CLEMENS MITSCHER

2021 - Autopsy (Detail)

Why do you work with images? I am not a writer. Images that surround me have always fascinated me more than texts, but that in no way means that I find written material uninteresting as a starting point for my work. When children are told stories, images are created in their minds that connect them to the chaos and experiences of their first impressions and later experiences. Storytellers can send out key stimuli that then trigger certain chains of associations. We know this from advertising, when images and text trigger desires. The same is true for producers of paintings, photographs or films. Young children constantly scan their surroundings for the familiar and unfamiliar. This doesn't stop with adults either.

Why do you work with images? I am not a writer. Images that surround me have always fascinated me more than texts, but that in no way means that I find written material uninteresting as a starting point for my work. When children are told stories, images are created in their minds that connect them to the chaos and experiences of their first impressions and later experiences. Storytellers can send out key stimuli that then trigger certain chains of associations. We know this from advertising, when images and text trigger desires. The same is true for producers of paintings, photographs or films. Young children constantly scan their surroundings for the familiar and unfamiliar. This doesn't stop with adults either.

Festival, 2016

Dreamland, 2017

What interests you in this? It's the manipulations and I try to extract them. The pictures in the family photo album I grew up with showed only what was chosen by my parents to consolidate the happy moments, but with a few exceptions, concealed the moments experienced negatively by us children. What exceptions, for example? Well, when my grandfather died suddenly, we went for a walk and from this we ended up with some photographs in the album, where you could see us children suffering.

What interests you in this? It's the manipulations and I try to extract them. The pictures in the family photo album I grew up with showed only what was chosen by my parents to consolidate the happy moments, but with a few exceptions, concealed the moments experienced negatively by us children. What exceptions, for example? Well, when my grandfather died suddenly, we went for a walk and from this we ended up with some photographs in the album, where you could see us children suffering.

Appellplatz, 2020

Station #2, 1989

What other pictures did you grow up with? On the one hand, there were photographs and illustrations in encyclopedias and atlases on the shelf of my father, who was a prosecutor, and on the other hand, there were many fashion magazines next to the sewing machine of my mother, who was a dressmaker. I distinctly remember an illustration of "La Liberté guidant le peuple" by Eugène Delacroix that I found in an encyclopedia. It was a pasted-in picture that I could unfold. In fashion magazines there were pattern sheets that you could also unfold. I can hardly categorize the variety and difference of my impressions at that time. Pictures were always part of my environment and so later I got into the habit of reacting to my environment with pictures again. There are many different approaches.

What other pictures did you grow up with? On the one hand, there were photographs and illustrations in encyclopedias and atlases on the shelf of my father, who was a prosecutor, and on the other hand, there were many fashion magazines next to the sewing machine of my mother, who was a dressmaker. I distinctly remember an illustration of "La Liberté guidant le peuple" by Eugène Delacroix that I found in an encyclopedia. It was a pasted-in picture that I could unfold. In fashion magazines there were pattern sheets that you could also unfold. I can hardly categorize the variety and difference of my impressions at that time. Pictures were always part of my environment and so later I got into the habit of reacting to my environment with pictures again. There are many different approaches.

Improvised Meditation, 2011

Anschlag, 1999

Götterdämmerung, 1998

Improvised Meditation, 2011

Anschlag, 1999

Götterdämmerung, 1998

Was it always just images that inspired you? No, also real things of course, that is, things that happened right in front of my eyes. In the trade union youth, in which I was active during my apprenticeship as a concrete builder, our social system was critically reflected upon, and the temporal context in which this took place, the time of the actionism of the various communist groups, the militant RAF, but also the emergence of other movements such as Bhagwan or social experiments such as Otto Muehl's Actionanalytic Organisation (AAO), had a lot of explosive power for me. These different things were real experiences, yet I perceived them more like images that I was somehow involved in because I knew a lot of people who were active in the different movements.

Was it always just images that inspired you? No, also real things of course, that is, things that happened right in front of my eyes. In the trade union youth, in which I was active during my apprenticeship as a concrete builder, our social system was critically reflected upon, and the temporal context in which this took place, the time of the actionism of the various communist groups, the militant RAF, but also the emergence of other movements such as Bhagwan or social experiments such as Otto Muehl's Actionanalytic Organisation (AAO), had a lot of explosive power for me. These different things were real experiences, yet I perceived them more like images that I was somehow involved in because I knew a lot of people who were active in the different movements.

The Pool, 2016

Production, 2015

Obviously it's social and political contexts that made you take a position through images? Yes, it was exactly at that time that I started making images with photography. I took pictures at demonstrations against nuclear power plants, and I also always had a camera with me at the various trainings of the trade union youth. I began to question my environment with images that I made myself. There were sometimes absurd situations in which I was involved. In the back rooms of bourgeois pubs, students read the writings of Lenin and Mao in front of a big red Flag, and, depending on the group, also of Stalin. The meetings began with raised fists. In addition, the "Einheitsfrontlied" was sung at the beginning and "The Internationale" at the end. At these meetings it was decided who would soon have to distribute leaflets in front of a factory or who would have to infiltrate the working people or who would have to go into the factory for six months to study the working conditions. The fact that I myself worked as a concrete worker made me a welcome outsider among the comrades. It was only later that I saw through many of the indoctrinations that I and others were exposed to. All of this made me bright-eyed and led to a basic attitude of distrust. A distrust of manipulation, advertising, agitation, lobbying, seduction and incitement. I still work from this basic attitude today, which also means that I also distrust criticism itself.

Obviously it's social and political contexts that made you take a position through images? Yes, it was exactly at that time that I started making images with photography. I took pictures at demonstrations against nuclear power plants, and I also always had a camera with me at the various trainings of the trade union youth. I began to question my environment with images that I made myself. There were sometimes absurd situations in which I was involved. In the back rooms of bourgeois pubs, students read the writings of Lenin and Mao in front of a big red Flag, and, depending on the group, also of Stalin. The meetings began with raised fists. In addition, the "Einheitsfrontlied" was sung at the beginning and "The Internationale" at the end. At these meetings it was decided who would soon have to distribute leaflets in front of a factory or who would have to infiltrate the working people or who would have to go into the factory for six months to study the working conditions. The fact that I myself worked as a concrete worker made me a welcome outsider among the comrades. It was only later that I saw through many of the indoctrinations that I and others were exposed to. All of this made me bright-eyed and led to a basic attitude of distrust. A distrust of manipulation, advertising, agitation, lobbying, seduction and incitement. I still work from this basic attitude today, which also means that I also distrust criticism itself.

Deutsches Bild, 1998

Do you distrust your own work? Always! I'll go back to 1971, I'm 16 and just in art class. The teacher has brought two record players and two records. From one of the record sleeves he pulls off a sticker with a banana, on the other he pulls on a sewn-in zipper. He explains that art evolves from the invisible. A printed pink banana appears under the banana sticker and a printed white underpants can be discovered behind the zipper. Now he darkens the room, turns on a UV lamp and starts both records simultaneously. The songs overlap and we begin to paint in this strange light. Shortly before the end of the lesson, he pulls up the blinds. Now all the painted colors appear changed. Everything is psychedelic. I would say: that was the moment when I started to be interested in art. However, I never painted again in the context of UV light. But I responded to my environment through montage, appropriation of images, and a lot of deception. I never met Andy Warhol, but later I photographed Lou Reed, John Cale and the Rolling Stones. But that's another story and this one doesn't really have anything to do with what happened in 1971. It really doesn't? Who can say. Anyway, the fact is that I once met Lou Reed in Frankfurt at an exhibition of his own photographic art. It is hardly known that he was also active in this field. During the event, someone gave him a banana peel with the request to sign it. He did so, because he must have known that in the future the banana peel would turn so brown that his autograph would no longer be visible. Any more questions about art?

Do you distrust your own work? Always! I'll go back to 1971, I'm 16 and just in art class. The teacher has brought two record players and two records. From one of the record sleeves he pulls off a sticker with a banana, on the other he pulls on a sewn-in zipper. He explains that art evolves from the invisible. A printed pink banana appears under the banana sticker and a printed white underpants can be discovered behind the zipper. Now he darkens the room, turns on a UV lamp and starts both records simultaneously. The songs overlap and we begin to paint in this strange light. Shortly before the end of the lesson, he pulls up the blinds. Now all the painted colors appear changed. Everything is psychedelic. I would say: that was the moment when I started to be interested in art. However, I never painted again in the context of UV light. But I responded to my environment through montage, appropriation of images, and a lot of deception. I never met Andy Warhol, but later I photographed Lou Reed, John Cale and the Rolling Stones. But that's another story and this one doesn't really have anything to do with what happened in 1971. It really doesn't? Who can say. Anyway, the fact is that I once met Lou Reed in Frankfurt at an exhibition of his own photographic art. It is hardly known that he was also active in this field. During the event, someone gave him a banana peel with the request to sign it. He did so, because he must have known that in the future the banana peel would turn so brown that his autograph would no longer be visible. Any more questions about art?

Lou Reed, 2012

Lou Reed, 2012

John Cale, 2019

John Cale, 2019

Mick Jagger, 2014

Mick Jagger, 2014

How do rock'n'roll photography and art actually fit together? You seem to operate in two completely different worlds. Do you sometimes feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? No, because there is no conflict. In fact, it's a solid relationship, like that between egg whites and yolks. I've done all kinds of things in my life. I've built roads, bridges, houses, and I was even a gravedigger once. And I've always taken pictures while doing it. These days, when I travel from one rock festival to the next, I automatically get around a lot. I take photos everywhere. But I don't get up in the morning with the thought of developing any concepts that day. That's not how it works. The picture below, for example, was taken one afternoon in Los Angeles. In the evening I had a fixed appointment with the New York band "A Place To Bury Strangers". Before that, I was able to do other things. On previous L.A. visits I had taken a few snapshots at this location, and later in Germany I came up with the idea for a picture of people taking pictures of the Hollywood Sign. Although the pictures are millions of times on the Internet, they do not show the act of taking the picture. I was now interested in how the pictures are actually created. I wanted to tell a story. Hollywood stands for fiction, and the tourists who photograph the Hollywood Sign every day want to become part of the dream factory and all the stories they grew up with for a brief moment.

How do rock'n'roll photography and art actually fit together? You seem to operate in two completely different worlds. Do you sometimes feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? No, because there is no conflict. In fact, it's a solid relationship, like that between egg whites and yolks. I've done all kinds of things in my life. I've built roads, bridges, houses, and I was even a gravedigger once. And I've always taken pictures while doing it. These days, when I travel from one rock festival to the next, I automatically get around a lot. I take photos everywhere. But I don't get up in the morning with the thought of developing any concepts that day. That's not how it works. The picture below, for example, was taken one afternoon in Los Angeles. In the evening I had a fixed appointment with the New York band "A Place To Bury Strangers". Before that, I was able to do other things. On previous L.A. visits I had taken a few snapshots at this location, and later in Germany I came up with the idea for a picture of people taking pictures of the Hollywood Sign. Although the pictures are millions of times on the Internet, they do not show the act of taking the picture. I was now interested in how the pictures are actually created. I wanted to tell a story. Hollywood stands for fiction, and the tourists who photograph the Hollywood Sign every day want to become part of the dream factory and all the stories they grew up with for a brief moment.

The Call (A Place To Bury Strangers), 2018

Is this a staged photo? Well, I think that every photo is staged. We believe in the truth of press photos, but a press photographer also stages by framing. He blocks out everything left, right and behind the camera. From the grounds of Griffith Observatory, there is a great view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign, which is on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills. I observed the visitors over a long period of time. There are 5 groups of people in the photo. People are taking photos or checking photos on the displays of their cameras. The group of two women in the foreground is moving away. Was there a call that caused a sudden departure? We don't know. The title of the image "The Call (A Place To Bury Strangers)" interrogates the situation. And it was actually the New York band I was in Los Angeles for that day.

Is this a staged photo? Well, I think that every photo is staged. We believe in the truth of press photos, but a press photographer also stages by framing. He blocks out everything left, right and behind the camera. From the grounds of Griffith Observatory, there is a great view of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign, which is on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills. I observed the visitors over a long period of time. There are 5 groups of people in the photo. People are taking photos or checking photos on the displays of their cameras. The group of two women in the foreground is moving away. Was there a call that caused a sudden departure? We don't know. The title of the image "The Call (A Place To Bury Strangers)" interrogates the situation. And it was actually the New York band I was in Los Angeles for that day.

2021

Targets, 2018