Nutrient ground













































































































































































































































































































































































































About the origination process of noetic handicraft

Explanation of the term "noetic"

Geseko von Lüpke interviews Alexandra Hendrikoff

Contemplative networking, inspiration and reinforcement encouragement



»A whisker of the cosmic cat«  

Geseko von Lüpke interviews Alexandra Hendrikoff



G.: Alexandra, you call your art “noetic handiwork”. Where does this expression come from and what does it mean?


A.: I came across the word “noetic”, from which the expression “noetic handiwork” derives, in a neuroscientist’s book about synaesthetic sensory perception. In my view, it describes a type of mental recognition that gathers knowledge in ways that differ from the traditional scientific-analytical laboratory approach. The latter separates objects from their natural context, dissects them into individual components and in so doing tries to understand them as a whole.
In contrast, I see the process of noetic recognition as an attempt to betake oneself into the environ-ment with all of one’s senses and a lot of empathy, being aware of it through cautious observation.
In this way, it becomes possible to gain an understanding of one’s surroundings and of the natural processes involved in them, maybe without obtaining a rational explanation but rather an inner understanding of the objects in the world, a deeper knowledge, which one might not be able to put into words, but which one feels nonetheless.


G.: This image leaves behind the classic Western method of perceiving reality in a dissecting, de-compounding and deadening way. Is what you are trying to do an animated, compassionate and worldembracing approach?


A.: Yes, certainly. And by doing so I distance myself from an attitude often found in both the scientific and the artistic communities. When I read Aristotle, for example, describing the sculptor as a maker who appropriates the raw, undefined matter and creates something new or reshapes it according to his will, I disapprove of it just as I disapprove of the scientific approach that is equally domineering and dissecting, even willing to kill, all for the sake of knowledge. It seems much more “self-evident” to me to throw oneself into the fray, to resonate with it in order to understand objects and processes from within. This understanding is linked to the concepts of empathy, awakened senses, mindfulness and respect. It’s simply what has developed as “Ariadne’s thread” within my work, as it were. I believe that sensory perception is an essential part of sculpting and with my art I – literally – try to grasp the world: with my hands, all my senses and naturally also with reason.


G.: You move within a very wide creative field, covering many of the areas of fine art, such as sculpture and plastic arts, objects, elements of land art and works on canvas; how do you fashion your artistic journey in the midst of all these techniques?


A.: First and foremost, there is a topic that plays on my mind. It is followed by the question: in which medium could the topic find its expression? In most cases, artworks with a spatial quality arise from this process. Even when I work with a canvas it becomes a moulded surface and turns into a three-dimensional (albeit minimal) relief. The sensory perception of the viewer has more points of orientation in the spatial; they can move about more easily in it and take on different perspectives. This is exactly what is so important to me when it comes to three-dimensional works: to not only take into account one exclusive aspect of an image, but everything around it too, maybe one can even enter the spatial piece, so that the viewers have an endless array of viewpoints at their disposal. The chosen materials depend on the content of the topics and in this respect the more freedom the better. New challenges are bestowed upon artists who choose not to limit themselves. But the location also counts; it depends on the possibilities of the exhibition space. If an artist is invited to a symposium in the countryside, working with nature is an easy option. All these aspects together determine the choice of means.


G.: On the one hand, there are large sculptures in your workshop, and on the other hand very delicate works one hardly dares to look at because they are so fragile they could collapse any minute. Which artistic course do you keep amongst all these completely different forms of expression, ranging from massive sculptural works to dainty miniatures that seem to be made with tweezers? Do you sometimes go back to creating enormous artworks or have they steadily become more and more intricate?


A.: Basically, my works have become more and more delicate. When I was at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich I started out very conventionally, creating life-sized figural sculptures because I was interested in the concept of the body, being in the body, being a body, and I wanted to address this artistically. I felt compelled to keep up with the conventions of traditional sculpture and also with my fellow artists. The common belief is that a work exists and is valuable only if it weighs three tons. But after a while, I struck out on a new path, or it opened up before me, revealed itself within me. So my works have become increasingly delicate and the fragility of my existence has become more and more present. The endeavour of employing iron and concrete in order to ward off the erosion of life seemed more and more futile. For me, delicacy is closer to life, to the reality of mortality and the changeability of existence at any given moment. It is harder to express this with steel, glass or concrete. My artworks have a certain airiness to them, they resonate and stir with every person crossing the room and this, to me, is much more moving.


G.: Is this fragility of our existence, the changeability and presence in the moment, the connecting link within your works?


A.: It is the result of my development: I believe that the more alterable and changeable a form is, the more I approach a state of aliveness. Even if my paper constructs reach a certain form that does not change from day to day, they still seem more mutable. This concept is important to me, since it stays true to our existential reality.


G.: This first big statue here is a self-portrait, sculptured with blindfolded eyes, as if blind, which you then furnished with different covers and membranes. Is this piece an examination of the inside and the outside and of how our world within is interconnected with the external world?


A.: Yes, this has been a pivotal idea since I started my degree. The stage-design class once created a room with walls made of felt for the Academy’s summer exhibition. It was completely dark, you had to walk through absolute blackness, and even the noises were muffled. When I reached the centre of the room I thought: “What would it be like to shape something free of any kind of control from the eye?” In that same moment, when I was sitting in this pitch-black space, I knew: I want to shape something with blindfolded eyes or in the dark in order to be able to concentrate on the sensual reality of being in the body; in order not to stop at the “nicely done, well done, harmonious proportions”. I realised that it was good for me to work on these more superficial aspects, but at the same time I was interested in what could be found one step beyond that conventional approach.
This was the moment I started working with swimming goggles covered with black varnish. At first, I formed two portraits and was completely stunned at how great it was to work blindfolded. I then entered deeper into this process and shaped life-sized figures with covered eyes. I didn’t even check them in the evenings, I left them covered without looking and continued my work the following day until I felt I had finished them. The result of this method was interesting and moving, but in the end I was even more impressed with the working process. Sculpting for ten hours, highly concentrated and blindfolded, means that all information has to pass through the body. It is a very sensual experience because one hears more accurately and one feels much more strongly the whole time. I then became aware of how much this method changed my perception. After ten hours with blindfolded eyes I felt like a spatial being rather than a solid body. All my senses had been focusing on the inside and in this way I almost left the tangible dimension of my body. I experienced that it is possible to feel tiny like a thimble and massive like a mountain and that self-awareness is a highly adaptable variable. Actually, this experience made me produce a paper construct from this blind, nude selfportrait for the first time. This paper shell enabled me to then visualize the inner space, marking the beginning of all these paper-shell works that address the inside and the outside as a comprehensive space.


G.: Your art seems like academic research on biological forms. Sometimes your works look like they have been extracted from a scientific book on cellular structures. These borrowings from the natural world – would you say you treat them like a vocabulary, or like an alphabet of life?


A.: Yes, absolutely. During my intensive work with these paper constructs I addressed the issue of the skin as a boundary. The skin doesn’t actually mark off anything, it is more like a membrane which is susceptible to the touch. And when I researched the concept of inner and outer spaces I came across reoccurring structures. For instance, the shape of round cells, which is visible everywhere: in the wave tubes at the beach, in frogspawn, in the roundness of the sun and the earth. This orbital circle form, filled with water, air, fire and life, permeates all areas like a basic matrix. I realised that there are certain basic structures that could appear anywhere; within a human body, a fountain or within the universe. Matter always follows such patterns. These forms are called fractals and they emerge again and again, in the microcosm and in the macrocosm. This fundamental vocabulary of life also infuses my work.


G.: Usually we perceive the skin more like a boundary, as a wall between the inside and the outside which delimits the inner world and our environment. If you understand it as a membrane, is this about finding a different way of connecting with the outside world, making it part of the individual’s world?


A.: Yes, one of my topics is the permeability of the skin and of the cell, which is a phenomenon found both on a small and on a large scale. If a cell’s membrane were impermeable it would simply die. Being in the flow is vital for life. Of course the skin or cell has to filter what it lets in and out. I understand the skin as a factor of difference which enables contact and links, but never as a decisive border. With our whole being we extend far into space. Even through the act of breathing we permanently distribute ourselves in space, and when we breathe in we absorb space along with everything floating in the air. This exchange and the constant communication is one of life’s key issues. Where there’s too much demarcation something dies away. Nonetheless, of course the skin has an important protective function; it keeps our innards safe and sound. The permeability of the skin is a more accurate description than the idea of a compact corpus, separated from the environment.


G.: If we follow the metaphor of a “vocabulary” or an “alphabet of life” we see new connections: letters form words, words form a sentence and sentences form a story. What kind of stories, what kind of poetic images do you compose when you draw on this alphabet or this vocabulary?


A.: I am not interested in examining a seed in order to copy or recreate it. Instead, I try to make use of its vocabulary so that I can create my own prototypes of it. This process is similar to children playing around with language and producing new words which sometimes express profound truths. Also, I wouldn’t say that these figures stem from my imagination; I see myself more as a fisher than a creator. My figures are image-fishes, if you like, that arise within me from this primordial vocabulary – who knows where and how they’ve been pieced together. In the best-case scenario they result in a poem, in an ode to life, which may enable me and maybe even the viewer to resonate with these structures of the primal ground. I don’t want them to give a false sense of security: “Ah, this is a dandelion, this is a seashell, this is a blossom!” Instead: “Hey, this could be a blossom! But also a possible submarine life form, or maybe the close-up of a seed capsule!” – I prefer the viewers to switch back and forth like that. My insight tells me that everything is inextricably linked with everything else, so it is impossible to regiment it into a system. We like to define reality in clear categories, but I wish to show that the transitions are really in flux.


G.: Your approach of “could be this, could be that” is sometimes bewildering to the beholder. They might not always know whether your pieces represent art or nature itself. It is possible to mistake your objects for plants, if one thinks: “There is some kind of plant hanging on the wall.” The viewers might not know what kind of plant they are looking at, even though they realise its particular beauty. They don’t know whether they are confronted with an unknown animal or a seed vessel. Is this what matters to you in principle: bewilderment, confrontation with the indefinable or the unexpected?


A.: I certainly prefer my works not to be easily pigeonholed because like this the beholder absorbs it more precisely and accurately. One of the key elements of my art is the attempt to nurture perception and the senses and to stimulate my surroundings in that way too, if possible. Every day and every step into the world really is one great miracle of encounters. Our brain switches to automatic mode too quickly; for example when we see a flower from the corner of our eye, the brain says: “A flower, a familiar object – you can keep going.” In that way we fail to appreciate the singularity of this living entity, which obviously is convenient for our everyday life because proactive brainpower requires much more energy than automated activities. However, for the actual “being-in-existence” it can have a baneful effect since one risks overlooking, passing over or disregarding many things. Bewildering people is not my intention. But still, I would like to throw them off the track a little so that they take some time to pause, look one more time and ask themselves: “So what is this really?” One could actually ask oneself that question every day anew with regard to one’s partner: “So who is this today? Which space does my counterpart inhabit at this particular moment?” This kind of mindfulness would have a healing effect on all the world’s encounters. If I succeed in activating this approach through my work then I am absolutely delighted.


G.: Would it be right to say that one of the effects of your work is that you remind us of the artistic aesthetic of nature and that you awaken our senses to an extent that makes us look at natural forms in a more conscious way?


A.: Definitely! If only for the reason that it’s about us. Watching others consciously involves a connection with ourselves. If we are searching for resonance then we resonate with others or we find a reflection of our states of being in our natural surroundings.


G.: Is there a difference between the human artist and nature as an artist? Or are we nature and therefore of an artistic nature?


A.: I would certainly suggest that the universe has equipped us with the gift of being able to have a dialogue with nature. In my opinion, it is difficult to presume that we hold the copyright for something or to claim we have invented something completely new. I assume that the particular forms I have made don’t exist in that way anywhere else. However, I cannot be sure since I haven’t seen all there is in the universe. Who can really know what else is growing out there? Nonetheless, I am expressing potential forms for they have arisen out of the fundamental vocabulary of life. I for my part, as a small fraction of the whole, can say that my point of reference is nature as the primordial mother of creativity, and not primarily the history of art.


G.: Are there even any works similar to yours within art history? Or is what you do a completely new approach?


A.: Many people who visit my exhibitions say to me: “I have never seen anything like it!” However, I think that this approach has always existed as the fundamental reason for any cultural statement: resounding with nature, dancing, painting and shaping in order to comprehend nature in a communicating way. Even after the separation of human beings from nature, which was the result of our cultural development, this approach crops up in different ways again and again, for example in Georgia O´Keeffe’s sensual blossom images. Think of Yayoi Kusama, who makes use of the genres of film, art objects, paintings and installations to express her notion that the world is made out of lots of colourful dots; or of Pipilotti Rist’s sensual, multidimensional tracking shots interlinking bodies, plants and landscapes. Many artists have dealt and still deal with this topic in their own ways. Regarding my working process, I also see a connection with the Buddhists creating mandala patterns in the sand which eventually blow away or are swept away. An action that requires a lot of devotion in its making becomes meditative. This is another overlap.


G.: So it is fair to say that you draw on the art of nature in order to create something new?


A.: Yes, with the courage to be amateurish. She is of course the unconditional mistress and I am an absolute novice who tries to keep up.


G.: Do you see yourself as someone who imitates these delicate forms of life? Or do you reshape, redefine and recreate animated forms? Is your work mainly about this reduction to primordial forms which are found everywhere?


A.: It depends on the object I am working on. For floor paintings or for my piece wickerwork, reducing every element to the shape of a circle is what mattered most. Many of my objects might have genesis-like elements because I use seeds to produce them. If one of my paper constructs were to land in a growth-enhancing environment, for example on a compost heap, these seeds would germinate. My objects wouldn’t multiply of course, but dandelions would grow, or grass, beans and the other natural materials I have used. So, in a way my artworks are to be understood as a re-creation, but one that only arises from a certain kind of resonance. My working process is similar to the concept of cell division, which takes its time and only emerges bit by bit; just like me planting whole fields out of dandelion seeds, one cell slowly joining another cell. For me it is more like a listening activity – and by listening a form comes into being.


G.: You were just talking about dandelions and beans. Does that mean you use these natural materials for your three-dimensional objects; hence you literally get your artistic components from the animate world?


A.: That’s right. What I find fascinating about the dandelion seed in particular is the fact that, on the one hand, it is a static, architectonic element and thus an essential alphabetic character that lends a specific texture to my objects. And on the other hand, no dandelion seed resembles another despite the inherent genetic blueprint. This helps us to perceive the difference. The delicate pappi of the dandelion seed have a special quality, which enables me to create a second inner shell within a paper sculpture which oscillates between the material and the immaterial. Life is extremely complex, it is never easy and never takes place within only one dimension. There is always a behind and an in front, a next to and an above and below. This is also why I love working with tracing paper: it enables me to hypodermically incorporate seed or yarn structures in between the layers of my artworks. The paper allows these structures to shine through and to be seen through the next layer, the delicate weave of the propeller-like dandelion seed heads. This creates a multifaceted aspect discernible by the viewers, for these layers are transparent and don’t conceal anything.


G.: At the same time this shows that the dandelion yields much more than just the orbicular dandelion clock. You attach the seed to smooth areas or inner surfaces, you turn it upside down and you create mysterious silhouettes out of it.


A.: If you take them as individual living components, with all the respect due to them, you can develop this idea much further. I am fascinated by working with seeds because they are bursting with the potential for growth if they are exposed to the right climate. I get the feeling that the seed’s energetic potential passes into the artworks. For me, life always refers to the current state of being. This implies that there might be additional unseen seeds that have the potential to create something new at any moment. Including the seeds in my pieces means that they also carry the possibility of change within them. And isn’t this the key subject of life?


G.: In your more recent works you incorporate dandelion seeds, for example, into hollow bodies. This can be seen as a symbol for the act of creation, which you reconstruct as part of your working process. Is it one of your aims to visualise this invisible, mysterious and unrecognized wonder?


A.: I am certainly eager to understand it a little bit better. Nowadays, we can – supposedly – explain the origin of life scientifically. But why then, I wonder, all these coincidences? What kind of force controls this procedure and how does life then actually emerge? I am absolutely fascinated by this subject: where does the impulse for life originate? How, where and when does the moment occur when it materialises? Going back to the beginning of the earth’s evolution, we know of the cross-linked amino acids that had the wonderful idea to form a membrane and thus create the first cell. Due to this membrane there was a division of the inner and the outer realm which was by no means rigid. Had it been impermeable and entirely separated, it would have died off instantly. In that way, this shell isn’t really a border but a layer that fosters communication and exchange. Due to this concatenation and the creation of a living membrane, life has emerged and developed further into plants and then animals and finally also us humans. My work and my artistic quest revolve around this tremendous enthrallment. I believe that my life is too short to truly comprehend it. I just wish to dig deeper and to comprehend it a bit better.


G.: Do you think it is accurate to say that your art is like a mirror reflecting these invisible patterns which connect us to the environment? Our culture today is defined by a perceived dissociation from the environment and is only now starting to develop an environmental consciousness – would you agree with that?


A.: My art is an expression of my mode of searching in this respect. I wouldn’t claim to have found any answers or superior wisdom yet. But I am increasingly aware of this interconnectedness. One of my main concerns is to stimulate this consciousness because I recognize that we are, that I am, extremely connected. I don’t feel like I am looking on from the outside, like a spectator observing the surroundings from a hunter’s blind; instead I know that the liquid inside me is water and was previously part of a cloud, the sea, rain and snow, and that it will go back to being those things. That’s simply part of our reality. I am pleased if I succeed in conveying this in my artworks. But of course this will only be intelligible for people who are prepared to look. All I can do is try to build on this willingness. I can’t experience it in lieu of others.


G.: Would you say that you are trying to visualise what’s not visible to the human eye?


A.: Well, if one looks closely it is actually visible. Perhaps it is not very apparent from the viewpoint of our Western culture, but if you sit breathing in a meadow for long enough, you feel this pulsing, you hear everything interchanging and you conceive the interpenetration. I believe it is not as immaterial or esoteric as it may sound, but it becomes noticeable if one takes the time to see it. Maybe I am just trying to express it more precisely as part of my learning journey.


G.: Let us return to the important metaphor of the skin: the Buddhist teacher Allen Watts talks about our “skin-encapsulated ego”. He challenges us to step out of this ego and to realise that our individual self is much bigger than we assume. According to Watts, the ego also contains, for example, the tree that becomes part of our body by providing us with the air we breathe. Does your art deal with this concept of opening up to another identity, to another understanding of the self and its growing circles?


A.: Yes, of course! In Buddhism, the ego is perceived as an obstructive limitation. And in Celtic mysticism, the general idea prevails that the body exists inside the soul, in other words that the soul forms a large shield around the body, covering and protecting it. This is directly related to our concept of interconnectedness: the thought that if two people are sitting opposite one another, their soul shields impregnate each other. This definitely extends the common perception of the world. We aren’t separate, solitary Sputniks, dashing through the universe; we are multidimensional and we are intertwined with the bigger picture.


G.: How far does the perception of being connected with these nonhuman primordial life forms, which you are trying to express, go? It seems as though your works are also like creative antennae of a vibrant universe.


A.: That’s a very beautiful image for the purpose of life. One has to realise that the potentiality of the universe has led to these increasingly sophisticated structures that now appear on earth as life forms. It all began with the evolution of the stars. They melted the elements in their fulgent furnaces and then hurled them into the universe as supernovas. This is how planets came into being, how water and oxygen emerged and how life evolved with the aid of solar energy. I am convinced that there is a specific purpose for such a development – so that plants can exist, perceiving nature in their own way, and animals, experiencing life, landscapes and maybe the universe with all their senses. This evolutionary development directly leads to us humans as some sort of elaborated antennae, which enable the universe to perceive itself, to create consciousness or to multiply consciousness. Our faculty of sensory perception and reflection enrich all of this. I think that reality is composed of countless different perspectives; these myriad objectivities constitute our reality. In my view, contributing a tiny aspect to this entirety by observing my surroundings as consciously as possible seems like a pretty nice life task.


G.: This would imply that you experience yourself as the youngest feeling manifestation of a universe. Is your art then the expression of a universe that observes and explores itself?


A.: I like the image of being a whisker of the cosmic cat or a bud on the tree of life. The other day I imagined that my great-grandmother was a supernova and that my great-grandfather was gravitation and that over billions of years they bore all these grandchildren, who are running around here and now. Feeling, sensing and being able to recognize connections – this is what characterises my work and the way I understand life and its purpose.


G.: Would it be right to say: “We are the result of billions of love stories”?


A.: Yes, without a doubt! That’s exactly the reason why I called my exhibition in Rio de Janeiro “at the beginning was relationship”. In the end, all of life is an endless love story; it is life’s fundamental impulse, with all the opportunities for growth and loss, for pain and joy.


G.: So this contact with the environment has sensual, physical and maybe even erotic aspects?


A.: Definitely. Sensory perception is always linked to these opportunities because we feel ourselves and the other existences that touch or reject us very strongly. I certainly see the examination of eroticism as one of the duties of today’s female artists. In this regard, I do refer to the history of art and the ancient tradition of perceiving women as sensual objects and placing them in museums as such objects. I think it is about time we occupy the space of feminine self-conception with passion and determination. This requires creating our own images, our own positions on this subject rather than letting ourselves be defined from the outside.


G.: In many Indian cultures, offering time and space for processes of growth is a feminine quality. Would you define your art as feminine in this context?


A.: Most definitely, although “feminine art” is a difficult term here, in the current art scene – at least in the Bavarian one. There is still the degrading prejudice that all male art is universal and all feminine art solely self-reflective. Yet I have never met a truly objective human being. Due to my preoccupation with perception, I am particularly aware of the fact that my own working process is based on the sensation of being in a female body and that I cannot speak on behalf of the male body. This being the case, it is obvious that I express a feminine perspective when I choose to work like this. Still, I am convinced that men are also capable of expressing a feminine side, as much as I have access to male perspectives. Because the result of my labour is closely linked to my feminine perspective, I guess it is right to say that I am drawn to the spaces of growth that you mentioned.


G.: You devote yourself to the circle a lot, to round shapes. They can be associated with cyclical processes as opposed to linear ones. What kind of metaphor is the circle for you?


A.: Primarily, the circle, the orb, really is a fundamental vocabulary of the universe. It is everywhere as a form and structure, from the planets’ orbits to unicellular organisms. The circle is the basic hallmark of life and I use it as a symbol of vital potentiality. Of course it is also an image for the cyclical perception of the world and the cyclical passage of time that I refer to intentionally, as opposed to the linear one. Every day we experience the repetition of events such as light and dark or the seasons. Also, certain topics re-emerge over and over again; these procedures resemble the track of a spiral. It seems to me that the existence has no beginning and no end – instead it always devolves from one process to the next. In this context, I don’t understand death as an end. When we observe nature, it becomes apparent that it is about transformation and change and not about a complete disconnect from the underlying relations.


G.: Would you agree that your circle metaphor is characteristic of feminine art, of a feminine world view and perception of the world which builds on very old symbolic contexts?


A.: Yes, that’s right, I wouldn’t deny that link. But as a matter of fact, I think that the cyclical perception is an essential part of our reality, also in a scientific sense. If we watch carefully, we recognise that reality is recurring and thus cyclical. I wouldn’t want to reduce it to the “feminine world view” alone. Maybe feminine cultures have attended to this fact more and addressed it based on their corporeal experience. However, I don’t think this view is limited to womanhood, I think it is an all-encompassing principle of life.


G.: Your works frequently show womb-like interiors and you often refer to the symbol of the yoni, or vagina. You carry seeds into internal spaces, you cover spaces and make them visible. This highly sensual art seems to be an examination of the very unique feminine force of creation.


A.: Yes, in the end these are the spaces we all come from, spaces every human being has inhabited. It is true that women house this potent space but essentially it is a familiar sphere for all reproductive living creatures – humans as well as animals. Hence, it is only natural to wonder where life originates. To ask oneself: how and when does awareness enter materiality? Is life congealed consciousness, compressed energy? And where does it show? They who pursue these questions will quickly move from the topic of human experience to these initial forms. The amniotic sac is our first space. In it, we palpitate and thereby begin to exist, to listen until the other senses are awakened gradually.


G.: You refer very emphatically to creation and thereby to transformative processes during which something new comes into being based on the old. Simultaneously, art could be seen as the freezing of a moment. Do you see your art as an illustration of a dynamic process or as a snapshot in time?


A.: The motive of transformation has been present in my work from a relatively early stage. It requires flexibility, hence it has led me away from using very rigid materials. I approached the subject of transformation when I started working with paper shells. In my final-year project, I aimed to create a self-portrait which addressed the fact that our existence is always a transitional phase. I designed a freestanding corridor made of four big paper slabs. Different figures representing people who had significantly shaped my life were incised into it. From within, standing between the paper walls, the figures protruded three-dimensionally from the walls. From the outside, you could see the hollow bodies through holes in the corridor walls. They weren’t actual figures, but only imprints on my skin. The corridor symbolized my skin as a transitory space. Because it was obvious that the next imprint, the next coining was to follow soon. So it is both an objective installation and a snapshot trying to represent the flexibility and potential change that can occur at any given moment. During my working process, I determine the form in a certain way and thus a particular frozen moment, as it were, remains as the defining moment. By using fragile materials and a specific content, I seek to counteract the potential rigidity of the installation and rather preserve the possibility of transformation within it. I try to take this principle even further than the production process by hanging the artworks up, for example. Thereby, they actually spin around and begin to move, to resonate with people crossing the room or with the breath of wind entering through an open window. My aim is for the objects to show the process of transformation. I would like them to give the impression that they might be in a completely different position after closing the door and revisiting the room the following day. I would like to prompt the association in the beholder that in the meantime the works could just as well have reproduced, changed or hatched. Because this change taking place every second is the essential feature of life. The only reliable thing is transformation.


G.: What happens inside you when you work? Is it a cognitive or a sensual process, or is it an inextricable combination of the two?


A.: The working process itself is based more on a meditative approach. I experience it as an immersion in the resonance and in the artistic act. I enter a stage in which I am oblivious to the world around me, I completely consign myself to the working process and enter into a sensual dialogue with the object and its readiness to be brought into existence. It is an exchange not conducted from within reason. There are moments in which I surface and I think: “Oops! What’s happening there?” But usually it becomes clear very quickly: “Switch off your thoughts again, forget the control mechanism that limits you to the realm of the known!” So I just take the next obvious step and this leads me to what I have to do next. It is more a listening procedure. It feels more like being told stories from which objects result, rather than me creating consciously and rationally. I understand the process as a materialised communication with existence.


G.: Where do you get the inspiration for your works? From nature, from dreams, from your bodily perception, maybe in combination with enlarged photographs from a biology book? Where do your ideas originate?


A.: Good question! Ever since I’ve started following my own path, undeterred, objects have emerged in my imagination just like visitors. Mostly this happens when I am very relaxed, for example in nature, before falling asleep or in the sauna; whenever I am not searching specifically and am in an open and peaceful state of mind and my thoughts quieten down. This is when very tangible images can crop up within me. I have no idea where they come from. No idea which impression activates the synapses, what makes them rewire or what exactly happens in that pre-conscious condition. Anyhow, these images are already related to my materials and my formal languages but I still perceive them as “visitors” – without trying to mystify things. For me, these entities appear within me simply because they want to be created. And I accept the offer if I manage to free up enough space.


G.: Many of your works are translucent and seem – partly because of the lighting behind them – like a luminous creative force. In my view, they also address the reverence for life. Is your art also spiritual or does it possess the creative spirituality of sacral art?


A.: I think this is what touches and motivates me. And because you mention light: I recently read a book that quoted from a biophotonics study. It stated that tiny units of light transfer life and that light is the essential energy of every living thing. Maybe that’s why light is such an important factor for me. There is also the term “translucency”. Being interwoven with light is a state of being and our vitality depends on it. I believe that the issue of the origin of life will at some time reach a point – also within scientific development – where it will meet the spiritual. What is creation? Who has triggered it? Where does the impulse come from? Naturally, all these questions also lead me to the realm of the spiritual. And over the years, it has developed into a profound devotion to these processes of coming-into-being. Getting involved with these questions enticed me to artistically express something similar to prayers to this unbelievably fascinating creative force of life. There is, from my side, high esteem, and that’s responsible for my urge to express myself that way.


G.: The way you use the metaphor of the skin and inner and outer spaces also relates to the subject of “shedding old skin” and “forming new skin”. In that respect, is your work an examination of human identity and the processes of change we go through?


A.: Yes, indeed! We perceive the world through our senses, that’s why the connection with one’s own body and one’s own existence is always present. I have addressed this in many of my works, for example via the image of snakes that keep withdrawing into a burrow in order to shed their old skin and return to life new and changed. That’s the reason why snakes had the reputation of being immortal in many cultures. In my view, this is a very beautiful metaphor: that we have to discard our layers like an onion in order to achieve our own, innermost reality and become ourselves in a purer way – provided that we have the courage to embark on this process and don’t just superimpose more covers or prickles instead. This image corresponds with my experience that in the course of our lives we repeatedly have to manage situations that lead us to retreat into our shells, and if they have become too cramped we break out of them and surface in a different guise. Whether that happens in different crises such as puberty or between the age of 40 and 50, these processes of change are inherent to life and nature and therefore something fundamentally human.


G.: Earlier we were talking about the image of extending into space beyond the limiting skin. Now you suggest the image of the self casting off skins like an onion, concentrating more and more on the inner essence. Are these images two sides of the same coin?


A.: Yes, for me they are two images of the same thing. I basically see it holographically – as valid for the innermost, smallest part and at the same time reaching into the outside, into the universal and indefinite. That’s the reason why three-dimensionality fascinates me so much: because it refers to all directions. Whenever you are looking to the outside and resonate with something, the realm of the inside is activated simultaneously. Whenever you touch, you are also directly being touched by something. You can only be aware of the outside if you also feel yourself from within. I think this is simultaneity: shedding one’s layers and building new cocoons, setting boundaries and leaving them behind by forcing the cocoons open once more, abandoning them in order to break new ground.


G.: And many of your artworks are pieces that are approached from the outside, but the beholder can also look into the inside.


A.: Exactly, I want to enable the viewer to see both simultaneously, at a glance: not only the outside structure and the spatial surroundings of the object but also these inner, multiple layers – deeper and deeper. This possible simultaneity seems to be very close to reality, which can be experienced when perception and empathy are developed further.


G.: What do you think of the metaphor of art building something like cells of altered perception similar to the imago cells of the caterpillar, which anticipate the butterfly?


A.: That would absolutely be something to aim for, although I am not sure my art actually fulfils it. The thought appeals to me that I can have an effect on society. Whether this is the case or not is another question. Obviously there is the commonplace of the visionary artist expressing something that won’t be appreciated for a hundred years. I wouldn’t dare to presume such a thing for my art and I wouldn’t claim to know what lies ahead of us. But I am convinced that it’s necessary to become aware of the complex underlying interconnectedness in order to facilitate survival on this planet for generations to come. I simply think that’s a reality we have to grapple with. And the subject of the metamorphosis seems particularly interesting to me against the backdrop of these processes of change. In the pupated caterpillar, these new and autonomous imago cells arise and the immune system tries to get rid of them initially. But the cells still multiply persistently, they build clusters and then connect them at some point and thereby initiate and develop what later becomes the butterfly. I find this a very inspiring and forward-looking image, also for social processes of change, because in this way life prevails; these processes are not destructive, as they are in the case of change that comes in the form of a revolution.


G.: Is your artistic work as a cultural impulse political in the sense of a deepened awareness?


A.: For me, from the point of view of my responsible self-awareness, it does have a political approach. Whether the beholder sees it that way is out of my reach. But I think that a mindful way of dealing with oneself, with close and distant others – including the “more than human world” – is definitely a very political attitude. The concept of deep ecology aiming for a harmony with nature also addresses exactly this position. And I regard it as a necessity if we want to preserve our existence.