ART & CULTURE | by AIDHA BADR | 09 JULY 2020
MARGARETHE KOLLMER: THE THING IS
LOS GATOS in conversation with Margarethe Kollmer about video making and her series The Thing Is. A series which goes in no particular order, overwhelmingly intense, immersive and sublime. Read, watch, and reflect.
LOS GATOS: Tell me a little bit about yourself
MARGARETHE KOLLMER: I grew up in a little Franconian village in Germany with like 200 inhabitants. I think it’s good to know that about me because inside I’m still that girl from a tiny village daydreaming about weird things, only now I know all the good strategies to justify that. I left when I was 20 to go and study psychology and then to art school. Since then I've continued to move to bigger and bigger cities and currently I’m in Berlin where I have my studio. I spent a long time in Frankfurt, which is an amazing place that produces a lot of unlikely things. Even though it was time for me to move on from there I still feel very connected to it because it strongly influenced me. It’s where a lot of magic happens. It’s like the fairy godmother of German art.
GATOS: How did you get your start with video making?
KOLLMER: Moving images can create that shared space of experience and that’s something that always fascinated me. I tried making my first video when I was 12. It was an animated dancer. I was very proud. I wanted to become a Disney animator which was a utopian idea that existed in another universe and felt out of reach. I had no idea how to use tech to make pictures but I grew up knowing that if you wanted to make something happen, you just go and make it happen, so I tried. I remember this car commercial where it was a guy wanting a cool car so he created it from scrap metal, but of course it wasnʼt the real thing and he was portrayed as a fool, but I actually thought his car was a real car and itʼs amazed me that he was able to do that. I went into art school because I was good at painting, I would always glance over at the video department and I wanted to learn as much as possible. When I watched Disney animations as a kid I often thought “what if it actually looked like this, but different.” There were things I would have liked to see but just werenʼt there so I had to make them myself, and still, I have no Idea how to do that but I keep trying. If you want something to exist you just have to go and make it.
Somehow I got into my first art school, and then another one with a huge media department, and then another one which I accidentally stumbled upon through friends, there was this famous professor who had worked in Hollywood and did stuff that definitely felt like the kind of stuff I wanted to exist since the early days of me dreaming up of alternate Disney plots and somehow that utopian space where you could make these things visible to others wasnʼt all that utopian anymore. Suddenly it felt like I could do things.
GATOS: What are some themes associated with your videos?
KOLLMER: I like problems, drama, and dumb formal jokes. I think a lot about subjectivities and about the forces that rule them from the inside and the outside and thereʼs a lot of violence and seduction in that space and I want to show it. I want the viewer to be in the midst of the drama instead of just a mere observer.
GATOS: What would you like for people to take away from your videos?
KOLLMER: A feeling that they encountered something.
GATOS: Through watching your videos, I get the sense that they are invading my innermost thoughts, is that something you do intentionally?
KOLLMER: I like that very much. although it’s good that a video is something you can walk away from. I don’t want to force anyone to participate in it. Art is safe and unsafe at the same time. I like it when you can feel that I've been exploring these kinds of relations in my work and it’s still something that fascinates me and that I enjoy playing with. I often start out making a work thinking about what I would like it to do or to feel like to the person looking at it, and construct my videos in that way. Cf course I can never know what the exact result will be like because that’s out of my control. but I can make a rough guess and put this little machine there and let it do it’s thing and see what happens. It’s like an experiment. If you notice what’s happening, it’s working.
GATOS: Is there a greater purpose to your videos?
KOLLMER: Yes, but I can’t tell you now.
GATOS: It could be said that your work makes people very aware and sensitive of themselves and their surroundings in the moment, but also acting as an affirmation or a mantra, would you agree with that statement?
KOLLMER: I’m not really into mantras. Words are magic so of course they leave an impact, but I’m also suspicious of the idea of speaking something into existence. I feel like it could turn against you real quick. I mostly choose words from other people, or those that are just floating around. I also choose to misuse them in a way by taking them out of context and totally perverting their original meaning. So I don’t think if it was a mantra it would work anymore because after me having fun with it, it would feel totally wrong. It does have an unspoken side to it too and that’s what everybody should be rightfully scared of.
All videos courtesy the artist and Left Gallery
Music by Filip Caranica