The Art Assassin

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang

Chapter 46: ASSASSINATION: Sibyll Kalff, Artist Represented by Iao PROJECTS (Part Two)

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qi peng: What is your opinion about technology and its influence on both humanity and art?

Sibyll Kalff: what was humanity again? i feel so more then much of that got lost…

i think, as many philossophers and artists and scientists express it since thausend of years, it-s hard for humoids, humans or people pretending to be humans, to catch up with anything… specially any responsible handling of – often enough insane – technologies (>from atomic bombs down to everything else). basically, they all love to play music and dance around fires, having enough to eat and a good warm dry place to sleep, make love and be with their friends…

i surely love all intellectual issues and matters, but i think, most and many of them can hardly never cope or catch up either… often enough so called technical improvements lead to an insane barbery and cruelty and therefor are more then difficult/impossible to handle. and furthermore, get totally out of hand easily (see genmanilpulation etx) of course, there is incredible inspiring options and potentials, and often i think, artists at least try to handle them in a humanistic and playful way, and not in any devastating… i mean, they at least try, whereas you can find an incredible number of the most unscroupolous and sick people handling or applying technologies, that could not even spell the word humanity, leave alone knowing at all what that is. and they should have never any authorization forit.

i think of not only all psycho-sociological warfare applied on you in your daily life in the meantime, more then closing in on you, all bionics and biotechnologies, astroturfing, genmanilpulations in the sickest degree, foodpoison, chipimplantations, and endless other things, that make you loose the feel and context and exactly that playful use of technologies for the sake of something coming close to a humaine universe on this planet.

talk about utopias again, i think, all artforms can be the widest field for a humain utopia including technical improvements and technologies, in general – apart from being the hardest critical mirror of all it-s abuse and everything going wrong… and often enough, technologies get enforced for the shere purpose of moneymaking in the most scroupleous way, ala – “hey, we need a new war somewhere to earn some milliards and test our new weapon-technology – where can we trigger one?” killing millions, and not care five secs. and this is going on ever since and has nothing to do with any humanity. neither with art.

of course, there can be improvements via technologies surely, and really great ones, but as allways, it depends on who creates them for what purpose and how it/they are generally handled. and much is just diaobolical, more then plain sick or cruel. as those people do not know, how to write and spell ethics or what that means at all either.

basically it-s the old “you can use a hammer as a tool and you can kill with it and all inbetween.” in endless variations through the last 1000s of years. it depends who uses it where and when and how and why and whatfor.

what i love is of course, when all those means are playfully juggled around with in a responsible style and outcome for good. and i think, artists are very good in those matters, like kids…

but as well, going along with economic circustances, that enable a good lifestyle and form for everyone, however defined, but possible.

(of course i could write up some 100 page essay on that, too and allways did in the last 20 years, but for now: short version, ya?)

qi peng: You desire to enter into America permanently. What makes you believe firmly that America is a utopian state?

Sibyll Kalff: i think, there is and was and ever will be millions of Americas existing every day at the same time, and the one i was dying to live in, does not exist no more, en contraire… or just some leftover fragments of moments. another reason for an insane homesickness…. to be homesick for a home that got burned down… but the overall amercia in my utopian reality and many others is that we all would love to live in an internationally welladjusted and humanitarian and social country as millions of americans, too – and not in a terror-policestate ala:

“The United States Department of Justice has been spying on citizens with sophisticated satellite transmitted electronic surveillance and than based on the reactionary, ignorant, whims of its agents moving to label citizens as being mentally ill based on everyday legal activities of normal people. The agents than have been ridiculing citizens over their normal sexual needs and activities among other interests than hitting their brains with intense electromagnetic waves while insisting their pained responses are manifestations of mental illness. The targets of this barbarism are than railroaded into emergency rooms and mental hospitals, or concentration camps, where the psychiatrists work with the criminal US Department of Justice to intentionally misdiagnose these targets of American government styled barbarism with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. These generally sane liberals are than placed on highly toxic psychiatric drugs which cripple and kill them. If they survive this ordeal they are than railroaded into the nations concentration camps, or mental hospitals, to be drugged, beaten, raped, and often murdered. Fixed, cursory civil court proceedings with no juries and no sworn in testimony before sadistic and ignorant county judges are used to legalize this tyranny.”

Dr Harold Mandel, Reporter

H Mandel Enterprises News Service

since long it-s feels more then “would you like to immigrate in the third reich in germany, being jewish?” – … (xcuse me… but i hope you know, what i mean) and of course – there would only very special life circumstances make anyone do that. apart from of course, this all is a worldwide problem in various variations of the same theme, that no one wants to live through or handle in the first place, that i know – and therefor, it-s all very difficult to say. of course i would love to live in an America, that i and we all loved to live in, without being at all blind or dumbed down, and of course, like millions of us expats, i am insanely homesick ever since, i had to leave and am stranded in germany again,

(and of course, our old germany does not exist no longer either) but you might imagine, how much nerves that no one has no more since long, it already took in the past years, to live through all that, that-d be the short version… it-s still a miracle, that many friends and i could live through all that, in the first place i guess…

qi peng: What are some of your favorite places to visit in the world? Any specific examples that influenced your work?

Sibyll Kalff: basically, i still would more then love to travel the whole world, but somehow i allways preferred hot countries, as i really do not like to put up with too much cold in general…. i.d love to travel to india, africa, see much more of america – i allways wanted to go crosscountry in a beat up car or bus.. – i allways love to go “south” … you find many places i loved to travel or lived temporarily in my artist biography ….

and of course “bury my heart in the old lower east side, around thompkins square, where i insanely loved to live in 149 allenstreet, the storefront with friends, e7th, e6th, avenue C, … and never wanted to leave but permanently live…” or certain places in tribecca…

i loved to live in berlin 20 years ago, rome, some times in london, leeds, i loved all many many moons spent in portugal and spain, specially the extremadura, marocco, the sahara, but i nearly loved all other european countries, places i travelled of course, too…

an incredibly impact left my journey to nepal…

…” with 19 i was the happiest girl to travel crosscountry in nepal on the back of a honda xoxo 500 cross mc (they had not that many harleys there), and it was so insanely beautiful… but that-s another story…. i worked in a cantina in a factory, all loved me for my strong coffee, as they only had really lousy before, and when i had enough money, i flew to katmandu, and visited friends, who worked in nepal, and spent nearly 2 months there and of course more then loved it…

from katmandu, patan, bodnath, etx via pokhara and then hiking for weeks totally off-trails in the wild mountains, and dschungels, while climbing over landslides, wading through little rivers when there was no roads, allways direction anapona while staying in tiny little lodges, eating huge portions of dhal bhaat and watching the waterbuffalos having their well earned “schnufftage” in their mudpools, allways stoppiung at all the “holy trees” and little temples, smoking our favourite brand of “YAK” cigarettes, and discussing astrophysics in the nights under millions of stars… “stars belong into the nightskies” … ”

qi peng: How does German history factor into your personal pieces? German culture too?

Sibyll Kalff: allow me to answer with this essay below, and i think, i summed up some in part I as well, and of course, “germany” more then changed over the last years and well, we had a very different kind of culture here, too – this ol german liberal or leftwing, autonomous, intellectual culture i am allways referring to, conc. all fields of the arts. now, due to all economical and other decline i see germany having civil wars in some years the latest and of course, right now, there is all kinds of cultural wars and the real war for culture/s at all going on and everything else at the same time. and germany had allways different problems to handle or intregrate or let be other cultures as far as i could feel it ever since, then other countries, to put it nicely… you can find the endless repetition of the same ward and problems anywhere in the world to various degrees, but the coexistence of many many different cultures can be more happening or easygoing in some other countries, that have either a much more relaxed and open attitude, or a way longer tradition to handle the “phenomenon stranger”… or a different acceptance or interest in “the stranger”. what i mean is simple things like “traditional dresses” that so can way more casually wear in an open culture or country when wanted, without getting persecuted. just as an example, you could wear a traditional buddhistic dress (climate permitting) in other countries feeling “normal” – whereas – try that here… you need quite some nerves… (this as a metaphor). like you could find 100s of different ways to dress in the old lower east side – and everyone felt as normal as possibly can – but that-s a very city or location related matter.

right now there is for my feel more then incredible things going on in germany or parts of it, that are really more a flashback to the middle ages, then anything else, and everyone who knows the times before, goes mental. at the same time you have of course all new internationality and the www. life, globalism and everything – so it-s all a more then wild clashing right now. (the other 50 pages later, ya?) but you know, we all know and loved and lived and grew up in the area of liberal and leftwing thinking, and have a more then contraire government since many years here, too… which of course more then effects everything in this country and all socio-cultural-economic politics, to put it nicely.

for the historic aspect:

Death Dances

the pentamerous cyclus, is part of a workgroup of drawings, paintings and skulptures, all sharing the same subject matter, death, and they all originated in the space of time between 1997 (when sibyll Kalff started to study fine arts at the “Fachhochschule Köln”) and 1990, representing the first self-contained group of works of her artistic production.

as predominant figurative and abstract styled variations of the theme, that abandon any storytelling that could frame the drawings, they are completely focused on the encounter of the human being and death. their imaginary verbalisation can be settled between the outmost intimate embrace “in the midth of life we are surroundend by death”and completely unleashed dances.

apart from anthropomophic figures, we find continously emerging imaginary animals, animal skelettons or enigmatic phantazised hybrid creatures (the artist named them “humantaurus” beings). the initial point of the deathfiguration was the “shere zest of drawing”, likewise the very intense studies of nude painting and nude drawing since 1986, when she started to stuy at the “Sommerakademie Trier” after achieving her hghschool diploma (german Abitur).

in equal measure of importance she felt her travelling to and around nepal in 1987, “where she spontaniously made lots of drawings”, landscapes and figures, but as well “hybrids, mutiliations and nightmare visions”, when she returned to germany. likewise spontaniously emerged the allways new variations of the death and deathdance theme, original and continous in drawings (graphite, wax crayon, shellac or indian ink) and since 1989 as well in numerous larger-then-life acrylic paintings as well as cast and wire sculptures. the artist named “severe illness and deaths in her family, childhood in germany in the consciouness of it-s horrifying past, the fascination for prehistory and early history, bhuddism, taoism, literature, travels, the bone ornaments in the catacombs of Roma, (…) as a background of her being drawn to that subject matter. the creative examination of death was connected to an incresed zest for life and meant for her ” the pure being, the beauty of the moment, the now, to experience each and every moment as intense as can be” (Sibyll Kalff in a letter to the curator of the graphic collection).

the motive of “the dance” is emphazised in the five drawings from the “death dance” series from 1989, where you find more abstract structures of lines instead of the most of the time stylized man-animal-hybrids. the suggestive power of the wildly moving and into eachother devoured strokes of the brush, evoking middleaged round dances, shows the absolute mastering of the attempt to find completely new forms of expression for the old motive by the use of a very reduced and abstract language.

apparent is the approach to show death in it-s abstraction and commonality. the cycle belongs to a group of works, formulating the death theme, that leave the path of the consacred depiction and “transcends the old idea of the death imagery only via the title associations” (box page 251). with the gestus and the inspiring character of the powerfull and expressive strokes of the brush, that the visual effectiveness of the drawings derive from, the artist was able to realize her personal sentiment in her work as “movement and exstacy, the dance of the brush” or the “moments danced by the brush”.

Eva Schuster, curator of the graphic collection “Man and Death”

from: “Death dances from the late middle ages up to the present” – an exhibition of selected works from the graphic collection “Man and Death”, Heinrich-Heine-Universität, Düsseldorf, 2001 (German and Japanese version of the catalogue)

qi peng: What is the spiritual nexus and healing powers that music, particularly the blues, provides to people?

Sibyll Kalff: i would say, it makes you forget everything and transforms. aleternates and creates any given so called reality you are in or into sth else, apart from being an exact mirror of the state of consciousness or feeling you are in in this very second or moment, not even to define it as the language music allways was and is and will be and a means of communication and information and the transfer of it. apart from all cultural contexts of all kinds, where it is worldwide performed. not to mention, the simple and more then spiritual happiness of dancing toit and it-s celebrations, to get “lost in music” and of course, the spiritual consciousness and the acess toit. and it-s absolutely quantumphysics again. as it all deals with waves, nanowaves and molecular-biology (talk about endormorphine etx) and particle-physics all the time (i wrote books about that…) not only the transfer or sharing of moods, vibes, sounds and emotions.

of course alot is connected to the “why do wolves how?” (and i love wolves!) they howl all together to manifest and experience their togetherness and tune into/manifesting in their being the whole pack –

more then the sum of their single beings and achieving a state of expericening the exact more or less nano-tuning of mood or getting there. it-s like with the phantastic book by w.s. borroughs and brion gysin “the third mind” and their theories about it.

in many ways it-s more then the “you can only really laugh and be happy, when you can really cry.” – all else is a modified and a for me wrongly cultivated or enforced way of something, that i would not even call feelings. (my art n roll essays n diaries of the last 20 years and it-s kilos, of course all deal with all this issues and topics, that you ask for, in a way more 1000s of pages style and they are nearly 90% in english, as i since many many years feel home in the english language and not in the german. that-s personal, and of course there is phantastic literature in german and i read 1000s of german books with pleasure, too. but it might of course more then be related to my generation and how i/we grew up, too. and having been that close to the german history, that we hated, that more then tramatized us, too and wanted to escape from as far as can, mentally or physically.

of course music is like a country or millions of different ones. and you love to travel there (or not).

alot of course has to do was alternating states of phyiscality and bio-physical consciousness and -perceptions, various form of hypnosis or de-hypnosis, and again quantumphysics… and energy-manifestations or -transfers. not in any spiritual supermarket esoterix-stly, that i cannot stand, but in a bio-physical universe or pluriverse. in a way, it can be like wind, storms, massages or kill. specially in those days, latly.

but of course, it-s as nanobiotic as organic healthfood is, nothing more or less but applied bio-phycial energy theories and the knowledge about it. chlorophyll celltherapies to restore damaged bodycells with all necesssary vitamins and minerals is as scientific as music. that-s why can live on music, or die for or without it (or due to it).

and of course music is allways the incarnation of the very special energies of places, mentally, physical or spirtual, apart from any epoches or cultural contextes, the music is experienced and lived.

that-s why you can get so insanely homesick not only for smells, touch, sceneries, food, but as well for all soundscapes, that make you feel home or happy and or know where you are (from) and “who” you (temporarily) were/are. (no, i do not write 10 paragraphs on all for me wrong theories about the “i/ego” that i detest… but of course, that-s practical applied molecular-particle n quantum science as well.)

the whole musical memory is another complex in the personal or cultural biophysiography of anthrological memory.

“it-s all waves” …

for sure, specially the blues is related to endure and suffer incredible hardships and pains but to survive and transform them by singing and playing (ok, leaving e.g. all secret drum-codices out here and everthing else, which functions like the old secret ink. you make the best secret ink out of simple lemon juice, write with it, and then you can only read it, when you hold the “empty” sheet of paper against a burning candleflame. but of course, alot of music works in that way, too)

but at the same time, the blues can be as well the expression of ultimate happyness, of still (at all) being alive, to sing and play it.

qi peng: How does the gallery system function in Germany compared to that within America?

Sibyll Kalff: did in not already answer that in pt I? i think, many structures are more

then similar, and it-s more a question, whether you refer for example to small independent galleries, or museums – their structures are worldwide similar, but i guess, the German system is alltogether maybe still alittle less commercial and ever was… and i think – en contraire to years ago, with all international networking in an even complexer, more connexted and faster communication style, the differencences will even vanish more slowly but steady as well.

qi peng: With the artists’ books, what is your method to create those from scratch?

Sibyll Kalff: i just assemble my pencils, ink, glue and a collection of other material/s, get (a) sketchbook/s and start to work, in the best case, listening to music i love and spending endless hours undisturbed just filling them…

(which can of course totally includes, being in the middle of any given total chaos going on, as long as you feel good… or sharing workspaces… i worked on my books in so many different places, but that-s another reason, i really really love that size and format, AS you can allways take a bunch along or have any and work, whereever you are.) and i work on them while thinking, daydreaming, reflecting and drifting in a different state of unlingual being. has been ages, and i more then miss it… sometimes i work for some hour on one artist book, but of course, in the best situation you just have endless time at hand and can get totally lost in this bookart-artbook world. most of the time i work/ed on many at the same time (when ink has to dry, you can work on all the others or shift them around) of course, it depends where i am and what i find, or what finds me, or what i “recycle” from older works or phases. but of course it-s place and context related and another way of the improvised charles mingus “i play the truth of the moment, the reason it is so difficult, as it-s changing all the time” – of course, you find different colours, fragments, photos, material for collages, drawings, topics, issues and everything in different places. alot is theme or topic books and it allways depends where i am, (quantum)physically, mentally, feelwise etx i made many in friends places, on ny rooftops, that i turned into my artist studio, in my parent’s apartment, in all places i lived during this last year’s “10 box journey” – in parks, in various contries and allways everywhere i was in the last more then 20 years.

i think, i started being alittle kid, allways having some sketchbooks, and workmaterial along with me and filling books everywhere.

beautiful text:

Little Books

exercise-books for indian schoolkids are sibyll kalff’s raw material for a project alignment, that ranges between a (travel) diary, sketchbook and artist book. about 50 such objects originated in the last two years, during travels or at home. within the individually artistic work of sibyll kalff, they tie up to earlier editions and handsewn books. but this “little books” are intended to be sculptural and installative objects. they are not shown in the typical traditional style – either presented to leaf through or being shown in display cabinets, but they are represented dangling with opened pages from the walls. consequently the book objects do not appear as biblophile information carriers, but as art-objects to invite the visitor of the exhibition to contemplate.

each one of the “little books” contains collages, drawings, paintings, texts, among other quotes as well quotes from her own songtexts, photos, letters, notes, sales slips and baggage quittances from flights. the blotters are stored in times between exhibitions convincingly in an old suitcase. some “books” focus on a specific person, for exampe jimi hendrix and are meant to be hommage books, other books are hommage books to countries, others document and reflect with historic photos taken from a photo album with family pictures very personal lifecircumstances and the memories of them. the “little books” are to be understood as an archive, displaying relicts from time-travels through real and imaginary worlds. real existing places can experience a mythical charge in retrospect, only understandable for someone who shares the same emotional feelings towards that place. but we know it for sure: not only the outer world changes, but as well the impact, that a place represented.

sibyll kalff collects moments. she makes impressions and sentiences of very specific moments coagulate in this books. therefore the “little books” radiate an atmosphere and show artistically a contiguousness not only to the beat poesia of a william burroughs or jack kerouac with his spontanious prose, but as well to the situationists living in the fifties of the 20th century. the image-text combinations are settled in a neo-dadaistic tradition, that bramarbased painter sovereigns of the 20th century allways treated with suspiciousness. in this dadaistic style pasted into bustickets of the american greyhound line experience an artistic recycling and together with photos as a snap-reading method and short diary-stylish notes, those collaged momentos in the books are outspread, being kaleidoscopelike splinters, that are above all one thing: authentic.

text (c) jürgen raap, 2006

qi peng: What do people in Europe think about Utah, a faraway piece of land?

Sibyll Kalff: honestly, i do not know … (and please save me from asking them all…) i would just guess, alot would connect it with old western movies….

qi peng: You enjoy paper boats. What do you think of origami?

Sibyll Kalff: it-s is a very highly cultivated and complex zen – artform full of beauty. and what i love about it, the simplicity of means.

qi peng: What aspects do you enjoy of cinema?

Sibyll Kalff: the very short version would be, as for example all good books, all daydreamings, theater, concerts and performances in general, or all inspiring encounters, they immedeatly trans-beam, translocate or transfer you into another reality. and of course this is a very good time out to forget everything else that you have to live or cope or are forced to handle… i really allways loved the totally old school cinemas – small ones (like the old filmpalette in cologne) and their special smell, the old red plush seats, the sound of old projectors and i loved many events including films, shown in that kinda style…

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at

Written by qi peng

May 12, 2009 at 2:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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