Michael Sailstorfer, born in Vilsbiburg (Germany) in 1979, can be defined an enfant prodige, if every child was not a prodige. The 21st century has kicked off with a storm of spatial conceptualists and Michael is right there riding the wave. He is what Prince would call a sign of the times. Since the 2001 Biennale was won by Gregor Schneider’s claustrophobic, domestic enclosure, we are experiencing a push towards a new anarchy of space, where Elmgreen & Dragset spread mayhem, altering any socio-architectural, pre-set standard. And where Hans Schabus is literally linking imaginary doors with his transitional exhibitions, moving from Vienna to Milan and beyond. A new century for a new living space, with artists and architects forecasting a spectacular shift to post-public art, where ‘other’ spaces are exploited and spectators are involved in the process. Another sign of renewed situationist glory are surely Tiravanija’s social sculptures in Cities On The Move where he uses taxis, local Thai tuk tuk, and motorbikes as exhibition venues and carriers. Although Michael has no intention to revise the gentle ghosts of 1960’s anarchitecture – he declares his goals being purely sculptural – we nevertheless feel a push from within that makes the question of space a hijacker of true contemporary significance.
Sailstofer’s enthusiasm and apparent innocence do not represent a substantial obstacle to his rise. Michael has already seen where the wave is going to clash and has diligently picked one or two of his best inspirations so far to build his own waves: Punk Rock and Gordon Matta Clark! Michael was not even born when the Stooges in the States or the Sex Pistols later in Europe were shouting their rebellion. In those years, Gordon Matta Clark cut a spiral through an office block in Antwerp, dug a hole into the floor of a gallery for the duration of an exhibition, and explored underground New York and Paris. So, Michael’s (conscious and unconscious) heroes are alive and kicking and his strengths are at the same time methodical and inspirational – pure genius in fact. Being engaged in pataphysics, the science for imaginary solutions, Boiler could not help but choosing Michael Sailstorfer as its own EUREKA!
BOILER: You seem to have an obsession with building houses out of anything: sporting airplanes, rural bus stops, and caravans. To deconstruc and reconstruct devices to eventually relocate them in unlikely situations. Did you have a difficult childhood at home? Seriously, do you love doing that and do you do it yourself?
Michael Sailstorfer: First of all I wish to thank you all for being Boiler’s Choice. I grew up in the countryside where I had a great childhood. I was ‘outside’ almost every day. One of my hobbies was building things I absolutely wanted to have but I couldn’t afford to buy or were impossible to get. For example motor go-karts, motorbikes, boats, different kinds of catapults and weapons, houses and elevators. I didn’t do it with the intention of doing an art piece. It was like a splendid game and I enjoyed it. Today, I’m still working in the same way. I like the whole process of building a piece. First I have an idea and then I think about the process and the material to use. The deconstruction work is as important as the construction of an actual piece because it is the perfect time to know, to understand the material inside out and to think about the shape and the details of the sculpture. If you compare the process with doing a painting, the deconstruction part might represent the grounding of the canvas.
B: In a recent interview Elmgreen & Dragset told us about the failure of modern utopias including city planning disasters and the capitalistic system itself struggling to provide citizens a pleasurable environment to live in. What is your idea of 'urban happiness'?
MS: I came to Munich in 1999. In September I moved to London. There are many reasons why I love urban life. First of all it’s a social exchange, meeting people who share the same creative approach. Then, of course, I enjoy all the thing city offers like bars, clubs, theatres, museums, galleries, libraries, universities, cinemas, and swimming pools. Everything is available almost next door. For me the city inspires ideas. Often the materials I use for my work are taken from an urban life context, like streetlights, city busses, cars, airplanes… They are robbed of their actual function, sometimes completely destroyed, before they become part of a sculpture. Sometimes they are relocated in the countryside where they seem to the locals like an irritating picture.
B: In fact, you place many of your works out in the green. In the 1990’s, British eco-activists built small tree houses and settle there to stop the building of new motorways that would rape of British countryside. What would be the purpose of your tree house?
MS: It’s not my task to make the world a better place. The important thing for me is how the sculpture looks and how it works in the tree and the story it tells.
B: Shooting Star is a mobile launching platform for ‘streetlights’. Why would you want to deliver such a dangerous urban weapon?
MS: The first idea behind it was really romantic. It was like producing your own shooting star. One wish, one shot. It couldn’t be used as a weapon because the streetlight doesn’t fly more than 15 meters away and it doesn’t make a big blast. It looks like a dangerous tool because of the straightforward materials I’ve chosen to put the romantic idea into action: a Mercedes Benz and the streetlight. That’s what I wanted. In reality the way to realize your dreams is often ‘not very romantic’. I built this piece for a show called Oltre In Giardino (Beyond In The Garden), which took place in summer 2002 in Rimini’s city park, in Italy. The idea was to go there with my German car and all the material for the catapult on the roof and to take one of the streetlights of the park. The sculpture was standing there for six weeks with a tightened bungee rope and the shining streetlight.
B: Do you have any heroes in art, music, literature, or whatever?
MS: My all time hero is Richard Serra. He knows exactly what he is doing and he managed to do his work for such a long time and it is still so great and interesting. Gordon Matta Clark is one of my heroes too. I also like very much Manfred Pernice´s work. In Music it is much more difficult. It is changing all the time. Something between The Clash, Sorrogat, and the White Stripes. And it’s the same with literature. Last weekend I red a book by Selim Özdogan that I liked very much.
B: You also made a drum kit out of a police car. How?
MS: Well, it was a punk rock thing. DIY – being able to do everything on your own, here the drum set. Then the German police car. Who doesn’t want to play drums made out of a police car? It often takes me a long time to find the material I want to use. Like the plane for the tree house, I had to make loads of phone calls until I found it. I bought the car for €200, dismantled it, and then rebuilt it as a drum set. I like the result because it looks so simple.
B: Do It Yourself (DIY) is a concept that extends itself quite far in your ‘solar system’ artwork.
S: Oh yes… Lenbachhaus’ museum square, where the sculpture was standing, is heavily frequented by traffic. I took the things around this place, like cars, streetlights etc. to build a model of the solar system. In that way they loose their actual function. The other cars, traffic lights, bicycles and motorbikes around this place are themselves becoming a part of a cosmos. Like the permanent Dan Flavin’s light installation in that place has became my Milky Way.
B: And what does the title “Und Sie Bewegt Sich Doch!” mean in English?
MS: "Und sie bewegt sich doch!" is the famous sentence from Galileo Galilei. Something like: " and it moves after all!". It refers to the rotation of the earth.
B: From Galileo to Archimedes. What makes you say “EUREKA! I Found it?”
MS: Difficult question. It is the moment when you know exactly what sculpture you absolutely want to build next.