Email interview with Marco Breuer conducted by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, curator, November 2012
Within the context of this exhibition your work initially appears to capture a sense of flow that is frozen, as if it’s a snapshot of a split second of light or energy. But actually, the imagery is created through a process that takes time and effort on your part, even if the results are perhaps unpredictable. Would you mind explaining your creation of the four works in the exhibition?
In my work I subject photographic paper to a range of destructive forces. Tools have included paint scrapers (e.g. Untitled (C-979), 2010), heated metal bars (e.g. Drag (C-1062), 2011), or simply the floor of my studio (e.g. Untitled (C-795), 2008, and Throw (C-893), 2009). In order to allow for discoveries in the process of making, rather than executing pre-determined ideas, I tend to incorporate a degree of chance and push the paper to the very limit of its physical capabilities.
Are you interested at all in the concept of capturing energy within your artwork? Whether it is motion that you have generated or light or chemical reactions or heat? If so, do you think this interest informs how you decide what direction you’re going to explore in terms of making an image?
My interest is in the materials’ recording abilities beyond the designated purpose. For example, photographic paper is light sensitive, but it also responds to heat, pressure, etc. The deliberate misuse of materials and tools is the starting point for a negotiation between the recording material (generally, but not exclusively, photographic paper), the hand, and the tool employed.
Regarding the question above, would you mind discussing your creative process? Do you dedicate solid periods of time to make your work or is it spread out over hours/days/weeks?
The process depends entirely on the particular piece or the series I am working on. Some work requires short, repeated bursts of attention, while other work requires a month or so of doing little else. Every project has its own rhythm.
Do you look for feedback from the work itself in terms of moving onto another artwork or do you “go at it” all at once?
I certainly look for feedback: a good piece is one that leads to the next.
Do you have an idea of what you want to see as a final result before you start?
I consider the process of photographic printing not a means to an end, but rather an independent method of investigation. Stripping photography down to its bare essentials and eliminating the intermediate steps of standard photographic practice allows me to work in the present tense. I think of it as photography with the immediacy of a pencil drawing.
I’m wondering if there’s a connection between how self-contained and/or complete and non-referential these artworks are and whether that mimics or is the opposite of how you work? I think what I’m asking is, do you have a sense that your purpose in making artwork is autotelic?
Of course I do this work first and foremost for myself —if you don’t as an artist, I believe you’re in trouble. That being said, once you choose to participate in the larger framework of art by exhibiting, lecturing, teaching, entering the discourse, external forces come into play and the term autotelic doesn’t really apply anymore.
Could you talk a little bit about the concept of space? I’m thinking both in terms of the space within your artwork (the invented interplay of surface and depth) and the space in which you create. I read a quote about how you work alone and don’t farm out any part of your process. You said, “This space of concentration is very important to me.” 1 So I’m especially curious about if there are any connections that can be made between the isolated spaces in which you make art and the illusion of space in the art itself.
My workspace is very simple and more defined by what it is not, than by what it is. There is no telephone, no Internet, no radio, no distractions. It is little more than four walls, a sink, and a few tables. The lack of any permanent set-up prevents ruts: the space has to be reconfigured for every new project.
As for the work I certainly aim to disrupt the conventional figure-ground relationship. Many of my images constitute a negotiation of the illusionistic space of photography versus the concrete space of the physical mark. Image and support are often rendered inseparable.
Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) received his academic training at the Fachhochschule Darmstadt (1988-92) and the Lette-Verein Berlin (1986-88). His work has been exhibited internationally and is in numerous collections, including the Alright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University in Cambridge; the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart, Germany. Breuer is the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2006); a Japan-US Friendship Commission/NEA Creative Artists Exchange Fellowship (2005); a Carriage House Residency at the Islip Art Museum (2004); a Peter S. Reed Foundation Grant (2000); and three MacDowell Colony residencies (2003, 2001, 2000). His publication SMTWTFS received wide critical acclaim and a photo-eye Award for Best Photography Book of 2002. In 2007, Aperture published a monograph of his work titled Early Recordings. Breuer currently resides in upstate New York.
- Conversations 7: Marco Breuer and Carter Foster, Pollock Gallery, Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University, 2008, p. 12. ↩