We visited Eko Nugroho at work in the exhibition space. CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY. All images: Fidelis Fuchs. © ZKM
A man-machine on crutches and a masked duke, a pyramid-formed octopus and a sign with the laconic imprint “creamy crisis” – all this is depicted in the over-sized mural work ALIEN NATION that Eko Nugroho, artist-in-residence, shows us about his perspective of life and the everyday in Karlsruhe. And we must admit that from his point of view we do actually look really rather odd. So, we put the question to him “do you see what we see, Eko Nugroho?”
Eko Nugroho: “The central topic of my work since 2008 has been modern life in urban areas – something I have been exploring in my project Hidden Violence, and wished to continue to work on in Karlsruhe. My work is very much informed by my background in street art and I have always worked a lot in public space and with the local community. I was interested in exploring social culture in Europe, especially the situation of elderly people, because they somehow seem excluded from society.
I am interested in understanding people, so I see my work as a form of communication between myself, a place and the people I meet. In most cases I base my works on photographs and then translate these photographs into different media, such as murals, painting, animation or traditional embroidery. Conversations with locals about the city and the way they live have a big influence on how the images are transformed through this process. Many of the figures in my work, for instance, are masked in some way. In Java, the mask is a very symbolic part of traditional culture, and the tradition of shadow theatre has been an important influence for me. By changing the heads of the figures I convey my interpretation; this is the picture I end up with.
In Karlsruhe I took a lot of pictures of people by the pyramid, and of historic buildings, and so very common visuals and touristic images formed the basis of this work. I like to play with these symbols, even though I am not that serious. I like to make fun of things and to play with language. The kind of playful texts on the banners reflect effects of globalization and the problems that evolve from it on a local level. In my view, if it is possible to make something which makes people smile, then this can also form the basis for considering things critically, and start communicating about it.”