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An horizon to expand


German artist Brigitte Waldach, born and based in Berlin, has achieved the international recognition. Her often red-figured drawings and installations that address controversial social and political issues, such as religion and terrorism, combining historical with contemporary elements, create a new perspective that makes you wonder about social conventions.

These days she presents her recent Chance series at the Galerie Mathias Güntner in Hamburg until next 29th October. Her new works focus on the composer and artist John Cage, in a deep and very personal approach to Cage’s experience with space and silence, structure, and chance in music and performance.

You are presenting the exhibition “Chance.” What kind of chance are you referring to?

In my current exhibition in Hamburg I explore chance as a method, one that helped John Cage to make artistic decisions. The exhibition itself can be seen as the visualization of chance by means of a creative process.

You mention the composer and artist John Cage as the starting point for your new series of works. What is it about him that inspires you?

What I find most interesting is how John Cage managed to overcome the individual, meaning the limits imposed by individual taste and preferences.

This led him to venture beyond his own ego and embrace a wider sense of (social) responsibility. And although this overcoming of the self might be an experiment, the attempt itself is already an expansion of one’s own horizons.

“Silence and Chance” is one of the works featured in the new exhibition. How is your relation with silence and, in your opinion, why does our society reject it?

Silence as such does not exist: every instance of silence is accompanied by the sounds of the world. Even in sound-proof rooms, we can hear the circulation of our blood and our nervous system at work.

Silence is often equated with standstill or stagnation in our society, when it is actually quite the opposite. It is the moment of quiet before a thought, a prerequisite of ideas, creative achievements, and progress.

“Horizon” is a triptych on paper that represents John Cage in different periods of his life and the way he confronted artistic creation. Do you see yourself reflected in this evolution? Can you identify with him and his experiences?

John Cage’s most radical composition is “4:33” – a piece of “silence” that came about in the middle of his lifetime. The only thing that happens in this composition is that the pianist sits for 4 minutes and 33 seconds at the piano, and during this time listens to the sounds of the world – just like the audience. It was through this radicalism that Cage overcame musical tradition, as well as his own success. In the middle of my triptych, Cage has almost left behind his artist’s ego, and the traditional notion of what it means to be a genius. It marks an inner liberation that I am also striving to achieve for myself.

What do you see on your horizon?

I hope that my horizon will continue to expand, so that all which I can consciously see is a precursor to what will come next. My view of the present is becoming more and more open, since what lies beyond its apparent boundaries is the future, which can already be imagined.

“On Nothing and Something” brings together different texts by John Cage – “Lecture on Something” and “Lecture on Nothing” – with statements about his life and work. “Lecture on Nothing” ends with the sentence: “When I am not working I sometimes think I know something, but when I am working, it is quite clear that I know nothing.” What have you learned during the process of creating the “Chance” series?

How provisional our thoughts are. Everything that we think we know is but a brief moment. Everything is flowing, mutable, and many things are possible.

“There is not enough nothing in it,” says Cage. What is nothing for you? Do you seek it out?

Nothingness is not nothing; it is a meditative state of emptiness, clarification, and detachment from our ego and hence from our individual problems.

Do you have a spiritual concept of existence?

It’s hard to say, but there are moments – especially during creative phases, where ideas simply pop into my head. These thoughts appear from nowhere, from the “silence,” so to speak – and those instances contribute to my spiritual experiences.


Your works are included in public collections of some very important museums. What role do museums play in the way people approach art in the 21st century?

Museums are still responsible for presenting a cultural selection of artworks that can be exemplary and socially relevant. Having an artwork acquired by a museum used to be the guarantee for us artists that our work would become and remain part of society’s cultural memory. But today this guarantee no longer exists – even museums buy and sell “culture” in quick succession.

Could you tell us about a memorable dream you’ve experienced while asleep?

Ever since I was child, I’ve had a regularly recurring dream that I call my “ascension dream.” In it, I find myself in a moving elevator, which is already in motion, and it goes on and on. Just as I start to think the trip will last forever, the elevator leaves its shaft and shoots out above the highest floor of the building. For a moment I’m frozen in shock, but then I start to float about, without the restraints of gravity, and I feel liberated from my own restrictions.

What begins as a place of fear becomes an abstract fantasy of redemption.

Brigitte Waldach | Chance
Selection of works here

Brigitte Waldach | Perception games
Interview released in October 2012. Read here

Brigitte Waldach | Logical Landscapes
Selection of works here

An interview by Juan Carlos Romero
Brigitte Waldach 
Photos by Steven Kohlstock
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