STAY INSPIRED with Jochen Kuhn

A conversation between the Sammlung Goetz and the artist about daily motivation and inspiration



What is your daily motivation, Jochen Kuhn?

The irritating thing about the question is that it wants to be asked at all.

The motivational force was intact for decades, the pen ran over the sheets of paper, sometimes gently, sometimes scratching, sometimes drawing, sometimes writing - but always in motion. Life and work were one. Sure, there were days and weeks of doubt and procrastination - but beneath the surface the engine worked undaunted. The daily do’s and don’ts formed the self. This self was, so to speak, the embodiment of a permanent relatedness to impending resonance. The self was not alone, but always already connected with others.

Relating to future resonance gives meaning to one’s life and work. Something gets meaning by pointing beyond itself to a wider context. If something (a person, a word, a gesture, a sign, a life) seems to have no context, the feeling of meaninglessness, of senseless hanging around arises.

A healthy, normal being is daily motivated by hunger and thirst, not only for physical food, but also for social food. The human being is its own project and a social projectile - a being thrown forward, aiming at goals, and sometimes hitting others. Thus it experiences success, failure, attention, rejection etc. as an effect of its own aliveness.

Now I turn on the radio: Death figures; Savonarola shouts: "total quarantine!"; lock away, lock in, lock up, close down, stop, cancel, end. Ah, if only one could forbid breathing! The cemetery is proclaimed as a place of perfect security.

Mass incarceration is welcomed by researchers and ministers as a contribution to collective hygiene. A world without viruses is suggested. The state and its quarantine stations are forced to assume the role of a worldwide immune system. And whoever complains is put on the pillory for ignorant God deniers. Who says: "there are also other numbers", gets disinvited from the opinion- and right-creator‘ consternation party. Are the definitional powers still afraid of the virus - or is it now giving them pleasure to preach the memento mori? Are the neuroses winning? Ist he pathos of the apocalypse gaining significance?

Hooded people in the supermarkets - quickly grabbing the last food items. Beside the increasingly noticeable readiness to hate, the demonstrative friendliness - through widened eyes and the raising of the laugh lines above the masks - seems to be put on. All moribund endangerers. All potentially poisonous virus slingers. Man is a source of infection to man. I look into your eyes and think: already disinfected today? Even friends don't want to be invited to the table anymore - they fear the breath.

So this projective, stimulating bond to others has been largely cut.

Now the devices are supposed to fix it. There we sit in front of screens, raise our hand when we want to say something; we interpret pixels on a face in order to catch a smile; and loose our words again in the crackling and chopping of the sound transmission. And we're supposed to call the amputations "digital literacy." We are supposed to agree to our relocation to the cloud with the motto "better than nothing". Home office in the cloud, an El Dorado for misanthropes - the living cell in virtual space. Plus the pizza box - brought to you by the suicidal delivery man who dares to approach you.

And what is the daily motivation?

When every foray into social life can be intercepted by the police and fined - what could be more motivating than laziness? Finally, my laziness, which I now call deceleration, has received the seal of approval "contribution to saving the world." Sloth was always the enemy of movement, of new beginnings, of creative effort - now it is welcomed as a rescue service. So I sleep on for two hours and put the phone and monitor next to the coffee machine. Haven’t I always felt closer to the bathrobe rather than to working clothes?Retreat into seclusion as humanistic commitment. Digital Biedermeier.

This also explains why many people enjoy these forms of computer-protected inwardness: at last we're rid of the stress of annoying people, these forced pleasantries, these exhausting small talks, these embarrassments in the flesh, these imposed correctnesses from morning to night - at last only short phone calls and then a text message. If "We can do it" was called welcome culture a moment ago, now it's called social distancing.

If only it weren't for this dormant certainty that the ground beneath the quarantine stations is built on paper money. Can one not hear the permanent rattling of the money presses? Does one not feel the swaying of the quarantine world on the loose-fitting bills? Don't you look your children and grandchildren in the eye with a guilty conscience because they will soon be asked to pay? And after the viruses the climate?


Where do you get your inspiration from in these times?

Good question. Inspiration - when breathing (spirare) is under suspicion of death breath?

I try to clean up in an inspired way. Isn't the storage in my studio actually an imposition for my children and grandchildren? Where are they going to get the basement for storage? Less would be more - the old saying as an appeal to throw things away.

Then I discover old things and am happy: they are actually not so bad! They hold up! It's a good thing I kept them! Oh and this picture: I was in the 4th semester. My God, the wonderful student life: daily departure, constant reference to coming resonances, constant courtship. And today I also have to say „StudierEndeLeben“.

Exhibition projects: canceled. Cinema evenings: canceled. Festivals: canceled. Everything locked down. There you stand with your inspiration in front of empty halls. Were our performances perhaps always dispensable?

(You can put your film "on the net", they say - this "putting it on the net" eyewash among starving artists. As far as I've heard, 90 hours of material appear on YouTube every second - or was it even more?)

Then let's postpone the inspiration: to next month, next spring, next summer, then a new virus will come - then it's back to the germ-free darkroom - so let's postpone it to next year - and believe in the recent vaccination day.


What are you working on right now?

As I said: tidying up, sorting, worrying about what to dispose of.

What works best in the process: repressing and postponing. So most of the things are still lying there, untouched on the shelf. And against all better intentions, I buy books again.

Keep working at the film academy. The students appear on the screen in a checkerboard pattern. As I said, we make the best of it, watch films, pictures and discuss with the help of the microphones.

Another work that should not be underestimated is the inner preparation for my departure from the Film Academy in the summer of 2021. 30 years, 3000 students, oh yes, it should be called StudierEnde: fitting motto for me. That, too, is work: imposing a new linguistic fashion on oneself, always allowing oneself to be disturbed in the flow of thought, just to show the new authorities that one obeys.

And in the back of my mind, maybe a little new film project is brewing. Collect text modules, photos for it. Hope to find a studio in Hamburg, where I am moving back, by late summer. A new studio can have the power to answer the old, inhibiting questions - what for? why? for whom?

#sammlunggoetzdigital #slgstayinspired