Interview HUO

CK
The non-linear, open discussion has already become a myth in art and science. I think of John Cage at Black Mountain College as well as the Beuys class or the legendary country-home weekends at Niels Bohr's that produced the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics. These events challenged the hierarchical order of the academic disciplines. That was over a half-century ago. In the meantime many advertising agencies work according to such principles. I find it obvious that the conditions of art and science have radically changed in the past years, even when parts of the structures and institutions continue to spin along old orbits.

HUO
Does the medium of a dialogue play an important role for you?

CK
Absolutely. When I came to East Berlin after reunification, the situation seemed to be far from being capable of formulation, either verbally, aesthetically or otherwise. "To search for formulations" was therefore one of the main reasons for linking up with others ("Botschaft e.V.", "Museum für Zukunft", "jazzclub", among other temporary projects). The discussion platform of a group can test, throw out and change ideas at a tearing speed, can develop language and then release it. In my work, interviews and discussions repeatedly play a role, e.g., interviews with scientists in my movie on the filmed medical history of the Charité. What increasingly interests me in conversation, however, is more the room for thought it opens up rather than discussions that define polarizing positions. For me pictures and artworks are often more interesting as "open perceptual suggestions" than as academic art positions.

HUO
What role for your practice does a dialogue with other artists and other disciplines play?

CK
In art, I have always looked for things that can potentially exist on their own outside the art context, that, for example, can stand on their own before the reality requirements of scientific disciplines and, at the same time, incorporate their own mental framework and are therefore aesthetic. The "disfunctionality criteria" for art has always bored me. I reported the first patent project, the all-around camera, at the same time as my all-around pictures were being shown in art. In both fields in different ways, a "perceptual suggestion" was transmitted. The sun mirror project works better an image the more it functions in practice. It is a kind of manifesto for an intervention into reality that does not exist only as a model in reference to other disciplines, like, e.g., Alteration of a Suburban House by Dan Graham, but - parallel to this - is also real.

HUO
Where lie the beginnings of your trans-disciplinary way of working?

CK
My starting point was already an interdisciplinary one. I never saw myself only as an artist, but always - according to the project - simultaneously as a scientist, journalist, etc. That is why I find the idea of a dialogue between science and art often strange, because it polarizes the conventional model even more. In 1988 at the Free University of Berlin, where I had just begun to study physics while enrolled at the Art Academy at the same time, there was a big students' strike to protest the encrusted university structures, which paralyzed the teaching body for a whole semester. Scientific study leaves no room at all for basic considerations. Often no difference is made between the scientific model and the reality under description. With fellow students we therefore organized autonomous seminars in physics, philosophy and politics. Later in "Botschaft e.V" we always described our work as interdisciplinary, which for us meant an enhancement of the autonomy concept.

HUO
The Paris urbanist Yona Friedman told me in an interview that he avoids terms like trans- and interdisciplinary because they contain within them the germ of the disciplinary. He replaces these terms with global dealings, global thinking, thinking in global contexts. How do you see the problem of definition?

CK
I see the interdisciplinary as an instruction in ways of acting, as the temporary practice of transmission. As such it is more reformist and less revolutionary. If it is institutionalized, it itself becomes disciplinary and limiting. With the publication on the Internet of a local scientific film history in 1996: "medfilm - an archive of the medical films of the Charité 1900-1990," I produced an archive and, with that, an image, that had never existed until then. This is a scientific method, but the shift lies in the fact that the original scientific material can now be seen in an historical and cultural context.

HUO
How do you confront the danger that the trans-disciplinary can lead to a loss of difference in the sense of a leveling of the vocabulary, and how can you avoid simplifying a discipline's complex discourse? Where do you see concrete possibilities of linking centrifugal and centripetal aspects of knowledge in such a way that highly complex questions on the respective limits of a discipline are discussed?

CK
What are centrifugal and centripetal aspects of knowledge? Where is the center? The individual? The world? The concept?

HUO
In the context of architecture, unrealized projects play a big role. Often projects once considered impossible are only realized because they were published and thus began to exist. In art unrealized projects by artists are seldom published. It seems important to me that these 'roads not taken' not be forgotten and are discussed (too large projects, too small projects, censured projects, forgotten projects, partially realized projects, etc.). Therefore the question: What are your favorite unrealized projects?

CK
The question interests me especially in that it deals with the transition from utopia to reality. The project that is somewhere on its way between the two is the sun mirror project "helioflex". It will not be completely realized until the utopia has materialized to reality, that is, when on a grand scale the sun-reflections actually bypass the social gradients of light and shadow, or society and urban architecture have been delivered from this problem. Up until then, it is an experiment in reality. In addition, I have wanted for a long time to study Wilhelm Reich's last project and, should the occasion arise, continue it: the cloud buster. Reich tried to produce rain by sucking up the universe's orgone energy by means of pipes grounded in water. As to the results, there are varying reports. The cloud buster marks the boundary between science and esoterica. My "favorite unrealized project" would be to research the conditions under which the cloud buster could function.

HUO
How do you view the transition from your work in "Botschaft e.V." to your present solo position? Have the modalities of collaboration changed?

CK
One of the essential features that characterizes the work in "Botschaft e.V." was, I think, that it made a powerful form of group work possible without leveling the single member down to the group label. Parallel to this, everyone also pursued his own agenda and brought parts of it into "Botschaft e.V." This, in my opinion, is desirable in group work, in order to avoid an internalized discourse. Naturally there were other general conditions that promoted certain forms of collaboration. Banal economic factors like rent, etc., come in here, but, above all, also an atmosphere of change that, alongside the centers and institutions, allows the development of oppositional peri-centers. The atmosphere in Berlin has changed, as everyone knows. In fact, many people still work together within various contexts. That the artist is now perceived more strongly as a solo position has to do with the filter through which one is viewed by the art system.

HUO
You describe your position as artist/inventor who can change roles, whereby it seems interesting to me that this role-playing is not a fictive game to you but an "intervention in reality". What role does the art context play in your work? Is there another economy as an alternative to the art context? Must works still be protected?

CK
It is known that some of the so-called Beuys students have carried the thinking they developed within an art environment into other fields. I always thought that interesting, because it gives art a legitimation that lies beyond an (anti-)bourgeois "surplus". I find it more exciting to actually carry out the role-playing than to simulate it. Perhaps a work will come out of it that has something to do with reality and is not just a metaphor. And you, naturally, double yourself when changing to two parallel roles: the symbolic and the real. I don't think that the most interesting task art has is to provide entertainment; there is enough of that already. Rather the art context offers a social terrain within which quite specific things can be negotiated, perhaps, for instance, because in art the framework always can and must be examined. To the question whether there is another economy as an alternative to the art context - do you mean as an alternative to the art market? Of course, there are a lot. Inventing economies is a bit like inventing meaning; to find a place, for instance, where certain things can take place. Whether works must still be protected? I am against the copyright as prohibition - taking up the ideas, images or music of others - because it more often benefits the exploiter than it does the originators or the producers.

HUO
In your work with patents does it ever come to any collaboration with lawyers?

CK
Yes, that is a part of the work, to come to an understanding with lawyers; to understand what is being negotiated; to then inscribe yourself in the actual processes and document them. All culture has to do with rules that can be upheld or broken. For example, patent law forbids patenting things that violate natural laws. There are a lot of interesting things out there.