What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stranger

If the Joker from The Dark Knight was right in assessing that “whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger,” then there must be a lot of things that haven’t yet killed Carl Wassa Lübeck. I don’t say this as a joke (for the most part), as this Swedish artist’s work tends to gravitate towards tragedy, chaos and that violently dark side of humanity that few are willing to casually talk about—even the artist himself. When approached for an interview for this story and his involvement in the upcoming Preview Berlin Art Fair, his stance was clear: “I’m tired of explaining my art. It kills the magic in what I do. I am an artist and love creating and exploring art. Honestly, I hate interviews and questions about my art. If you want to make your own vision of myself as an artist and my latest series, The Phases of Rammstein, [then] explore my art and bring my message to your readers in your own way.” Fair enough; our artist wishes to remain a phantom and let the work speak for itself—or let other people speak for it.

I don’t blame him. Explaining his art really does kill the magic in what he does. To a question regarding how he once started out as an artist, his modest reply was: “I never really started out as an artist; I was born as an artist. A native talent cannot be bought or taught; it can be sanded and developed like a diamond.” The much-anticipated Preview Berlin Art Fair is roughly a month away and we have already spotted this diamond personality shining in the distance.

Muses Come In Different Phases

Every artist has a muse. Dalí had Gala, Warhol had Edie Sedwick and Picasso Marie-Therese (well, among others). Lübeck, simiarly, has Till Lindeman, Richard Z. Kruspe, Paul H. Landers, Oliver “Ollie” Riedel, Christoph “Doom” Schneider, and Christian “Flake” Lorenz—otherwise known as Rammstein. For almost a year now, he has based his artistic output on a project titled The Phases of Rammstein, which is the artist’s visual interpretation of Rammstein’s music. Listen to this track by the German industrial metal band as you look at the following drawings to get a feel for the synchronicity attempted by Lübeck. The song is Reise, Reise and it is a personal favorite of our phantom artist who, according to some critics, “Challenges the viewer to think deeply about our world and about ourselves.”

from "The Phases of Rammstein" series by C.W. Lübeck. Image courtesy of the artist.

Rammstein is known for its dark, tragic and often “edgy” lyrics. Reise, Reise, for example, is a song inspired by what is considered the deadliest single-aircraft crash in history. Much like Rammstein’s music, Lübeck’s drawings bring about visages of horror: detailed drawings of flesh ripping, twisting and dripping from the body to the point of surreal disfiguration.

From "The Phases of Rammstein" series by C.W. Lübeck. Image courtesy of the artist.

Perhaps the closest glimpse that we get to a sense of meaning or intent is given by the sources of C.W. Lübeck’s inspiration (mentioned in one of his past interviews): “Hidden truth, human dangerousness, loneliness, madness, vapidity, brainwashing, anarchy in the world of politics, greed of multinational companies, generations’ superficiality, general selfishness, multinational stupidity and national idiotism, war, disappearance of individuality and self-analysis.”

From "The Phases of Rammstein" series by C.W. Lübeck. Image courtesy of the artist.

The identity of our phantom now becomes clearer: he is drawn to the twisted and vulgar aberrations in our human condition (or are these truths that, out of vanity, we like to often repress?). Lübeck, on the contrary, decompresses them, pulls them around by the nose and, as if with a piece of malleable clay, molds out a caricature of the human body. Based on his inspirations, his work appears to be less self-portraiture and more of a collective portrait of the world as he sees it. If we are willing to take C. W. Lübeck seriously, then these are images full of condemnation, holding up a mirror to the contemporary world. How far this vision is from truth, as always, is up for interpretation and open to conversation. But, as Lübeck, I won’t ‘kill the magic’ of his work by further explaining it either.

Is Preview Berlin Art Fair ready for this madness? Artparasites will definitely be on the lookout for this phantom when he arrives. Will he be ready to answer my questions then? I won’t hold my breath.

Carl Wassa Lübeck [Price range of works: 3,000 – 6,000 Euros]

Article by Jovanny Varela-Ferreyra