2 to 21 July 2014
Urs Bechdel was born 1976, Zurich
He studied at ZHdK, Zurich
Urs currently lives and works in Zurich
A conversation between Urs Bechdel and Amy Leach.
Amy Leach: I wanted to begin at the beginning and ask how you came to make the first of your hook works?
Urs Bechdel: As I can remember it was one of these boring semester shows at the art-school in Zurich, all the students where always so ambitious, I preferred to drink coffee with friends al fresco, talking about our new girlfriends and fancy plans for holidays. So it came, that I declared an already existing hook in the school-rooms as my piece in the show. For the critique I hung my pants on the hook, that was kind of eccentric at the time, but I was young and I tried to joke on the ideas of art as a service, like they where promoted in the 90’s.
AL: How was this received? I can imagine it provoking strong feelings.
UB: There were a lot of misunderstandings, just because I took off my pants. For some people I went too far with that and for the others it wasn’t enough. My teachers told me, that I should have a close look at this Andrea Fraser piece... I can’t remember exactly which one they thought of... anyway, nobody really cared about the hook. There was a missing link in the interpretation between me, my pants and the hook. This was really a tough lesson, how you have to dose your presence. Me fixing a hook on the wall – great, or me in a conversation with the hook - even better, just my pants on the hook - not too classy, but me, my pants and the hook, that was much too much.
AL: Did you decide then that the hooks would become your sole work? I’m interested that from a seemingly flippant gesture you’ve defined your entire practice so completely.
UB: You’re wrong, if you think that this was a straight decision just working with a hook. It’s not me that chose the hook. The hook chose me. You know, artists always are so ambitious. My father worked for his life as a builder. He was never asked, why he was just doing this work. I was ambitious too and I was hurt when people started reducing my practice on a hook. But then I learned to be what they want me to be. Today I’m happy if you look into my eyes and what you see is just a hook.
This reminds me of my second work with hooks. After this disaster with the first presentation I refused going back to my studio at school. From then on I started working without a studio and I did nothing until the next semester presentation. There I just fixed two hooks at the height of my father’s eyes and in the background I played one of his favorite songs back in the seventies, ‘Sexy Eyes’ by Dr. Hook.
AL: And at OUTPOST? Could you speak about the hooks in the exhibition here.
UB: There is one hook for each of my girlfriends so far. As you know, I asked you to treat the hooks with most appreciation and respect. It was important for me, that you find an individual place in the room for each hook, especially as all my girlfriends had been and most still are artists, better artists then I am! But the hooks are like always untitled. This is just my personal reference, it’s not relevant to know. Sometimes I think it would be better, not to talk about the hook.
AL: I’ve read that you regularly donate a proportion of your sales towards supporting the work of female conceptual artists. What prompted you, and continues to prompt you, to make this gesture?
UB: This is just one way to hook up girls you can have an interesting conversation with and in the best case the conversation is even sharp and funny. Anyway, because they are always so critical, it seams that they are more attracted by the male-factor. For them it’s like coming home. Everything is simple. The hook is at its place, same as it ever was. Actually at the moment I think about a holiday program for female conceptual artists. I just don’t know where yet. I try to convince my parents to host them in my nursery-room otherwise it would be great to build a resort in the mountains.
AL: I’m sorry, you believe that for women, for female artists, the presence of a man is ‘like coming home’? It seems to me that your motives for husbanding these women’s practices are more patronizing than progressive.
UB: First they like me, because I’m male, second because I’m solid Swiss. To be honest, I never tried to be progressive with that background! I play the patronizing and they the progressive part. You can call me a real conservative, if you want. But was this a question?
AL: I suppose it was a disbelieving statement with an invitation for you to expand on what you’d said; a question of sorts.
But moving on, you referenced your background just now and, earlier, the idea of fulfilling others’ expectations. As someone who labels their practice as Conceptual I wonder if you see your work, and more generally Conceptual work, as being gendered?
UB: I like that question.
AL: Ok…Thank you, Urs.