Some people associate him with his paintings, others have already been at his events without knowing it and again others have seen him in front of them, but would not recognize him again without the whole color on his face. Who is Dirk Baumanns, what does he do, how and why? We introduce you to this multifaceted creative super-artist in an interview with three podcasts.
As a painter, Dirk Baumanns has already organized countless solo and group exhibitions, he performs performance acts on his own or with the group “Die Segel”, as well he is the creator of event series such as “Pixelkitchen”. Together with his partner Madelaine Munition they design the most bizarre outfits including body painting for the “Stadtindianer”; he is a member of the “Kunstverein Familie Montez” (Montez Family Art Association) and studied fine arts at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Offenbach. With his heart and soul he is committed to environmental protection and recently combined his artistic expression with current movements in the painting “Mona Greta”.
Over the years the joint projects, events and appearances developed into an international network with a wide variety of actors from the art and cultural scene, who in turn contributed to new ideas. Especially at the Pixelkitchen events the guests were offered a conglomeration of demonstrations from the most different genres, something for everyone. DJs did their show, bands stood on stage, works by artists hung on the walls or freshly sprayed graffiti was pilloried. Of course the performance could not be missing, mostly weird, interesting and amusing. And even an exquisite gourmet menu was provided, but this had to be reserved in advance. The next Pixelkitchen is expected to be on New Year’s Eve.
The latest genius highlight by Dirk Baumann’s team is the “Grand Hotel International”, which opened its doors for the first time at the International Theatre in Frankfurt on 17 October. A theatre experience of the performative and unusual kind supported by the theatre makers Müjdat Albak and Cüneyt Sezer. You get more info about the Grand Hotel International in the podcast below, it´s in German. Dirk Baumanns, drummer Miguel Felber of the band The Garciass, who performed that evening, and Müjdat Albak of the Güneş Theatre and the International Theatre were guests of Radio X for this event.
In another session we had a visit from Dirk Baumanns and gallery owner Wolfgang Raith from the KAOST Gallery about the exhibition “Sturm der Liebe” (Storm of Love), the audio is as well in German. As well in the studio as co-moderator was Francesco Solazzo from the frantastic italian food project La Frisa and the artist network Iko Sounds.
Nevertheless, the two radio broadcasts were not nearly enough to adequately capture the extent of Dirk Baumann’s projects, creations and innovative work. So we recorded another interview in which we spoke more about the origins and backgrounds of the art doings. You can find this podcast in German here; in the following the interview is also written down and translated into English.
How did you come to art and would you call yourself an artist?
I guess so, yeah. But yes, what is an artist? The question is always difficult. I started first with drawing long time ago. I’ve been drawing comics, making up stories. I can trace this relatively precisely back to the age of ten. That’s when I started making those comic books. Maybe I drew before, but then it became very intense.
How was your time at school? Did you have problems to get along?
Absolutely. I’ve had a pretty difficult time at school. I had to repeat twice, there was a change of school as well and I had bad grades actually. In school you are pressed into certain structures and there I didn’t work so well, so to speak. It was this memorizations and as well authority that was not mine.
Then you did more and more your thing and expressed your thoughts in objects, pictures or performance.
That’s exactly the word that’s been buzzing around in my head right now: to express myself. In pictorial form or that can also happen in many other ways. If I go back to the initial question of how it all started. Because with me there is not only drawing and painting, but there are as well different media. And what has become very much now is performance art. I also thought about it a lot in general, how did I come to the art? I made a lot of considerations, especially regarding the performance. I’ve actually done something like this since I was a kid and was a bit of a ham. At parties, for example, I always stood in the middle and told stories and jokes in front of adults. Once for example on my grandpa’s sixtieth birthday, where there were a hundred people.
You liked it to entertain other people. You didn’t want to annoy them, you wanted to give them a show.
In this case I wanted to make them laugh and inspire them somehow. Maybe I just wanted to convey a good feeling. I think that was the bottom line. I wanted to share joy and then I had the feeling that it fit.
That’s not really a ham then. A ham is somebody who only wants fame for himself. But with you, there’s a lot more to it than that.
That’s why I hesitated with the term ham. I said it, because you also have to have a certain courage to step in front of people and to face stage fright. So stage fright is actually still something that plays a role even now. It’s not like I’m always completely free of fear there. That’d be weird, you can’t wipe something like that off.
You’ve got lots of great projects, I’ve got a whole list of creative things here. We’ll go over them one by one now, so there are “Pixelkitchen” and the “Stadtindianer”, but chronologically first were “Die Segel”, the performance group.
Yes, that is also the root from which the other things have grown. “Die Segel” are actually the result of a merger of friends. We all have been art students in a painting class, but as well we were doing art with very different media. We have all worked pictorially somewhere, but also musically or perhaps a little more in a graphic direction or with computer graphics. But we all had a connection to painting and art and then we came together through this painting class, but there through friendship.
You preferred doing art projects in cooperation with others.
There’s the possibility that as an artist you mainly deal with yourself, withdraw into yourself and keep away from everything else. And then, of course, a form of art can emerge. But I think we all missed doing something together. In any case, I can speak for myself that I lacked to work together with other people and also to be together and also to have an exchange. So I was always afraid myself somewhere you can say, but I just didn’t feel like being alone with myself all the time, which is certainly an option as I said. But I thought to myself, I don’t want that for me. I would rather work together with people to create and achieve something. But of course I still like to be alone sometimes and using my own head.
You have been performing with “Die Segel” for almost ten years now.
Yes, since 2010. If you say ten years now, that sounds kind of gross, too. It’s awesome that we’ve had gigs throughout this long period of time. So every year we did performances, we made short films, installations, we went to France together. Looking back, what I now consider to be some of the most beautiful moments, we travelled to France and lived there in very difficult circumstances. So Erik and I slept in a very small mini room, it was also quite cold in November. In the south of France one actually thinks it is warmer, but due to the humidity it was quite cold. Daniel, Tamara and Max were also in a very small apartment where you couldn’t even walk upright and practically had to walk like on all fours.
Just living there was already like a small performance.
Yeah, that’s right. Well, that was a really incredible time. So it’s great how we managed to organize ourselves together and to go there, to deal with the circumstances and then in the end we delivered a really cool thing. Of course, that’s all part of it. We may be friends, but you could almost call it a small family. There are not only positive and good things, there are also difficulties and problems. Each for himself and also together. It also happened there and as so often or let´s say with every artistic work we do, that we sometimes clash and have arguments. And in France this exploded a little bit as well. But that is also practically a sign for the energy that is set free. The great thing is that we end up getting together again and again. But that was totally liberating after all the stress, the work, the discussions and the conflicts. But despite all this, something is created. Something is created that we ourselves are proud of in the end. So actually with the finishing it’s also liberating and everything gets out.
So “Die Segel” have been in the beginning. Can you say that was your first major cooperation with other artists? And then came „Pixelkitchen“.
Yeah, well, we started “Die Segel” together. But this was the first project where I was a co-creator and co-founder. “Pixelkitchen” was actually created when I did a performance with “Die Segel” on the Teves area for a festival of the Güneş Theater. Then I was asked about the performance. Well, that’s just a guess now, I don’t know exactly how Müjdat Albak got it. But I just think the performance absolutely blew him away. I think he also noticed how we worked in the group and that I also do these group activities there. And yes, as I have already said, one can also withdraw as an artist or say here or there I am not exhibiting now, because that is now under the dignity or under the art market-affine system. Sometimes you don’t even know what the possibilities are. You practically don’t realize it until you do. I opened it there with the festival and actually made further connections with other artists, friends of artists, but also not only from the fine arts, but also from the music scene, with writers and many more. That really opened a barrel then. You could say that. I think it’s also important to stay in the doing, to keep on doing. Of course, everything doesn’t always turn out to be good immediately. I often get into situations where I have to give people tips or advice. So to the question: Should I make art or not and try to be an artist or not? Since I am doing this since a while, I had difficult times, so it is actually very very rocky road. But it is also a very fruitful way and you get a lot back.
The concept of “Pixelkitchen” was then again a further development. You had your performance, but you invited other groups and artists from different genres and started a kind of super event series. There was food, music, pictures, literature, performance, so there was something for everyone.
Yes, you actually had the possibility to get in at any time of the evening and still to take practically everything with you. So Müjdat Albak has found a very nice description. We cooked everything in one pot, all the pixels. A kitchen for the pixels, so it´s like a “Pixelkitchen”. What makes up the overall picture are the individual pixels and each pixel then plays together. That’s also where I’ve always tried to swim on this wave, which is practically detached as soon as the event has started. So Tsunami would be a too negative word, but just like such an atmospheric wave, which was kicked off by the artists, but also by the visitors.
And you also performed there with “Die Segel”?
Yeah, that’s it. So I also find our name of the symbolic very beautiful. Also with the wind in our sails and we see ourselves as a crew that sets off on a journey together, perhaps with an unknown outcome. That’s not just the white of the sail. (“Die Segel” means “The Sails”).
You change boats every now and then, but you take the sail with you.
That’s it. Well, actually, it is. We support each other and support each other and the individual people of the sails, also have their own projects. At “Pixelkitchen” they have also worked individually. For example, Erik did the visuals, that was always great and awesome how it helped to create the atmosphere of the evening. Daniel had fantastic music gigs. Meanwhile he has also developed super boldly in the techno music scene.
So when did the exhibitions come? You also had some events at the Kunstverein Familie Montez.
Montez was actually even before “Die Segel”. There I already had exhibitions or did performances. That was 2007 and the sails started in 2010. So every member of “Die Segel” has done his own things before we founded the group. Also exhibitions or performances, as with me now.
Where have you exhibited or performed before?
So we already mentioned Montez. Then the “Güneş Theater”, the “Eulengassen e. V.” , at “Blaues Haus”. I have exhibited in the gallery in the Fahrgasse once, but unfortunately it closed meanwhile. The example with the “Blaues Haus” is another complex topic, because a lot of things have happened there. I exhibited artworks, but I also did performances. You meet great people and people with a big heart. What I now also know, but you could also already imagine. In the art world and the art scene or generally in the cultural field, there are simply super many people who not only think smartly, but also have a big heart and a lot of empathy, like hardly anywhere else in our society.
Then later came the “Stadtindianer”, which again has much more to do with dressing up and bodypainting. How about performing all naked, have you ever done this as well?
Sure, I’ve done that before. I’ve practically gotten step-wise to the whole thing. So it was also so with the performance that I was in the beginning fully in drawing and painting and I even tried earlier myself with the music once. But then everything came together with the performance and I was able to expand it by two more senses. So this reaches practically all senses, I found it totally exciting and great. That went on and on, because I always wanted to cross borders, that’s also my nature. So crossing boundaries, sounding out boundaries. But the border can also be quite thin. So at an event in the “Dreikönigskeller”, there was only a thin plexiglass pane between me and the visitors. I did a performance there once. I also do shows at places where you don’t suspect this kind of art. Sometimes I’m in places that I think are cool and of course I talk to the people and ask them about a gig. But it also happens the other way around. Well, that’s one way or another.
And with the “Stadtindianer”, you dress up and perform?
The “Stadtindianer” is the latest project I’m doing with my girlfriend. Her stage name is Madeleine Munition. She also makes art herself. She writes and has also made poetry slams and is very active in Café Kurzschluss or Klapperfeld and in feminist groups. This is another topic where courage is also important. So whether such an art project can work in the relationship or not. There have been some doubts, if we would argue there also like with “Die Segel”. But it went all still quite well. It wasn’t like we were both forcing that to happen. That was actually very natural. I now have a studio in Fechenheim, my girlfriend is also currently working as a social worker in Fechenheim. She practically always visited me in the studio after work. I’m not just making art now. I also have some jobs that I do, but if time permits, I try to be in the studio as much as possible. Then we met there and it just happened. So we picked out a few things, I did some stuff with paint. So you have to say, I have a really packed studio with lots of stuff. I’m a little messy too, some kind of a chaos guy. I have a lot of artist friends who are totally surprised when they come to my place. I have a friend from France who went into my studio and immediately said: “Mon Dieu! Incredible!”
But that’s actually a compliment.
Yeah, well, I thought it was lovely. She jumped around, took photos and was totally happy about the overflowing ashtray and about this whole huge jumble of things. She is also a performance artist, but more structured and also a bit more planned. But she also does great things, she is a great artist. But every artist is different; every person is different and that is completely ok. Well, I’ll be okay with myself then as well. That’s my system then. You always say order in chaos and such words. You can hardly walk in my studio, there are mountains everywhere that open up. It looks like a giant garbage heap. And then it happened that when Elenora was there, I invited her to a festival that I curated. We then looked for material for her in my studio after she did her photo session. It was about what we needed. Okay, a stapler. I went into the garbage heap and pulled out the stapler. “Here you go!”. So I really have such a memory, she was really aghast that I pulled all the stuff out of the whole pile, what she needed. Still it’s actually difficult when I’m practically cleaning up. I do that from time to time that I need space on the floor or something for certain things. It really annoys me to stalk around in this room like that.
I think of your studio as such an adventure land.
Yeah, it is. And we then used this adventure playground for the “Stadtindianer”. For us, this is the greatest venue. It’s like a costume shop or a carnival store, it’s all in one.
So you started dressing up, painting up, and then you went out on the street?
In fact, we haven’t been outside yet, we haven’t had a gig yet. So far we have mainly produced in our studio photographs of the paintings or designed with found objects human installations. But we have actually already received some inquiries. We have received a blatant feedback, partly not only positive, but already very good feedback. And people have already asked us for performances in public space. A lot has been incorporated, including the emotional relationship between the two of us as partners. So what drives us around in detail, but also what connects us or what we both think about. So in the photos, for example, the color purple is strongly represented, this is also the color of feminism and something that comes from the background of Madeleine Munition. Then also the constellation of how we both appear and are disguised has to do with this topic. But it also has the themes of multiculture and culturality, but also environmental protection, which comes from my area of activity, whereby these are also things that also occupy my girlfriend and of course also occupy us all. We generally deal with everything that is important.
THE ARTISTS ABOUT THE GRAND HOTEL INTERNATIONAL:
We are a somewhat outdated, abandoned old building of the Belle Epoque, which from time to time is populated by colourful, frivolous shadow figures from Frankfurt’s nightlife. Built in and partly transformed by new structures, the old concierge is still standing at the reception, where one asks to enter by strange appearance. Then you can finally enter the old saloon with bar and chandelier, which floats under a pyramidal glass roof. Our guests enjoy staying here until some follow the tempting call of the stars of the underground and sometimes well-known, active artists. For this purpose, the gates open to the large hall, in which guests can also move into their rooms and sit on beds with their drinks. While the coveted sounds rise out of the darkness and a maze of magical will-o’-the-wisps appears, the huge curtains that surround the hall open up and international artists begin to do their mischief on a large stage. The internationality of our guests promises a pleasant multilateral ambience.
Grand Hotel International
Phone: +49 (0) 69 – 499 09 80
Adress: Hanauer Landstraße 5-7, 60314 Frankfurt
Theater Office: Grüne Str. 11, 60316 Frankfurt
Adress: Rebstöckerstr 49d, 60326 Frankfurt
Phone: +49 (0) 69 – 77 07 69 97