When I moved to Heidelberg in 2012, I discovered the Prinzhorn Collection museum, dedicated to art created by men and women with mental disorders. As other artists before me, I immediately felt the need to respond to the collection myself. The participatory piece extrem interessant is just one of several possibilities for me to react to this fantastic collection.
I invited people of different ages and professions to come and take a look at a selection of works from the Prinzhorn Collection, which had been commented upon by the French painter Jean Dubuffet when he visited the collection in 1950. In his list, Dubuffet evaluated the works he saw – usually in just a few words like “extremely interesting”, “pretty good” or even “mediocre”. The exhibition Dubuffets Liste reconstructed Dubuffet’s view of the collection as comprehensively as possible.
With all but one exception, the guests looked at the works in the museum in pairs; I captured each individual situation with the video camera.
extrem interessant shows the conversations that took place between these people. Each of them selected a reproduction of an artwork, so that there were always two images being discussed. The reproductions are not visible for the viewer. That is, only the response was documented.
For these conversations, a pool of 15 works from the collection was presented to the participants. It is a compact subgroup of the exhibition, containing works that Dubuffet definitely saw and assessed. Thus, his opinions could be compared to these responses.
In the dialogue setting, both speakers directly react to the images. They describe their personal impressions, taking a good deal of time with each piece, inspecting the images together, discovering more details as they go along, even bending over to look more closely. Words are often not enough, and gestures come to the rescue.
Because the participants only have copies to work with, they can touch the images and turn them this way and that, which they often do.
In a relaxed, yet concentrated manner, the dialogue partners reflect upon objects that remain beyond our reach, as viewers of the video. This is our challenge: to listen to the conversations and form our own images, which we can then compare to those in the (catalog of the) exhibition. There we can see how our assessment corresponds to Dubuffet’s way of seeing.