During our conversation with Norbert Bisky one thing becomes obvious rather quickly: In his opinion, art has nothing to do with elitism. Everybody could become an artist if he just wanted to. In this context Bisky doesn’t think much of common cultural activities.
“You can find those questionable processes everywhere which hinder people to participate in something and especially in arts. You got talent? This is a senseless question because you don’t need talent for arts. You don’t need it but it could actually harm you.” And later during the interview: “There is no such thing as talent. That’s one of the myths which came up to hinder people to participate in something.”
Obviously these views makes him a very interesting conversation partner. He is a painter and considered an important contemporary artist of Germany. At the end of the last year we went to visit him in his studio in Berlin and we asked him how he got into art and why he kept doing it.
“If you just do it – if you think about it, reflect but also just do it for a long time, then you will reach automatically a point where you get results that bring you very close to what you intended to do. And when I realize that I reached a point that I had been envisioning for years it makes me really happy. That’s one thing and the other one is trivial: When I concentrate and I follow a thing with my head, with my hands, with my whole body for a certain time, when I’m very focused on something, then I feel at this moment very connected with the world and unified with everything. At the same time I can tell what prevents it. For example technology is a tremendous problem now, because there are huge innovations, but people don’t know how to handle them leading to a lack of focus. Decisions get delayed, options left open.”
Further we figured out why plan B is a bad idea …
“I think I used to be more desperate, aggressive, and lonely than other people. And I didn’t have a second pillar. I consciously avoided to think into this direction. I don’t know if it’s the same situation nowadays but the weird thing in the nineties at the academy of arts was that everything was about that second pillar. And everybody who used to care about it started to lean on this second pillar. It’s very simple: when you have an alternative way, which is more comfortable to reach you will use it.”
… on the contrary mistakes are more essential …
“Actually mistakes are the best thing that can happen to you. Things that go wrong, fail the first time or show me that I cannot keep on going in the same way, are very essential in the long term even though it can be a tough experience. (…) There aren’t less [mistakes] but more. That has something to do with me. At one point I decided that I want to stay agile, stay lively, that I want to change myself continuously and that I don’t want to know what I will be doing in two years. I see this entire thing like a journey, like an adventure. I know however that I will create paintings until the end but I don’t know what they will look like.”
… why artists don’t have to be unhappy or hungry so that they can work …
“A lot of the stuff you hear about artists is just nonsense. One example is that artists have to be unhappy in order to be productive. The contrary is the truth: When they are unhappy they cannot work,; the same applies to them being hungry. I don’t know even one example where this is true. Maybe there are some writers who made hunger tests. But the really important works of literature and also painting were realized by people who had something to eat and even more than just this.”
… and that there are a lot of things that business can learn from artists, especially thinking without fear and acting with a sense of responsibility …
“I believe that we all live in a culture of fear and insurance, although there is no existential threat in Germany. It doesn’t make any sense to be afraid here all the time. The point is not about acting hazardously but rather not putting any boundaries to thinking; it is important to be without fear in thinking and not to accept every limitation or taboo. In my opinion it’s crucial also to talk to people you don’t talk with normally because this will help you to get new thoughts. (…) Perhaps it could also help not to just look for new things but also for what exists and what existed but got lost. For me it’s stupid when we think we are new or that we invent something totally new. We have existed for thousands and thousands of years, everything is there and we just have to revert back to it. Another point is the way of handling conflicts and communication. Conflicts need to get solved faster because they can destroy creative processes. This would also be a prerequisite for raising the sensibility of people to sharpen their senses. Neuroscience confirms this. If people stood here in the studio in front of a canvas for two days, holding a paint brush and painting pictures, their brain structure would already change. After two days already; this is a potential that can be leveraged.”
You can read the whole interview with Norbert Bisky here. (German only)
Picture source: Copyright: VG Bild Kunst Bonn / Courtesy: The Artist