The florentine frenzy
strategies of photographic confrontation
Nine Budde (Villa Romana Fellow 2012) in conversation with Angelika Stepken.
Nine, your year at the Villa Romana has been very productive. You have realised many new projects and worked a lot with photography ... In some pieces you also make reference to the situation in Florence.
Yes, it was a very productive time. This was, of course, due to the fact that you find yourself with the luxury of not having to think about anything except art. Perhaps the situation with the garden and the position on the hill also plays a role. You are topographically contained and have a bird's eye view of the town. You are not a participant.
You also have these unbelievable rooms here in the building, just space and beautiful light. I do think that space and how you feel and behave within it have an effect on you. It was interesting when a sociologist from Mainz visited the Villa in order to investigate how studios function sociologically. I realised then that in contrast to my Berlin studio I can move here; I can walk around and with this walking around I can establish spaces, spaces for thought. These were definitely crucial for me for this productive foundation.
It is, of course, also an advantage to be excluded from the language. You can remain within your head and are not interrupted when you go somewhere. You have the artistic luxury of always being able to concentrate on yourself. Sometimes the Villa's cultural programme gets in the way a bit. But intimacy is always a given. The Renaissance works that you find in the city are also characterised by an unbelievable intimacy.
You face the strongest and most difficult emotional moments: a mother has a child who is the messiah and dies: it is about the doctrine of salvation. In comparison to the capitalism of today they really are incredibly intimate and strong emotional moments that I was initially completely unable to open myself up to. At the beginning it was difficult here, I did not get into the Florentine historic frenzy; I could not open up to it. It was really the Villa and its more than 100-year history that initiated this opening for me. It was pure coincidence that I discovered the photo archive of Joachim Burmeister (Head of the VR from 1972 - 2006) and it touched me in a way I had previously not experienced; it also awakened my interest in developing a strategy to confront it. This was how the slide show with the pictures of women came about. It was the photo albums that made this show possible for me.
Which then lead you back to a major theme, namely looking at analogue picture archives.
I have been working with video for about 16 years; I studied in the 1990s, so I had a connection to analogue video. At some point I was forced to realise that the digital videos made today are not my cup of tea. The medium has lost its triangularity and cheapness, the pictures are tremendously sharp and clear and immediately make visual convention dependent on this kind of image. My Digital 8 camera is like a gramophone to me, even though I like the type of images they produce, this watercolouresque blurriness. But as in digital photography there is currently a kind of pictorial clearance sale. I find these DSC 1 million megabyte image files for hard drive cemeteries not at all sexy, I got out and turned again to analogue photography. I have always had a very emotional relationship to analogue photography. But no motifs came to me. I have taken documentary photographs, developed them myself, etc. since the 1990s, but I was not confident of viewing them as an artistic product, partly because my life does not have this exciting aesthetic side like Nan Goldin's does, for example. I did not have any crazy, heroin addict, night-life icon friends - although that is not true, I did have them - but this pictorial world had already been perfectly depicted by Goldin and Tillmans. Anyway, I am a terrible snapshot photographer - the distance and detail are not right, nothing comes of it. I am shy around people; I photograph architecture better.
So my problem was to do with artistic context: What shall I photograph? What is my picture? And then I came across things like the analogue photo archives in Florence - again, it was more by chance while roaming around. There were very different archives. The first images were created at a Kilim carpet dealer, Alberto Boralevi, an institution in his metier who also lectured at the uni and whose lecture slides now lead out their pointless existence in a fantastic antique cupboard, as today lectures are given using PowerPoint. I thought that was worth a photo. I am fascinated by the combination of place, storage method, and remembering and forgetting haptic image media. After Boralevi's cupboard was the photographic library at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, which provided a very professional setting - the Burmeister photographic library, which first and foremost creates an impression with its home-made feel. Unfortunately there was no time left to get clearance for the Bardini photo archive. But I think that this project will be a global lifetime project. With a lifetime project I have no limits and no deadlines in the true sense of the word...
The spectrum of your current photography ranges from psychoanalysis-studio-sofa photos to sausage portraits ...
Yes, that is right! I really had to explore the field - and my time here was fantastic for this.I was able to work using several approaches. I had the space. I was able to install a kind of art photo studio, which also allowed me to work with people, to work performatively. And also to arrange slices of sausage - but I see that more as sausage animation than a portrait.
How did you cope with length of the ten-month stay in Florence?
When I visited Olivier Foulon at the Villa Romana in 2009, I thought the idea of being in Florence for ten months was unbelievably awful. Until then I had only experienced six months in Los Angeles, and I found even that a long time. When I was in Berlin this summer, Ralf Ziervogel told me that the senate wanted to drop the one-year New York grant. The feeling was that it was too long. Unfortunately they did then drop it. And now that I am almost at the end of my tenth months in Florence I can finally say: It is great to have so much time! And above all, I now get the impression that it is nowhere near long enough.
I am only just beginning to realise how slow I am to acclimatise and get orientated. I do not like this phase of disorientation. Lots of people think it is the absolute best moment. I am now in a phase where I am finally starting to understand this place and this allows image motifs to come about - through understanding. Understanding is very difficult in the case of Florence. Tourism is no longer a side effect here, it is the backbone of this city and it makes the place fractured and fake and completely unintelligible. Because of this I truly have to say that I now feel I do not have enough time. I mean, that really says a lot about a ten-month residency.
And on your last day tomorrow, you have to return to the Boboli Garden to take more photos that imagine the sculptures' perspectives and capture their moments?
Right! And now I am really stressed again!