The exhibition ‚Burning Man – Electric Sky’ runs from January 18 to March 10, 2019. Nina and Torsten Römer are a German-Russian artist couple. Both studied painting in the Academy of Düsseldorf and were master students of A.R. Penck. Already during their studies they collaborated artistically. Their works were displayed in many exhibitions including Manifestina Zurich, the 56. Venice Biennial 2015, the CCA Andratx Mallorca and the Palais de Tokyo. Römer + Römer live in Berlin.
Miriam spoke to Römer + Römer about their new exhibition:
MB: How does your day start?
R+R: We open the window and deeply hope that the Duang Xuan Center in front of us does not burn again – an image we have seen once at the horizon of our Kreuzberg apartment.
MB: You are an artist couple living and working together. How do your works materialize – do you develop everything together or do you split the procedure somehow amongst each other?
R+R: Ping pong! We develop all our projects together, already since 1998 when we still studied with A.R. Penck in Düsseldorf. There, we also finished the Meisterschüler degree with a collaborative work. We have no division in our work and realize everything based on a dialogue: from the idea via research through the realization of the concept. The paintings as well get done side by side.
MB: Your most recent show opens right now at Haus am Lützowplatz. What is it exactly you show in „Burning Man / Electric Sky“ whose paintings are based on your participation at the Burning Man Festival in Nevada in 2017?
R+R: Apart from one, all paintings are about the night in Black Rocky City, the temporary town of the “Burning Man”. The focus of our series lies in the fire and particularly in the interaction of the burner with all these phenomena. Also, we do not intend to represent the whole festival – our painterly interest is specifically in these aspects. The paintings are mostly large scale, the biggest is a diptych of 2,30 x 6 meter.
MB: What fascinated you most and how do you integrate emotion in the artistic work?
R+R: Emotion talks probably the most through colors, shining out of our paintings. Indeed, many aspects were fascinating to us at Burning Man. It is no festival in the traditional sense but a huge interactive hedonistic art spectacle adventure in the desert! The ‘culture of giving’ is fantastic, there is nothing to buy (apart from ice cream and coffee) and everybody is delighted in making each other happy. It is a completely different social interaction being practiced there.
MB: Guideline of your oeuvre is the confrontation with politically and socially relevant major events, for example the Carnival of Rio. Are your latest works based on one another, Kulturkommunismus, Partysträfling? What in particular motivates you in these exceptional situations?
R+R: From distance, the carnival in Rio seems like a big sexy Samba-Party. However, once you are there it becomes quite political. One group for example put the topics racism and slavery into an extreme action. Experiencing the get-together of participants from so many different districts and regions – also from many favelas in the prep station in front of the Sambódromo, the Concentracao – was very exciting. One image series arises from the other. After „Sambódromo“ we worked with the topic of the “Fusion Festival” for several years in which we got immersed five times.
In these collective exception states we are interested in the emerging cosmos of temporary communities. The rules are different than ‘outside’. For us this is the artistic research and therefore a combination of analysis and empathic experience.
MB: Say a few words about your technique…
R+R: In our current works we combine spray and glaze painting on canvases, combined with thousands of hand dabbed spots.
MB: I am very interested in how you translate photography in painting: the pixels on the photograph becoming thousands of handmade dots. Is it a way of consolidating the snapshot via painting and is supposed to convey a moment of contemplation?
R+R: On the one side, the dots are a reference to the pixels and on the other our idea is to achieve a certain liveliness and shimmer by dissolving the shapes in the paintings. After that the effect of looking ‘frozen’ is gone and it becomes something cinematic. The process of painting is a very concentrated one and creates lots of energy.
MB: How does your day end? Do you enjoy cooking and have a recipe idea for us?
R+R: Yes, a simple version of Okonomiyaki:
Mix 100 g flavor, 100 ml water, 1 egg and 10 cm of a peeled and grated yams root, cut 100 g cabbage in thin strips and cut some slices of scallions separately. Add 100g of shrimp and mix everything well. Fry two omelets and eat it with mayonnaise and soy.