janet grau

extrem interessant

extrem interessant

Participatory project , video, 2015

When I moved to Heidelberg in 2012, I discovered the Prinzhorn Collection, a museum dedicated to art created by people with mental disorders. Like other artists, I felt compelled to respond to this remarkable collection. This work, extrem interessant (extremely interesting), is my first response.

I invited people of various ages and professions to view selected works from the Prinzhorn Collection, particularly those commented on by the French painter Jean Dubuffet during his visit in 1950. Dubuffet’s assessments, often brief, ranged from ‘extremely interesting’ to ‘mediocre’. The exhibition Dubuffets Liste aimed to comprehensively reconstruct his perspective.

Except in one case, guests viewed the works in pairs, and I videotaped these sessions.

extrem interessant captures the dialogues between these individuals. Each pair discussed two reproductions of the artworks. The video focuses solely on their reactions, as the reproductions are not visible to the viewer.

The participants chose from a pool of 15 works that Dubuffet had seen and evaluated. This allowed for a comparison between Dubuffet’s opinions and the participants’ responses.

In this dialogic setting, the speakers engaged deeply with the artworks, describing their personal impressions and discovering details together. Their words were often complemented by gestures. By handling copies, participants were able to touch and rotate the images, deepening their engagement.

In a relaxed yet focused manner, they reflected on works of art that viewers of the video couldn’t see. The challenge is to listen to their conversations and form our own mental images.

Read the essay by Thomas Röske for the exhibition catalog Dubuffets Liste. Ein Kommentar zur Sammlung Prinzhorn von 1950: Interview mit Janet Grau über “extrem interessant”

Matthias Maaß, one of the artists whose work is included in the Prinzhorn Collection, participated in this project. He painted the work on the right, Zwei Jungs vor der Kamera (Two Guys Before the Camera) as a response to the experience, and gave it to me when I next saw him

Many thanks to all who were curious and brave enough to discuss these works of art in front of the camera: Helmut, Diana & Franzi, Emma & Lilly, Susanne & Eva, Enno & Kerstin, Nicolai & Matthias, Roland & Mechthild, Tobias & Elfi, Hannah, Maria & Sophie, Noah & Jakob and Bernd & Ulrike.
Zwei Jungs vor der Kamera, Matthias Maas
Matthias Maaß, "Zwei Jungs vor der Kamera," 2015
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