Visual Arts in Germany: Exhibitions and Artist Portraits

Diving through Europe: An Interview with Klara Hobza

Klara Hobza; © privat„Europoort“, 2012; © Courtesy Galerie für Landschaftskunst, Hamburg; Soy Capitán, Berlin / VG Bild-Kunst

The power of the imagination is the material with which the artist Klara Hobza works. She develops visions of the course her own life might take. These visions are the mainstay of her “Biographies” project that she started in 2002. Her experiments, like the one in 2002 in which she tried to communicate with the city of New York via Morse code, provoke all kinds of projections.

She was born in the Czech town of Pilsen, grew up in Munich and now lives and works as an artist in Berlin, where every now and then she reveals compelling evidence of the work she does. Sketches and hand-made apparatus prove just how seriously she takes her ideas, selected photos and video clips document the situations and encounters that accompany them.

Ms Hobza, in the 2012 version of your “Biographies” project there is a line that says, “In 2066 Klara Hobza dies of heart failure at the age 91”. This is followed by an equally laconic, if not conciliatory, sentence saying, “Her funeral was relatively well attended.” Could you imagine organising your own death?

Klara Hobza; © privatI like the idea much more than letting somebody else organise it. In my “Biographies” series there have been two variations on the theme up to now: one from 2002 and one from now.

At some point there will probably be five - provided I live as long as I plan to live. In the first biography I had already reached a certain age, whereas in the new one, which I wrote ten years later, I had lived ten years longer.

No interest in breaking records

You have already made it quite clear that you want to spend about 30 years of your future diving through Europe. Is that possible? Can people dive through Europe?

My plan is to jump into the North Sea, near Rotterdam, at the mouth of the Rhine, then to dive upstream through the Rhine to the river Main and then to dive along the Main-Danube Canal. The final leg of the journey will be in the Danube to the Black Sea, near the Rumanian town of Constanta.

And you are going to take thirty years to do this?

It depends on what your motivation is for planning such a project. On a budget of, shall we say, 150,000 or 200,000 euros I might be able to do it in three years - but that would mean I was only interested in the actual activity of diving.

The project is however of an artistic nature - that’s why I wouldn’t get very much out of a duration of three years. It is the artistic elements and points of human interest in particular that crop up due to the obstacles that I as an individual have to overcome. The whole process has to generate friction of some kind, a shifting of values. My focus is more on the images that spring to mind when people hear about the idea and see the artefacts that it produces.


Klara Hobza: Diving Through Europe

Sleeping under water?

In the video "Jedi Master" from 2011 we see you with your Turkish diving instructor, Namik Ekin, and as the title implies you seem to have found your master in him. He once dived himself non-stop from Turkey to Cyprus in 35 hours and, while doing so, he actually slept under water.

Yes, he really did. For him, though, the motivation was getting his name in the “Guinness Book of Records”. He was accompanied the whole time by a boat with a team of other divers on board along with a compressor to refill the oxygen tanks.

When he wanted to have a sleep, he swam into a kind of cage and hooked himself up to a special construction, in order to remain in one place. People swam down to him at regular intervals to replace his respirator. I would never do it the way Namik did it. The whole story comes unstuck on all the details that were necessary for his record. What I am doing is actually the exact opposite. I want to open up fantastic, new worlds: visual, emotional and psychological spaces.

„The Famous Banana Scene“, aus: „Jedi Master“, 2011; © Courtesy Galerie für Landschaftskunst, Hamburg; Soy Capitán, Berlin / VG Bild-Kunst

Obstinacy and delusions of grandeur

And yet there is no doubt at all in your mind that you are going to realise the project. You have in fact already started with the planning – quite some time ago, I think.

It was in March this year that I first started wrestling with the equipment and the elements - I have to get used to the power of the water. On the one hand it is really quite a good thing to have an idea about something, but as soon as you start trying to put it into practice, you are overwhelmed by the reality.

My encounter with Namik Ekin is one of those stories that I would never have imagined could happen. As an artist I first have an image in my head that I want to realise. I then start to look at the world from the perspective of this idea. This is how I get my material. The actual configuration of the idea starts for me the moment I communicate my project in verbal form. Right from the start I select certain scenarios and the way I document it is also very stylised. My whole artistic approach is actually a fairly conservative one.

How important has the European idea been for your project?

It was initially just a formality - in Europe the waterways are dead-straight. The European rivers are geared to shipping and water transport, they are not so ramified as in other regions. Diving through these canals is akin to carving a woodcut with your body. A rigorous line drawn right through the continent of Europe.

And, at the same time, it is along this line that we find an incredible concentration of history and conflict, of violence, wars and trade, along with myths about the Lorely and a whole host of other fabled creatures that lurk in the depths. Layer on layer of perspectives compressed into sedimentary form.

Losing oneself in infinity

The idea does not just call a complex imaginary tableau to mind, it also implies that quite a large slice of a person’s life is going to be taken up with it, especially in view of the duration of the project. The accompanying delusions of grandeur and obstinacy might also be excellent material for a Werner Herzog film - a director, as is known, you admire. In the latest version of your “Biographies” we read about an encounter with Herzog in which he teaches you how to become a filmmaker ....

I love art that draws you into its surface so that you lose yourself in the infinity of the content of the work. I like works that have been created to make the viewer stop and think about the form and representation of the work, and then try to understand it - until his or head finally implodes.

Britta Peters
works an art critic and free-lance curator, lives in Hamburg.

Translation: Paul McCarthy
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
December 2012

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