in Conversation with Janet Biggs
Berlin-based artist Erik Schmidt will come to the Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building to talk with New York-based Janet Biggs about some of his most recent film works, including:
The Downtown series shows views of New York's Occupy camp. During his stay in New York in 2011, Erik Schmidt experienced the start of the protest movement and had a direct view day after day of the occupation of Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. This is reflected in the unmediated gaze he turns on sleeping demonstrators, the colourful sight of the tent cities and on police interventions – all the while consciously undermining an aesthetic of spectacle. As in earlier works, Erik Schmidt explores the norms and rituals of marginalised social groups, immersing himself in them yet never really becoming part of them. The colours deployed seem to a large extent to dissolve and fragment as a result of the open painterly brushwork.
Bogged Down (2010)
In Bogged Down the artist moves through a series of highly atmospheric locations; new metaphors of his identity are revealed with each change of scene. The film switches abruptly from the introductory sequence of a party on the balcony of his flat in the big city, suddenly showing footage of an autumnal field, a Baroque landscaped park and an old spa resort. Individual motifs from the film also make an appearance in Erik Schmidt's paintings. Whilst the artist struggles through the thicket of a hedge in Bogged Down, in a series of paintings the dense structure of trees and bushes is overlaid upon the figures dotted around a park (statues, an equestrian monument, figures adorning a fountain), the contours blurring amidst the painterly brushwork. Various media – painting, film and photography – are deftly combined in his works.
Hunting Grounds (2005-2008)
In the film Hunting Grounds (2006) scenes of a parforce hunt are interlaced with scenes of an aristocratic dinner party at Wendlinghausen Castle in Teutoburg Forest. The artist, playing the lead role in the film, becomes entangled in the social ritual of the hunt, yet the question of whether he is the hunter or the hunted remains unresolved. Various narrative planes, together with topics such as the artist’s self-image, hunting instincts and paranoia, passion and fear of death, are superimposed one upon another. Parallel to shooting of the film, in 2005 Erik Schmidt began a cycle of paintings that highlight individual hunting motifs, and also comprise clear elements of self-staging. In these works, the sense of motion conveyed by the pointillist style, which fractures the pictorial surface into vigorous dots, serves as a counterpoint to the relative calm of the rural idyll. Hunting Grounds is the first in a trilogy of films shot in rural areas of Westphalia. The trilogy also includes Bogged Down (2010) and Gatecrasher (2010).
"In traffic, each driver is part of a whole, dependent upon the other's common sense, a mobile individual figure amongst the wind of exhaust fumes, the breath of the multitude. The only natural way to withdraw from this movement is to manoeuvre into a space designated for this purpose when you reach your destination or interrupt your journey. Sometimes people who have successfully parked a car are filled with an even greater sense of delight than drivers revelling in their high-quality vehicle and its impressive road-handling" (Dirk Skreber/Erik Schmidt).