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Empathy. Experiment. Provocation.
Interview with Prof. Peter Kruse. By Ulrike Reinhard.
May 2015
Ulrike Reinhard: The Mindkiss Project is now
in its fifth year. And Peter you were really
one of the first to pick up on i...
And that there is a larger order in which we
participate creatively and in which, when
presented, we can recognize a piece...
Art, the expression of cultural intelligence,
perhaps creating something which we do
collectively, is suddenly commerciali...
tomorrow’s systems look like? How do we
build society? In what kind of a society do
we want to live in? These are question...
We are simply faced with the basic problem
that since the demise of communism we
have lost our bogeyman. And now we really...
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Empathy. Experiment. Provocation.


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Peter Kruse describes in this interview why it is necessary to think about new stsems, why it it no longer enough to improve or build upon old ones. He uses the artproject "MINDKISS" as a role model how to walk down this path ..

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Empathy. Experiment. Provocation.

  1. 1. Empathy. Experiment. Provocation. Interview with Prof. Peter Kruse. By Ulrike Reinhard. May 2015 1
  2. 2. Ulrike Reinhard: The Mindkiss Project is now in its fifth year. And Peter you were really one of the first to pick up on it. What grabbed your interest, aroused your curiosity, about the concept when you first came across it? Peter Kruse: Well, actually what first excited me and has continued to do so ever since is the fact that the project is continually evol- ving and evolving more or less in the way a living organism evolves. There was nothing about it you could point to and say this is all organized, set, and planned from start to finish. No, it really was moving through phases of growth, change and sudden unexpected transformations. In other words it kept you sitting on the edge of your seat. In the beginning for me it was a kind of encounter. There was somebody with a biographical situation – actually a very sad biographical situation – who had produced an incredible amount of work, who hadn’t mimicked the way other artists work, who hadn’t tried to make a name for himself, who had shunned publicity. This struck me as something really extraordinary. And then being suddenly confronted with this huge body of work which was totally unknown. That was simply amazing. In my encounter I was suddenly standing before one of his paintings – a painting that nobody could explain to me because the artist was dead, and nobody had given any previous explanations. There was no art historian or art critic to construct some majestically comprehensive framework of reference and interpretation after the death of the artist precisely because these works were produced in complete isolation from the mainstream art business. So this was a certain kind of encounter with art of a highly vulnerable and even slightly virginal kind which posed the inevitable question of whether a work of art can exist when nobody has constructed a frame of reference for it. That at the very beginning was the first surprise. Ulrike Reinhard: Perhaps to give a little background to people who might not be so familiar with the story. An Encounter is an event where Dagmar Woyde-Koehler, the initiator of the Mindkiss Project, travels to people, selected people, with a painting by OUBEY and places it on an easel in a room. Peter Kruse: Yes. So suddenly you’re standing face to face with something that makes you wonder whether such an encounter can, in some shape or form, be something more. Can it build something, create something? And then after a short time you begin to ask yourself whether perhaps there really is something like a discernible form of order that goes beyond this particular situation. That’s what happened to me with the pain- ting which Dagmar Woyde-Koehler had selected for me. I remember that at the time I called the painting shameless because it mocked all frames of reference. It didn’t have its own framework but it didn’t need one either. And I noticed that this triggered a whole heap of associations in my mind. And, interestingly enough, these were associa- tions that were anything but strange to me so that I gradually began to get the feeling that either this guy was a kindred spirit who expressed things in a way that was very dear to me or he was someone who had seen things that I had seen only in some different way. Subsequently, from what Dagmar Woyde-Koehler told me, I had the inkling that there was a personal kinship between us – that we didn’t just see the same things but had a similar way of looking at them too. There was almost a feeling of comforting familiarity about it, like meeting up with a good old friend. And that really amazed me. So the first dimension of this whole project for me was this personal encounter. Only this evolved still further. As I mentioned before, the basic situation radiates life. New things spring up suddenly. 2
  3. 3. And that there is a larger order in which we participate creatively and in which, when presented, we can recognize a piece of ourselves. And I believe that this experiment which Woyde-Koehler is running is only possible when this sense of recognition is given. Because in itself an encounter with a canvas cannot generate this. Some kind of superordinate points of resonance must be given. So the second thing that intrigued me was to try out this experimental part, going beyond the classical landscape of art to do something with art. And the third part which has grown over the past few months as I’ve been ruminating about it so much is the question of what we mean exactly when we talk about the art world or art business. For instance, I remember once scratching my head about Damien Hirst who, in 2008 I think it was, went and worked with Sotheby’s to make an exhibition solely of objects inten- ded for auction. And this auction brought in something in the order of over one hundred million dollars which made me wonder what the hell was going on here. And then it struck me that, oddly enough, this wasn’t just about people encountering the paintings because a kind of cultural communicative network began to be spun around the whole thing. In other words the whole thing becomes much bigger in the second dimension than merely encountering an artist through his work. Which means that it takes on the mantle of some kind of cultural experiment. And what makes this particularly interested is that it’s a cultural experiment in which, from the very beginning, Dagmar Woyde-Koehler has shunned all kinds of reference to the established art business. I found this extraordinarily intriguing because I noticed that what was alluded to here was a dimension that resists easy assimilation in the received canons of museum art to enact itself more or less as a process of inter- action. And this has evolved yet again across the world and attracted a huge number of followers which now leads me to believe that what OUBEY expressed in his paintings isn’t only understandable if you have a personal affinity to the artist, because to some extent he also, should we say, hit on particular ways of viewing the world. And this reminds me not a little of our good old Joseph Beuys who talked about the concept of social sculpture and how we are actually all artists and how we all participate in a communal social enterprise which we produce as a cultural collective. 3
  4. 4. Art, the expression of cultural intelligence, perhaps creating something which we do collectively, is suddenly commercialized on a scale that leaves you gasping in disbelief. And then you come across people like Banksy whose art is a strategy of conscious subver- sion of the art market. But the more you ponder and reflect on this, the more apparent it becomes that what is happening in the art business is not just confined to the art world alone but is actually an extremely telling symbol or symptom, if you want, of the non- stop commercialization of the world. We act as though everything in the world is governed by market dynamics. This alone should give you pause for thought. Because if there’s one thing I can say for certain, it’s that the field of culture which is the preserve of art – is the least suitable to be turned into a commercial marketplace. There’s a great deal of money sloshing around and this money is desperately trying to find some kind of value. So we turn a cultural event into a marketplace. And one thing I do know, at least as far as my own understanding of art goes, is that art must always provoke and basically must be moving to produce culture. This means that art is a powerful instrument to enhance the richness of culture. But if we commercialize this process, it is precisely the contribution made by art that we lose. Because basically, whether directly or indirectly, the artist must always seem attractive to those with money in their pockets. This means that the artist is forced to bend and compromise. And then you begin to look around, to ask pointed questions, to talk to young artists and you see that some of them have the anger about what is happening written in their faces. I then looked at young photographers, young filmmakers and spent some time chatting with them. And what they told me was always the same – that they’d tried time and again and in all kinds of ways to break into this market. And now we have agencies specialized in providing introductions to galleries and markets for a fee. This works along the lines of – give me your photos and I’ll make sure you get an exhibition in Shanghai. You pay me € 30,000 for my services and I’ll get you in. Or if you’re a filmmaker, I’ll guarantee you’re screened at the key festivals. So what has now sprung up is a kind of intermediary market which makes its living by bringing others into a situation where they can live from their art. And then you see that what we are blatantly doing here is making a systemic error of gargantuan proportions. We are super- imposing what we know from the economic context onto the cultural context. And this brings us to the third – and for me personally the most interesting – dimension of OUBEY and the Mindkiss project into which we really need to put some serious thinking. It is the question of how we wish to organize the system ‘world’, as we are building it, in the future. We act as though the whole world were a huge market. And we only do so because we’ve forgotten how to differentiate. We believe that if we no longer can under- stand the world then at least the invisible hand of the market might fix it in one way or another. Whether I now want to get hot under the collar about the economy is an- other question. And I could get very hot about it because I now no longer even believe that we should retain the market principle in the financial and economic context on this level of triviality. But if it’s applied it to the cultural context or educa- tional context then I really can say in all earnestness that what we are doing is putting our worst foot forward. Moving ahead with eyes wide shut. In other words at the present juncture we need to reflect long and deeply on questions such as – what will 4
  5. 5. tomorrow’s systems look like? How do we build society? In what kind of a society do we want to live in? These are questions of fundamental importance which – in my opinion at least – have shown the right kind of evolution in the OUBEY Project. Beginn- ing with a single person, evolving into a kind of cultural communicative experiment and then evidencing for all to see that some- thing can live and flourish beyond the con- fines of the established art business. Or if you will: an experimental demonstration of a deficit on the other side – which raises the need for serious thought about a change to the system. And you could spend some time thinking how to interlock all this closely. How, for instance, can I make sure that capital always remains just capital when used to finance culture? The moment capital is used only to produce more capital, it is no longer reaso- nable. Perhaps the point is to become a little sharper in differentiating between concepts. Perhaps the point is to get a very clear notion that the concept of wealth doesn’t always have to do with money but also with capability. And when wealth in the sense of money doesn’t generate wealth in the sense of capability then it should no longer be called wealth. This means that we need to consider how we can make it socially desirable that capital should only be allowed for suitable uses when it forms part of the social organism, when it is deployed for purposes of social design not in the sense of commissioned work, not in the sense of exerting influence, but rather in the sense of the purposeful financing of free spaces. And that demands political and social struc- ture. We can’t just simply go in and say, OK, the financial market is the true hegemony and all the rest is derivative. Slowly but sure- ly this would mean drowning in absurdity because everybody bends in the direction of the financial market. This means that we must consider how this can be organized in a bedrock way. And that is an extremely political question. Ulrike Reinhard: The OUBEY project has a clear patron – it is financed by one single person, Dagmar Woyde-Koehler who provides this space. One does need money ... Peter Kruse: Only now we can see what is at issue. In other words we cannot consider these systems in splendid isolation from one another. We must consider the cultural space, and perhaps the legal space and the econo- mic space collectively. I mean we can naturally also delve a bit into anthroposophy with its threefold social organism. 5
  6. 6. We are simply faced with the basic problem that since the demise of communism we have lost our bogeyman. And now we really do believe that we have won with our demo- cratic principles and capitalism of the type we favor. And all I can say is listen up you guys, we’ve won absolutely nothing because our whole system is stretching at the limits of its capacity or has long since exceeded them. In other words the crux of the matter is that when you’ve lost your bogeyman you stop developing because you believe the game’s yours, you’ve won it. And the pressing development issue of the moment with democratic systems lies in the question of how we want to deal with capitalism on the global level, and more precisely with the kind of capitalism which we believe has established itself as the one and only true principle. Yet liberalized markets are no sustainable principle. No cultural richness lies in following that path. You can see how this is playing out in submarkets and on the global level. You just can’t go in, for instance, and allow globalization to take capital out of regional cultures. You have to find ways in which capital can be pumped back into culture without intervening in its meaning. Freedom of cultural expression must be retained. And so step by step what we must do is think seriously about how we design and shape our systems. At this point in time we can no longer optimize our sys- tems. Nor is it now enough to find new types of order within an existing system. The whole point at our present juncture is to create new systems. And that’s something that, oddly enough, nearly everybody in society is well aware of. When we interview people, the data tells us that over three quarters of the people know that we’re on the threshold of a transfor- mation of the third order. In other words: not im- proving on what’s already there, and also not taking a different approach to tackle what’s al- ready there but creating fundamental new sys- tems for doing things differently. We must chan- ge the rules of the game by which our societies live, otherwise they will no longer function. Ulrike Reinhard: So in your eyes the project is a role model for a new system? Peter Kruse: Yes, that’s the odd bit, isn’t it? Yes, it really does open the three dimensions one after the other. First, the dimension of the private encounter. Then the dimension of the experiment, the communicative cultural expe- riment. And then over the experimental charac- ter the actual third dimension of the critical re- view and, if you will, of provocation. This means it has very clear dimensions. A little empathy, a little experiment, and a great deal of provocation. And I think this makes it some- thing that’s well worth while keeping your eye on. 6