your favorite image?
That scene in Stranger than Paradise by Jim Jarmusch when John Lurie and his friends stand at an empty beach, all is grey around them, and they reach a point of existential boredom. I like that human condition, and I think the deeper you can sink into nothingness the deeper you can dig into great ideas …


Vor was fürchten Sie sich?
Abgründe. Ich habe schreckliche Höhenangst. Dabei bin ich ein waghalsiger Skifahrer. Sobald ich auf
Ski stehe, bin ich mutig und wage mich an die brutalsten Steilhänge. Aber ich kann nicht von Hochhäusern runterschauen.


Please complete the following sentence:
As he looked at her…
… she hesitated for a moment. But it was crystal clear that they belonged together … forever.

Where is your center of gravity?


Wer schützt Sie vor sich selbst?
Manchmal Freunde. Aber in erster Linie das zweite »Ich«, das man sich erhalten hat.


What does “home” mean?
Eine Wüste.


In die Zukunft schauend, was sehen Sie?
Mehr Autoverfolgungsfahrten. Mehr Selbsthilfegruppen für UFO-Entführungsopfer.
Eine Ehrenmedaille für meine literarischen Leistungen als Pionier im Zeitalter der alternativen Fakten.
Noch mehr Menschen, die in der Porno-Industrie arbeiten. Mehr streunende Tiere auf deutschen Straßen.


Remembering, what do you hear?
Beach Boys, Pet Sounds.
Die Stimme meines Vaters, der mir erklärt hat, dass man sich nicht neu erfinden könne. Niemals.
Man bleibe immer derjenige, als der man geboren wurde. Und wer was anderes erzählt, lügt.


Apfel oder Zitrone?
Pink Lady.


What should happen after death?
I want to be pulled into a vortex of colored light, as astronaut Dave Bowman is in 2001 – A Space Odyssey. And then race across vast distances of space, viewing bizarre cosmological phenomena and strange landscapes of unusual colors. Thatʼs what I expect from life after death.


Hunter S. Thompson oder Tom Wolfe?
Beide haben mich vergiftet. Ich kam in den 80er Jahren von den beiden nicht mehr los.
Diese Idee, so zu schreiben, dass es aussieht wie Journalismus, aber etwas ganz anderes ist. Von Thompson konnte man mehr über die »Selbstinszenierung« lernen, von Wolfe die sprachlichen Kapriolen.


What’s wrong with reality?
Nothing wrong with reality. People believe what
they want to believe. It’s how reality is represented by people or media, the sell-out of reality that has existed for decades in our media that fascinates me. How Hollywood sells reality, sells stars in the media, how politicians are created. How journalism pretends that it cannot be bought. That it holds the key to reality and truth. I say: Wahrheit ist käuflich. I was always more interested in hyperreality, that condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins.


Rot oder blau?


A poem or song you won’t forget?
The Clash / “Rebel Waltz”: I slept and I dreamed of a time long ago I saw an army of rebels, dancing on air
I dreamed as I slept, I could see the campfires,
A song of the battle, that was born in the flames,
And the rebels were waltzing on air.


Was langweilt Sie?
Flughafen-Lounges. Abfertigungshallen. Warten auf den Abflug.


Your remedy for gloom?
Brainstorming. Running.Planning a new book or art piece.


Was möchten Sie nicht noch einmal essen?
Ich entdeckte Insekten als Delikatesse schon vor Jahren im mexikanischen Bundesland Chiapas.


How to deal with neutrality?
What is neutral about neutrality? The Swiss are bullshitting themselves and their sense of neutrality! There can be no politics without vision, no philosophy without commitment. Neutrality, if taken seriously, will destroy the most distinctive feature of politics. It’s an absurd search for a value-free politics. His philosophy is superficial, just another political slogan. And the Swiss are so proud of it. But they live in a Disney World, a honey pot. Nothing is real about this place. But it is bloody convenient to live here, I must say!

Wald oder Wiese?


Your favorite geometric form?
I enjoy the magic triangle. Specially in a love affaire …


Nan Goldin oder Larry Clark?
I prefer Nan Goldin. I was there when she arrived in Berlin in 1985 and shot her most important book
The Ballad of Sexual Dependency in which two pictures of me are printed. But I always had my doubts about how photographers operate to create “their realities”. I think Larry Clark was even worse when it came to exploiting the objects of desire. In the case of Clark it was mostly teenagers that he lured into believing he was going to make them superstars—as long as they take drugs and fuck in front of his camera.


Your favorite star in real life?
I don’t care about stars anymore …


And in fiction?
Im Kino: Travis Bickle in »Taxi Driver«,
»Nina & Tom« in der Literatur.


Wie sterben?
Wie Nina. Das Hirn mit Morphium benebelt. Durch die Jalousie ist ein blutroter Streifen am Horizont zu erkennen. Irgendjemand schiebt eine Hand zwischen meine Beine.


Welches Buch lesen Sie gerade?
»Acid«, herausgegeben von Rolf Dieter Brinkmann und Ralf-Rainer Rygulla.


Please complete the following sentence:
As she looked at him…
… he stared back in disbelief. He knew immediately: she is out of his league.


Geld oder ein guter Ruf?
Die Frage stellt sich mir nicht. Ich habe Geld… und einen besonderen Ruf: das Resultat harter Arbeit.


Your favorite question?
Pamela Anderson, you embody every materialistic zeitgeist. Reality loses itself in simulation, and the cult of the body is the most consistent reaction to that. Have you found the meaning of life in this?




Photos: © Rudolf Steiner, Haus am Gern


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Rudolf Steiner, Pleasant Valley

Fatal Conjunctions

Everything is connected to everything else, says Lenin, as do the finance gurus, and the more it breaks down, the better it works, says Deleuze, as do the winners of the ­“crisis.” It’s many strokes that make up the big picture, and nets are made up of knots. It’s equations that found exclusions and force us into regimes: it’s small words that make the difference. The form and direction of movement is articulated at the joints; the shared, the collective, any talk of “we,” is upheld or torn apart by bands and bonds.
Communism as the “free association of free individuals”? Now, when ­dividuals— a mobile army of codes, images, data, relations, technologically ­collected, ideologically filtered, transferred, and made legible—appear to states and corporations to be identifiable and controllable? The ­individuals are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are, as Nietzsche would say.
Fatal conjunctions: loose attempts. ­Associating in and with gaps. Making small incisions into the big ­picture. Following the vanishing lines over the border. “Believing in the world.” From the double bind to the missing links. An incon­spicuous gliding and diverging, nomadic consciousnesses, in the plural, and if in doubt, out of line. But what can be linked to this?

A swansong. Death in Venice, reenacted

Barbara Basting, 07.07.2017

Dear Paolo Baratta, President of the Venice Biennale,


I have rarely left the Biennale so dissatisfied and tired as this year. No, it wasn’t the endless kilometers I had to cover in order to see the Giardini, Arsenale, Corderie. It was the art I was presented with along them.
“Viva arte viva”—the catchphrase of the main exhibition of this year’s Biennale should have already aroused my suspicions. Not that anyone pays much attention to such phrases; those of the last few shows turned out to be pretty hollow. But after this year’s visit it’s entirely clear that the clunky silliness of “Viva arte viva” hides a collapse, conceals the implosion of the idea of a somehow meaningful overview of contemporary art. A swansong. Death in Venice, reenacted.
It can’t be said, though, that none of the exhibited works are capable of speaking to us any longer or have anything more to say. It’s just that the main show is absolutely incapable of fulfilling the original idea of painting some kind of coherent picture of contemporary art, with the whole greater than the sum of its parts, as a supplement to the necessarily chaotic variety of the national pavilions. No one perhaps better anticipated this collapse than Harald Szeemann with his last Biennale, in 2001, for which he chose the main idea (or was it a crackpot idea?) of “Plateau de l’humanité” (translated either by “humankind” or “humanity”). The exhibition architecture symbolized this human plateau with a sloping floor, of all things, in the main pavilion. Now was this visionary or ironic? And what hasn’t been slipping and sliding since then!
But the collapse, the implosion of the Biennale before our very eyes doesn’t only have to do with this year’s particularly bad main show; it’s also a result of its expansion and explosion primarily in the past two decades—more exactly, of an overextension of its surface area and a soar in the number of visitors due to international interest. You can, as president, chalk this all up as a success. At any rate as the kind of success loved by number-fixated politicians and most sponsors, upon which the Biennale depends. It’s not only this success that has made you into an esteemed cultural impresario; you have accomplished a great deal, saving the Biennale from being completely junked in the Berlusconi years, for example. But your success comes at a price. It consists of all manner of compromise—with the galleries, for example, without which the Biennale couldn’t be financed, or at least not as it is at the moment.
And now this success disguises the fact that the barge-like Art Biennale urgently needs a makeover. It also prevents it from shaking off its shackles. Hasn’t the time come, for example, to take leave at last of a substantial part of the Biennale legacy, the unfortunate and increasingly impossible bracketing together of nations, achievements, and trends? How about an upfront admission that the epoch of hastily cobbled-together art narratives like “Viva arte viva” is coming to an end, because even the most mediocre art works don’t deserve them?  
Wouldn’t it also be in order to address real questions to art once again, not just to burden them with rhetorically polished slogans? Questions that may well hurt, because what’s going on in the world rather brutally devalues an art that primarily serves to distract and assuage. Questions about the current varieties of censorship and the monopolization of art. Or about the condition of the art world’s foundations, which were laid in the early modern era and likewise appear to be in need of...

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A swansong. Death in Venice, reenacted
By Barbara Basting