After countless attempts to make contact via his gallery, I finally had the chance to meet Daniel Chluba, a very busy performance artist in person. The twenty-something was surprisingly chatty and an extra gimlet almost caused him to forget for a moment his strong aversion to this kind of press contact. The music is loud. I get all my questions answered, despite constant interruptions from all sorts of phone calls.
Daniel Chluba: You have said that you hate ideas. Why?
Daniel Chluba: I wanted to say: „I have ideas,“ but it was just a typo.
Daniel Chluba: For real?
Daniel Chluba: No! As an antagonistic art clown, you have to hate ideas!
Daniel Chluba: How do you go about working as an antagonistic art clown?
Daniel Chluba: I’m simply against everything and try not to make better suggestions. No one likes a know-it-all. All you’ve to do is see how people react when you bring up climate change, nuclear power, or child labour.
Daniel Chluba: But your methods are still very conceptual?
Daniel Chluba: My approach appears conceptual. The common thread seems to be playing with mash-ups. Non-art becomes art, the professional becomes the dilettante, what’s original becomes fake, subculture becomes culture, appearance becomes reality, everything becomes nothing.
Daniel Chluba: And what about the humour in your work?
Daniel Chluba: How dare you suggest that there’s anything humorous about my work?!
Daniel Chluba: Doesn’t your constant self-representation wear you out?
Daniel Chluba: No. It’s not self-presentation; it’s a staging of the self. Facebook, Instagram, and art all offer the opportunity to live a second life. It’s an interesting game that lets you control what others perceive.
Daniel Chluba: Why are you naked so often in your performances?
Daniel Chluba: I’m old school: performance is naked, action is clothed.
Daniel Chluba: Would you describe your typical performance as „low threshold and naked“ or do you prefer Jan Oberlander’s description of it as „provocative and shirtless“?
Daniel Chluba: Making full use of my body is the one thing about my work that stays constant. My body holds up a mirror to society, to culture, to politics, and to the economy.
Daniel Chluba: You’ve only worn red clothing for the past 15 years. Why?
Daniel Chluba: It’s a specific failure on my part. But I’d rather talk about poodles pissing on dinosaurs. In November 2013, I was involved with wirwollennichtzurdocumenta14.de, an online petition against the dinosaur art show documenta, where you can register your lack of interest in going to documenta.
Daniel Chluba: Why don’t you want to be part of documenta?
Daniel Chluba: documenta is the largest of the extinct dinosaurs. And each new curator says they can revive it. Sure, you can still learn something from a big old dinosaur. But we shouldn’t forget all the other dinosaurs, none of which is so great, but the world’s full of these beasts. All these biennials, triennials, quadrennials, festivals, cultural events, competitive exhibitions, art associations, private museums, etc. The sun can barely break through. As an artist, you simply have to be against anything that’s too large.
Daniel Chluba: What does Adam Szymczyk have to say about this?
Daniel Chluba: Adam Szymczyk has tried to say that our petition is only pandering and is in fact just another application for documenta. But we don’t want to play along.
Daniel Chluba: What was going on with Lukas Julius Keijser und Daniel Chluba brauchen #deinGeld (für Kunst)?
Daniel Chluba: We wanted to raise money for art! The action was a collaboration between Lukas Julius Keijser and me. We developed it for the two Berlin art fairs abc (art berlin contemporary) and Positions Berlin so that we could receive targeted donations for art, just like Maike Cruse, abc director for 2016, was also begging for subsidies. We made buckets with signs stating the purpose for the collection, such as „Money to buy a critics, an artist, curators, discussion, or even a NETWORK“, „Money for Champagne“, „Money for facebook likes“ and „Money for tickets to abc“.
Daniel Chluba: Could one donate money also by debit card or credit card?
Daniel Chluba: Sure. To allow donations of larger amounts or standing transfers, we distributed flyers with our bank data which could also be emailed at any time, of course.
Daniel Chluba: Why were the museum directors all crossed out on the buckets „Money for hot sex for horny gallery owners, curators, collectors, oligarchs, and museum directors„, „Money for good drugs for good gallerists, curators, collectors, oligarchs, and museum directors„, and „Money for Rock’n Roll for gallery owners, curators, collectors, oligarchs, and museum directors„?
Daniel Chluba: Museum directors are simply unimportant. They are totally dependent on the art market and donors. Talking to museum directors is a total waste of time. Udo Kittelmann wants me to meet him sometime. But what’s the point?
Daniel Chluba: What’s the purpose of „Money for political art (like Wolfgang Tillmans)“?
Daniel Chluba: Unfortunately, no one has given us money for any political art. Most have given us money for champagne.
Daniel Chluba: In 2016, you won the Art Prize of Kunstverein Oerlinghausen with the performance of „The Good Centaur with the Beard of Oerlinghausen“.You spent days living as a good centaur in Oerlinghausen. The centaur ran through the city, had his hair cut at the hairdresser, went shopping at Rossmann, visited the cows in the pasture, distributed sweets, and let döner kebab sellers and children ride on his back.
Daniel Chluba: That’s right. What was the question?
Daniel Chluba: The Imperial Royal Childlike Majesty Queen Hartz IV was borne to the city palace in a red sedan chair with the inscription „We love the system“. Outside the palace, the Imperial Royal Childlike Majesty Hartz Queen IV and the police decided that the Imperial Royal Childlike Majesty Hartz Queen IV should take care of the counter-demonstrators in front of whom the official spokesman of the Imperial Royal Childlike Majesty Hartz Queen IV gave a fiery speech about the wonderful system, the incredible Imperial Royal Childlike Majesty Hartz Queen IV, and the grandeur of the history-flattening Berlin city palace. When…
Daniel Chluba: I thought it was about me and not the Imperial Royal Childlike Majesty Hartz Queen IV.
Daniel Chluba: The Dixicuzzi is a „wellness sculpture“ for the public space. I turned two portaloos into a Jacuzzi, i.e. a mobile hot tub. The toilets have been tipped over, chopped up, and upcycled by being filled with 42°C water for everyone to take a collective bath in. Similar to the baths of ancient Rome, the Dixicuzzi is a temporary social space, where tilting and flowing alcohol help explore proletarian cultural ritual of drinking oneself silly in the grand tradition of all-inclusive holidays and the drunken stupor of puberty. Puking and spontaneous urination are only allowed outside the Dixicuzzi.
Daniel Chluba: Is it true that you can buy this top-selling Dixicuzzi model that has already toured East Germany in bronze?
Daniel Chluba: Yes, you can actually buy all of my performances and actions in bronze.
Daniel Chluba: What does the Dixicuzzi have to do with the mobile gallery Dixiland.org?
Daniel Chluba: Dixicuzzi and Dixiland.org are a multitool: you can choose to erect either a Jacuzzi, the „Dixicuzzi“, or the gallery Dixiland.org. With two other artists, I founded the smallest mobile gallery in Berlin, Dixiland.org. The exteriors of the two portaloos have been left in their original condition . When you enter, you find yourself in a white cube. We have organised several solo and group exhibitions in public spaces, such as „Three Days, Three Artists“ and a floating sculpture park on the White Sea.
Daniel Chluba: Another idea you’ve had is a series of portraits with cream hats. What’s that all about?
Daniel Chluba: It is not an idea. It is an action. The idea is to put a cream hat on as many people’s heads as possible.
Daniel Chluba: What’s it like being an artist in Berlin?
Daniel Chluba: Berlin is a colossal city consumed by the myth of old Berlin, when there was still plenty of free space to occupy. Everything used to be better. Beuys said that everyone’s an artist. That’s become a nightmare scenario in Berlin. Everyone really is an artist: the woman at the cash register, my maid, my dentist, even all my ex-girlfriends are artists.
Daniel Chluba: How’s the art market in Berlin?
Daniel Chluba: Berlin is only a habitat for creatives who thanks to globalization now have some outside money to dream and play with. Berlin consists only of artists. What’s lacking are buyers because the artists do not have money to buy art. They’d rather buy bananas.
Daniel Chluba: What other artists do you like?
Daniel Chluba: Yes. Daniel Chluba.
Daniel Chluba: What question have you never been asked but you wish someone would ask?
Daniel Chluba: That’s a very interesting question. I don’t want to spoil it by giving you an answer.