Contribution by Ele Jansen One can at least say that an artist is foremost a show-off. And as such, he is dependent on an audience that is as large as possible. But what if attention doesn’t work? When the valued audience is distracted by mega-capitalist pop ready to be consumed? That’s when art takes to the weapons of the prevailing economic system and professionally vies for public attention. The artist is then in good company with marketing and PR experts who, in turn, love to grasp themselves as artists. Only they earn a lot more.Thoroughly a PR expert, the Swiss artist Thomas Haemmerli in the D.I.V.O container consequently speaks of “benchmarking“, “elevator pitches” and of ways to “pimp my CV” by participating in the subvision festival. His lecture is comparable to a meta-march through the usual literature of business consultants. Visitors ask themselves, how commercial an artist has to be today in order to reach an audience. Quite so, according to Haemmerli, who delivers his lecture in an entertaining mixture of Denglish and Swiss German.
Haemmerli distinguished himself from his 30 competitors at subvision simply by luring people with red wine, serving 30-euro Barolo in plastic cups. Perhaps the serotonin discharged by alcohol makes the guest less critical – something which is probably quite okay with the old communication strategist Hämmerli. For his art is not exactly path-breaking. The container is installed with old memorabilia from the flat of his deceased mother, the laptop presentation shows shots of rubble containers, mandalas and skeletons.
Of course, there are brief stories accompanying all motifs. Exhilarating. Shallow. And that’s where art is – because the themes make one heck of a thud.
That’s how Haemmerli starts talking about his documentary film “Sieben Mulden und eine Leiche”, a biting meditation about the death of his mother who, as it turns out after her death, was a real compulsive hoarder. He gives an account of the three-minute ignominy (“elevator pitch”) of chasing after programme directors at international film festivals to market his film. It must be said that it is a relatively thankful task to sell a film compared to the marketing of fine art. The “long tail” on the Internet, he said, has led to such a horrible amount of competition available on the market at all times. The remark of a Dutch artist that precisely this offers opportunities reveals to what extent Haemmerli seems to shy away from competition. One would actually assume that the former PR expert would have imbibed communicative persuasion from infancy.
Following brief excursions to Luhmann, Roth, Warhol, and Marx, Haemmerli finally asks the audience to take a photo of him holding a cellophane-packaged copy of “Lenin – What is to be Done” over a sacrificial stone altar. The message? Artists are capitalist communists. Or vice versa. Or whatever.