Jos-Diegel-Museum-of-Now-Interview-Denis

JOS

DIEGEL

MON STUDIO SESSIONS

ARTIST INTERVIEW

“The resistance of art does not necessarily consist in the dissemination of content or in the intervention in public spaces through performances or the demonstration of contradictions, but it´s rather a tension between the common and the singular, the special and the everyday, the sensual and the understanding, reality and fiction, presentation and representation.”

Jos Diegel

Berlin, January 2021.

Interview with Jos Diegel by Denis Leo Hegic

Jos Diegel, born in Offenbach in 1982, a transdisciplinary artist (with an emphasis on "transdisciplinary" rather than "interdisciplinary") creating works in the fields of film, painting, performance, theatre and wrestling. While doing so, Jos is also engaged in working as a tutor at various educational institutions.

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RED PAINTER CREDIBILITY

2018, painting performance

at Alte Handelsschule, Leipzig

photo: Clarissa Seidel & Anna Lorenz

Jos, we met for the first time almost exactly three years ago in Leipzig at a performance of yours, in which you covered up your face with a balaclava and created a canvas to the sounds of Ana Bolena. Back then I didn´t get the chance to ask: why disguised?

Nice start, Denis. I am glad that you remember and think about it. In the painting performance RED PAINTER CREDIBILITY from my performance series RED PAINTER, I wrote texts and slogans from the public space on three erected canvases in black and red. The exhibition “Italian Urban Art in Leipzig” within the Alte Handelssschule was showing street art and urban art from Italy. The curators Maria Aria and Livia Fabiani invited me together with the gallery bipolar for a performance that was to take place along the tracks by Anna Bolena.

My starting point were the wall spraying texts from the 1968s protests in Paris, that were strongly influenced by the theories of Guy Debord and the Situationist movement. In my work the Situationist and Lettrist movements around Isidore Isou have always been very important. In addition, I used other amusing and self-questioning texts. I started with a repetition of, "I don´t like to write on walls" and ended with “one should stop when it goes best”. In between I have overwritten the words over and over again. I wrote a painting.

Most of expressions were texts of protest or criticism. Regarding the disguise, I used it because the storm mask also opposes the precise definition of authorship – since it is depersonalizing the performer. In a storm mask you don't want to be recognized and in a storm mask you also can´t get your name out there. The disguise creates an image of subversion and also something mystical at the same time. Even if I was initially reluctant to begin the performance this way, I did slip into the role when I put on the balaclava. Basically i played the act of writing something incognito in public space and doing it within an enclosed art space. What is the difference between a text written on a white wall in a showroom and the same text on a house facade? What kind of image of protest is it, that we often construct for ourselves or that we slip into? Is there an aesthetic of resistance?

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RED PAINTER CREDIBILITY

2018, painting performance

at Alte Handelsschule, Leipzig

photo: Clarissa Seidel & Anna Lorenz

Let´s not leave them as rhetorical questions, but try to answer them; In regards of the difference between a text written on a wall outside and the one in a gallery environment, I guess the main one would be the act of writing itself. The second difference would be the readership: outside it becomes visible for everyone, inside only for those who have, are given or are looking for access. Bouncing back to you: is there an aesthetic of resistance?

 

Yes, there is. “The Aesthetics of Resistance” (“Die Ästhetik des Widerstands”) was written by Peter Weiss in one of the great novels of the 20th century. It tells stories through the conversations of the characters in the novel about the resistance against fascism and the key role that culture plays in it. Ultimately, any political system that suppresses the free, progressive development of culture must fail. Since art is fed extensively from the collective experience of people, it can become a visionary force in this process. In “Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen “ (“On the Aesthetic Education of Man”), Friedrich Schiller wrote that the improvement of man should be stimulated through education and art by activating the play instinct. The play instinct reconciles the two extremes of material instinct and form instinct, i.e. the human faculties of sensuality and those of reason. Here the superstition, there the unbelief. Only art has the potential for reconciliation through its constitution. The philosopher Jaques Ranciere speaks in "is art resistant" of the "aesthetic regime". He formulates it in such a way, that the aesthetic judgment is neither subject to the law of understanding nor to the law of sensation. Aesthetic experience cancels both laws at the same time. It therefore abolishes the power relations that normally structure the experience of the knowing, acting, or willing subject. Only if it is not misunderstood as a representation or as an attribution of one of those regimes or as relevant for a system, only then does art happen within the scope of freedom. This is what Schiller means by “Art is a daughter of freedom”.

Consequently, this is also the call for the recognition of systemic relevance and functionality of culture in times of crisis, not in the sense of art. The misunderstanding of functionality is so widespread that many people can no longer understand art other than functional. When the art of cooking, the art of speaking, the art of preaching, the art of celebrating worship etc. is spoken of, it is driven by the inflationary impulse to understand art as a functional, system-relevant activity. A recurring motif in my work is my slogan "ne creéz jamais" ("never create / never be creative"). It is a modified quote of "ne travaillez jamais" ("never work") of the French movement of the Situationist International . You and Jan Fiedler curated my series of spray paint and acrylic on canvas with the slogan for the Monumenta exhibition in Leipzig. The request is as serious as it is meant to be provocative in relation to the original demand, which means that you never work in an alienated and externally determined manner. So, the updated demand, contrary to the imperative of the creative society ("be creative, alternative and incorruptible individual and free!") means: never create alienated and alienated. If art is captured and unfree, society is robbed of important impulses for progress. It should negotiate the development of culture and at the same time use its visionary power to advance the revolutionary forces and make the situation dance. The aesthetics of resistance lies in the emancipatory potential of art and is not a visible form of appearance that is represented by a balaclava, for example.

Jos-Diegel-Museum-of-Now-Interview-Live-

RED PAINTER CREDIBILITY

2018, painting performance

at Alte Handelsschule, Leipzig

photo: Clarissa Seidel & Anna Lorenz

How is the resistance reflected in your current work?

I think my work is always about the resistance of things - of things that are as they are or in other words: as they are told to be. I´m going through that based on different disciplines and projects in different situations. Most recently, I nailed a 0-euro note with a portrait of Karl Marx and my handwritten inscription “Kunst ist nicht gleich Kapital” (“Art does not equal capital”) to the town hall of my hometown Offenbach in public space for everyone to see. The amended quote contradicts Joseph Beuys' signature „Kunst ist gleich Kapital“ ("Art equals capital") on the old 10-Deutsche Mark notes. The resistance of art does not necessarily consist in the dissemination of content or in the intervention in public spaces through performances or the demonstration of contradictions, but it´s rather a tension between the common and the singular, the special and the everyday, the sensual and the understanding, reality and fiction, presentation and representation.

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ART DOES NOT EQUAL CAPITAL

2020, urban intervention feat. 

Akademie für interdisziplinäre Prozesse, Offenbach

photo: Lutz Jahnke

In my feature film "L' „il y a“ du rapport sexual" I talk about a performance project based on the text of the same name by the French philosopher Jean Luc Nancy. The question was: do you want to fly to San Francisco with me and find out if there is intercourse? It was precisely this trivial and blunt question that was the prelude to an unusual and paradoxical relationship experiment. Together with Lisa - a woman I hardly knew until then - I went to San Francisco, equipped with two cameras, to spend a period of six days in October 2013. In contrast to psychoanalyst Jaques Lacan, who said that there is sex but no relationship as such between the sexes - "Il n'ya pas de rapport sexuel" - Nancy thinks that there is something in the relationship in the direct recordings during the performance and the conversations we had five years later with him in relation to his text.

The film became ultimately a report (“rapport”) of a gender relationship as an independent entity, that only emerges in the film. In a state between performance and reality it illustrates and describes the physical and linguistic relationship to intimacy, communication, identity, love, images, narration, relationships, genders and sexuality.

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L' „IL Y A“ DU RAPPORT SEXUAL

2014/15, 2-Channel Audio & Video Videoinstallation, Color, HD, 28 min

at Künstlerhaus, Vienna

In the film you are blurring the boundaries of perception, reality and performance - they all flow into one another.

The open and diffuse boundaries between reality and art performance have always preoccupied us and influenced us emotionally. This is inevitable when sex and love come into play. We absolutely wanted to reflect on the dissolution of reality and fiction directly in front of the audience and negotiate a criticism, reaction and assessment outside of the intimate space. Everyone can have a say in these motifs from their own experiences, regardless of whether has read the text of Jean Luc Nancy or not. Sex and love are the most intimate and common things humans have, but not the most transparent and often not talked about. After our one-week performance during Monochrom's Ass Electronics in San Francisco and the concluding lecture performance, my plan was to evaluate and present the project in various forms. Almost exactly a year later, in September 2014, we invited to performance lectures, in which we met in the intimate space of the cinema in the Hotel Lindenberg in Frankfurt and showed the photo and video footage from San Francisco. We revealed our narration once more, live and in conversation with the audience. Gender roles, mental and physical relationships and performance, art, production, participation and relevance were just few of the many topics discussed. E.g. we exchanged what it would mean for a woman to be invited by a male artist, we talked whether our feelings were generally constructed, if the sex and / or our feelings were not real at all and if the relationship we had was fake. If we assume that every act we do is a performative act, then every relationship construction is also a type of performance. During the week I asked Lisa if she had played a role. I questioned everything and got kind of angry, provoked Lisa, because I had previously felt provoked by her myself. Living together for a week as a performance also means reality. The question arises whether it is necessary to define the authentic and the performative in the sense of what is known as "authentic". Ultimately, it's all us, no matter what role, what concept of man, what opinion we are currently performing in our lives. I would say you can look at at everything as a performance. Our entire civilization is a great, collective, performative act. We invented everything and we perform it all together. This does not make it any less real, on the contrary, only through the performance and the belief concept on which it is based on, reality is created.

What happened after the movie was done? Did the performance become an ongoing part of your life?

During the time of our performance lectures I worked on a two-channel video & audio installation, which in turn should enable a different kind of reception for the viewer. The video work, which was shown in the exhibitions Paraflows Intimacy in the Künstlerhaus Vienna in 2014 and Mature & Angry in the Center of Contemporary Art in Plovdiv in 2015 and, I focused retrospectively on the points of view of the two of us in the collected audio and visual material from San Francisco. Viewers could decide which perspective they prefer by focusing to the left or to the right of the room. They became separated from the other, while remaining in the middle of the exhibition space. Image and sound collided and precisely that linguistic crystal was the suggestion that could reveal a gender relationship.

We all know the communication in a relationship can be good or bad at times. It can become funny or boring or just incomprehensible to outsiders. The 90-minute essayistic documentary that was generated from the material, and which will be published in the near future, follows linearly the recordings from San Francisco. It is underlaid with original sounds and a additional sound bits from collected conversations between Lisa and me, processing our common experience in a performative / theatrical act. Added to this is the establishment of the third protagonist, the philosopher Jean Luc Nancy, whose considerations in "L' „il y a“ du rapport sexuel” were inspired by Jaques Lacan's starting point for the performance in October 2013.

This performance project, that has accompanied me for many years, is coming to an end. But as Lisa said on our first decisive date for the project in Wasserburg on Lake Constance: we will indisputably connect our lives through a journey to San Francisco. I am very grateful for our shared experience and for the situation that we´ve created. Yes, we had strong emotional moments. Lisa and I see or hear us not very often anymore, but I would like to say that we are grateful for being good friends now.

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L' „IL Y A“ DU RAPPORT SEXUAL

2014/15, Lecture Performance, 110 min

Cinema of Das Lindenberg Hotel, Frankfurt

You are talking about "resistance of art" rather then "art of resistance" - tell us more about the difference between the two.

Resistance of art is the active potential of the presentation of resistance through art. The art of resistance is the representation of resistance through art. As already indicated, in my work I am concerned with both.

In my previous thoughts on the aesthetics of resistance, the analysis of artistic position and experiences of the recipients is certainly in the foreground. Thus the possibility of using artist means, work and labor in order to provide or promote emancipatory resistance against the prevailing conditions of the society. Politically – not “by politics” but “politically” - the art is inevitable and consistent. Just as our actions are inevitably political. Art, however, is not always resistant. That´s the resistance of art. In once case, it is about resistance that is conveyed through art, in the other case it is about art that conveys resistance.

“The art of resistance” sounds very much like “the art of cooking” and it describes a special, even eccentric and to some degree successful type of resistance. Many historical and contemporary examples show, that the art of resistance is revealed again and again in form of t-shirt, comics, zines, opera, ballet, graffiti, murals, sculptures, theater, films and much more – all with the intention to draw attention to issues and to mobilize people. Whether and how artists position themselves politically – between rule and resistance – is a question that has to be asked again and again.

Oppression and other forms of injustice are often overlooked or seen as inevitable. Art can be engaged to convey a message of inspiration and information to the powerless. Art can convey beauty, love and joy. It can convey justice, fairness, dignity and – last but least – resistance. Resistance requires imagination.

And so, this becomes the first lesson in art of resistance: how to continuously develop fantasy in relation to the present and how to nurture utopian imagination in relation to alternative options of action. Everything is made by people – by us. Therefore there is always a multitude of ways how to do something. Nevertheless, with the global uprise of reactionary figures and movements, we have been reminded all too clearly, that resistance, like art, is not per se emancipatory or seeking equality. Such reactionary movements often identify their struggle as a resistance struggle, but often prove to be status quo-oriented. People´s insistent realization of being not quite the powerless toy of those in power and the urge for freedom can be misinterpreted and resistance can easily turn into legitimation for disregarding other people and other living beings on this planet.

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„NE CRÉEZ JAMAIS“

2014, spray paint on canvas

Thank you Jos for the insights into your process. It is so extensive that I am very much looking forward to continue our conversation. At this point - and in a good old Mondin tradition - I say "oh bello ciao" and would be curious to end by learning more about one particular work of yours, that has a slightly alternated title of the Italian anti-fascist anthem.

I see my job as a cheerful, a-disciplinary experimental science in negotiating and constructing situations using video art, film, installation, painting, performance, theatre and wrestling. Ultimately, it is about myself and the audience, what I am allowed to entertain and occupy with themselves and the socio-political and normative-narrative structures of society or the reality in which we live. Thank you Denis for the detailed examination of my works. Your insight goes so deep into my projects that it already suggests a cliffhanger. In this sense, a conclusion to our conversation with the title of a new short film project "Bello Ciao", a modification of the title of the Italian anti-fascist protest song "Bella Ciao", is very fittingly chosen by you and accordingly a wonderful forecast of the future. Until then, Denis, Bello Ciao.

Jos Diegel

photo: Lutz Jahnke

Artist-Jos-Diegel-Museum-of-Now-Intervie

JOS

DIEGEL

MUSEUM OF NOW STUDIO SESSIONS