“Ideally, sparks will fly.“ Norbert Pümpel is currently exhibiting in Feldkirch
“16 Fotos, 2 Objekte und eine Skizze“: With Norbert Pümpel, foryouandyourcustomers Feldkirch managed to get not only a regional talent but one of the most renowned artists in Austria on board for the 38th exhibition. The exhibition was opened in mid November; unfortunately there was no official vernissage due to the coronavirus pandemic.
foryouandyourcustomers: Norbert Pümpel. At foryouandyourcustomers, it is traditional for an exhibition to be opened with a vernissage. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic prevented this event in Feldkirch. How upset were you about it being cancelled?
Norbert Pümpel: I wasn’t happy about it, but in this unprecedented situation there was no other way. foryouandyourcustomers offers a great concept alongside the opening event that could become exemplary for future presentations of visual artists. My exhibition in Feldkirch will run for a whole year. Visitors have the opportunity to visit the exhibition after preregistering in accordance with coronavirus regulations. Perhaps this will offer the opportunity for a more intensive, accelerated form of discussion. In this sense I am trying to remain pragmatic and see the positives in this situation.
foryouandyourcustomers: Art is a part of our company culture and can be experienced at all our sites in the form of various exhibitions. This combination of art and workplace is particularly exciting for any artist exhibiting here in Feldkirch, where the staff have evident expertise in the area of design. Art and design – are there any areas where you feel these two disciplines overlap? I have the greatest respect for good design. From my point of view, in both areas it’s principally about aesthetics and audiences who want to be reached. One difference can perhaps be found in the nuances of readability. An artist can afford to risk a bit more, is allowed to formulate their work a bit more cryptically and is less oriented towards the usefulness or usability of their aesthetic creations than a user experience designer. Fundamentally, both disciplines strive towards a successful creation in terms of form – in different ways and with different tools.
“I think that it can be very constructive when companies give space to the irrationality of art alongside their daily productivity.“
foryouandyourcustomers: What importance do you generally attach to art in the workplace? I am convinced that having these interfaces between the different disciplines can always be fruitful. When disciplines collide, they need to be as different as possible, so that, ideally, sparks fly. I think that it can be very constructive when companies give space to the irrationality of art alongside their daily productivity. The aforementioned interface with normal life is an aspect that we artists sometimes lack. My studio work is a very individual and solitary form of working. That’s why such interfaces with the business world as here at foryouandyourcustomers are something very exciting.
Art is not made for the studio or for a lonely room; rather, it is made for a debate that takes place in society. And this is where normal life also functions – in an office, where employees, customers and visitors spend time. That’s where art meets life and the ideas of people who move in this environment every day – and when this results in leaps of thought and new ideas, then that’s positive in both directions.
Norbert Pümpel’s main piece at this exhibition: his model of reality.
foryouandyourcustomers: In the past, other artists have always emphasised that exhibiting in an office or creating works explicitly for the office in question is a great challenge. Of course, it is true that is fundamentally a rather difficult process. I myself once accepted a commission to make art for an office – and gave up after half a year. I must admit that I am immediately inhibited when I know I have to produce works for this or that company.
It was different in the case of foryouandyourcustomers. When the request came, I was in the process of printing current photos, which I wanted to exhibit, and these prints were perfectly suited to the office space in Feldkirch. In the end, all I had to do, together with curator Georg Peithner-Lichtenfels, was to decide where to hang the existing works and the result was a very uniform exhibition.
foryouandyourcustomers: The title of the exhibition, which translates as “16 photos, two objects and a sketch“ already gives it away: it is mainly photographs on display. To be more precise, they are photos of your own objects – art with your own art as the subject. How did you come up with this idea? In 2012, I started creating sculptures that I always reproduced myself for catalogues. While photographing the pieces, I discovered how I could stage them dramatically by experimenting with light. I began to create superelevated sculpture photography and in the course of that I ended up falling in love with what photography can do – namely reproduce surfaces. For the actual artwork, the object, it was always about relatively complex examinations of the substance. Conversely, photography is my attempt to make more superficial artworks, which alongside the formal image still transport significant aspects in terms of content and concept. Photography can only reproduce the light captured by the lens. This means it is a scan of the surface, of the form with light.
Focusing exclusively on forms has opened my eyes and it has become clear to me that the subject matter of visual art in general must always involve a preoccupation with formal content too. It is not the legend about the artwork that becomes the content, rather the coming together of colours and forms in a very personal way. I can thus engage with and rely upon the aesthetic of the piece. And it is this aesthetic, the sum of all sensual manifestations, that ultimately represents the work of art – not the sum of information about the artwork, but the sum of all the sensual information that I as the observer of the artwork receive.
“The artist holds a magnifying glass up to certain aspects of reality …“
foryouandyourcustomers: … that you as an artist can influence by choosing the perspective that you allow the observer to engage with through photography? Art is always about focusing on one particular form of reality. In the exhibition there is an object with the title Modell der Wirklichkeit (Model of Reality), and I actually claim that it is a model of reality. For this object I cut several small boards out of a very worn, old building board and nailed them together upright to form a cuboid. I worked on a block without it making any particular sense to the viewer on the surface. But what looks so random and simple is deliberate right to the core: the layers of the object do not expose anything, but conceal and say something about showing and concealing and thus about the limits of the perceptibility of reality.
“Art is not made for the studio or for a lonely room; rather, it is made for a debate that takes place in society.“
Or take the item titled Van Cleef & Arpels – Ofﬁcials say the Rohingya are being repatriated, but the evidence is thin, a 9- by 12-centimetre cube wrapped in newsprint from my Diaries series. This is where daily political events meet the superficiality of the consumer world: bad tidings and expressions of an ideal world in the same newspaper on the same day! I don’t need to write any more commentary on that. I just need to glue the sides together, on the flipside of the cube.
I am also concerned with the exemplary – the fact that one cannot completely grasp the whole of reality. It is always only partial aspects that I strive for as an artist.
foryouandyourcustomers: How do you define reality? My view of reality can only ever be this partial aspect. World appropriation in a holistic sense cannot be fulfilled because the universe is much more than the sum of our sensory perceptions. That is why it is possible for me to nail five old building boards together, smear them with tar and claim that this is a model of reality, because even a complex examination of this subject cannot achieve much more than precisely these five boards.
foryouandyourcustomers: How did you come up with the rather mundane exhibition title “16 Fotografien, 2 Skulpturen und 1 Skizze“? I wanted the title to refer quite pragmatically only to the number of pieces shown, because that is ultimately the same thing that photography does; it directs the gaze quite soberly only to what is there.
The Modell der Wirklichkeit as an object and prints.
foryouandyourcustomers: Why should people not miss your exhibition? I think that art always has something to do with experiencing the world, with making things visible, with a change of perspective, but also with irrationality, irritation and emotion.