Zany Zettelmann

Meeting artist Anders Zettelmann outside ACUD Kunsthaus in Mitte on a beautiful autumnal afternoon, I am immediately struck by how much he looks like some sort of weathered rock 'n' roll great. His black flared cords, tan and tartan rucksack, small round glasses and contemplative facial expression would all be quite at home inside the covers of Rolling Stone magazine, or behind a Fender jamming onstage at Woodstock circa 1969. Beside him is Serendipity Gallery operator and curator Andreas Kamp to offer his translating skills, but he could easily be his musical agent. The pair chain smoke throughout, Zettelmann slowly yet deliberately piecing together his sentences and constantly shaking – whether it's due to the cool temperature I'm not sure. I anticipate an interesting conversation ahead, perhaps akin to one of those exchanges between you and your parent's hip, older friends… 

BAPS: When was your first creative moment?

AZ: I think as a child when I played with things. My grandparents had very old things in their house, they were from a generation of people who made toys for their children themselves after the war, so I had little wooden horses and played indians with a bow made by my Grandpa. It influenced my work because I like these old things and the materials they are made of.

BAPS: So you've been performing from a young age. How do you feel when you do your performance art? 

AZ: Not calm and very nervous, I try to become someone else, I go into another Zettelmann when I perform. I have several characters, Anders Zettelmann is an artist name, Tzu Sa Gen I invented as the Chinese wise man – he's very bourgeoisie. Then there is Bürzli who is neglecting hope, the dark character. The performance I will give for the opening night of the exhibition will be as Anders Zettelmann, the explorer.

BAPS: Tell us a bit more about your upcoming performance for the opening of the upcoming show Correspondances Croisees – how does the piece relate to the exhibiton's theme of global exchange?

AZ: There will be a performance of all the artists involved focussing on speech. Many of the artists speak different languages, for example the Spanish artist also speaks Catalan, the Lithuanian artist also speaks English, in total we have seven languages between the six artists.

We will use the confusion of these seven different languages coming together. It is a project of communication, of colours, of objects and material, but the performance is about communication; a sound sculpture of languages. Every artist of the project will look for their own text to read – so we don’t know before what will happen – the mixture is realised in the performance. 

How do you define performance art?

in german, the (english) word "performance" is not very clear defined. if you ask a visual artist, a dancer, an actor, they mean very different things with the same word. performance can be a scientific, a social, a formal, a clownesque or even religious act, a crazy improvisation of 11 seconds or a consequent non-acting for 48 hours, an anarchistic intervention at a public space, transforming the society, or a kryptic ritual without any audience and without any public traces…but it´s not theatre and the performer is not acting and it´s not an artistic product to sell, it´s a selfdefined act in time and space: you know exactly what to do in the moment & you know nothing at the same time…performance is not defined – maybe that´s my definition.

Do you think performance art could be bought / sold?

how to sell a non-product? Maybe better to give some coins to the artist than buying two beers more…maybe better to give more financial support to experimental art than experimental weapons and gene-food…

Whats the last art piece you've bought?

cd of elias khan

What are you up to these days?

preparing next performances with TEATUR and Adam Read. some other works to get money. hanging arround with my son.

What is your favorite spot in Berlin?

my balcony

What is your favorite Sunday read?

i don´t read on sundays, i read all the other days…herodot, paul scheerbart, gertrude stein, alfred döblin, raymond queneau, eu-instructions for rain-coats, correspondancier du collège de ´pataphysique, graffitis in public toilets…



Anders Zettelmann slipping into the role of one of his many alter egos. Photo: Taschari Pipri 


BAPS: Speaking of travel there's a quote by St. Augustine "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." If you could only read one page, where would you go?

AZ: I want to see utopia one day! There are many lands I want to see but the place is in the voyage also. How the impressions of other pages of this book transform in your imagination is important; it's not the picture you take as a tourist but your imagination and how you use these impressions further on in life.

Dreaming of Utopia  

My utopia…would be a world with more justice. I'm very angry about the world with wars when a great part of human kind lives in hunger and poverty, so my utopia is another world of justice and exchange between all humans. Is it possible? It's possible to realise little things. Maybe if a lot of people realise little things we'll get nearer to this goal. Every man and every woman is able to change little things and to define part of their reality and exchange ideas. 

BAPS: Have you ever had to choose between your art and continuing to develop creatively and doing a menial job just to survive financially?

AZ: Yes, every day. I do both. I do stupid jobs but it's not important. I'm an artist but in Berlin you can't survive as an artist so, you do everything you can to live. This hasn't made me want to move, I like this city. Maybe when I'm old I'll go to the south of France but at this moment I like Berlin.

Crazy for Berlin

I was born in a little village near Hamburg, and in my youth I was often in Berlin before the wall came down and had friends here. I liked the atmosphere – in Berlin it's normal to sit down in a cafe and restaurant and be talking to strangers within five minutes. I like very much when I go by U-bahn and hear five languages; I love this atmosphere.


 Zettelman in character perfroming. Photo: Taschari Pipri

AK: She hasn’t heard the saying, “Du bist verrückt mein Kinddu mußt nach Berlin.”

This is what your parents tell you when you're sixteen and you're too old and creative for the city in your parent's eyes, it means “Child you are crazy, you have to go to berlin.”

BAPS: How does being in Berlin inspire your work?

AZ: It's a shaky, fragile land we are on. A metaphor for the future, present and past. You have to move because you have no base here, all the time you must move and meet other people, create other spaces. All the time you are obligated to change, to create, to invent and it's inspiring. There's no way to stop doing this!

I have a very scientific point of view when I work as an artist. Like the old explorers who went to research the jungle I want to research the people here and make a performance of research, taking their artefacts and chewing gum on the street, wasted things.

BAPS: And what are your favourite artefacts?

AZ: In Schwedt, a small city near Poland, I made a kind of museum with a lot of little things in 2009. I made a little museum of artefacts along the theme of the ice age. Most of the artefacts I made, so these are my preferred objects. It was a fake but a realistic fake.

Interesting Collections

In regards to artefacts from my life let's burn the artefacts, I'll find more! In my piece for the upcoming show I have artefacts with photographs from 1990, with wood that I found in 2002 combined with some works of today; a collage of artefacts.  

BAPS: Your work can be described under the label of pataphysics – can you tell us what this means?

AZ: Pataphysics is the invention of a French writer, it is the science of imaginary solutions for problems that so not exist. The base of my work is pataphysics. I am not interested in showing some sort of expressionism of myself, my work is a kind scientific work as an artist, but it's not 'real science'. It's imaginary science…a secret movement of foolish scientists.

Article by Marie J Burrow