• • doppeldenk
What does DOPPELDENK mean? The concept of doublethink comes from George Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and describes the power of having two contradictionary beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. Unlock the Idea of George Orwell’s novel from total Brain- wash and combine it with self-responsible human acting you can achieve a new complex form of thinking. In this case you are able to accept the connection of two contradictionary relations and, as a conclusion, to create an own new conviction. DOPPELDENK is not just a neologism deriving from the 1984 novel; Marcel Baer and Andreas Glauch are rather using this term as a motto for their offensive body of work, which at first sight creates a certain familiarity through its unconventional neon colors and references to pop- and sub-culture inspired themes. At second glance, however, the work appears more subversive. The Leipzig based duo uses the suggestive power of (mass cultural) symbolism, which in its creation, is usually represented as pictograms or idealized characters.
lodown had a chat with the heads behind on the occasion of 'DIE HAPPY' at Open Walls gallery.
LDWN: How did it all begin? Where did you actually meet for the first time?
A: That must have been during the end of the 90s…
M: Well, perhaps a bit earlier... it must have been a while before that, right?! You were a DJ back then…
A: I was the ‘Booyaakaa Soundsystem’, playing a lot of house and techno in Chemnitz and somehow got in contact with you through Falk via Pact/Blackred.
M: I must add that I had already seen the first pieces by Andreas before…I was at the home of someone in Chemnitz - someone who currently is enjoying a reggae career under the name of Ronny Trettman, he’s doing a kind of dancehall thing with a Saxon accent. Basically at every event I saw some sketches lying around that literally blew me away. I later found out that those sketches belonged to Andreas. However, I really got to know him later on, through some common creative-friends, like Joy from Leipzig and Ace from Chemnitz…
Would you find your roots in graffiti?
M: My roots are more likely to be found in the beginning of the 90s, in computer graphics, C64, Amiga 80’s kind of stuff. The demo and computer graphic scene, which programmed intros for games - I spent a lot of time gaming as a kid.
We’re talking about bitmap graphics here.
M: Definitely. But for Andreas it was more about graffiti.
A: Absolutely. I took the mid 80s Karl Marx City “Beatstreet“ socialization... the film was sold by the GDR doctrine as the rebellion of the coloured minority against the class-enemy. For us it was about breakdance and imitating graffiti with paintbrushes... there were no spray-cans available back then until we managed to organize some from Czechoslovakia in the late 80s. As soon as the first DIY stores opened in the beginning of the 90s, we spent all our money there. It didn’t take too long before we began to move away from the American origins in order to live our own movie – for example, in terms of character- or calligraphic design, I got less interested in “Wild Style“, but more interested in serious and simple typography. The early pieces from Blackred – we already had a lot of contact via Lodown then – that were definitely more based on a serious graphic design…
When did you start to transform the whole thing to establish it as art – as something truly unique and independent?
M: Not too long ago, actually. We had already been working a long time together, via the Blackred Collective - well, collective is probably the wrong term now - via this group of people, who are drawn to the same kind of music. We organized parties and invited people, who we always wanted to hear playing in Leipzig... and Andreas was part of the crew back then under the DJ name ‘666 DJs’. Later he changed his name to Disko 69, which is also his year of birth. About that time we began working loosely together – whether it was some sort of flyers or posters, or things for Lodown, or a bit later a newspaper, which we made for a Leipzig-based club. At some point there was this desire, after so many years of contract work, to let things flow freely, without having a particular motive behind it... and so we just started painting.
A: That was about five years ago. Paint, brush, canvas... this is a craft, you know, and it means that you don’t just throw some things together on a computer, but sitting down with a pen and paper instead... and until the very final product, have full control over the image, up to the point where you decide to make the frames custom-made. It’s a different thing compared to the process of printing, where you finish it, digitally pass it on, and hope that whatever returns from the printer corresponds to your expectations. Last year we created a large wall display and realized: ok, here we come full-circle again, it’s back to the streets - or the walls. Of course, the formats are also decisive – when you compare how far you can go within the printing area, in comparison to a canvas of 2 x 3 meters; it’s a whole different feeling to stand in front of such works.
M: None of us has an academic background as so many other artists do… it was never quite clear why or how we ended up in this kind of art circuit. Even when we started with graffiti, we would have never had the idea to call it art- we were just trying things. In the end it all simply all comes down to do your own thing... we’re hardly doing things different than twenty years ago, only a bit bigger and with a different colour palette. But essentially it’s going back to the very same thing we already did in 1990.
Yes, I already noticed these approaches early on – many things seem to be returning from the 90s, which you are now applying in different mediums. But let’s talk about the creative process first.
M: For me, personally, it means embracing a certain limitation. Perhaps you can compare it to making music: you can make music with a laptop, and have all these endless possibilities... or you can make music with a drum machine or an MPC, which makes things appear to be a lot simpler from the beginning. The big advantage is though that you don’t drift off so easily.
A: I agree. In the digital arena you have all these endless possibilities – photoshop, adding one more layer, putting another effect on top, a little bit more of this and some more of that... you tend to stay on the surface of boundless options because of that. I mean, it’s nice to work in this wide open field, so to speak, but on a canvas, you engross the mind as options diminish... you get more to the point, I think. At least for me, this limitation has advantages. I am more satisfied to bring all this onto a canvas with a brush and paint, rather than spitting it digitally with the help of some machine.
Those experiences you’ve made in the digital realm... aren’t these the foundation that enables you to do this?
Both: Yes! Of course!
M: We are still producing digital works. This however, also has pragmatic reasons: a) to easily reproduce and b) to make it affordable for everyone who is interested in it. It took us quite some time to guarantee that these transformations work just right, that the colours look great and stuff. To produce serially, especially in our case with all the the straight outlines we’re using, it obviously makes sense to use the computer as a useful tool. The prints would be impossible to reproduce without a computer. Also the music that we listen to is more or less all electronic – not explicitly, but it is this particular world in which we move around... without trying to glorify this, however one can’t really withdraw from it either.
A: In the end it’s a synthesis. I believe one utilizes the advantages of the media, juggling and mixing certain elements, in order to have a result that you’re happy with. A canvas is a one-off – if I would paint this painting again, it would not be the same, the colours would be different, etc... it’s a one-off and in the digital realm it easily becomes serially reproduced.
As long as I know you, you have revealed a socially critical stance. Your newer works though, are a little more naïve... so how important is it for you today to critically comment on society?
A: Well, with a canvas it's not so important for me, I would not make a complex social study or anything like that. However, we did do that with certain paintings like the “Kraftwerk“ paintings, for example.
M: There was a ridiculing undertone to many of the things we’ve done in the past. We don’t do a judgement of good or evil in our paintings, we just make a parody of it. Often I can barely believe how blind or stupid people are, but obviously this is evident in many ways. How decisions are made, how many things are portrayed... sometimes one can only laugh about it. One can’t practice true criticism, because it fades away again anyway. Parody might be the wrong word though – it’s very subtle, perhaps only visible at second sight, and the ones who don’’t have access to our work would not necessarily see it, I guess. But the people who have an eye for things like this, they see it – without that it becomes, as Andreas pointed out, a social study. We are less interested in portraying concrete social happenings, we rather look at it with a wider perspective. The title of the exhibition “Die Happy“ – which corresponds to that painting back there… many things are truly like they are depicted in these dystopian- or science fiction books. There are also no utopias anymore, everything has already occurred. That’s also why there’s no more cool sci-fi. There is only more and more reality. And we can just stand there and wonder about it. Laugh about it or get upset. For us the artistic channel is a way to come to terms with this madness. Otherwise one would probably have to get annoyed the whole time, or…
A: ... become an alcoholic.
M: Yes, I am almost at that point! (laughing). What always saves me is this task to continue and to work out new ideas. It’s definitely important for us to state a position in relation to society. It’s our own position to change the meaning of things. A lot is already so obvious, so crass. If you look at the image “1984“, which obviously is inspired by Robert Indiana – well, in the end this is a copy with different letters, numbers. No idea to whether anybody has done it like that before, but at least it already exists in different variations... But in any case: There’s nothing left with Love, USA. Even though I like the US a lot because many things that play a large part in my life originate from there – whether it’s music, graphics, or graffiti – all these cool things come from the US. But it’s just not so ‘Love’-like anymore as it used to be in the 60’s, or was about to become…we live in Orwells year, 1984, if not worse. And it’s so curious how even in the media it’s being portrayed like this, and all the things that are happening with surveillance and so on... it’s hard to fathom this in such a specific way. I am pretty certain about the fact that I will still experience the day when police controls or questionings will not be conducted from person to person anymore. We will sit across from machines and that’s a fact.
So this simulation will become reality... or perhaps has already arrived?
M: It’s a process. This won’t happen from now to then. One often imagines a drastic break, but humanity just adopts and grows into it. I see it already with us: we are a bit too old to really get a hang of the social web 2.0 platform. I am no good at it, I also don’t really enjoy it, it’s rather a pain for me to do. But artist friends who are in their early 20s – who were 10 years old when everything started – it’s in their blood. Just the same as we eat or go the loo, they use facebook and similar platforms. And this of course also has an effect on the way we perceive our surroundings, so to say, and how we are perceived.
In the beginning I was cheering for each faster, newer computer, but at some point this somehow turned in the opposite direction... it was just too much at too little time; the development was just too extreme. At some point it was not that much fun anymore. I don’t know if this has answered the question sufficiently. With the theme ‘critical towards society’, I perhaps went off track a little…
Well, I was interested in this controlled society that you are referring to in your paintings - as through depicting for instance a toy helicopter, which on the outside represents something quite infantile, and at first doesn't seem threatening, but actually already contains the metaphor that every child is indoctrinated and controlled from an early age...
A: Well, it's also a bit of a cliché and I think it's important what the spectator standing in front of the painting makes of it. For me, an American military helicopter isn't really anything threatening, I am rather conscious about the fact that a large degree of my living standard is secured to a certain extent by it. But such a military presence - whether it's an American helicopter, or from the NATO or the Bundeswehr, the NVA (Nationale Volksarmee der DDR) - is for someone who’s coming from other (cultural) parts of the world and therefore connects a direct threat with it, a totally different thing, of course. I think it's a good example for our working process and for our artist name as well, since there actually is no good or evil. The thing itself is always a thing. The confrontation with the person and its discourse is what actually gives it its value.
Yes, that is true. A drone for a person living in Afghanistan is something else than for tech nerds like us.
A: Yes, absolutely! Something horrendous! When they register the distant humming and swirling while hoping that it won't explode somewhere. And for me it's only one news article in many millions a day.
M: These colourful hues and this naive exterior works also like a door opener. One could also depict it all in black-white, dark, more violent and brutal, but that would not correspond to what we want to show. We also want to make people laugh and mediate some joy. And these colourful things are door openers, simply because they appear as though they were made - exaggeratedly said - for kids, or for adults that remained kids. But the themes are, at least with the more complex paintings, perhaps a bit borderline. Also for kids it's not really too suitable... well, it depends - perhaps from the age of ten or twelve. Kids nowadays are used to everything, right?!
A: I think it’s also a sort of strategy. Colourful, cute, pretty lets you get closer, it lets you relax in your distance-taking attitude. And when I then begin a discourse, and think myself into it and try and understand: “Why is it like this? Why is everything burning here? And why are they so happy and laughing?“. It’s much more likely for me that way to deal with the subject, than if I would paint death and destruction, blood and pus. That would personally rather repel me and I would just move on, rather than occupying myself with the subject. I believe we are also using the imagery, shapes and colours from advertising. Just like a plastic rifle, according to the motto: “Haha, funny! Colourful, nice shape, makes cool sounds“ - but in the end somehow, it's still training us for using arms. We didn't do it differently with GST (Gesellschaft für Sport & Technik - Paramilitärische Organisation der DDR) either: you are just training for the real thing, to shoot somebody. Nowadays, with the computer games, it's not really any different - first it’s colourful, funny and entertaining... and 20 years later you sit somewhere in Texas, press a button, and shoot at a village somewhere on the other side of the world. Yes, funny, haha!
And the new computer games are barely beatable in terms of realism...
A: Yes, I mean we're not really present there anymore. Also, I know the computer games from the beginning of the 90's - those were more naive…
M: And intentionally funny...
A: But now it's real. These days, everything that deals with some form of humour, has to do with abstraction. Now, it's all realistic soldiers with realistic gear and simulated weapons specifications. And back then it was pixels that shot at other pixels and something funny happened and some funny sounds were thrown in the mix. I thought that was actually more exciting than these totally realistic games in 3D and other highly disbanded stuff.
So, does it make sense, a backward looking abstraction of reality?
A: Yes, I believe, when you look back, you see more and more of the future. When we occupy ourselves with image generating processes for example, we then also look at many things that are 200, 300, 400 or 500 years old. There are also no novel themes in the history of humanity, really... everything already existed: love, hate, murder, death, heroism. Those were always the great subjects, only in a different guise. I would however not want to paint stylistically like they did 300 years ago. There was no photography yet, and because of this people wanted to paint everything hyper-realistically. I do try and keep it as abstract and simple as possible - so that it opens more easily or opens a door in you, which perhaps, would have also opened itself when you were six years old.
At some point there will be the interface, with which you can click on some kind of organic implant - or perhaps not even click anymore, just think it - and then it all occurs in front of you.
M: Yes, that will overtake us all very quickly.
Is there any fear of the future?
A: No, the future will be glorious! (laughing)
M: With me, I wouldn't call it fear... but probably it has a lot to do with science fiction scenes, with which I've been occupying myself; about how the world will develop and everything will go increasingly in the direction of becoming more effective... oh God, Germany, according to my opinion, plays a massive role in this! It's no more fun to watch, it's ridiculous and horrific at the same time. And, well, the fear that machines will dominate our lives more and more does exist. Because it can't all be so easily deterred, I simply don't see any counter-movement going on right now. And as long as our civilization only measures itself with technical advancements, and by some climbing curves, nothing will change. The civilizational evolution is not appreciated here - this corresponds more to the so-called primitive people. Yet these people have managed to live for thousands of years, without constantly creating new innovations and are happily living like that without destroying everything. Especially here, in Germany or in the Western world in general, a very different beat is announced - faster, higher, farther. People are replaced by machines, the next step will then be the connectivity between machines and people. That certainly will happen. And those who refuses to join will not be effective enough, will be more or less sidelined.
The only question is what niches can be found, in order to cope with that. In the end this is only terrible for people like us - people who witness this transformational process. People who grow up with it, will not question it. It will be normal for them. Machines will take over, no doubt about it! In one way or another... and as long as nothing drastic happens beforehand. Perhaps it will even be like in a book by Stanislav Lem... that through the accumulation of information, the information turns into a mass itself. I don't know whether I remember this correctly, but I think there was a book, which explained in a humorous and funny way that information at a certain amount, creates its own mass. And that through this, all computers were destroyed... and that at some point all the Third World countries became “Top of The World“ while in New York they all jumped out of skyscrapers, because nothing was working anymore. Perhaps these are only the attempts of human intelligence to switch off time, and to get at it somehow with technological advancement. Because there has to be a reason behind it when you look at it anthropologically...
M: I don't quite understand that sentence…
Well, the development of humanity in relation to machines: machines that control man himself. The creation of a God, who is larger than man himself and doesn't know death - that this could signal the end of humanity is somehow self-evident.
M: Yes, that's possible. Theoretically. it's feasible... the interfaces are already being created. That's also something I cannot comprehend: there are many scientists, who work towards it full throttle and who get terribly excited for this future scenario. I cannot understand the motives of these people, who get onto this with total optimism...
Ray Kurzweil, for example...
M: Awful! I really get the creeps with that one! I actually find him extraordinarily creepy: But as long as he finds enough supporters... or perhaps you'd have to stop such people too? I have no idea. my fear is: what is doable, people will somehow manage to do - you can not forbid it.
Once there was a guy, who tried to stop them…
M: Yes, but if we begin to talk about him: that guy tried to get his way, in methods that were not so cool. On the other hand: many are still fearful of that guy, I think…it still isn’t enough to move into a forest, into a hut and eat pine cones for thirty years. That guy could do it - I think we are talking about the same guy.
Yeah, Ted Kaczynski. Well, let's switch to more cheerful things…are you going to continue working with sculptures?
M: Yes, I think so. Perhaps in smaller editions. Everything is always connected to a “time/money“ question. We have to see how we are dealing with this one. But as I said: smaller editions - we got that on our agenda.
And you will probably also support local production processes?
M: Well, I'd say Saxon ones. We’ve got East German production processes in mind. I don't think we will orientate ourselves towards Hong Kong or Japan.
And you will work with wood?
M: With wood, yes. And revive the traditions of surface design from the Erzgebirge. We will ask around with our relatives who still has a chisel in the basement.
Well, good luck to you!