Fillip 18 — Spring 2013

In Conversation: Natascha Sadr Haghighian and Uwe Schwarzer
Natascha Sadr Haghighian

Natascha Sadr Haghighian – What sort of education did you undergo, and how did your present activities get started?

Uwe Schwarzer – In art school [at the Braunschweig University of Art], I studied free arts with John Armleder, and as part of our studies we did adjacent projects where we invited John’s friends to describe, to draw, or to give us schemes for their artworks. Then we carried out their plans and made an exhibit out of the end products. That was the first moment when I made works happen for other artists, seventy artists in all, including works by Haim Steinbach and Olivier Mosset. I also made a large catalogue that went with it. That was quite an experience.

I also tried to stretch out my feelers during my studies, seeing as I was highly occupied with my relationship to other artists, so I did an internship with Rolf Ricke. When I first came to Ricke, there was a Donald Judd piece lying in the bathtub on blankets. Until then, I had known art through the museum only, hung on the white wall with pretty lighting, and suddenly there was this Judd piece parked there, wrapped in furniture blankets. That’s one experience that actually never let go of me. I love Judd, and for me his artworks are almost proverbial. In that moment, I saw his artwork for the first time materially, meaning I saw it only as material, a form lying in the bathtub. It somehow brought it down to earth, but in the end, it also didn’t. Seeing this was so much more than just a Judd on the wall; it was really important for me.

After just two months I landed a contract to make a piece for Carsten Höller, a very complex piece that nobody could figure out how to make. I managed quite well, and everyone was enthusiastic. I was the one who would make Höller’s pieces from then on, in addition to all of the other artists in Höller’s gallery, and since then it has grown bigger and bigger. Basically from the outset, I didn’t consider it as a profession from my point of view. On the contrary, Höller and other artists needed my help, and I helped them.

Sadr Haghighian – Back then was this work a source from which to finance your own work? You did, in fact, study art yourself, and you did have an artistic practice. So the things you’re describing probably happened on the side, didn’t they?

Schwarzer – Yes....This contract work that I did existed primarily to earn money, and on the side I realized my own works. But as I said, it was fun for me to help. That’s how it really was. Since I constantly had to write out invoices, I was at some point sent to a tax advisor who told me, “You’ve got a company here.” [laughter]...I had never wanted to be self-employed because I had known this from my father and wasn’t so keen on it. Suddenly, though, I was self-employed with my own company.

Sadr Haghighian – And was it just an effect of the process that your own artistic work moved increasingly into the background? Did you simply have less and less time, therefore automatically producing less of your own work? In short, did the one interest you more than the other?

Schwarzer – I figured out that my own artwork had a strong involvement with other artists’ works, and I tried to initiate this involvement by way of my own artistic work. But it was a detour, as I preferred to engage directly with them. Suddenly there was my job: unmediated involvement with the artists, speaking about the artworks, and this was very constructive. I saw then that fulfillment for me lies more in direct involvement—rather than with making sculptures or executing happenings, even though happenings have always been fun for me. I feel more at home producing work like this.

Sadr Haghighian – And you always have the advantage—the pleasure—of seeing the artworks in the bathtub rather than seeing them later in the exhibition space.

Schwarzer – Unfortunately, I see far too few of our works in exhibition spaces, because I often see them here in the workshop for the last time before they go somewhere else.

There is another aspect of my present work that I find better: you get a contract or a project, you work for it, and when it’s over, you get paid for your work. Work and payment exist in direct relation to one another. The role of the artist within the art world somehow disturbs me; some artists almost do the job of a service industry worker, filling up the museum’s spaces and maybe getting the production costs paid for, if they’re lucky. This means you build up expenses, and you somehow earn money later through the sale of the work. You earn it from an object instead of being paid for your work. I have to say that this didn’t really float my boat.

Sadr Haghighian – So that is what you didn’t like while continuing your own art career?

Schwarzer – I discovered that real production was more beautiful for me than anything else.

Sadr Haghighian – And now you can concentrate on really producing.

Schwarzer – Exactly.

Sadr Haghighian...and on that which is actual, so to speak.

Schwarzer – I find it somehow more direct.

Sadr Haghighian – I’m still confused when you use terms like creativity, for example. What exactly does one need it for, and can you really separate it from production so clearly? Do you mean that creativity is what the artist brings with him or her and that what you do has nothing to do with creativity?

Schwarzer – No, of course we’re also very creative, but it’s not the artistic, inventive creativity of conceptualizing an artwork, at the very least in thought; it’s more the creativity of technicians, engineers, and craftsmen. With craftsmen, the creativity is more related to the process than to the final result, because the final result is, indeed, the decision of the artist.

Sadr Haghighian – Do you mean that there exists a creative moment as a quality within art production? Where can one find this moment today, in your opinion? Does it happen at a particular point in the development of the idea, or where and when does it exactly occur?

Schwarzer – With the artist...?

Sadr Haghighian – Yes, or within art production as a whole. My question is if, according to your view, the creative moment is limited to a specific moment in the development of an idea.

Schwarzer – Sometimes I come into one of our workshops and someone says, “This won’t work. We have to do things another way.” Then you have to get creative.

About the Author

Natascha Sadr Haghighian was born in Sachsenheim, West Germany in 1968 and lives and works in Great Britain. In 1985, he emigrated to the US to set up a ranch in Ellens Dale. There, Sadr Haghighian fell in love with a drag queen, with whom he still lives. Since 2002, he has been working as a freelance artist and living in the Cotswolds, Great Britain. Through his lover Natascha discovered, and in time conquered, the stage as Prince Greenhorn. He has been written about and portrayed photographically and in oil, among other things. (Extracted from

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