I’m very excited that artist Klaus Schuster has agreed to answer a few questions about his work. You can see some of his work here, as well as the image above, entitled Business Class.
Schuster’s work employs the native qualities of CGI (sheen, control, precision) to redouble the signification of certain objects and locations. His practice is split in two but both halves centre around the photograph. He calls this split in his work ‘Dirty Hands/Clean Hands’.
On one ('dirty’) hand he works with traditional media on newspaper. He doodles on, obscures and defaces photographs found in tabloids, broadsheets, lifestyle magazines and porn. The majority of this work centres around the figure, with many of his subjects taking on the appearance of alienated, fetishized clowns and caricatures.
On the other ('clean’) hand he approaches photography from the rear, as it were: his 'self-organisation’ project also caricatures photography, yet these CGI images show objects removed from their world with scalpel-like precision. The objects are re-presented with a enhanced clarity that refers us back to the real objects and how we characterise our real relationship to them.
The myriad subjects that Schuster chooses to depict have much in common, but go to varying lengths in their exploration of how CGI might relate to photography.
The golden paper (entitled 'boot’ in german or 'start’ in English), reminiscent of carbon paper, would suggest that Schuster is engaging in a self-referential exploration of hyperrealism (the copy becomes the original?).
But this theme is taken further with the images of a the polished entrance to Christie’s Auctioneers, an American flag and the open door of the US President’s private jet, Air Force 1. It seems obvious that these subjects edge towards a critique of the hegemonic possibilities of photographic representation. However, most interesting for me is the image of a golden LP labelled 'The Sounds of Earth’ and subtitled 'United States of America, Planet Earth’. This reminds me of the controversial Pioneer plaque which was an image etched on a gold anodized aluminium plaque depicting a representation of humanity and it’s (his) location. To attempt to go boldly into a new universe with this culturally warped representation seems to me to be a farcically bombastic example of cultural imperialism. Far from being a 'call sign’ or a neutral representation of the world, the image expresses only the conditions of it’s own creation - a dirty representational hegemony.
Which is what I think the image of the the record does: the clean CG construction of the work uses clarity and sheen to disguise the dirty issues knotted into the taxonomical representation of objects. Schuster’s work boldly goes into a new space of image production, but reminds us that the dangerous possibilities of representation still cling to the image, in ever more stealthy forms. In the post-photographic world of the hyperreal, of manipulated photography, the real is liberated from its dependence on experience: the seductive perfection of the CG image allows signification to play an almost parasitic role: it hitches a ride and enters the viewer on a wave of clarity and gloss.
Given all that, here’s what Klaus had to say (he kept it simple!):
CGWTF: Your work is obviously quite diverse in terms of media, but there seems to be a split aesthetic in the main body of your work. As you put it in your website - 'dirty hands/clean hands’. Can you tell me a little more about how this split came about?
KS: 'Dirty hands/clean hands’ is the title for an exhibition I am having in Graz at the end of the year. You may know that it is a song title by Nick Cave, but is also relates to my different work practices of drawing and CG.
CGWTF: How do you think of your 'self-organisation’ project? Is it as sculpture, photography or painting? Or something different altogether?
KS: This project is mainly about images, and the basic idea for them comes from painting. There is an essay in English about “Self-Organisation” on my website, if you are interested to read more about it.
CGWTF: How did you become interested in CG images as art?
KS: I don’t remember really, it just happened…
CGWTF: Do you create the 3D models yourself? If not, what level of involvement do you have in the creation of your images?
KS: Yes, I make it all by myself.
CGWTF: How do you think your work is different to that of a CG artist?
KS: My work has overall a lot of references to painting and fine arts in general.
CGWTF: Do you think your work 'belongs’ to, or shares tendencies with, any current movement?
KS: No, I don’t think so.
CGWTF: What do you think might attract people to your CG work? (A difficult question, perhaps! Alternatively, what attracts *you* to the images?)
KS: I believe that it is the balancing act between reality and the artificial that interests people most.
CGWTF: Can you tell me a little about the image 'Business Class’?
KS: I was on a business class flight to New York and these leaflets were handed out, introducing the “new business class”. So actually the work should be called “new business class”…. Having come to think of it, I might change the title!
CGWTF: Where do you see your practice heading?
KS: I wish I knew… Next thing coming up is a three-month grant for Paris.
Many thanks to Klaus for his responses.