16 April 2020


These Extraordinary Times with Suse Weber

Q & A

The Studio. Image: Courtesy the Artist.

These Extraordinary Times with Suse Weber

LP: How has your daily routine changed?

SW: I was part of the Soviet-era ‘Generation East’, so the new culture reminds me of reactions from 88/89/90: emergency bureaucracy, war vocabulary, epidemic tickers - pressure scenarios, and all for the good of the people...nationalisms.There are new statistics - columns of figures, curve diagrams - but the scars of old borders show up again like old ghosts. Military strategies are set in place: restriction of the right of assembly. Closure of all cultural and intellectual meeting places, meeting places of "decadence". Some classifications are no longer considered relevant: education, public discourse, citizen participation.

We refamiliarize ourselves with old tactics of political disobedience - we know what is coming!...? if there is hard social control, what to do: silence, no mobile phone use, no exchange by email, agreement on codes, hide messages on bits of paper left in the grass. Post-socialist trauma.

We secure the care and contacts of old and sick parents in isolation from a distance. We protect nieces and nephews by sending them off to their homes in the country. People prepare for confrontation with police checks and expulsion from weekend homes. (In the countryside, a car with Berlin license plates is hidden under old leaves.) We have a flash-repurposed symbol: diagonally striped black and yellow bars: once familiar as a warning of heavy loads, they now emerge as a ready-made virus-crisis logotype.

Then and now, it works out the same - we became functionalized.

LP: Many artists work in solitude ordinarily. How has isolation or social distancing affected you in these times?

SW: I clean my windows and push curtains aside – to make the studio visible to passers-by and neighbours. I study masks and how we dance around each other to maintain distance. I enjoy the obsolete advertising on public transport. Listening to descriptions and mouth-to-mouth propaganda of the imaginative neighbourhood, and the incipient dark humour of the street. Observing and listening instead of speaking. Contact with the street through sign language and silent-film gestures from my “aquarium” isolation.

Happy about the decision made years ago to also have the studio converted as a stage for pre-releases. I activate my grandfather's old printing press (in '89, already in use to print leaflets). With friends, I plan and organize print editions as ‘bone money’ (knochengeld), our own parallel currency to use in the next months exclusively among artists - a kind of "Guild" preservation.

For “Cold Needle” one of my ongoing projects, I use plexiglass as a raw material. But now it’s hard to find even on the black market – it is overpriced, or sold out as protection against spitting and sneezes.

LP: If there is any silver lining, what is it?

SW: I am glad that man seems more authentic: ecstatically loving, furiously angry, fearfully courageous.

LP: Make up your own question and answer it.

SW: ‘Have I been manipulated?’ Yes.