© 2020 – 2022. 2chairs artspace

A talk with Oliver Orthuber

Hi Oliver, thanks for coming! You are literally sitting on two chairs: architecture and art. Why and how long have you been doing this? Please tell us your story.

Hi Lena, thanks for inviting me to this interesting exhibition project. I grew up in Altötting, a Catholic pilgrimage site in Bavaria, near the Austrian border. Despite having an unconventional upbringing and a background in the punk/hardcore scene, I never considered studying art when I was young. I chose architecture instead because, from a purely financial perspective, it seemed to me the perfect alternative to earn a living without having to renounce creativity. Looking back, I think that young people are much more vulnerable to accepting stereotypes and prejudices due to their lack of experience. So without much thought, I ended up in the field of architecture. The study suited my hedonistic tendencies at the time, and I enjoyed the project-based development of ideas. During my studies and after my diploma, I worked for a renowned architecture firm on the construction of the then-largest construction site in Europe, Potsdamer Platz. Despite my great ambitions, I initially had doubts about whether the time I invested into this would pay off in my life. In the work of an architect, there are various areas in which one can work: preliminary design, design, execution planning, and supervision of the
construction. I had tried out all areas and completely lost my passion for an artistic approach to architecture. When I wasn't paid for my work as a freelancer for 3D visualization of designs from three different offices in 2008, I decided to pursue art as a freelance artist dedicating myself to projects that really interest me, and since then I have worked as a freelance artist with numerous exhibitions on a national and international level and created more than 3400 art pieces.

Can you say that you have found a balance in your professional life?

I think there is little to be done for me with the term professional life, I guess I rather respond to the idea of staying in balance, which to me is the most important, and at the same time, the most difficult thing to achieve. So often in my life, I have found myself in an imbalance. I believe that one of the foundations of balance is satisfaction, which in turn has to be balanced as well because too much satisfaction leads to stagnation; in the worst case even to regression. So we are back to the necessity of balance once more. I often work too much and don't allow myself enough free time. But basically, I find Andy Warhol's statement "The most important thing is work" understandable and to be honest I don't really know what to do with my free time apart from lazing around. For me, Sunday is a day on which I usually do not work and this laziness enables me to refuel.
What does each chair contribute to you?

At the beginning of my search for the right artistic expression for me, I tried out different fields,
e.g. music and literature and only avoided visual arts. My aim was to detach myself from
everything I had learned in architecture: from life drawing, perspective drawings of buildings, to accurate, straight-angled lines. So I published 5 music albums and 3 books and during this time I also earned my living with a wide variety of jobs: express courier in Amsterdam
(travelling around the world), an employee in a strategy consulting agency, a communication trainer in a call centre and, of course, from time to time, as an architect. Fine arts didn't really let go of me though, and in the end, I managed to find my own visual language completely detached from the architectural mode of expression I had learned. I think this all played an important role in what I do and who I am now and also made the two chairs blur and melt together so that I cannot say that I cannot really say that I sit between 2 chairs. To put it metaphorically: there are no two separate chairs in my life, and if one of them would predominantly emerge from the fog, I guess I would decide not to sit on it. In my opinion, contract work also helped me to support my artistic path. To be honest, when I am working on an art project, I cannot be productive for more than 4 hours. Due to this limited time in my art studio, I was forced to make quick decisions: where to go, which idea was really worth implementing, which ones were to be dropped, etc. I think this time limitation has had a huge impact on my development as an artist.

You made objects specifically for the show at the 2chairs artspace. What did you mean to make your "Two chairs "?

The two chairs concept immediately resonated with me because as an artist you are inevitably
constantly confronted with the question of whether you can make a living from your art. This a
the perfectly justified question, if one disregards the fact that the artist in question is obviously alive in front of the questioner, which, however, has no relevance to the artistic position. When I read the advertisement, I was working on an art project called "Torture", which took me to a 9-week stay in Vietnam. As I mentioned before, I come from the punk/hardcore music scene and my musical listening habits always explored extreme sound. This goes from avant-garde music, hardcore, industrial, noise, free jazz, and jazz to classical. Pop and commercial music

were never interesting to me. In Vietnam, I travelled for several hours in a bus where the bus driver played extremely loud Vietnamese pop music copied from Western music, only produced and arranged cheaper. This was real torture for me. From this feeling came the need to create a chair you sit on while your head is protected by a wooden box in which a video with number 1 hits from the 1980s is running. Images and sound from these hits video were edited and cut in a way that at the beginning they are still easy to be identified but they became gradually more and more abstract. This was a joint project with the Japanese jazz avant-garde pianist Rieko Okuda, with whom I have already realized several interdisciplinary art projects. I found this torture chair thematically transferable to the project of the 2chairs artspace and modified the video by melting it to a second video recorded on a grey, rainy day in Berlin on my way to work: I have edited it and the perception the viewer gets is that destination can never be reached. The video is 1 minute long and can be played as a loop. In my working life, I met people who work for earning their living and afford stuff and they consider this work as torture. Most of the time, it is not the work they do the real torture, but the fear of change.
In what field of art do you usually work? What mediums do you prefer? Why do you choose them?

I work in several fields of art. Mainly I would consider myself a painter. But I also make
experimental videos, audio and video performances in collaboration with musicians, installations and graphics. Occasionally I write and play music. I don't really prefer a specific medium, although painting and drawing have been part of my daily life since childhood and it has always been the easiest form of artistic language for me. Creating a haptic experience and a physical connection with contents seems extremely important to me, as well as creating something directly with my hands, but the fascination of computer-generated 3D design and videos' creation gets hold of me over and over again. I think the idea of a project and the emotional state I find myself in, dictate the medium I choose.

Could you please tell us more about your approach to artistic practice? What are your fundamentals?

There are two important aspects of my artistic practice: I don't want to bore myself and I aim at creating something I haven't seen before. I don't always succeed, but all in all, I'm quite satisfied. What is extremely important to me is melting different perceptions in deconstructivism's formal language in the spirit of the abstract experimental film's subgenre. For the last 3 years, I have been working on the cycle of works "Copy|Sample|Remix" which, among other things, underlies the philosophical work of Gilles Deleuze, especially the work "Difference and Repetition". In this field of tension, I developed the method "Material
Shocking", in which I explain creating the video "Hell is a family excursion", but which can also be transferred to my paintings or installations. In filmmaking, there have been various data carriers and players with their own film quality. I make the most of these qualities in combination with digital editing. For the above-mentioned film, the basic source material is Ebay purchases from family excursions captured in slide, Super 8 and DV formats. The Super 8 and DV films are digitized and edited while retaining their original visual character. The slides are then cut into 8mm strips and randomly spliced together into 8mm film. This is then played on a film viewer and filmed with a digital camera. This in turn is transferred to the digital film as a layer. A new work of art is created from a wide variety of materials which are brought together.

What are your intentions to be an artist? What do you want to achieve as an artist?

I pursue the intention of realizing ideas on a project basis. As an artist, I intend to be happy in shaping my life as I have been doing so far.

Any plans for the future to share?

I always work "adhering to the moment" with different projects in mind. I am currently working on a three-day process exhibition at the Zwitschermaschine project gallery, Berlin Schöneberg, which I will call the "Non-Stop Sonic Show". The basic idea is not the exhibition itself, but to exhibit the artistic process. 10-hour interdisciplinary audio|video performances will take place without interruption. The subject area varies daily.
Day 1: Visuals: Manual Audio: Manual/Loopstation
Day 2. Visuals: Manual / Audio. Manual/live music
Day 3: Visuals: Digital depending on the live music (Arduino programming) | Audio: live music/loop station.
And I'm also currently working on an artwork for the award competition of the Haus am Kleistpark: "punctum". Punctum is a term used by the French philosopher Roland Barthes in his essay "The Bright Chamber" on photography. Here I developed a series of images based on the Copy|Sample|Remix.

Thank you Oliver for your straightforward and open talk. Hope to see you soon!