“Who has not asked himself at some time or other: am I a monster or is this what it means to be a person?” -Clarice Lispector
Self. Our most intimate relation and yet at times elusive. Living as we do, so locked within our own experience, we cannot say whether the experiences of those we live alongside align with ours. Who has not wondered, perhaps quite often, whether the things we feel, see, experience, are normal or unique? Even those who may seem vastly different from us, who come from faraway places and speak languages we do not understand, even they start from the basic premise of being human. It is this we all share. It is the notion that it is better to ask a question in a crowded room, however silly it may seem, because very likely it is a question on the minds of many others.
Stefan Römer has a specific idea when it comes to artist interviews. He thinks of them as an “imaginary facing of art history” a challenge that makes him a little nervous. Despite this intimidating game of Duchampian Chess, he spoke to us from Berlin about his life and work. Römer takes a broad view of work when it comes to his actions as an artist. Reading, for example, is to him part of the process. It is a way to feed his brain, ultimately gaining knowledge and potentially influencing his artistic work. Friends have struggled to see how something like reading could be work, a plight not unfamiliar to artists. Often others do not understand that the work of an artist is not only broad in scope, but also legitimately work. Reading, while for some a leisure activity, can indeed be a work endeavor for the artist. Presently Römer is working on a multimedia performance piece. The piece titled ReCoder centers around the idea of coding in our every day lives. The elements of the piece are leveled images and text. Römer visually references old sci-fi films and layers this with scraps from historical texts. The complex performance piece runs around 50 minutes long and features Römer himself as a sort of narrator. The story is about a woman (Reco) working in the New Media industry questioning whether her work makes sense and has meaning. This line of questioning is entirely relevant to artists and to the world at large especially as we continually redefine what constitutes the public sphere in our age of decreasing privacy. Römer‘s work questions how we can continue to critique what is going on around us in an increasingly coded age. Themes of identity, family, community, and of course art production in the context of the digital age are addressed. The performance is touring at present. To hear more about this and other upcoming work from Stefan Römer including a current book project, listen to the complete interview.
Nathaniel Popkin is the author of Everything is Borrowed, a novel releasing in June, 2018. The story imagines a stories from historical past, recent past, and present all taking place in the present day. Centered on the actions of an anarchist, the book examines in part how we sometimes seduce each other in to self-betrayal. Popkin’s story uses a disillusioned architect as a catalyst to the discovery of the story of the anarchist. He pulls from “the vast fabric” of Philadelphia, the city in which he lives and where the novel takes place. Prior to this novel, Popkin wrote three non-fiction books about the city of Philadelphia. His non-fiction books consistently examine the “hidden” city of Philadelphia. Popkin says he borrows fragments of people’s lives and places to help them stand up again. The theme of belief and the ways in which it can be blinding are also explored, particular in the story of the anarchist in his upcoming novel. In his own life, the spectacle of re-edification of the Torah throughout Jewish religious education heavily influences this theme. Popkin has long been tuned into concepts of otherness, immigration, foreignness, issues that are certainly coming to a head in our present sociopolitical culture but are also nothing new under the sun. To hear more about Nathaniel Popkin’s work and a deeper analysis of his upcoming novel, listen to the complete interview.
A Few Words to Keep in your Pocket:
We can never know the minds of others, not even those to whom we are the most intimately attached. All we can do is reach out and acknowledge our mutual humanity.
Interviews are available on iTunes as podcasts, and for Android please click here. All weekly essay pieces in a shareable format are here. The full archive of interviews here.
Books to Read
What are you reading? Add your titles to our reading list here. Stephan Romer has been reading Minimalism: Origins by Edward Strickland. Nathaniel Popkin is reading The Chandelier by Clarice Lispector
Glogau invites artists interested in studio space in Berlin, Germany to apply for their artist in residence program. Ten studios with shared kitchens and bathrooms as well as basic assistance. Other opportunities include open exhibition time and other activities as well as support and guidance. For complete details visit the website. Deadline for applications is June 16. Some fees do apply.
Weekly Edited Grant and Residency Deadlines – review the list here.