Six questions for
Jakob Ganslmeier

Tique asks six questions to an artist about their work and inspiration.
This week: Jakob Ganslmeier.

Artist Jakob Ganslmeier
Lives in Berlin and The Hague

How do you describe your own art practice?

Growing up in Dachau, in close proximity of the former concentration camp and nowadays a memorial centre, I quickly learned how differently the WWII legacy is dealt with, both within Germany and worldwide. In my practice, I mostly focus on dismantling visual representation of radical ideologies and offering counter-narratives through a participatory artistic approach. As an artist working with socio-political topics, I position myself in the midst of mass mediated images. As their co-producer, I explore how these contribute to the cultural othering and the building of misleading stereotypes, while leaving the problematic ideologies intact.

Which question or theme is central in your work?

All my recent works have in one way or another touched upon the notion of perpetrator perspective, a challenging yet increasingly important topic. Of course, you might ask your self: why study perpetrators? Why dive into perspectives we ethically and morally disagree with?

Firstly, I do not seek to sympathise with perpetrators or excuse them. On the contrary, I want to tackle problematic ideologies and political messages by mirroring and deconstructing their political meaning, but also by showing that there is a way of leaving them. My motivation behind dealing with the representational aspect of perpetrator perspectives is to acknowledge the importance of avoiding binary representations of good and evil. While we show solidarity with the victims, empathise and to a certain extent identify with them, none of that applies to the perpetrator. Nobody wants to deal with perpetrators outside of court rooms and movies, let alone identify with one. We want perpetrators to be monsters, villains, and murderers— we want to picture them as scary. While it is easy to project such representations of evil (mainly perpetuated by Hollywood movies) onto actual perpetrators, it is rarely how they appear in real life.

Secondly, we have to ask yourselves why the fascination with Nazi ideology keeps resurfacing today. How easily is an ideological vision (re)constructed? Why are hateful messages so often disguised as images of hope? Following up on my long-term engagement with former extremists and Germany’s fragmentary attempts of denazification, I turned my attention to the online world where a large part of today’s radicalisation happens, making use of images, symbolism, appropriation of memes and music. My most recent work Poetry is out of Place compiles a variety of visual material, with formats ranging from classic documentary, commercial real-estate video, to high-paced video collages interrogating the sources of today’s far-right extremist ideas.

What was your first experience with art?

One of my first experiences with art was a family visit to the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich and seeing Jeff Wall’s work „The Eviction“ I would not get as far as to say this photograph in any way impacted my idea of who I wanted to become, but I certainly remember standing in that museum as a young boy, looking at that work.

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

There is not one single source of inspiration that dominates, but apart from photography and very often movies, I also get inspired by literature. Books such as “Male Fantasies“ by Klaus Theweleit, or Yishai Sarid’s “Memory Monster“ were very influential. Very important are also discussions with people close to me — they have probably influenced my work the most.

What do you need in order to create your work?

Most of all I need the trust, time, and commitment of the people I collaborate with to tackle these very difficult topics. But also the belief that after the artistic part of the project is finished, the project will live on and develop an impact that goes beyond its immediate participants.

What work or artist has most recently surprised you?

“Spielraum” by Jasmina Cibic, “Online Cultural Wars” by the collective, “Gangster Backstage” by Teboho Edkins, “Tag X” of Henrike Naumann, “Under the Flag” by Artūras Raila, and “Rechtsruck” of Ludwig Rauch.

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