Valletta Contemporary

Artist Interviews: Eric Meier

 

Interviewed by Ann Dingli 
September 2019

Eric Meier, portrait  by Julie Becquart

Eric Meier, born in East Berlin, GDR, is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work interweaves individual, autobiographical, and socio-political issues. In his Valletta Contemporary (VC) show, Diktat, Meier will invite viewers to consider the consequences of abrupt social changes caused by the collapse of existing socialism. Meier’s background in photography expands to include sculpture, video, text and spatial installation interventions; detached from pure depiction, he approaches his themes through material, combining hard surfaces, fragile objects and abstract images. From the failures of the 90s and 00s in reunited Germany, he draws psychological conclusions about humanity’s current political situations. Questions of social identity, nostalgia, belonging, failure, and doubt are repeatedly raised in his works. Here, he speaks to Ann Dingli about the theoretical arc that bridges all of his work; the transference of the specific themes he depicts to adjacent social issues; and whether he hope or positivity factors in his work to any degree.  

 

Ann Dingli (AD): Eric, there’s one word that categorically springs to mind when looking at your work – and that’s ’layered’. You address several concepts or themes (from dissonance between media and readers, to the effects of nationalism, to the way we experience place and the natural world), yet all of your interrogations seem to belong under one universal umbrella that is attempting to answer a bigger question. Is that a fair interpretation of your practice? If so, what is the bigger question?

 

Eric Meier (EM): I guess you can say so. The starting point for my practical work is the interest in post GDR Germany – the time from 1989 to now. This interest seems quite specific… and surely it is. It has biographical roots, is connected to my political concern and dependent on my surroundings. But when you think about this historical event and the impact it had, not only for Germany, you get to picture the question of system change, and all the consequences society needed and needs to deal with. 

 

So that could be the umbrella. My impression is that it’s constantly raining.

 

(AD): Before discussing Diktat, I’d like to revisit your work for Requiem For a Failed State, which focused on similar or adjacent themes to your exhibition at VC. Can you talk about what you were striving to communicate with your contribution and how it came together with the work of the wider exhibition?

 

(EM): The show Requiem For a Failed Stateat Halle 14 - Centre for Contemporary Arts in Leipzig brought together over 20 artistic positions dealing with the failed state (GDR). My part in the show was a remix of an installation I showed before titled SadBoys2k1. The work has a masculine view towards post socialist society. It kind of reflects how status symbols replaced former values. At the same time, I wanted to achieve a feeling of insecurity – a representation of the uncertainty a lot of people suffered from in the 90’s and that is now seeping back in. So, I was rather on the site of an abstract consequence, failure and future perspective within the show, whereas other contributions dealt directly with East Germany.

Sad Boys2k1, HGB Galerie, Leipzig

(AD): The work you showed in Requiem For a Failed Statemakes considerable inclusion of fragments, whether real or manufactured. Are you interested in the idea of fragments as de-constructed versions of memory? Do they symbolise the inconsistency or unreliability of history?

 

(EM): I would say that the use of fragments plays a role in sculpture, photography and 

installation for me, one hundred percent. It is a way to show and think about the in-between rather than being symbolic. Same for the viewer. Since my work has narrative elements it’s important to me to sketch a surrounding or space as guidelines, or things viewers probably recognise. To work fragmentarily means, for me, to create artworks that can stand in solitary as well as they speak to each other in a group situation. So, indeed, they are a version of my de-constructed memory with the aim to address other memories.

 

(AD): Moving now to Diktat, your show at VC. It coincides with the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – an episode in history that has been quite central to your practice and theoretical development. In commenting on past events do you also aim to highlight the repetition of ideological patterns in the now?

 

(EM): That’s for sure. The most important thing to me is to always draw a line between the past and the present. You can’t have one without the other. Nostalgia can be elusive. People always tend to think only about positive memories avoiding bad feelings and faults from the past. That’s the point when it comes to repetition.

 

(AD): You talk about unveiling “unconscious perceptions of our present”. Can you unpack what that means? What are these perceptions, and why do they only live in the unconscious?

 

(EM): One abbreviated example – the State of Saxonia in Germany, as one of the richest countries in the world, had 4.9% of its population made up of foreigners in 2018. Over 25% of its people voted for the right-wing populist party AfD. This is not working logic, it’s driven by fear and, unconsciously, a construction of populism. People are frightened because of change and fear is an irrational feeling. I see myself as trying to make this uncertainty visible.

Sad Boys2k1, HGB Galerie, Leipzig

(AD): The rise of hyper-nationalism is of particular concern to you and resonates as a driving theme in much of your work. When you consider the events leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and then you fast forward to present day (the UK’s Brexit; Charlottesville’s car attack; Germany’s new Neo-Nazi mayor; the USA’s border wall; Malta’s racially-motivated murder of Lassana Cisse), it’s temptingly easy to believe things are getting worse not better. Is this sense of regression the message your work is trying to convey? Or are you more positive – more hopeful?

 

(EM): I tend to be more depressed about all these problems and that influences the work I do. But when it comes to my photography, I find a certain beauty in the lack of structure, in the decay of the spaces I photograph. Speaking metaphorically, this decay can be a starting point to renewal. And that’s hopefully positive.

Bruch, archival pigment print, 2019

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