A Place of Desire – An Interview with Jochen Hein


As a rule, the shy, reclusive Jochen Hein keeps strictly to himself, always carefully avoiding close contact to his obnoxious neighbors. This image shows Hein being accosted by the notorious, hung-over Felix A. (left), a struggling recording artist and owner of the adjacent sound studio. Much to Jochen’s pain, they have to share a bathroom in the basement. I took this photograph shortly before the interview.


Jochen’s studio is quaintly located, right next to a retro futuristic nightmare straight out of A Clockwork Orange. In fact, this is a low-crime neighborhood. No hoodlums on moloko plus lurking about in the shadows. The imminent ultra-violence of the yellow paint job, though… that’s a whole different question altogether.


Jochen Hein pointing at the exact location of the Sehnsuchts-Ort – his place of desire


Hamburg, 5 September 2008

Artdoxa: Jochen, you’ve been into painting landscape now for quite some time. Landscape isn’t exactly a fashionable sujet. What’s it to you?

Jochen Hein: Landscape is a place of yearning, of longing, a place of desire – a “Sehnsuchts-Ort”. It is a sheltered space where you are perfectly suspended from – and one with the world. It’s a place and a matter of belonging to my own little, secluded place.

Artdoxa: A place of your own? Is this place fictitious or real?

Jochen Hein: It’s a feeling. A sensation of a place that’s mine – exclusively allotted to myself. I’ve always been longing to reach such a place. But this holistic sensation of belonging, of identification, of oneness – that’s always just a brief, fleeting moment. I spend most of the time trying to recreate this feeling in my paintings. Being in grace. Like lying in the grass, listening to the song of the lark.

Artdoxa: Oneness?

Jochen Hein: I’m talking of frugality here. I’m talking of being wantless. Fulfillment. Harmony. Everything is alright. The big YES. Affirmation. You know, the landscape at home, where I grew up, the landscape I’m familiar with – I can only reject that estranged and thoroughly cultivated landscape. No affirmation, but complete negation.

Artdoxa: Like this? It’s from 2000 and titled Untitled (Marsch) (http://www.artdoxa.com/users/Jochen_Hein/artworks/643).


Jochen Hein: That’s the very man-made environment of rural North Friesland serving the strange, twisted purpose of agribusiness. There, you’ll scarcely find the deep truth I am looking for in a landscape. You have to search for it. These places, these sights I am looking for are rare, they’re hidden or remote. On the coast, by the sea. You have to search for it to come close to that sensation of truth.

Artdoxa: Many of your paintings feature the model image of an English park – your favourite type of landscape. But English parks aren’t exactly natural. You’ve just recently visited the huge park of the imperial residence at Pavlovsk, near St Petersburg. You told me you were ravished. But isn’t Pavlovsk Palace Park plainly as artificial as any agricultural landscape? Aren’t English parks just a romantic misconception of nature? A stereotype?

Jochen Hein: My favourite park is the quaint little Schlosspark in Husum. The English park as the ideal model of nature reflects the ideal proportions of man in ideal relation to space. His right, rightful place in nature and as part of nature. I wasn’t aware of this when I was lying in the grass of the Schlosspark at the age of fifteen. I could feel it, though. Totally. I could feel the concept in effect. When human interference with nature results in transcending and elevating the place. Exaltation. Harmony. It felt right.

Artdoxa: A transcendental, a magical place? (http://www.artdoxa.com/users/Jochen_Hein/artworks/660)


Jochen Hein: A kind of magic theater, a stage. Anticipation, significancea sense of elationand an acute awareness of duality, of my being separated from the sublime. I have felt like driven by desire ever since. I’m looking for answers where I’m sure I won’t find any. But my work is a pleasant sublimation or transference.

Artdoxa: You told me once, that nature, on the other hand, can be something strange and completely alien to you sometimes.

Jochen Hein: Sometimes there’s an awkward tension. I may feel safe in nature, elated even… but there’s no feedback. Trees don’t care about my feelings. My connection to trees is a figment. It’s onesided and purely virtual, because trees are indifferent to my feelings. I resent that.

Artdoxa: The indifference of nature – do you think it’s personal?

Jochen Hein: Absolutely. The more I feel absorbed by nature, the more I feel at unease with nature. I feel downright rejected.

Artdoxa: Can’t you just take a tree as a distant relative? You don’t care much about each other, but you share a common ancestor? A few hundred million years ago? You just don’t have to take it personal!

Jochen Hein: Actually, I take it personal because of this! We’re both offspring from the same tree of life. But there’s no connection. Man is just another animal. Of course, we’re not as close to trees as we are to cats and dogs. We just haven’t the rapport I would wish for. Not even among ourselves. That’s the thorn in our side. We’re expelled and displaced. This is the crucial drive of our evolution, the evolution of human ideas. You can’t escape duality. In art, it is possible to share with others the collective experience of being disowned.

Artdoxa: You are talking about the fall of mankind. Do you expect everybody to feel that way?

Jochen Hein: I am forty-seven now. All my life I’ve kept wondering if my experience may apply to others as well. Is it valid? What do I have to learn? What’s my lesson? How do other people feel? Mystics? Careerists? Abysmally alienated outsiders? What chance have other people to achieve what I feel is important? How was it before our times, in the past? Ever since the dawning of culture man has been a fugitive. How do I handle this? What do I do with this knowledge? It all depends on your talent and your mind. And on fate and chance, of course. I guess I tend to generalize a lot. That’s because I don’t see any solution. Man has developed efficient means of self-deception. I’m not inclined to give in to self-deception. I don’t like it.

Artdoxa: Do you think, religion is a kind of self-deception?

Jochen Hein: Some people argue that atheism is just a different kind of belief. I don’t think so. To renounce faith and dogma, to give up praying means you neither lose or win.

Artdoxa: Are you a materialist? A sceptic?

Jochen Hein: Materialism has its merits. My awakening meant to abandon any spiritual delusion. You just can’t escape objective and substantial realization. On that level we may generalize. Or argue. To realize that meant to lose all hope of transcendency. Losing my utopia was a relief. Deliverance.

Artdoxa: Very funny, Herr Hein! Give us a break!

(To be continued! Don’t miss the next episode – The Death Metaphor!)


The Death Metaphor

Idioteque – by Nicolai Hermann.


Idioteque – this intentionally mistelling name sure does its best in understating the obvious: this party-concept being the peak of Munich’s efforts in creating a new dimension of call it literally “underground clubbing” for the third century.

With Bavaria being normally percieved as not exactly “state of the art” culturally, this second idioteque on July 5th achieves being just that – in its own modest yet philosophically challenging way.

Graffity meets Fashion Show meets Video-Installation meets Visuals meet DJs meet Live Band meets painter/photographer – in perfect harmonic semi-synchronized frenzy!

While they all make their first acquaintances, one just has to sniff the air in the “ZKMax” underpass to get the hint of a new scentury!

This is because of world-known munich sprayer Loomit having started his live spraying action on two huge canvasses. He just came back from brazil, where he and a number of guys gave several suburban trains a new colourful look – all over the country.


The performance sure meets the interest of Stephanie Müller, mastermind of the punk fashion label “rag*treasure”, whose outstanding fashion show lateron confronts the boredom of the high class catwalking with typewriter liveaction, baroque trash bag ball dresses, and lots of little paper boats.

Much to the delight of Aiko, member of the german-japanese visuals trio “Zielgruppe”. She runs the fascinating VJing-live-action show on her own this night – on several big screens.

One of those happening to be just behind the center stage, where the band “The Dance Inc.” opened the night at half past ten with their danceleg-lifting disco rock sound – followed by the munich DJ “Dompteur Mooner” and the night’s main act DJ Malente, who has been flown in from Mallorca for just this occasion.


Up to 650 party people marvel at the concept – including a witty video-installation by Stephanie Kramer and the paintings/photography-collages by Paula Pongratz, who spontaneously included one of the several huge moveable vitrines into her painting.

Ooooh – gods behold the jumps the giggles the holy shouts of those attendant souls being freed from all the much-too-long-existing boundaries of context, work, meaning, society, thisleadstothat and dontmixhighwithlows. FeeeREEEEEEDOoM!

So – I hear the few remaining realitysts ask – “What is the ‘meaning’ of all this?” The website idioteque.eu gives the explanation of Idioteque being “ein multimedialer Erfahrungskontext, der Musik, bildende Kunst,Film und Mode in einem räumlichen Konzept vereint, das seine Bedeutungen gerade aus Leerstellen, Reibungen und Konflikten gewinnt”. A spatial concept which draws its meaning from voids and conflicts – what a great great concept for humanity’s (if so) future!

Leave your present state (of mind) – and enter an idioteque world nation of senseless (and leaderless!) bliss!
With the next idioteque sure coming up – according to the team in say half a year – new inputs for these ways of lifes are in sight. Impatience is just a word!

Nicolai Hermann, 2008.

Why more Dadaism? — by Charles Zigmund


The Author 




For nearly fifty years, since Pop Art began and dethroned the “high art” seriousness of Abstract Expressionism as a manifestation of elitism, the inheritance of Dadaism has ruled the art world. This philosophy, promulgated first 100 years ago by Marcel Duchamp and his colleagues, declares that art in the prior sense of a directed, purposeful activity separate from and “above” everyday reality, is an outmoded concept. Everyday reality in all its ordinariness is to be considered the same thing as art. Commercial propaganda and found objects, indeed everything under the sun including one’s own excreta, are anointed, primarily by the artist’s choice and use of them, into art. We are invited to rethink one at a time a plethora of our assumptions about reality and life through contemplation of these objects and their relations to the world as the artist re-presents them to us. Although superficially the manifestations of this idea are as wide-ranging and varied as one !

 could wish, in reality the anti-art idea unifies them under the surface into more or less one thing. 


This is a defensible and pregnant idea, but my purpose here is to question why it has become so totally pervasive in contemporary art. I can think of no other single idea in modern art which has held decisive sway for fifty years. It seems to me rather that Dada and its many heirs have become a new ossified academy, very akin to the Academy in France against which the Impressionists rebelled in freeing art for the first time from mechanical conformity and in creating the modern movement. It is a long time since I have found any excitement in seeing found objects in new contexts, because the practice has by now beome so stale and formulaic. Even were some new work in this vein now to have the undoubted impact of, say, a work by Beuys, one would question the conformity of the artist in producing a new work undergirded by such a shopworn concept. Have we not come to the point where every artist semiconsciously looks over her/his shoulder for the approval of the virtual Dada pol!

 ice before conceiving any work? Does she or he not ask whether the piece has the requisite little jolt of the “proper” anti-art concept before finishing it? And when a concept is considered “proper” and “necessary” for fifty years have we not come to the negation of the freedom and creativity which are considered the raison d’etre of art?


A mine of conceptions which has been worked over so long and exhaustively, its every conceivable vein, nook and cranny the object of the pickaxes and dynamite of hundreds of artists, has to my mind surely outlived its usefulness. 


If we look to other media besides the purely visual, we see that the idea of art as something apart from and “above” reality, something special and rare, a meaningful distillation of emotion, intellect and energy, a work of art which is seriously a work of art, not merely an anti-art comment —  does not lack force at this time, Duchamps and John Cage notwithstanding. Everything from rock and soul music to serious cinema to HBO dramatic series to dance to the Chinese Olympic opening ceremony demonstrates that art can still have vitality and meaning outside the dadaistic formula of anti-art. In architecture we see life-affirming vitality. We need not philosophise to posit this pro-art, rather than anti-art, reality in current society, since such art obviously currently, and vitally, exists. Philosophy should attempt to explain this reality, not substitute for it. We must then ask again why painting, sculpture and installation are so mired in this antiquated anti-art conce!



I have no prescription for the direction or directions art should take in the new century to shake off this dust-covered, cob-webbed influence. (In my own work, I present what I believe is a valid new path, but I would not presume to prescribe it for others.) I do believe, however, that whatever the outcome or outcomes, we badly need some new thinking which puts Dada where it belongs – in the history books.  


© 2008 Charles Zigmund