In the social quarry
Love and freedom: The Cologne artist Mariott Stollsteiner on the worthwhile effort of transforming businesses into company sculptures.
brand eins: Usually there are two points of view of art in the economy: indigestible, if sand in the gears of the market; useful, if prestigious or profit increasing. And you think that you can change something between art and capital?
Stollsteiner: There is this art, that is hung as shares. Then I meet curators in company headquarters, who say to me: “The staff don’t understand these modern things”. But if I ask, whether they have tried to have a discussion about it, they say: “You can’t discuss Beuys”. But it could be the start of a process, if the employees say: “What is that rubbish hanging there then? That is just a grease spot on the wall.” Initially, they are right! Whereby, I would then want to ask: and now? But without this question, it just remains a hanging share, capital that is not being used. On the other hand, I would like to ritually remove all these framed Kandinsky prints from offices. People can no longer see in them what made the original stand out. Throw them away! Leave it empty! Wait, until good art comes, which really excites me and creates a conversation!
brand eins: Vice versa, artists also have traditional inhibitions, about “tendering capital”. You yourself combine both worlds in your personality – as a visual artist, management consultant and your own manager. Does this crossing of boundaries enrich you?
Stollsteiner: Like almost anyone who crosses boundaries, I gain something. In companies, I am asked many absolutely precise questions: what does it cost? How will it continue? How can I profit from it? And when I am in the studio, this precision that I have learnt from business, is useful. I must conceive my works, and realise them exactly: so long, so wide, a drill hole here. Vice versa, as a consultant in companies, I can open up people’s potential, their inner goals, their deep questions. I can do this, because I have learnt the freedom in the studio, to recognise what I want myself.
brand eins: Despite all the differences, are there parallels between processes in art and in management?
Stollsteiner: My two mottos are love and freedom. They belong to the management criteria in business, and they are used in the same way in art: love, to turn towards things without prejudice, give them space to cope with tensions. And the freedom to say: Here, I determine what the current ongoing process requires, by the nature of things. The interaction between love and freedom leads to good results in both areas.
brand eins: You were influenced by Joseph Beuys, who declared everyone an artist, and the world a „social sculpture“. How should an AG or GmbH imagine itself as a sculpture?
Stollsteiner: Initially, it is only a form that has evolved somehow, not yet a sculpture, not yet consciously designed. It must look at the people, and ask itself: what do the individuals in the company need to be able to develop their individuality? A social sculpture is never static, even if the name suggests this. It is in a permanent process that never stops. I must be able to allow my warmth and love to flow uninterrupted, so that it remains in motion. You can only talk about a sculpture in the sense that Beuys meant, if the people consciously shape the company. This was a very important factor for Beuys: that I must bring in my self. If the form is specified from above, it remains a beautiful shell, that you could also present very well as a website. But the people behind it only give a percentage of their work effort to the company, or have already given up inside. Then they are just adjusting their masks to the façade. However, those who break away from this façade, rebel, their self is often stronger than the middle-class retreat mentality – and are therefore actually more valuable in a social sculpture. Those who hack at a stone too hard will only be left with crumbs, and those who permanently tell their colleague what an idiot he is only produce a pile of shards.
brand eins: At the drugstore company DM, pickers, warehouse staff and administrative employees have artistic training in the “Fähigkeitenwerkstatt” [Skills workshop] conceived by you, during work time. An extremely inefficient use of resources you could say.
Stollsteiner: Purely from the outside – yes. But the question is of course: what is being invested in, in the longer term? There are certain dichotomies in the classic arts. If I hack at a stone too hard, then I will only have crumbs afterwards, but not a sculpture. This can be directly applied to social matters. If I permanently tell my colleague what an idiot he is, then at some point, between us, we will have to patch up a pile of shards. Another example: The group paints an object from different perspectives. You must change your position, or turn the object around, i.e. put yourself completely on the other side. Not only with your head, but with your heart. A good investment!
brand eins: A magic word for the current management generation is networking, especially on the internet. Your art talks about another kind of networking.
Stollsteiner: Internet networking strings together contents, which are often not considered at the same time, in spite of this. For me, networking means perceiving things in their simultaneity. I can do this much more easily in art, if the observer stands in the middle of the installation, and can no longer hide themselves. A network only starts when I feel that I am in the middle of it, because I am a permanent designer instead of just an observer. On the internet, you mostly get the impression, what is happening in front of me has nothing to do with me, and yet it changes my world dramatically. That triggers righteous anger in me! In the centre of my installations, the observer is free to decide, to expose themselves to the tension, and in this way, allow inner images to emerge in their own self. Many new media plaster me with external images, until I am completely stuck together.
brand eins: So, should IT companies in particular, computer start-ups, the networked and decentralized treat themselves to your art seminars?
Stollsteiner: In the IT sector, it can be read the most clearly, what is currently happening socially. People live even more drastically there than elsewhere. No longer with haptic, palpable processes. They are permanently looking in from the outside, on a flood of information, and control an enormous amount, with an equal amount of responsibility. The medium can rob you of physicality and feeling. So, it would be very valuable for this sector to feel again: what am I actually creating in the world and how, even for myself?
brand eins: What percentage turnover and profit increase can you guarantee me as an entrepreneur, if I hire you for an employee seminar?
Stollsteiner: In the short term I don’t guarantee anything. In artistic discussion, processual thinking is taught, and personal potential is experienced. The extent to which the participants will introduce these experiences into the company organisation, remains unknown. It is about the individual abilities of the people, not their skills. I never train towards the short-term goals of a company. You have to want to permanently maintain the process. Also with pain, and even detachment, if someone discovers: my self no longer fits into this company.