DüSSELDORF WEEK continues here at CHEAP & PLASTIQUE Headquarters (still very very very excited about the announcement of the 8 Kraftwerk shows at MOMA in April—and I shall persevere in getting tickets, OH YES I will)!
Also equally excited to be showing the work of Düsseldorf-based artist Rivkah Young (which arrived from Germany today!) at the Cheap & Plastique booth at the upcoming Fountain Art Fair during Armory Arts Week in NYC, March 9 — 11.
Cheap & Plastique interviewed Rivkah for Issue 7 back in 2008. Since the interview a few things have changed, Rivkah has ventured to New York, we met, sipped red wine and ate delicious steaks together on a rooftop in Brooklyn, and had some nice chats about photography and life.
C & P: Where are you currently living?
Rivkah: Düsseldorf, Germany
C & P: Where did you grow up?
Rivkah: Cologne, Germany
C & P: Were you a creative youth? Did you imagine that you would be an artist/photographer in adulthood?
Rivkah: Yes, sort of.
C & P: How long have you been taking and exhibiting photographs?
Rivkah: I started using a SLR about 12 years ago. My first exhibition was in 1999, as part of an annual university-exhibition at the Zeche Zollverein in Essen, Germany. My first group exhibition at a gallery was in 2001, at the Galerie Lichtblick in Cologne, Germany.
C & P: What do you like most about living in Düsseldorf?
Rivkah: The Kuenstlerkarte, it’s a card for artists, which enables free admission for museums in Düsseldorf.
C & P: Least?
Rivkah: Miserable bikeways, cab drivers and karneval.
C & P: It is a city that has produced many great photographers. Does being in Düsseldorf inspire your work?
C & P: How do you feel about the legend of Bernd and Hilla Becher?
Rivkah: I most appreciate that they never gave up.
C & P: Has the Becher’s, or any of the Becher’s student’s, work influenced you?
Rivkah: Not in first case. Joerg Sasse influenced me. He used to be my teacher/professor at the university.
C & P: Where did you study photography?
Rivkah: No I studied Communication Design at the University of Essen-Duisburg in Essen, Germany. (Prof. Joerg Sasse left the University last year.)
C & P: Has anyone that you have studied with influenced your photographic style or your personal philosophy?
Rivkah: I could never stand any form of educational institution, they kind of bored me. I ditched school as well as the university always up to the limit. I already preferred to watch Tarantula or The Wizard of Oz during my elementary schooling.
Nevertheless I did learn a lot at the university, because I was surrounded by very professional people. I met the artist Wolfgang Zurborn, a photographer from Cologne, before I started to study. We were cruisin’ around and had very interesting discussions about photography and art. At the university I first studied with Prof. Bernhard Prinz, a portrait-artist from Hamburg. In addition I had discourses about contemporary art and photography with Prof. Dr. Herta Wolf. During my main study period, I worked intensely with Prof. Joerg Sasse. He was a great teacher and I received my diploma as he finished his last professorship semester at the university; we left the university together. I think they all influenced my photographic style, not my personal philosophy. The most important thing about them was that they made me feel confident, personally, as well as an artist. They never told me what to do, but always made me scrutinize my decisions.
And finally my friend Peter Wildanger. I met him during his final study period. I’m sure, that he has influenced and pushed me the most, and he still does.
C & P: You most often shoot architectural structures/interiors, as do many German photographers, do you think there is a reason why so many contemporary photographers are drawn to this subject matter in their work?
Rivkah: Architectural structures exhibit tracks of visions, contemporaneity, history, transitoriness and change. It is interesting to observe, which materials were used in a certain period. How does this material look after some years? After 10-15 years? Which vision of future was interpreted architecturally? What connection do urbane architecture and film scenery have? Is there one? These are exciting questions which I deliberate on. I’m interested in architectural scenery, in urban areas as well as in leisure facilities. Thinking back to the 80s, there were these cosmos themes at leisure parks: rockets, martians or space stations, and they are all gone today.
C & P: I noticed that the titles of your images are numbers. What do the numbers in your titles refer to, if anything?
Rivkah: They avoid prescribed interpretations.
C & P: Do you shoot with a digital SLR camera or with a film camera?
Rivkah: I shoot with a digital SLR.
C & P: Do you use the computer as a tool when creating your photographs?
Rivkah: Yes. The taken picture is a sketch, an idea. Similar to paintings, one could compare it to a pre-drawing on a canvas. I have a quite exact idea of how the pictures should look, the colours and the composition. The motives of my images relate to uncertain visual ideas, fragments from my recollection of movies, magazines, or picture sequences, which originate while I’m reading. All of this is mixed together in my imagination. That is what I try to gain and therefore I’m using digital tools.
C & P: The color in your images is often very saturated, do you manipulate or enhance the color in the darkroom or on the computer?
Rivkah: I prefer to take pictures at noon, with a blue sky, sunlight, lots of pretty clouds and saturated colours.
C & P: Also, most of your pictures are people-free, which makes them feel somewhat artificial, a bit like abandoned movie sets, do you use any Photoshop tools to remove people from the pictures? Do you deliberately strive for a feeling of artificiality when composing shots and choosing subject matter?
Rivkah: I like the moment of rest and factitiousnes arising from it. I prefer scenery where many people pass or sojourn, transferring these to discrete rooms. The displayed scenery appears as deserted, abstract rooms with no dimension. Separated from the concrete relation to their environment, the architectural constructedness becomes visible.
C & P: Do you feel that there is a lot of new, interesting photographic work being created in Germany right now? How about artwork in other mediums?
Rivkah: There are many things going on at Düsseldorf. There is the Kunstakademie on one hand, quite present and successful. On the other hand there are exciting art projects, for example the Das Boehm project, an artistic photo magazine from Katja Struke and Oliver Sieber. Then there is the municipal culture office of Düsseldorf, which promotes different artists and art intensely: cheap studios, exhibitions, projects, and the Kuenstlerkarte, all promoted by the town. This is unique, I think. Nevertheless, Düsseldorf is a small town and that may be the reason why many artist move to Berlin, London, or other big cities. I may move to Berlin next year too…
C & P: Do you shoot in Düsseldorf or do you usually travel elsewhere to capture your images?
Rivkah: I prefer to travel.
C & P: How do you scout out locations for your future photo series? Do you research places to go on the internet? Do people tell you about places that you may find of interest? Or do you randomly travel somewhere with the hope of finding something interesting to shoot there?
Rivkah: I do research for buildings on the internet, in newspapers, magazines, or movies. Mostly when I have a certain idea in mind. Sometimes somebody tells me about a location, but this happens much too infrequently. In addition, I like to choose a place or a city, travel there and wander (dérive) around with my camera. Preferably I like the combination of a researched location as a starting point to wander around.
C & P: What is your favorite architectural movement/style?
Rivkah: My favorite architectural movement and style is the period of the Bauhaus. I would move to one of the Meisterhaeuser in Dessau immediately.
Beyond that, concerning my photographs, all that has no ornaments and was built after the 19th century, inspires me. The architecture of the post-war period is quite interesting: the Hansa-Viertel and the Gropiusstadt in Berlin or single buildings like the Evoluon in Eindhoven, Netherlands. There is also a kind of affinity to the socialist style. As a child, me and my family used to travel to former Yugoslavia every summer to visit my family. Therefore, I like Berlin and feel confident when I’m there, because all of these different styles are located there. This is indeed unique. It is a pleasure to take photos in Berlin and to explore the town. Although Berlin is full of life and creativity, I know no other German town with as much construction, gaps, and margin holes, Berlin is somehow like a gigantic memorial too.
C & P: Do you have a day job or are you a full time photographer?
Rivkah: Currently, I’m working for a local press photographer. It’s funny, because this is the complete opposite of my workflow. I work really slow and it takes a long time until I can finally say I finished an image.
C & P: Do you have an art studio or a space that you dedicate to your photographic practice?
Rivkah: My whole flat is my studio. There are images scattered around, not even one is pinned on the wall.
C & P: Do you ever take on commercial photography projects?
Rivkah: No, hardly ever.
C & P: Do you have any interest in making images in the US?
Rivkah: Yes, of course. My favorites: New York, Las Vegas, Boston, Miami, Arcosanti and Celebration. Hope to travel there soon.
C & P: What artists do you admire? Past? Contemporary?
Rivkah: Past: Henry Matisse and Claude Monet. One of his paintings made me cry from the beauty and all of the colours while I was visiting the exhibition Bonjour Russland in Düsseldorf. And Eugène Atget for his huge documentation of a changing Paris.
Contemporary: Cindy Sherman, Stephen Shore, Gerhard Richter’s Betty and Damien Hirst. Mary J. Blige, Kraftwerk and Madonna.
C & P: Is there an art historical movement that you relate to or wish you had been part of?
Rivkah: No, not really.
C & P: What people / places / things inspire you?
Rivkah: Peter Wildanger. Urban surroundings, summer time, reading books, watching science-fiction movies and going to the museum.
C & P: What could you imagine doing, if you didn’t do what you do?
Rivkah: I would be Alexandra Owens from Flashdance.
C & P: Where can we see your portfolio website?