2005-2004 | overview 2003-2002 | overview 2001-1999 | overview
Could you explain, what a SELFISH actually is?

Every contact between humans usually begins with a look into the other person’s face. A SELFISH is a self-portrait based on a digitally manipulated photograph. In some cases, only the facial expression remains of the original image while the rest has been altered and alienated. With our faces we convey culture, emotions and communication. This is the aspect that is important to me.
You have been working on this project for some years now, how did your work develop over time?
At the beginning - around 1998, seven years ago now - I just modified existing photographs of myself. At the time I was intrigued by the possibility of being able to work with a computer in much the same way as the advertising, fashion and beauty industry, that is, to be able to erase wrinkles and stains, to hide spots, to put away with any sort of optical imperfection. In fact this was pretty easy and I quickly began to ask myself other questions, like „How do I look without hair?“.
The quality of the photographs I used back then was unsatisfactory, however, since the majority of the images where taken for other reasons, most of them with me smiling at the camera and thus limiting the range of expressions available. For this reason, I soon started to take series of photographs of facial expressions. During this period the SELFISHs became much more three-dimensional, mainly because I was already working much more with light and shadows while taking the photographs. The format also became larger requiring me to work in much more detail.
Not long ago, I entered a third phase. Today, even more time is dedicated to the preparation; for instance working with color and make-up on the skin and styling the hair in advance, which has always been very difficult to manipulate digitally once the image had been taken.
One could say, that it was a very playful beginning, but now my approach is much more organised and conceptional.
Your other works, for example, your cadaver prints, your works with soot and also your big black paintings, are all rather monochrome. The eyecatching colorfulness of the SELFISHs are quite a contrast.
Why is that so?
There is no deeper meaning to it. In fact, the computer work involving the SELFISHs gives me a certain balance to the work with materials and colors in my studio. I simply do not enjoy preparing and blending colourful paints - that never interested me. With a computer it is possible to achieve such beautiful and clean colors and transitions. Also colors do radiate so brilliantly on a monitor, creating quite a different intensity.
Each SELFISH bears the date of its creation. Does this series also function as a sort of personal journal?
This is not their main function. In fact there is no regularity to them. Of course, experiences, such as engaging with unknown environments or reflections upon current feelings, will find their way into the SELFISH I am working on at the time. But usually it happens rather unconsciously. For example I only realised in retrospect, that the SELFISH „Elbe“ (a river in my hometown Hamburg) which was done in Korea, deals with a sort of homesickness. Being in Korea, naturally, I also experimented with the idea of how I would look with Asian features.
The viewer might find some of your SELFISHs disturbing or in a subtle way even spooky. Some might be amazed and wonder why you would want to do that to yourself.
Aren’t you vain?
I don‘t think so, actually I don‘t exactly understand the meaning of the word vain. Yes, I encountered reactions like these to my work, but I can‘t quite understand them. On the contrary, I am wondering why not everybody tries this! There are about 7000 facial expressions. By studying a face so meticulously, you can learn so much about the identity and existence of a person. What is it, that faces convey?
SELFISHs are a kind of communication. What kind of reaction does the viewer have, what kind of person does he assume me to be? Some encounters have been funny and interesting, especially when visitors at my exhibitions notice my presence and surreptitiously try to compare what they have seen in the photographs with the reality in an attempt to find out about the assumed truth.
You can see, that the visitor would love to come up very closely to scrutinize me, which our social norms of course do not allow. But the visitor’s curiosity remains strong, and that is exactly what I try to trigger. Communication.
Recently you started to make OTHERFISH, alienated portraits of your friends and acquaintances. Why only now and what is your interest in those?
Actually I tried to do SELFISHs of my friends before, but without success. I couldn‘t do it, was somehow inhibited. Maybe it is the general engagement with notions of identity that makes it easier for me now.
Sometimes I doubt, whether the SELFISHs actually are self-portraits. My intention is not to portrait myself, rather I am using my face as a canvas for the general representation of human emotions.

What remains and what happens to identity, if single attributes of the physical characteristics are altered one by one? After all, this is also interesting to observe when you work with faces of others.

Thank you for the interesting conversation. We are looking forward to your new works and wish you all the best with your forthcoming exhibition.

Interviewer: Britta Warnecke