Lines Fiction: Your drawings on paper, whether drafted in a sketchbook or worked out in an expansive installation, always refer to something that is elusive and in transition. Is this intellectual interspace the essential motive for your art work?
Nikolaus Gansterer: Yes, the fascination for the ephemeral and transitory runs through my entire artistic practice. In an extension of Paul Klee, you could say that I am not interested in drawing the visible, but rather in showing the invisible without mimetically depicting or illustrating a worldly (experience). Inevitably, one come up on the trail of the fleeting nature of meaning. Tangentially as well as tactilely, I am partly influenced by phenomenological and especially enactivist approaches. To get to the bottom of things and conditions, and to fathom the reason for their movement. There is always an unapproachable remainder. It must remain. It is basically the essential. But to activate it with artistic means, to animate it – therein lies my art.
Lines Fiction: The likeness of your drawings to graphs is very present in your moving images. You use chalk on blackboard, like Beuys formerly did, and your performative animations are less cryptic or didactic, but rather funny and lucid. Is absurdism and humor important to you as a path of knowledge?
Nikolaus Gansterer: Basically, everything started for me with drawing and self-observation. I often film myself from above. What am I doing when I do something? What is actually happening? Tracing the line in the process. Because suddenly it is not only located on the paper, but in the pen as well as in the fingertips, the hand, the shoulder, on the chair, in the ass, in the eye, in the ear and everywhere in the surrounding space. The surrounding world as ‘movens’, which always co-acts and thus in a certain way co-draws. Drawing the drawing. Not I draw, but it draws (me). That is also always a small but great balancing act. The act of drawing functions for me like an “opener” to dive into this vibrating network of countless connecting lines of a thing, a place, a situation, an atmosphere. I’m talking about this fluid mental state when drawing, but also the physically felt in-between space. To cut long story short, all this can be found in my artistic confrontation with inner processes, thought processes, perception processes. In the interplay between the development of meaning, form and translations into diagrammatic as well as performative formats. drawing for me is a thoroughly relational process. More inscription than description, more recording than drawing. The quest for notation plays an important role for me.
Visualizing? Well, that’s tricky – at least not in the re-presentative sense of “that’s how it is”. Drawing is a complex choreographic act of sense-making … (although non-sense is at least as important in it!). Subverting schools of thought and schemata is also important to me. Yes, there is playing with forms of the didactic, but pleasurably subversive, neither dogmatic nor instructive or even pseudo-shamanistic. Working with chalks contains the ephemeral in the medium itself and also reflects the blackboard as a place of communication and analogue store of knowledge. Humour is central for me in all the search for meaning and the sensual. On the one hand as a possibility to take a “short vacation” from oneself, so to speak, but also a critical distance to our so anthropocentric mode of being in the world. Recognition can come to you in very different ways. While reading a book, observing nature, encountering other creatures or in a good joke!
Lines Fiction: The performative aspect in your films, the audible writing with chalk on blackboard, the wet sponging off, and the slow drying process give allowance for in-depth contemplation. In addition, do you see your drawing on paper as an original work or do you merely view it as a medium to illustrate the process of thinking?
I experience my artworks more like communicating vessels. There is a lively exchange between the installations, the sketches and performances, my drawings, whether large or small, the animated films or even the writing of a text, animating each other. Each one is an artifact and document of a process. Everything around plays a part, belongs to it, influences it, per-forms it. this can be experienced directly in the video works and performances. And yes, my artworks can all be bought.