W. Tillmans: Well, I realise that. But what I’d like to know is what photography does for you in concrete terms…

I. Genzken: I think that photography has a lot to do with sculpture – because it is three-dimensional and because it depicts reality. For example, I have always been able to relate to photography more than to painting. When I was photographing the hi-fi adverts I thought to myself, everyone has one of these towers at home. It’s the latest thing, the most modern equipment available. So a sculpture must be at least as modern and must stand up to it. Then I hung the pictures on the wall and put an ellipsoid on the floor and thought, the ellipsoid must be at least as good as this advert. At least as good. That’s how good a modern sculpture has to be. Do you see what I mean? That was the dialogue…

W. Tillmans: So, really, the real world is always your point of reference…

I. Genzken: Yes, and I have always said that, with any sculpture, you have to be able to say, although this is not a ready-made, it could be one. That’s what a sculpture has to look like. It must have a certain relation to reality. I mean, not airy-fairy, let alone fabricated, so aloof and polite.

W. Tillmans: So it’s not simply pure will that induces you to juxtapose forms with the real world. The Empire State Building, for instance, acts as a kind of benchmark, a yardstick.

I. Genzken: Precisely. And I don’t see this aspect in many artists’ work. Often, my feeling is that they think something up that is supposed to be art. That’s not what I want at all. Rather, a sculpture is really a photo – although it can be shifted, it must still always have an aspect that reality has too.

W. Tillmans: That’s what I like about the medium of photography as well. That it has a certain economy. That it is unobtrusive and unpretentious. You could put a pair of jeans above a doorpost and put it all somewhere in all it’s 3D glory. But I find it much easier to photograph it. As a gesture, it is somehow less pompous. Because the photo creates a kind of universality or accessibility.

I. Genzken: Something that bothers me with some of my students is that their works are so cold towards the viewer. I have always told the students that they have to imagine how the viewer sees something, too. You’ve got to put yourself in the viewer’s shoes when you do something. That’s important to me. It may be complicated, but it’s important to me. Otherwise I find it too cold or too arrogant.

W. Tillmans: In the sense that I can do something you can’t?

I. Genzken: Precisely.

W. Tillmans: So in that respect, you also see the photo as an economic means of conveying something that exists and that interests you?
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A text by Benjamin H. D. Buchloh l A conversation with Wolfgang Tillmans
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