The seemingly casual is actually deliberate

The Culture Minister and the artist in a conversation

Stefanie Moshammer, Thomas Drozda and Rainer Novak (f. l. t. r.)

Rainer Nowak spoke to artist and photographer Stefanie Moshammer and to Culture Minister and government affairs coordinator Thomas Drozda about the importance of staging.

Stefanie Moshammer, for your Rio de Janeiro series you photographed street scenes instead of staged motifs. And Minister Drozda, your head of government said that politics was ten percent content and 90 percent staging. What is the true, ideal balance between the real and the staged in your professions?
Thomas Drozda: I would say that the seemingly casual is actually deliberate. Anyone familiar with the quality of your work suspects that your images are not snapshots or the product of chance. You find certain arrangements and constellations interesting, and that is also an aspect of staging. I don’t think there is such a contradiction between content and staging. Staging helps you explain where you stand and make yourself understood, and this is particularly true of politics.
Stefanie Moshammer: I think that the level of truth is the most important aspect of my work. Things become difficult if there is too much staging. In my case, the staging is in my subjective approach, in the way I present my work.

Isn’t staging a way of preventing loss of control, an attempt to determine how the artwork or political message is received?
Stefanie Moshammer:** I would say that staging is a concept that helps you explain an artwork to yourself and others. It’s always more important to be comprehensible.

Does your work always turn out as you expected and planned?
Stefanie Moshammer: I find it very pleasing when chance plays a role. You have to let it happen, not everything can be planned. And you have to make mistakes; it’s the flaws that make an artwork perfect.

So you’re saying that things shouldn’t be too perfect, too staged, too smooth?
Thomas Drozda: That’s right. The thrill is to let art take you to places you haven’t been before or never wanted to visit. There’s an old truism in theater about staging: the easiest things are always the most difficult. Making something appear simple and natural is the hardest thing to do.

Politics and culture have another thing in common: in some cases, reactions to your work are quite different – possibly more negative – than you expected. Isn’t it the case that people often find meaning in an artwork that the artist never intended?
Stefanie Moshammer: I think it’s fascinating to see how your own work is viewed. But I try not to keep it in mind too much beforehand. I would find that rather problematic.
Thomas Drozda: In politics, you have to divorce yourself from the reception as much as possible, anything else would give you ulcers.

I understand that, but it’s not just about the reception from journalists, it’s also about voter reactions. And they can be quite different.
Thomas Drozda: The reception and critique of art is far more serious than the Pavlovian responses you get in politics.

What is the position of Austrian photography? In terms of artistic photography, Austrian media have not caught up with German magazine supplements like those of “Die Zeit” or “Süddeutsche Zeitung.” Is that true in general? Are we neglecting photography?
Stefanie Moshammer: It’s difficult to say where photography stands in Austria. But you can’t ignore other countries anyway. People outside Austria are almost more open to my visual language.
Thomas Drozda: Photography is a popular art form, something I experienced in “Acting for the Camera" at the Albertina, for example. What may be missing is a market for it in Austria. But you cannot draw any conclusions about quality from that.

We all agree that more needs to be done for photography. The Austrian solution is to build a museum.
Thomas Drozda: That is indeed an Austrian approach, but that does not mean it’s wrong. There is a hot debate going on about the matter at the moment. One option is to add a house of photography to an existing collection or museum. Or we could create a foundation to provide decentralized support.
Stefanie Moshammer: I think it would be great to have our own museum, but what we need is a contemporary approach, not a historical one.

Text by Rainer Nowak:

Rainer Nowak is editor-in-chief, publisher and managing director of the daily “Die Presse.” Nowak has been a journalist since 1994. He joined the editorial team at “Die Presse” in 1996 and has headed it since 2012. He won a state award for intellectual national defense in 2005 and the Kurt Vorhofer Prize for political journalism in 2013.

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