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It's a little bit coquette in a way - it's not friendly of me to say that, but I feel that sometimes. I think the Bechers really moved me when I met them as a student. Here are people interested in confronting Fascism and history as it was and is and we don't close our eyes, we open our eyes. When we do, we build something. They did something. To speak in a very wide-angle sense, they made an archive about visibility. Some people said they photographed the monuments of manual labor, but didn't photograph the workers and their dirty hands, but I find that to be a very shortsighted argument.

In his use of blurring in the "photo-painting," ( example) is Richter hedging his bets?

Yes, he stays on the safe side. On the one hand, blurring the photographs and taking them out of their context is interesting, because he reinforces this questioning and use of information - but Richter, I think, is always about the desperate sort of suffering of somebody who's not sure about the information or the psychological circumstance.

Do you think there's a difference between Richter's experience of having gone through the War and your own experience of having been being born after the War?

I don't know, I'm not so sure about that. I started to read a portion of the biography by Dietmar Elger, who worked at the Sprengel Museum in Hanover and who wrote about Richter's work and life and about the development of his work, but there are very few answers about that somehow -

It's not forthcoming.

No, it's not forthcoming. It seems to me somehow that after Richter came to the West, he jumped on certain things in a way that is forthcoming through childhood, and that these experiences in the first part of his life remained unclear. I'm not saying that there would be something mean to discover - it's just a feeling towards the Bechers, they relate openly to August Sander, and Bernd openly relates to the depiction of the industrial landscape in painting before or around the invention of photography. They relate to the idea of the library very openly, and they themselves are very open.

There's something available.

Thomas Struth, Paradise 13, Yakushima/ Japan, 1999
Courtesy Thomas Struth and Marian Goodman Gallery

Yes, it's a very open intention; it's completely unvain. When I met them, there was an open door and a clear attitude.

I'm interested in how you use history paintings. All the museum photographs ( example) are historically based, there are no contemporary works within those images. Was the place, the museum itself, the motivation, or were the paintings? This series occurs over many museums, from the Stanza di Rafaello to the Louvre and the National Gallery.

The museum photographs worked only with figurative painting. Most of the time the paintings are the starting point.

You've said that "speed is not your department." The concept of slowness is also a painting concept, like in Ad Reinhardt's work.

Fei Lai Feng, Hangzhou, 1999, Sammlung Deutsche Bank
©Thomas Struth, Düsseldorf

When you work with photographs, it's almost natural to long for slowness because the intention is to grasp something, to present a work that expresses a broader range of meanings that is intense and capable of offering a shared experience with other people. I think it's a natural idea, considering the increasing speed with which people have been living since the Industrial Revolution. I don't see any meaning for me in saying "I want it even faster or as fast as it exists already." I'm more interested in what happens when I slow it down. Isn't it more important to make more space for slowing it down? The video portraits at the Met, Video Portraits One Hour, are the maximum statement you can make about that. Look at the camera for one hour and there's no action.

Thomas Struth, Video-Porträts, Installationsansicht
Metropolitan Museum New York, 2003

The videos have a live quality about them, especially as they are projected in the Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum: the camera stays steady, but there is movement. They reverse the strategy of the museum photographs. Instead of viewing art from history, the audience is looking at your work, which is not only contemporary, but takes place in an unflinching present. With the videos, the museum audience is constantly moving and changing in real time. What contemporary artists are most important to you?

I like the work of Robert Gober a lot, even though it's not my cup of tea, but I really respect it. I like the show he made at Dia many years ago, I thought that was outstanding. I'm good friends with Thomas Schutte, I like his work a lot; although it's not all that important as an influence, I hold it in high respect. I recently saw a very good show of William Eggleston's work in Cologne at the Museum Ludwig. I could say Velazquez is important to me just from going to The Manet to Velazquez show at the Met with Maria Hambourg the other day. I realized how little I'm able to deal with Manet. He gives me nothing, almost zero. Velazquez gives me everything. I react like that, then I ask myself, why is it like that, what is it? That's the big joy of looking at art, it's a constant process.

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