Hamburger Rundschau, nr. 31, 30.07.98
Cultural subject of the week: "No Nostalgia"
He lives in different places in Europe and is known as one of the most influential artists of the direction, named concept art at the beginning of the 90es. In the years 1999 and 2000, the American Fareed Armaly (41) became director of the Künstlerhaus in Stuttgart. At present he is working on a TV-project in Hamburg.
Hamburger Rundschau: Your work is integrated in the program of the cultural authority ‘art in public space’, as a production of several television programs. How do you define art in public space?
Armaly: ‘Public space’ is a very broad and open term; there
is no binding definition. In that regard we have in Hamburg a specific
situation. The cultural authority replaced the term ‘art on bau
(buildings)’ by the term ‘art in public space’. When
you look at cultural authorities in other cities, you cannot find anything
comparable and the term ‘public space’ is often not a common
one either. The cultural authority in Hamburg, organized a project ‘weitergehen’
(“go on”) and invited artists to operate with this openness.
Hamburger Rundschau: And what about the public space?
Armaly: In this project I am interested in three components of ‘public’, between these I operate as an artist: the legally [State-run] Public Television, [State] University and the [City/State] Cultural Authority. I define a new field of work by bringing these three together. The result of this project, that connection, will be short television programs as prototypes, discussing a changed look on ‘public’.
Hamburger Rundschau: What is your American view on German television?
Armaly: I only talk about the postwar period in Germany, because there
you have parallels to the development in America, but also big differences.
Television is only one example: speed and rhythm in the USA is very
different and the language does not play such an important role. There
you get a different image of public as a consumer. There were mainly
private channels and they design the commercial or the news, while in
Germany the question of ‘public’ is still discussed all
Hamburger Rundschau: Why?
Armaly: Eventually because it’s about an accredited institution. But the television stations under public law, as the example of ARD shows, also developed a new design, a new image, which comes closer to these changes. It is a frequently asked question: why would Public television put so much emphasis on the image, if it is more defined by its content. An American does not even think about the question, where the borderline between [State-run] Public and Private channel is drawn. Another discussing point would be the question: what should be taken over from the [State-run] Public television: Education? The news? I am also doing this project, because I am interested in changing institutions and the possibility to unite history and art production. But not in the sense of nostalgia!
Hamburger Rundschau: What is your opinion on new television?
Armaly: Television is reflection. In the past the eye was the symbol for television, it always appeared in the logo. Television is no longer the window to the world; it’s a reflection-surface. The designers, who create the image of the programs and generate their identity, noticed that public law television always stood for education and quality. The private television is more about specializations: only sport or movies, the educational mission is not important. News could become infotainments at any moment. In Germany this was the case in the 80es. Today the borderline between information and entertainment is wanted again. The news in Germany are for us Americans always so legitimate. A table, a piece of paper and that’s it.
Hamburger Rundschau: In Germany more people watch the news of [State-run] Public television stations. The news on private channels are becoming more and more like the news on [State-run] Public television, they are not that uncouth anymore.
Armaly: That's right. In general you can see powerful changes in private channels, at the beginning of the 90es for example, I saw the first VOX [channel] programs. There were news at every hour and at midnight the program was over. The channel is totally different now. VOX, five years ago is ‘past’. In America you don’t see radical changes, when you compare television of today with television five years ago. There were a lot of changes considering the private channels in Germany, the [State-run] Public ones weren’t that fast, but they do have a capital: their history. This becomes clear, when you visit the archives or talk to the directors of the archives.
Hamburger Rundschau: Soon there will be a change of generations in the management of the [State-run] Public stations. Thus young people who grew up with private channel TV will be taking over the leading positions.
Armaly: That’s correct. At the moment the people on the upper managment level see television as having a solid factor. That is over. There is no more stable point. This moment should be taken as an opportunity, to talk about changes and to develop a new self-conception. In my opinion there are specific examples for Germany, which show how the different situation of television is being handled. One example are the special night programs playing at three or four o’clock in the morning on [State-run] Public Television. "Space night", a car or a subway ride etc.. You can’t find this in other countries, like the USA for example. The broadcasting minutes are very expensive. In Germany they noticed that there are people, who watch television at night, without being interested in any information or entertainment. The attitude towards television is different at that time. It was extremely interesting for me, to see that the [State-run] Public television reacted and noticed that kind of audience. In the past you had only the TV test pattern at that time and the program was over. The night program is important, because it offers us a new perspective: you don’t see the highway, you see yourself watching television. The outer space becomes a television landscape, which you can substitute with every other landscape, like a landscape you see traveling by train or driving on the highway. With this atmosphere I want to work on my project. The short programs I am producing, reflecting television, are meant for these early hours.
Hamburger Rundschau: The news and information we get are already selected, so everybody can create its own reality with television. How does television manipulate?
Armaly: This seems to be a typical German position. In Germany there is always the question of truth and reality. You always feel a kind of skepticism in media or cynicism. Of course you can manipulate everything, but the negative image of media is very conspicuous in Germany. Television is realism, but not reality. I understand television as a flow of information you should reflect and work with.
Questions were asked by Alexandra Loges and Soren Marths.