They say you can tell a lot about a person by digging through their purse, though these days, you might check out their personal website instead.
Well, I’ve peeked into Beni Bischof’s pocketbook and I find he is, for the most part, a modern-day Richard Hamilton on Quaaludes. Try and navigate his artist website. I dare you.
As I researched Bischof’s work, I admit it was difficult to stifle a few giggles while looking around. Still, it’s refreshing to see an artist such as Bischof throw caution to the wind and indulge in the musings many of us choose to keep hidden. His pieces are whimsical and, at times, disturbing: Persian Kitty Hitler collage, or weightlifting Iron Men in army helicopters. Bischof takes our reality and folds it into visual origami. The original images, and our associations with them, can no longer really be separated from their new modified identity.
A man of many mediums, Beni Bischof recently showed at the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, and he regularly prints a personal zine of his most recent work, entitled Lasermagazin.
I sat down with Beni Bischof and picked his brain about art, culture and his latest creative endeavors.
When do you think you began your path of creation, and where has it led you up until now?
I have been drawing and painting for ages. There was always feedback when I showed something. People who motivated me -idols I had- I gave everything I had for making art.
I always tried to make art that is surprising. I’m still trying it today. I have had lots of shows in the last 2 years. At the moment, I’m trying to slow down for a few months.
At the moment, my art is my daily bread. I also have to earn money with my art, ‘cause I do nothing else to raise money. That’s dangerous – but also existential. Wondering where it’s going in the coming years…
If you could give it a name, what would you call this creative space within you that produces these pieces, and why?
It’s just a must-do; I have to produce works. Always doing something with my hands. The everyday-life is boring enough. Art is a possibility to escape.
A name? Maybe it’s “the wolf inside me” or …
What does this “space” crave, in your opinion?
It requests expression of the inner. It craves attention.
Let’s talk about your series Meta- Fingers (2009) for a minute. It’s already bizarre enough to see meta fashion prints in the unforgiving light of a point-and-shoot, but can you explain these occasionally phallic shapes- be it fingers or wieners- suggestively poking out from these photographs?
I don’t like when people only see genitals in it. They are only fingers. Don’t forget. Perverse viewers 😉 This work came to me when I was in a plane flying to Berlin. I had no pen and no paper, but I had my camera and my fingers, so I put my fingers through a cheap plane-magazine ad. I was fascinated that I had a good work in a few seconds…. I made the wieners series because I often work in my kitchen. Of course, there is a refrigerator. Inside are wieners. So I took them and appropriated the ads in the magazines.
Sometimes I feel as though your works are telling me the joke to break the ice and get better acquainted. Do you make art to amuse yourself? Or, is there a specific audience you try to reach out to?
First, I like jokes. The world of jokes is definitely underestimated. I’m interested in that fact. I also use jokes to get more viewers, but it’s only the surface.
There also seems to be a darker side to your work as well. Some of your installations, like the Dumm Schauen und Kekse Fressen (2010), resemble museum retrospectives, where in this case, compacted images are set upon a bed of what looks like a jellied substance. I feel I’m examining your brain, looking at this wall. What’s your desired effect, here? Where is this coming from?
You mean the wall with lots of different works on it? Yes, it’s how I work and what I like: a mix of fun, politics, pop, punk, etc… I take everything around me and try to mark it with different materials like oils, stickers, plastilin, etc… I like hanging lots of works on a wall. I like that absurd overdose and that anti-selection. It often happens accidentally and at the end you can recognize new relations between single works. New golden threads. My works together are more intelligent than I am. And yes, I have a darker side. It’s very important for me. The jazzy expression is only the tip of the iceberg. The nice look is the Trojan horse that gets into the viewer’s brains to unfold its real essence. An important motivation for making art is to channel my anger over specific stupid facts on earth.
It seems you feel comfortable working with many different materials. Any one in particular you feel most allows you free expression, or that you just enjoy in general?
I very much like drawing. It gives you so many possibilities. You need nothing more than a sheet of paper and a pen. I like that easy approach. Painting lies at the heart. It’s just a good feeling being lonely just with your canvas and a brush. When I’m working in my studio I like working on different projects at the same time. They affect one another. I like that busy mood.
THE GROUND ISSUE #2