I met Albert at his new studio in 15th district on one of those incredibly hot summer days in Vienna, to discuss his installations, work process and life in Vienna – over a refreshing ice cream.
Albert decided to study art quite late and entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna after quitting his job as a graphic designer. After completing his New Media studies he had a solo show “The Jonny Hawaii Orchester” at Künstlerhaus Graz (2010). Later on he received a Austrian government scholarship in 2013 and had a solo show at Liste, Basel in 2014.
Kristina Kulakova: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you become an artist? Why did you decide to study art?
Albert Mayr: I always liked to paint and to draw, especially as a child. I studied graphic design. However, working as a graphic designer was very much against my nature. You have to be very precise and sit in front of the computer all day. You should not make any mistakes, and that is not my style. I want my things to be rough and I want to get results much faster.
So how did you come across the idea of making art your profession? Because it is one thing to enjoy drawing as a child, but it is a totally different story when you make it your profession and have to make a living out of it.
I had some friends that studied at the academy and I was hanging out there a lot. And after being a graphic designer for roughly two years I decided to quit and try to get into the Academy of Fine Arts. It is the first step, you know. At that time you I didn’t think that I have to make a living out of it. It’s just cool that you made it. I started to do “professional” art quite late, if you can say that.
I think it is never too late and I think that in some ways it is better to do art with some reasoning and understanding of what you are doing. What was the biggest lesson that you learned in the Academy?
I guess the biggest lesson I learned is that in art nobody is waiting for you. If you do nothing, then you do nothing and nobody cares. You have to do everything by yourself.
What is the advantage of being an artist in Vienna?
The art scene is quite alive here and it is still affordable to be an artist in Vienna. You can find good places to work and besides the proper galleries there are a lot of off-spaces.
Besides art there is a lot of music, from experimental to classical.
And you still can afford to be lazy sometimes, I like that!
What are the disadvantages?
People are a bit skeptical here. They always need some kind of reassurance, someone else to tell them that something is great to believe it. Especially in Vienna people are famous for being grumpy! If you live here you have to take care not to become like this too! On the other hand I like the humor, it’s kind of dark.
Vienna is a slow city, that can be good. But sometimes you miss the fact that there is a public holiday and stand in front of closed shop doors. I am also not a very big fan of Sundays.
What about collectors here? Is it important for you to have a connection to a collector that buys from you? Or can it just be someone who bought your work that you do not know?
I think it is always better if someone is interested in your work overall. Especially with my things, it is always better to see the whole pieces and the full body of work. But in the end what matters is that someone appreciates it.
Yeah, but how do you deal with the fact that it is not so on demand, it is not so sellable. For example, painting you can literally sell to anyone. How do you deal with that fact? Do you just sit and wait?
Fortunately I have the gallery to care about that for me, I focus more on the ideas and execution. I do not care if it fits in somebodies room or if it makes a mess. That kills creativity and blocks the whole process. And one have to do what he can do best anyway. I like to work with water and sound, so it is always kind of tricky. And if you want to have it, you have to take care about it. But I think that is not a problem. People recognize if something is authentic and that’s most important.
Where do those ideas come from?
It is always different, but for sure if you actually work on ideas then more ideas come up, it is in the work process that I get new ideas, it is continuous.
I like to experiment with electroacoustic and heavy noise music, it is a big input for me. I like when the music or sound gets very physical, when it influences your body and I have the feeling that it influences your brain too, that you get into this meditative state. For me it works stimulating, you start thinking about ideas. The best is when you can’t remember the sound anymore!
What do you want to say with your works?
I do not want to instruct anyone. I don’t want to say: “You should do it like this or like that”. Nowadays everything must be rated anyway.
It’s more to transfer a certain atmosphere or creating a situation. And I like to surprise people.
For example, if you look at the installations, which are switched off in my studio you have one impression, but then if you start them there is this “aha” effect. I have a lot of sculptures, which start “living” after you turn them on and suddenly it makes sense. And maybe that is what I want to show. There is always more behind it, have a closer look!
You do dummy laptops, cameras and one of my favorite is a headphone sculpture made of bread rolls. Why dummies?
Many of them I use for performances. I use them to imitate behaviors and movements. I find it very interesting how technology has changed our behavior. I think that after a while our anatomy also will change to fit our technology and we will have two meter long hands for selfies (laughing)!
How important is feedback from the audience for you?
I think feedback is important, that is what it is all about, the dialogue, doing something and showing something. It is like if a band never leaves the rehearsing room, there will be no concert. And actually that’s the fun part! Same with art.
You are represented by a young gallery from Cologne, what was the breaking point for your decision to work with MARTINETZ?
We work on things together in constant dialog on the equal ground. And she is brave enough to work with me!
Does the city play an important role in forming you as an artist? Does it matter if you are in Vienna or in London or elsewhere, if it was not so connected to money? Let us pretend that money does not exist. Is it important that you are in Vienna and this is your city and you grew up here?
Actually I grew up on the countryside and I decided to move to Vienna after school. I think a city can give you a huge input and your surrounding always influences you. Whether you want it or not.
There are cities you like from the first moment and others you never get familiar with. But after 20 years living in the same city you have a great network. That’s a big advantage. For everything there is someone to call! On the other hand I need to get out of here from time to time.
Do you collaborate with other artists?
Well, in general I like to work with other people. I have a friend who works in a laboratory, another one is an architect. I often consult them because of my work. It’s fantastic how analytic they are. Sometimes it helps. And I play in a band called “Das Fieber”. A band is always a collaboration.
In my last exhibition I invited musicians and artists to make sound all together at the same time in the framework of my exhibition. I think it’s quite important to have an exchange with other artists. But in the end for me it’s easier to work by myself.
Who are the artists you look after?
There are many artists I like. And it changes. Maybe the first, that comes to my mind is Jason Rhoades. He always went big, did these crazy big installations. I really like his work a lot. Unfortunately he died some years ago.
photos: Kristina Kulakova for #viennacontemporary Magazine
At the new venue, Marx Halle, viennacontemporary will allow for galleries to present young artists in solo exhibitions. ZONE1, which up to now has been restricted to Austrian artists, will also be open to international artists this year.
Also this year, the Austrian Federal Chancellery supports the participating young artists from Austria.