Kitta, Richard: ART = An Open Field

Interview with Anna Tretter, published in the online Journal of the Technical University, faculty of Fine Art, New Media, Kosice, SK, 2006

Anna Tretter was born in 1956 in Kirchzell / Odenwald, Germany. She studied at art schools in Bischofsheim / Rhön (Sculpture) and the Stuttgart Academy of Fine Arts and graduated from the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in 1985. She has had numerous national and international solo exhibitions and permanent installations throughout Germany, as well as in several east European countries. She is a holder of various international grants and awards. A member of the International Artist Forum since 1993, she participates in art juries and as from the start of 1996 has taken part in European art exchange programs. She currently divides her time and energy between her own multimedia art projects and teaching in the Faculty of Art in Kosice, as head of Studio Nove Media.

Anna Tretter, you live and work in Stuttgart, Amorbach, Germany and Kosice. When and why did you decide to come and teach in Slovakia, especially in Kosice? What were your expectations? Did they come true?
In 2002, I met a guest student at the Stuttgart academy from the Prague academy, Pavla Scerankova. Incidentally, she comes from Kosice.
Based on the interest and curiosity of the German fellow students, Pavla and I decided to organise an art exchange project between the Stuttgart and Prague academies.
The project named “Twice” included workshops and exhibitions in Stuttgart and Prague participated by students from the studio of Prof. Milos Sejn in Prague and students from my own studio.
We were very fortunate to receive financial support from the Robert Bosch Foundation, DAAD (German Academic Exchange Program) and Ritter Sport, a local chocolate company!
We had ideal working conditions.
In Prague I was first confronted with video works by students from the department of Fine Arts in Kosice. Spontaneously a colleague from Kosice asked me to come to his University and work with them. As my term in Stuttgart was coming to an end anyway, I just took on the opportunity as an interesting new experience to continue my teaching. The University of Kosice subsequently offered me a job. I had no idea what would be in store for me. Initially, I had thought to do it for just one semester. After one year, the University of Kosice organised the new studio of Nove Media and approached me to direct it.

Have you ever taught in another country before? What are your teaching principles?
I was teaching at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, for Sculpture and New Media.
In my teaching activities I have a firm belief that “creating art cannot be taught”, there must be a fundamental talent. It has to be in one’s self and everyone has to find this out for himself. As teachers we can assist the students in their self-searching process. To find their own identity as an artist is the ultimate goal of the learning process at the academy. This certainly includes learning the necessary technical skills and fundamental knowledge of art history. In my field it would encompass especially, technical skills in all areas of modern communication: photography, video, film, computer arts, interactive media, 3D computer processing.

You are head of The Nove Media Studio at the Department of Fine Arts, Technical University in Kosice. What is Nove Media? What does the Nove Media Art mean for you?
That is a very complex question. For me, it is kind of thinking into the future and reflecting upon the world as a platform and to develop a clear and open mind. In every new area you can find new ideas within its own medium. Even in difficulties you can encounter new possibilities. For instance, I think this is valid for our region here – as in other east European countries – when fax-machines or telephones do not function adequately. Nevertheless, people are now enthusiastically working directly with the internet and the various applications through this new form of communication. It is most important to work with the medium and to use its possibilities and then observe what happens in the process – it is an open project. Consequently, I think it’s not only a question of the technologies per se but far more a question of a creative attitude, of clear thinking and by reflecting what you want to do, and why you want to do it and how you want to realise your ideas.

If you could compare Slovak Art Students with the German Colleges, are there Differences?
I have found out that there are no differences in the field of creativity.
Slovak students however are handicapped by the slow transition from old historical structures to standards commonly practiced in west European art schools. These would certainly include more financial possibilities, technical equipment, software and also a faster process in acquiring the necessary linguistic knowledge (English, German) to communicate in the international field.

For a Slovak Artist who wants to work and live independently, it is mostly impossible because of financial reasons. Most students need to look for jobs e.g. in the commercial media after they have graduated. What is the situation in Germany or in other countries in Europe?
When you compare the situation of artist in west Europe with the problems that Slovak students have, you will realise that, due to the current economic situation, there is no commercial art market in Slovakia. In other words Slovak students have enormous problems in making a living from their artistic output.
That may change in the future, but at the moment, it is a fundamental problem.
But do not be misled, for in Germany, an artist does not live in financial security either as long as they have yet established themselves in the art market. In Germany only 2% of the artists can live comfortably from their activities. Therefore, it is also not too many.
Usually when you live in a prospering country you have, of course, more possibilities. There are numerous collectors interested in all forms of art and everyone has a special focus for their collection.
Everybody must become a master of his own fate. Flexibility is necessary and you must be inventive in handling your life. The more independent you are, the better it is. Furthermore, artists today must be intensively involved their own sales and public relations.
You must find and educate people to get them interested in art. Convey how relevant art is. You must meet and inform them. The art scene is a big family. We all belong together and need each other: artists, art dealers, art historians, critics, museums and galleries, agents, collectors of course – and sponsors as well.

What do you think about our art and artists or the artistic-scene in Slovakia, in general? What interest you? Is there a quality in the European context?
I remember one Slovak artwork – a football field which was constructed on a bending meadow on a hill!
It was a really original idea, and another one: an entire movie sequence reduced into one monochromatic print.
I also like the early Juraj Bartusz’s work when he made a photo documentation of one day of his personal life and then asked the municipal authority to stamp his photos and thus to officiate him in his art work.
Such works were new to me and I enjoyed them very much. No one, in my knowledge, has come up before with such solutions. This may be because of the experience they have had with a different political situation, out of their own daily life and needs.
I also want to mention here Julius Koller’s imaginary museum which he defined in the High Tatras. He did this many years ago. All ideas which you find very much en vogue in the current art scene in Europe.
I also like works in direct and even strong approach to humanistic themes, even in humorous concepts.

Is art still necessary for a society? … Who needs artists?
I think art is an essential nutrient for the human soul, for everybody. Why should we teach it at school if it’s not necessary? I feel it is quite strange when such questions are being asked. Art is a foundation of joy, of value. It is like a big reservoir within us, and who else should deal with such inner moments if not the artists? They are as necessary as the writers, philosophers, musicians, etc. It is a basic human need to live a spiritual life.

What about art which is not easily accepted by the general public? What about aggressive forms of Art? Even more how do you judge it?
Sometimes, it is only possible to awaken the mind with a shock. For instance when I see Lanyi’s videos I nearly always feel frozen, his work very often has an enormous power of truth. And by all means his films have a high professional standard and format.
Through extraordinary phenomena this artist attacks and pinpoints problems like the daily brutality which exists everywhere. He is able to give his authentic statement about what touches his feelings when experiencing the real world. Even with his presentation of real-life violence, most people do not want to face it as a reality and prefer to keep it out of their minds. In his very direct approach he confronts them with this power of truth.

Is it possible to teach and work on your own art-projects simultaneously? How do you manage this?
Generally speaking it is a question of time and energy. I have experienced that difficult situations can produce creative ideas and results. The challenge is not to only to contemplate about the future but to cope actively with risks and to go beyond your own limits, breaking habits and discovering new facets of the world and your personality. This is very much a part of my own life experience and my way of artistic expression. It is also an important aspect of my teaching through example.

Do you have or have you ever had any idols in your personal and professional Life?
I have never had an idol. Whenever something attracted me, it was more like a temporary love-affair but never to the point of desire to imitate. The essential question is: are you are ready to express yourself in your own way. This attitude prevents you to do a certain work of art similar to what somebody else already has done.

What inspires you? If you could shortly describe the process of your work as an artist.
Three points are important for my work: to remember one’s own roots, to create subjective reality, and to reflect it with respect to what other artists have already achieved. You do not have to be a discoverer of the roots. They exist. In the sciences we know the discoverers of fundamental knowledge: Copernicus, Galileo, Faraday, or Einstein, just to have a few. They founded fundamental theories and everyone can build on them. It is the same in art history. Think to the early drawings in the caves of Chauvet andLascaux in France, the old Egyptian architects and their pyramids, Greek sculpture. Let me also name some giants (just to name some few) of the art in the last two centuries: Cézanne, Picasso, Malewitsch, Brancusi, Magritte, Duchamp, Fontana, Beuys, Broothaers, Nam June Paik, Bill Viola and not forgetting the long list of film directors with outstanding creations of art movies which all have influenced deeply our “Bildbewusstsein”. In the theory of New Media: Walter Benjamin, Marshall McLuhan, Lev Manovich. So we are given the chance to stand on broad shoulders. You can learn fromwhat other creative people have done before but should never copy them. And still it can happen that you work on an art project and somebody somewhere is working on or has done a similar thing, because it is immanent to the structure of contemporary thinking. Therefore students must be familiar with their own heritage and then try to push things from there a little further through their own creativity. We should be discoverers of ourselves. It is a never-ending process. For me it was always exciting and a creative impetus, when I found something that made me stumble and made me think and open new possibilities.

I can remember your “Seismographic” exhibition in Kosice in 2005, which was based on similar principles as in your exhibition in Lublin, Poland in 1997. Do you want to continue with this “Mapping of the World” and work with aspects of continuity and discontinuity? Can you tell us more about your current Projects?
Mostly when I did the <Notations from … to …> I pointed my pencil to one point of the paper. In my following project I changed this form into a continuing line, with idea that it would later be usable as a score. So, on the way to the European Centre of Arts in Dresden, on the train from Prague, I actualised this idea by using an electronic tablet and in the end of the journey there was a line 55 metres long in my laptop. (see video attachment at the end). Then I converted this drawing into video and sent it to a friend who is a composer, asking him how this line would “sound” to him. Subsequently we are now working on a project to make a special composition by creating a music piece.  We try to achieve this by producing a special new software.
Very often, new ideas emerge from extending earlier ideas into other new forms of expression.
Another one of my projects is based on the movements of a conductor’s hand. I fixed a lamp on the conductor’s stick and took video-recordings from two different positions. Now it is my plan to transform the recordings by producing a sculpture formed by music; the title is <3D-rigent>.

Now since we all are connected with the Internet it is possible to produce almost any painting ever made in art history on the screen of your computer. Now we can see practically everything from everywhere.
Even as exciting the new media are, you cannot “see” everything. If you want to see the aura of the original you still must go to the gallery, face it with your eyes and let it enter into your mind.

Anna Tretter final question: What do you think about the future?
An open field. Go for it, young artist!

Riso Kitta studied with Anna Tretter from 2005 till 2010 in the department of Fine Arts, New Media, Technical University Kosice, Sk

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