Dominique Busch: Can you tell something about your new film Luette mit Rucola which was shown for the first time at gallery Klosterfelde in Berlin a few days ago and is also part of your solo show (……) - Surrogat ?

John Bock: Yes; Luette mit Rucola is a horror movie where one person is torturing another person; he is trying to get results with the diagrams he brought along and therefore he needs special body parts of the victim like ears, tongue and eyes. The wrongdoer is trying to find out about macro-results from which the society can benefit. To do so he collects empiric data but the victim is very weak from all the amputations and dies too and then the movie comes to an end (…).

D.B.: Ok, so does this splatter movie mark a new tendency in your work or do you see it as a logical consequence of your earlier ones?

J.B.: In Iceland I made a film which is a bit of an adventure film. He (John Bock) is walking through Iceland and trying to fuse with the landscape; he also carries diagrams around and there is a scene where he breaks his leg and we had very nice plastic - prostheses from the Icelandic fire brigade. They looked like wounds and you could shoot blood through them and it was well filmed so it looked real and that was actually the inspiration to do more with that stuff. And I thought when I have one wound why not have 10?

And that led to the new film?

J.B.: Yes. A very simple transition. And in Brazil I’m planning an adventure film and will go and search for gold. And I think I will also take a monkey with me. That will be a psychodrama between two gold seekers and it will be about the change from a good character to a bad one (…) And for sure I do have films like Fitzcarraldo in my mind. But he just wanted to build an opera house up there and maybe I also just had wanted to build an opera house but in the first instance they are seekers (….).

D.B.: Do you see yourself as a seeker? For example in Skipholt you are walking around and its not clear what you are looking for or where your destination is if you have any…

J.B.: Exactly. It doesn’t become clear during the whole film and in the end he dies in an ice storm (…).

D.J.: In your films you often undergo emotional but also physical strain. What role does the experience of pain and suffering play in your work?

J.B.: Suffering is not really suffering with me; for me suffering is more a theory but basically it’s not real suffering. I don’t shoot a bullet through my arm like Chris Burden did. I would fake that. I don’t need the 100 % experience but the representation of it (…).

D.B.: That’s a big difference compared to the performance artists of the 70s when the experience and the authenticity of it was very important in the work of these artists…

J.B.: Yes, exactly. It’s not about the experience (…) and that’s also very practical …

D.B.: In which way ?

J.B.: Well , Chris Burden had to be brought to the hospital after his performance and that’s where the story ends but I can go on playing because its not a real wound but fake; I can walk on, can take another hurdle, can fight with tigers (…).

D.B. : Let me just name some other artists like Otto Muehl, Paul McCarthy and also Joseph Beuys; they are all coming from very different backgrounds but in your works I see reference points to these artists or more specifically you are using their visual vocabulary but without any of their pathos (…).

J.B.: Yes, in the case of Beuys suffering was his central subject: healing through suffering and one has to suffer to lead a life which was affected by the experience of the second world war through his imprisonment – in which I don’t believe - but McCarthy is already more my generation because here playing is involved and he throws in slapstick and this I do as well but in a very European way , while in his case it’s a counterweight to Hollywood because he’s an LA artist. Also he is emphasizing the action and less the filming of it while in my case it is the other way around.

D.B.: Beuys had an idealistic and even romantic vision of the transformation of society through the creativity of its individuals and McCarthy is dealing with the dark side of the moon of American pop culture - what is it that drives you?

J.B.: The intrusion into the world; the world becomes a stage or the stage is the woods and the woods is the world. I used to act in museums or on stages and at this point the world was the museum and when I felt this was becoming a limitation I started to walk out of there and act in the world itself. And because unfortunately not everybody can come to the jungle I’m filming it. By and by actionism became less relevant in my works and I focus more on the camera. In this sense I see myself more like a painter then an actionist because I’m always aware of the camera and I’m directing what is happening in front of it like somebody is walking in or out of the scene, scenes are repeated and the cameraman gives me instructions how to move in front of the camera (…). The good thing about going to places outside the institutionalized art world is that you don’t have to build so much of the scenery because in the real world it already exists; I used to build rooms and installations but for example for the film Salon de Beton I went to a real bunker for shooting. In this case you just bring along the furniture and props you need (…).

D.B.: When I look at the materials you use for the objects for Salon de Beton and also your other films it’s obvious that you don’t use the classic “arty materials” but rather worn out and cheap everyday materials which you can buy in every shop or find in the streets…

J.B.: I use things in a different context so they can be experienced in a different way. When I put Nutella on a Q-tip and talk about a formula the Q-tip becomes a romantic idea when I put a text over it. A Q-tip is usually used once and then you throw it away but I can push it (…) my objects are cheap objects or disposable objects but I also use toothpaste to make drawings or paint on little sculptures and so toothpaste has more then one meaning (…).

D.B. : The non logical and absurdity play an inherent role in your work ….

J.B.: Yes, there is a pseudo logic which has to do with our era and the fact that the utopia of communism but also capitalism are finished and everybody laughs when utopians are showing up like Beuys (…) Nowadays we say that we don’t need utopias anymore, times have changed so now we have irony instead of utopia ; nobody says anything direct anymore, there is always irony involved and things are becoming absurd and that is also the era I’m living in.

D.B.: Well that’s the era we live in but how do you see it for yourself ? I mean do you think utopian ideas in politics, society and art showed that they had to fail and therefore became obsolete ?

J.B.: Oh yes, utopias will come back! You can’t just live your live without them (…) The same holds for religion , which you can’t just replace by modern technology which has no benefits for the individual except the computers keep getting smaller (…) but somehow that doesn’t work and people are not getting happier by this so I think after the age of irony there will come a time when utopias will have their place , otherwise its hard to go on (…) .

D.B: That brings me back to a question I asked you earlier which was about you as a seeker, somebody who is looking for a way out of a situation but seems to be caught in it…

J.B.: Yes, I’m in a way a seeker but at the same time I’m in the position of somebody who is making statements so that people who see that can still project their own ideas on what I say and do; when I say 1 1 = 2 is something they already know so you don’t have to tell them again but if you say 1 1 = 1,1 that makes a difference (…).

D.B.: Many social utopias were actually talked about and even tried as if they were a mathematic formula: if you do this and that….

J.B.: This will come out, right. …

D.B: Alright, so much about utopia… by the way: who are the three most important and influential dead artists in your opinion?

J.B.: For me?

D.B.: Yes, for you!

J.B.: Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Marcel Duchamp and let’s say Bas Jan Ader.

D.B.: Because we are in Holland…

J.B.: Yes, because we are in Holland….

D.B.: Ok, so let me ask you the obligatory second part of this answer: Who are the three most important and influential living artists in your opinion?

J.B.: Hmm…oh no, Beuys is also dead!

D.B.: Shall we add Beuys to the first category then? You can have four dead artists as well…

J.B.: No, let’s stay with what we have…and the three living artists then….hmmm…Heimo Zobernig, Andreas Slominski ….oh, Kippenberger is also already dead….hmmm…David Lynch.

D.B.: If you were me, sitting here with you, knowing you and your work what would you be most interested in to find out about yourself? What would you like to know about that guy?

J.B.: Oh god! About myself ?!

D.B.: Yes…

J.B.: Maybe why does he have so many problems in buying a new pair of shoes…