Judith Siegmund :: Visual Art, Conceptual Art, Philosophy

(Bauhaus Dessau) 1995

"In this situation, the artist can no longer restrict herself to producing more-or-less polished 'decorative intellectualism' (Wolfgang Max Faust), but must instead respond aesthetically to a concrete situation with concrete means. Judith Siegmund's 'Sprech-Stunde,' or conversational consultation 'Social Noise,' is an outstanding instance of such a critical and self-critical procedure. Only with such an elimination of boundaries can the artist return the work of art back to society."

Thomas Wulffen
From: "Grenzaufhebung" (Elimination of Boundaries), in "Gespräche im Stahlhaus" (Conversations at the Stahlhaus), 1996




– The problem with the prefabricated buildings is less the serial production than the defective execution. This is fundamentally different from that of the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus always placed high value upon the appropriate handling of materials.

– That was just said by a resident of the housing estate. The construction here is poor. You know, they had to put up additional walls afterwards because it wasn't properly insulated.

– Yes, but that's just teething troubles, because they were experimental housing developments. The first development, the Törten estates by Gropius, had a lot of defects. After they did two, three, four different construction stages, they ironed everything out somewhere along the way. But it's true – this type of estate housing construction had hardly ever existed previously. Parallel, a whole lot were developed simultaneously, for example in Frankfurt and Berlin, what Taut built or...

– With the Bauhaus housing estates one can see that, yes, the houses were only affordable because value was really thoroughly placed on quality, and that's only worth doing when it's done en masse. That's what then leads to ready-made mass production, which can be built really everywhere following the same standard. In itself this is not initially bad.

– We're not actually all that against mass production. Yes, people accept that 500,000 people all buy the same Volkswagen. Nobody has anything against that. Or that 500,000 people all buy the same Ford Escort. Or Daimler Benz E-class – 80,000 also buy one.

– But you bought an Alpha Romero because you wanted to set yourself apart from that.

– You do set yourself apart with that.

– That is to say you belong to that class of those, that group of 30,000 people, who drive that car.

– At that level it also gets very ideological.

– That's why I bought myself a Trabbi: so as to set myself apart.

– Nevertheless, within the context of satisfaction and mass needs – that was after all one of their central issues – they said that there are similar mass needs which can also be similarly satisfied. And there is some truth in that in many ways. The aspect that makes people dissatisfied is that they are no longer are able to add a personal touch to their residences.

– Go ahead and do it then.

– You have two walls here which you can use completely as book walls. You don't have that in a house by Mies. Ha, and over here you also have a lot of space. And then you also set up desk and a bed and that's it.

– This is suitable for a certain kind of person, those who live a very specific type and way of life. There's no room for a plush sofa and a carpet...

– A buffet and such, that's impossible.

– Yeah, imagine that you had imperial furniture here, Louis 14th. Yeah, you can just as well move out, right?

– You could set up two small armchairs and a secretary. That doesn't matter.

– Hello!

– Hello, what's meant by this here? Can anyone read it?

– Yes, from outside.

– And what's written on it?

– Go and read it!

– Or are you simply the cashier?

– Nah, not a cashier. Can I offer you a glass of water?

– No thanks, thanks, thanks, I just came from home.

– Sparkling wine? We're just going to toast...

– No, don't make yourself any work.

– I prefer to have a coffee.

– The insulation of the house isn't enough.

– So, that's an insulation above, which they have now installed inside, it would also be the windows which collect warmth. If we didn't stuff our houses so much, when the sun is shining it is like a fortress at our place.

– And also because of to the trees which cast shadows.

– Na, thank God that we have trees.

– Yes, I'm tracking the spirit of the times, don't you think? The spirit of the times existing today. That lies in your direction here. I mean, the Thirty Year War – that was a whopper. You have to see that. At the moment there is an awakening, but I ask myself, one cannot simply say humanitarian democratic movement with this war happening, that's laughable. What is the spirit of the times which actually gets carried out during an epoch? You could say chaotic, chaos. You know, this disorder, it was a development following a revolution that first started becoming somewhat chaotic when it put itself in order afterwards. But now, you have to say, that it still isn't enough – there must be some purpose to be found in it. Free enterprise is only a transition period, not a permanent situation. That was something completely modern 60 years ago and it sounds modern today. The Japanese find other economic forms, and that is obviously both an ideology and a spirit of the time. Now I am searching for the philosophies which show one a bit of the way ahead. Not discuss that which went wrong in retrospect, but rather the direction it must go?


– ......and those are things, and put them in relationship to each other. That would be an indication that one sometimes thinks about how life relationships could be improved amongst each other. With some people it is perhaps an ideal, they simply say: Yes, I like it exactly the way I live – No? That is possible. But no one is going to be allowed to say: That's rubbish. That I can't imagine at all. Not that. But he could say, I can't deal with that at all. Why are those only words and why not complete sentences? Well, it's hip amongst young people today to no longer speak in complete sentences. That's just typically American. When a nephew of mine was at our place for a visit with his fiancée, I told him a lot; she asked him something and he takes two words and she knows everything. That one can express oneself so briefly?

– Although it should be more like intellectual impetus, since I do not have an actual person opposite with whom I could talk this secret language. At the time when I did it, I didn't know who was going to ever read it. For me the words "radio silo and so forth" have something to do with these thoughts of progress, which were also represented in the Bauhaus.

– Radio not in the form of transmitting? One can assume that is possible as one wants. I approached some high school students in the Peterek Street. And there amongst the hoard coming towards me was my granddaughter. Not one of them said a complete sentence. Half English, half German. And so, they conversed in this short form; I can only assume that at the moment it is no longer in to make boring complete sentences, but rather to make a kind of tonal shorthand. I figured that would happen anyways, eventually. With this excess of information, we are hardly going to have the time to be able to formulate complete sentences. Rather, we're probably dealing with picture language here. That we express in the form of pictures and very specific symbols very specific feelings and circumstances. Otherwise, we won't be able to manage it anymore. We can't prolong the compulsory ten-years of schooling to forty years. In this regard I see here a kind of trailblazing that is not yet developed; it is a step forward like with the Bauhaus. No, to add something new to it that gets torn apart the same way as a piece of meat is ripped apart in every direction by a beast of prey.

– The viewer does not get the can of food served mouth ready. He is to participate himself.

– And then figure out its uses. I particularly find beautiful the idea with these volumes in which one more or less enters the chaos and finds oneself becoming somewhat fascinated. One sees these demands afterwards. This way one can also free oneself a little. One is not exactly bound, but somehow one comes, perhaps not imprisoned but nevertheless enclosed. Someone who suffers from claustrophobia could probably develop feelings of oppression. That would naturally be a light tap, comparable to: "Hello there, I have something to say to you."

– That a slide in the back room shows a work of a Bauhaus student from 1930... It's entitled "Growing Isolation."

– If you put that in relation to the housing estate, then that doesn't actually apply.