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Art: “It’s like my head is the tripod”

INTERVIEW. Konstantin Schneider, aka the Kunstkontakter, is a Berlin artist, activist and journalist who has acquired quite a following. Schneider describes his mission and unorthodox way of reaching the public.

Image for Art:
Photo by Tania Castellví

Kunstkontakter is a man about town who not only scouts out art but is a living, breathing art performance. If you have ever had the occasion to run into him at an opening, it would be hard to forget the affable, dapper gentleman sporting a yellow hard hat with a camera attached on top, filming the art, and more importantly, the conversations about it. All of which he posts online. Last week the art ambassador staged a mock election as he ran for Chancellor of the art world, and it coincided nicely with the timing of his appearance at this year’s Berliner Liste art fair.

You are an art performance.

It’s been developing itself over the past seven years. At the beginning I knew that the art blood in Berlin had to be captured. I created this figure, the man with the hat and the video camera, so that he could be easily recognized. In that sense I became a sort of wandering video sculpture. I used to be an actor and so the transition to performance art was easy.

What’s with the helmet?

It’s a worker’s hat. Art is beautiful, but takes a lot of work. One could say, make art to make money. The work, the documentation, is work. It’s also close to Marcel Duchamp. In end affect the hat construction is a ready-made. I always noticed that the people at openings would gather in private circles and hush their voices, as if to discuss secrets. I wanted to break through that. I wanted to wear the camera on my body. It’s like my head is the tripod.

And the new hat?

Now I wear my Chinese police hat that I got in Shanghai five years ago. It’s the first military hat I ever liked. It’s a service hat and the art mentor hat. I attended Frieze in London and got great reactions from the public. People are immediately more relaxed and laid-back. I don’t want that my work, or art for that matter, is exclusive. Art is normal and should be perceived as normal. Art should be less exclusive, because that’s the art we need.

It was your first year at Liste.

I realized at some point I would not only like to make documentation and artwork, but also exhibitions. Also the end of Berlin Art Week coincides with the end of the federal election. I am also quite preoccupied with politics. That’s when I decided to join the race.

What is your mission?

I stand for harmony between art and politics. In Germany the arts were fostered after the two World Wars. Had it not been for World War II, dOCUMENTA would not exist today. It was then that art became again something to reflect upon. Art may also need a kind of dictator. Art is free, of course, but what I mean is more of a guide. I did ask myself, what are the qualities of Angela Merkel that make her a popular leader? I’m still not quite sure.

Most of the works on display at Liste are portraits of you.

After a few years I kept on being asked by people to do an exhibition about me, to align the gaze onto me for once. It was always me seeing the others, and now the public should see me. The people who made works of me are thankful to me for the work I did.

How has the Kunstkontakter website developed?

I keep it as simple as possible. Technical standards, however, are always changing now that we live in an app era. I want to make sure I am html proficient, and I am a bit older. I took a kind of pioneer role, as it started at the beginning of the art-blogging movement.