Artist Alke Schmidt interviewed

This video from Britain says about itself:

Spill by Alke Schmidt and Della Rees in The Stone Space

3 Feb 2012

I went to my local community gallery, The Stone Space to look at a very refreshing and informative show “Spill” by Walthamstow-based artists Della Rees and Alke Schmidt. I wish to see more shows like this one, with pleasing aesthetics and good concept behind them as well.

Della and Alke are interested in exploring contemporary social and environmental issues and debates through the subversive nature of art‘s aesthetic dimension. In the works created for “Spill”, the artists have focused on the disastrous impacts caused by oil spills. Inspired by the contrast between the long-lasting nature of such events and the typically short-lived media attention, the artists map and document such ‘disappeared’ disasters using a very different aesthetic language from that used in news coverage. The result is a series of small-scale, intriguing and visually attractive pieces that draw the viewer in and invite reflection on very large-scale events. Show is on till 12.02.12.

From British daily The Morning Star:

Beauty and ambiguity

(Tuesday 16 December 2008)

INTERVIEW: Conceptual artist ALKE SCHMIDT reveals the logic behind her dramatic pictures.

If anyone’s a conceptual artist, Alke Schmidt is. When we meet in a café near Liverpool Street, she immediately starts explaining that her art practice is about marrying political content with aesthetics.

“There are these two components. I like things to be beautiful and I love making beautiful things. Then there’s the other side, that I have strong feelings about social justice, what pisses me off and what I want to comment on.”

Schmidt’s current exhibition is a series of collages using printed fabrics which reproduce idyllic scenes of natural beauty – a lush rain forest, a Chinese print of mountains and pine forests, a scene of the US countryside complete with lakes and elks.

But this beauty is both a cliché and “it may not be there to enjoy in reality,” says Schmidt.

“These stereotyped images of a better world are all around us, but it’s going down the pan.”

To subvert the cliché, Schmidt inserts greys, blacks and beiges, painting in the horror – a tar-extracting machine, crowds of belching factory chimneys, what used to be a tree now a long black charcoal finger.

“At the moment, I’m on a painting trip,” she says.

Schmidt has developed her ideas through a range of media and her digital photomontage series Camps (2004-5) focuses on Guantánamo and nazi death camps.

“I’m pleased with them. They look good, but I’m interested now in more subtle, more crafty work. I love textiles. Maybe I should have been a textile designer,” Schmidt laughs.

“There’s a good argument that we should be making images that are easily reproducible.

“But then I realised that I’m not a political activist, I’m an artist.

“I like making things, unique things, hand-made objects. There’s a vast overproduction of images, an overflow where images are wasted.

“I like the idea of someone going to a place to see something unique. We need sustainability to move beyond capitalism.”

As well as her work taking John Heartfield‘s anti-nazi photomontages forward, it resounds with the debates between German Marxists Herbert Marcuse and Walter Benjamin [see also here].

In the 1930s, Benjamin famously pinpointed modern art’s reproducibility and its uses in political struggle, while Marcuse, Alke explains, “was against art slavishly replicating the situation that it’s trying to critique.

“It should be bringing in the aesthetic element, but using it to create estrangement and thus distance.”

Schmidt’s current tactic is to seduce viewers with beauty, invite them to look and then to discover the ambiguities in that glory.

“One common denominator with the Signal show and previous shows Shrine and Wastescapes is the found object,” says Schmidt.

The last two used toxic consumer waste such as soft drinks cans and food packaging to construct improbably beautiful sculptures.

Facing public-sector cutbacks in her locality, Schmidt lined up bright turquoise rubbish bags with photos and gorgeously flamboyant floral embroidery to “open out our imaginations of how we might live. The people in Walthamstow loved it.

“But art’s not just about a specific story,” she adds.

“If it works, it can transcend that story. People look at Guerníca because it’s about war, not just about one village.”

Alke Schmidt’s work is showing at the Signal Gallery at 96a Curtain Road, London EC2A 3AA until December 20. Call (020) 7613 1550 for further information.

Theodor Adorno: here.

1 thought on “Artist Alke Schmidt interviewed

  1. Pingback: Donald Trump’s bookshop-attacking British fascist fans | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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