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"Art gives me stability"

Together, they form the successful band 2raumwohnung (two-room apartment): Inga Humpe und Tommi Eckert. The two have just released their fourth CD, "Melancholisch schön" (Melancholically beautiful). Art has been playing an important role for both of them for a long time; works by artists such as Raymond Pettibon and Ed Ruscha serve as an inspiration for their music. Brigitte Werneburg met with 2raumwohnung in Berlin and talked to them about the connections between art and music.

2raumwohnung - Inga Humpe at the Record Release Party for "Melancholisch Schön" in Berlin, June 2005
Photo: Eva Maria Ocherbauer

Brigitte Werneburg: You collect art, Fischli & Weiss, Stefan Hoderlein, or Bodo Vitus , for instance. What’s your motive?
Inga Humpe: I do it because I’m interested in the art works, and certainly also because of my relationship to the artists. We’ve both known Stefan Hoderlein for many years, for instance. We’ve been following his work, which has always had something to do with music. His videos with ravers, techno, and cars are his best known works. We also, however, have a light-box work of his. And I visited Raymond Pettibon personally in Los Angeles many years ago. That must have been around1988/89.

…When he was still doing record covers?

Inga Humpe: No, he’d already stopped doing that back then. Music still played a role, though. That was how I also got to know artists like Paul McCarthy or Mike Kelley, but I couldn’t afford their works. They’d already gotten too big.

You’ve obviously been interested in fine arts for a long time, at least for twenty years.

IH: Sure, back then, in the early eighties, it was the time of the Junge Wilde – there was Kippenberger, Büttner, Oehlen, and we went to all the parties. It was a movement that always had something to do with music. But words are also very important to me – that’s why I like Ed Ruscha or Sigmar Polke.

Raymond Pettibon, Untitled, 1998
Photo: Courtesy Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin

Tommi Eckert: More than anything else, it’s this aspect of communication that I value so much in art, the talking about it. The exchange, of course, is particularly intense when it comes to the works of friends. You just know the situation better. But it’s also important for the club scene as a whole. When a video artist like Daniel Pflumm opens a bar together with a few other people, then artists and gallery dealers go there after the openings. And then there’s a new aspect, the fact that Piotr Nathan made this huge work for the Panorama Bar in the former Ostgut. Internationally known works by Wolfgang Tillmans were already hanging on the walls when it was still the Ostgut, and not some random patches of color or advertisements. This is worthy of a big-city club, and something special that other clubs don’t have.

IH: We aren’t classical collectors. We buy art whenever we have the money, and sometimes also when we want to support the artists. Besides, it’s nice to live amongst works of art. I’ve had a print of Albert Oehlen’s for a long time, for instance, that I really love. It’s called New Politics – "Please stop prohibiting others from doing things and then feeling so great about it." But we also collect works by young artists like Gabriele Basch.

TE: That’s one of my favorite works. It’s universally valid, and it’s so funny, the way it’s made…

Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Untitled, 1998/99
Photo: Courtesy Texte zur Kunst, Berlin

Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys is on the advisory committee to the Tate Gallery. The Austrian artist Gerwald Rockenschaub is known not only through his signet-like paintings, but also as a techno deejay. The relationship between pop music and the fine arts has grown closer through the club culture. The image that someone has built up in one area is carried over into the other.

IH: There’s nothing worse than an image in pop music. That’s really terrible, then you could just as well say: "Build me a prison. An image, please!" Keeping up an image is so totally uninspiring, and we work against having an image with all our might. I’m not trying to elevate myself with art. You can really see that sometimes, that people want to become something better by collecting, but I’m not the least bit interested in that.

Does it ever happen that you’re standing in front of a painting, and it makes you want to make music because you like it so much?

IH: That’s sometimes the case with Stefan Hoderlein. But I still don’t believe it’s possible to convert art directly into music. It’s more about the attitude, about certain aspects. The image of Juergen Teller, for instance, where he presents his perfect asshole, conveys an unbelievable attitude, one you can think about when you’re making music.

TE: Direct conversion – that happened once with the work “We don’t remember” - Sorry, I forgot the name of the artist... Actually, that was pure chance, it was about certain states of being in memory, and so we took these lines as a direct quote.

IH: We have a statement by Nam June Paik hanging in the studio: "When too perfect, dear God mad." We live with that, too. Art exerts a strong influence on our work. You can really sense the conceptual effort that goes into this kind of reduction, as it’s formulated in a statement like that – it has a lot to do with the pop music we make and with the texts I write.

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