MARIA MANN

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE April 2011 issue.

 

Hallo and welcome to The Spheres. According to your biography, Maria Mann is a multifaceted artist residing in Germany. Do you believe that artists have to branch out in different areas in our time?

This is a time of over saturation. Also in the field of art – everything had already been done or exists in a form and the scene is overcrowded with artists and so called artists.
I think it’s important to build new connections, which means not to Diana Daia think only in old structures, but be open for mixing up things – concerning the field of work the same as the art itself.

Would you be interested in changing your location and move from to another country? Do you regard your work as close to your background and the people living in Hamburg, Munchen etc.?

Although I have been living in Germany – mostly Munich, where I was born, and Hamburg, where I live today – all my life and certainly am influenced by that, I don’t feel like I really belong to a certain place, city, country, society or anything. I always loved travelling and could imagine to live anywhere else on this beautiful earth, there are so many places that for me – for several reasons – seem to be much more livable than let’s say Germany. There are so many places I haven’t seen yet and would like to see! Primarily I prefer a natural surrounding with less people and a way of living, that goes back more to the simple roots. Very small things can make me happy and have a value for me, so I don’t need much. But anyway – wherever and however I live –, I always carry my “little universe” with me and that’s basically my home. You can even say, although I’m still part of this society, i always tried and try to look at all from a more external perspective to free myself as much as possible from all these human built systems, structures and influences. At the same time I look very deep into the inside to understand the inner truth behind all these surfaces.
I’m sure, that all the people on this planet mainly have the same inner fights and problems. I consider myself primarily as a human being of this planet and my work also relates to all the humans on the whole planet. So the answer to your question is: the background for my work is first and foremost my own little universe and planet earth with all living creatures on it.

While living in Berlin, I got caught up in the cultural and artistic turmoil, as so many things are happening there. On the one hand, Germany seems to offer both the space and means for artists nowadays, but on the other hand, most of this experience seems to center on a constant flux from gallery to pub, meeting fellow artists and so on. Do you think this setting is profitable for the creative process overall?

I think it’s a good setting as long as there is a healthy distance to the scene and a balance between such activities and making art.

Is the “artworld” more hermetic and restricted to small circles these days, while paradoxically claiming openmindness?

It’s always a balancing act between the acceptance in the “scenes” and your own position.
For example my way of doing art with its various expressions using different medias keeps me in touch with different scenes.
It’s funny, ’cause all scenes – including the art scene – have things in common and for sure not only the best things.
So trying to find a way of interaction, that strengthens my position on the market, as well as keeping my individuality as an artist.

How important is having a university degree in Arts for you, and by extension, in Germany to make your way through?

I think, today a university degree in arts is not the most important thing – degrees in common have not that importance anymore, if you ask me. Don’t understand me wrong, I think a good education only is useful and there’s also nothing wrong about a university degree, but in the end it’s just a piece of paper, that shows not much about your actual abilities and state of development. Most important is your personality, what you do, your own experiences, development and work. All that speaks for itself. The degree is the cherry on the cake. People go to school and then to university and after some years of study, they have to get along with the tools they’ve learned in “real life” and then they realize, that this isn’t easy at all and that learning never stops with getting a degree – actually then at the latest it really starts! I see big firms today, that don’t give much on a university degree, much more important for them are your actual personal abilities, mental flexibility, creativity and your practical work. Of course you can collect a lot of experiences and learn much by a university study, but there are also many other ways – and there have to be other ways.
As an artist for first and all life long you have to be open, interested and active and think with your own head, feel with your own heart and soul, be your own teacher, try out things and experiment and learn as much as you can. I have experienced and learned a lot of very different things in my life – also at university –, but I consider all equally. This made me what I am today and my inner growth process never stops. There’s never a recipe how to become this or that and be successful – anyway, success for everybody is something different and everybody has different aims in life. You always must find out what you really want by yourself, make your own decisions and go your own way.

Your photographic body of work centers on self–portraiture. Why have you chosen to have yourself as a model in the photos?

All started, when I got an instant camera in my hands in 1997. I was curious and it was the first natural desire and activity for me, to explore and express myself by photographing myself. I still have these very strong photos.
Later then I wanted to expand and concentrate more on the part in front of the camera, so I started several collaborations with photographers. I’ve had some very intensive collaborations over many years and still sometimes work together with other artists like Lilya Corneli. But I never stopped self–portraiture and today even mainly focus on it for several reasons. It needs experience and sure instinct, because it’s a double challenge and i have developed my technical methods that work. But sometimes i just wish to be able to clone myself, so i can be in front and behind the camera at the same time!

How does the position differ from being behind the camera to posing in front of it? Are you comfortable with both those perspectives?

Yes, I’m comfortable with both. Photography always has been an important medium for me. For many years i did analogue photography, which i still very much appreciate, but today I’m primary using digital imaging and post processing.

Could we still talk about a critical distance between artist and artwork, when one is also part of the setting/ concept?

Critical distance and reflection are very important for the creative process and result. For me it makes no difference, if I’m the object or anybody/ anything else – the major focus is on the artwork itself and what it needs.

One of your interesting collaborations was with costume designer Annemarie Bulla, for whom you did a photostories with yourself and puppets. Why the interest in puppets for this series? Were you trying to draw some parallels between models/humans and inanimate objects?

The puppet theme and puppets are important for my art in several ways. During my study I also did stop–motion– fim with puppets, I love puppets and creating puppets by myself. I relate much to puppets and can transport my feelings with them. Especially with the marionette. The marionette is controlled by the puppet player, I’m guided by my intuition/creative will. Anet Strusinski alias Anima Pompon (www.animapompon.com) from Zurich, Switzerland made the woolen puppets.
She won a price with her The Winston Dandy Family and got the possibility to exhibit them in Zurich. She asked me, if I would like to do a photo series with them to exhibit together with the puppets. I was delighted and so the puppets travelled to Hamburg and i had a great time, creating a little photo–story with them and myself in it.
Annemarie Bulla is another costume designer I worked with on several projects. Mainly as a model, makeup artist and photographer for her dresses like Die Harpyie – a female demon birdlike creature in a “raisorblade– dress”, or her last project Die abjekte Mutter, which thematises disgust and the role of the woman as a mother. She created an extraordinary dress with latex.
I also worked with: The unique spats by Maide (www.maidestreasuries.blogspot.com), Hats by Topsy Turvy Design (www. topsyturvydesign.com), A mask by Tanith Hicks / Symphony of Shadows (www.symphonyofshadows.com)

Art for you also means to create “something out of nothing, while at the same time you seem to relate to past eras through your work, both aesthetically and conceptually. In a sense, this could be considered bricolage, do you believe we could talk about this ex nihilo state in the post–modern era that we live in?

“To create something out of nothing ” just describes my intuitive way of creative working. Actually I’m not so much a conceptual artist, usually my ideas are not completely finished in my head before. I have a vision, an idea, a thought, a feeling, a song or something else that inspires me – I have a direction. Of course I also plan, arrange and prepare to a certain necessary degree, but mainly I intuitively follow this direction and try to transform the intensity of my vision into the chosen medium. My strong point is my intuition, it’s an important part of my creative process to play, to try and improvise, to see what happens and what works for the picture in which way. It’s exciting and i love to free myself and look at the world around me “without knowing and categorising” the things I see – and use them in a maybe unusual and unexpected way. It’s like looking with a third eye or through the things.

You argue that “Life is art and art is life”, which, in turn, erases the boundaries between reality and fiction, artwork and artist. Is it easier to adopt this stand nowadays than some years ago?

I think art always is a twilight zone between reality and fiction with a boarder that is relative. All that you can imagine is possible in a philosophical way.
I always tried and try to find out and trust my own feelings and thoughts and follow this truth. I’m a very sensitive and intuitive person. It’s the same part of my life and my art. I don’t make a difference, it’s a whole philosophy of natural creative being, living and growing.

You are also a model for other photographers, how does a collaboration usually develop? Are the artists persons you already know and have some former information on their background and approach?

In general collaborations of any kind can come up in different ways – mostly through internet or “real life”. It’s quite easy… if someone finds someone’s work interesting, they get in contact and if there’s a common ground and all fits, a project can be planned and started. I love to work with people I have already successfully worked together with, which I know and appreciate for their being and work. It’s great to have a long grown artistic relationship, where you understand each other and act like one, where you enrich and complete each other – without many words. But in the same way I’m always curious and open for new people and experiences.

You described yourself as not being “just a model”, do you also get involved in the conceptual part of a photoshoot? How flexible are the collaborations and who brings what in the work?

There is no common rule in my collaborations. Mostly they have been 50/50 regarding ideas and realisation. It’s like we look into a certain direction together and try to get there.

Although I am not a fan of the term “alternative”, there seems to be a growing “alternative model”/photography scene in Germany. Are there any artists/models you would like to work with?

I have always been interested in what’s going on and watched the world around me and what others do. Until today this so called “alternative photography scene” or however to call it has grown a lot. Basically i see it positive, cause in this age of industry and globalisation, many people are on the search for sense and for themselves and try out creative things to express their individualities. Art is perfect for that and everybody can do it. I think as long as some of us have such a desire, there is still a healthy tendency in this society. On the other hand, also in this “scene” I see critical points like superficiality and arbitrariness.
I’m always open to work with and for other artists, if there’s a common ground, a certain quality and professionalism.

Some of your photos also play with fetishist elements. Would you expand to more fetish orientated visual art as well?

What is fetish? It’s just a specific preference and passion. Sensuality and eroticism are always part of my art. I’m a butterfly that likes to fly everywhere. For some time I tried out a lot in the fetish direction, but for sureit won’t expand especially the fetish orientated visual art.
I just pick out things from everywhere, that I need to express myself.

What are your thoughts on nudity in both performance and photography nowadays? Overused or should it be used more?

I think the answer is quite easy: What you need to show to display your certain individual imagination and vision, you need to show. It’s always the choice of the artist, how to make the message/impression of the art the “right way”. First there should always be the question, what the art needs.
If the message needs nudity, then there should be nudity. If not, then no nudity. It’s the same with all other questions how to formulate or present a message/impression. And it’s always the decision of the artist, how to formulate his art.
Regarding me: It never was easy for me to be naked in front of other people, cause I’m quite shy, but when i felt, that the art needed nudity, it was ok for me. You can’t say use more or less nudity – for example, when a painter decides to paint a picture, then you also can’t tell him to paint people with or without clothes or to use more or less blue colour, but more red – it’s his vision and he chooses the tools and ways to display it.

What I found interesting is that you are also a make–up artist. When did you become interested in that field? I always loved to draw and paint. Make–Up is nothing but painting the face and/or body to complete an artistic work as a whole.

The use of Make–Up was very natural for me and it has always been part of my artistic expression.
I have made some practical experiences in theater and since then I’m always learning and experimenting.

Make–up also implies creating masks and personas. Do you believe one’s own individuality is erased through the process or is it just a revealing other facets of the spectrum?

Make–Up is a very strong medium, that makes nearly everything possible. The question is, how and for which purpose you use it.
I always try to work out, how it could emphasise my artistic vision. I love using Make–Up and it’s a very important part of my self–portrayal and photography. I use it to accent certain parts of my personality, my feelings or my thoughts, as well as to explore new or different facettes. Who am I and what could I be? I’m always changing and growing. This is the nature of life itself.
I call my photos just “Face(tte)s of Maria”. It’s like a puzzle: All these parts – the different and contrary they might appear! – considered in their entire shape a picture of myself. The same, when I portrait other people: What do I see in this person? I try to make inner aspects visible and play with personality and roles. This enriches as well the artistic process as the personal development.

You are also a part of the audio–visual project Lady Bloody Mary together with Marco Reinbold. What is the concept behind that and what made you choose this name for it?

Lady Bloody Mary is the audiovisual project of Marco Reinbold. I joined it in 2005, cause we were on the same wavelength and just fit together – in our vision as well as personally, we have been a couple for three years. It was a fundamental artistic collaboration. Marco did the music and I did Performance and all visual things, but we always worked together very close to bring our visions alive by transforming it with different medias – music, performance, artwork, photography and film. Our experimental shortfilm Unzweins has been nominated at several short film festivals. Mainly our topic was the decline of a fragile individual, that suffers and breaks because of inner/outer conflicts.

Lady Bloody Mary is a duo and, in many ways, two persons seem fitting for this project. What are you planning for future performances and releases?

Lady Bloody Mary is Marco Reinbold. We walked together for some years and presented two albums together. For two years now the project in this form is standing still – for the reason, that we always did everything by ourself, put much lifeblood, effort, time and money in it, never had any support and somehow lost our energy on the way and more and more concentrated on other aims. Lady Bloody Mary is still existing and Marco is still active, but we both have changed and I’m sure, today we would do something new and different. Actually I’m not sure, if and how I will appear in this project again in future. But Marco and I are still artistically connected, so let’s see what happens next!

How about your personal work, any projects in development at the moment?

I’m always active in a creative way and work on different kind of art. My fields are drawing/painting/illustration, photography/digital art, design, (trick)film, objects (puppets/accessoires/ costumes/requisites/stages), styling/make–up, performance and writing.
Mostly I’m working on new (self)portraits, doing commissioned work and searching for possibilities to publish, exhibit and sell my work.
In addition I’m working as a freelancer in the areas of design and journalism/ editorial/word/language.
The next big scheme will be my diploma project to finish my study at the University Of Applied Sciences in Hamburg (HAW / Department Design).

Artwork: Maria Mann. White Pain, Self-portrait. Courtesy of the artist

questions by Diana Daia

Full article here.