vonFridey Mickel 13.10.2015

Context is Half the Work

Seeing comes before words, and culture can be defined at any given moment.

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Ann Schomburg is a German multimedia installation artist who uses an arsenal of photography, video, objects, and performance to characterize societal roles and the consequences one faces as a member of society. Two years ago, after a hiatus that took Ann Schomburg to New York City and Frankfurt, while all along studying in Kassel, the young artist returned to Berlin. Her personality attracts a lot of attention through her activities on Facebook and a myriad of group shows throughout the capitol. Currently on view at Art von Frei in Berlin is an autonomous glimpse of the artist’s work. At first glance, what borders on kitsch is really quite genius– everyday ideas (instead of just everyday items) are presented extremely innate, giving philosophical glimpses at how simple our world could be. The exhibition is quite refreshing, making the viewer realise that the ‚smoke and mirrors’ around other artwork does nothing to bolster what is not essentially there. Predominantly featured in the show are Schomburg’s latest works, aptly labelled ‚Optional Pictures’. I used a discussion of these works as an ignition point to examine what lies below the artist’s working philosophy, and moreover, the personality, which makes Ann Schomburg truly unique…




I like how drastically the pieces change, depending on, whether the light is on or off…. ‘It’s not as it seems.’ This element surfaces a lot in your work…

These pieces in the show seem like mirrors but they’re actually optional pictures. When the light is turned off you have a mirror, and when you turn the light on you have a picture. I was thinking about vanishing and sometimes about strip tease, or a burlesque dance or something like that. The turning on and off of something, which is sometimes even more sexy.

It’s an element of me and it’s an element of my art. One of my professors always said, a good artist has one leg to play around on, and another leg based on strong research. I would add a third leg based on your personality, like an extra toe or something that’s only you. I think ‘nothing is what it seems’ is what I bring from my personality.

The same was true when I got elected to the German Bundestag in my early twenties. I was the young blonde girl in pink—the journalists would never take me seriously. In their articles, they wrote about the barrettes I had in my hair, and it was the same in a way in parliament. I then actually started to intentionally dumb things down. I would never do it in a mean way. I started taking ‘the rules’ and re-defined them in my own need and way, sort of showing others the boundaries and limits of them. Then, they would forget it, and I would do it again and again.




How do you keep your perspective in your work?

Art is good, but sometimes doing these everyday jobs gives you another perspective on things. Sometimes you can get too consumed by the art scene, which is funny when you realise it’s such a tiny part of society. So sometimes if you have another viewpoint, it helps you to maintain distance and say ‘Yeah, ok. I didn’t manage to apply for a grant or scholarship, but its o.k.’

Also, there’s nothing more boring than just circling around one thing. I don’t think it’s possible to develop if you can’t get the distance to see it from the outside.




How do you map out this simplicity in your aesthetic?

My concepts are really complicated and I always need to step back and think about how I would explain to Uschi from the supermarket. That’s how I want to be able to explain it to everyone. If somebody thinks I am dumb, I don’t care really. It says a lot about a person who uses complex language to prove that they are intellectual. I cannot focus on something I am not interested in, and if I’m not relating to the conversation, I’m idling.

I hate all these concerned people in art and in politics, who are like, ‘It’s for the people! It’s for everyone!’ They think they are supporting the weak. But they don’t see that the people who they want to address never have the chance to join the conversation, not because they’re not mentally able to, but because they are working eight hours a day in a supermarket. After doing really stupidly exhausting work, it’s understandable that you want to go home and drink a beer. If you’re invited to participate in a public event or exhibition, you don’t want to feel dumb.




That’s what I like about your work in general, it’s so ‘obvious’. It’s so difficult to put a finger on it, but despite the simplicity, there is something huge behind what you’re doing….

Sometimes I think that I’m a cliché artist, the kind I really don’t like- making something out of bullshit. I start wondering if I hate my work, because its so me. I really like people who are down to earth and work properly without drama. But on the other hand, when I’m doing all this shitty art it’s like, ‘I don’t know! I want to go out! I want to see daylight! Ugh, it’s too warm!’ It’s so unnecessary, but I can’t get rid of it.


SHOW CLOSES 23. October 2015 (even if website says otherwise)

Ann will be conducting studio visits starting in December 2015. Enquire via e-mail: info@annschomburg.info



Ann Schomburg — Behind Blue Eyes

Art von Frei Gallery / Brunnenstrasse 187 / 10119 Berlin / by appointment: +49 (0) 30 47 59 54 50

Photos: © Stephanie Wächter, Courtesy of the artist and Art von Frei, Berlin.

Title Image: still from doku video (some change please, interasculpture, 2011 ), Courtesy of the artist


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