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Interview with Markus Raetz

Interview with Markus Raetz on his works in the collection of Kunstmuseum Bern
Nathalie Bäschlin, conservator
Ralf Beil, curator
Barbara Spalinger, conservator

Publisher: Kunstmuseum Bern
Date: 2002-05-27
Date: 2002-07-08
Format: Digital Betacam, 131”15’
Format: DVD, 131”15’
Format: Print, 5 pages

The interview
The condition report on a series of paintings and sculptures by Markus Raetz in 2001 was the motivation for an interview with the artist. While examining the objects, it had become obvious that several of his works were in need of treatment. The intention was to take into account the whole group of works to develop a concept for treatment and to document the information provided by the artist for future reference. Furthermore, the information would be available for persons generally interested in the artist's work or others involved in decision-making processes concerning the preservation of Markus Raetz' works.

The interview procedure conforms to a concept developed in 1999 by the Instituut Collectie Nederland ICN. The development of the concept is still carried on by the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art INCCA (Concept Scenario Artists' Interviews, Pilot Project Artists' Interview, ICN Amsterdam 1998/99, Instead of relating to the artist's complete oeuvre the interview focuses on a group of works owned by the Fine Arts Museum Bern.

A short description of contents of the interview, as well as an synopsis of the talk about the object „Kassetten“ 1970 (which was not recorded)is attached in a German report. The interview transcript (DVD) can be seen at the Fine Arts Museum Bern.

Works of art by Markus Raetz in the Fine Arts Museum Bern
The Fine Arts Museum Bern owns a comprehensive collection of Markus Raetz' works of art that show a variety of artistic techniques. The dates of origin range from the early sixties to the present day. The collection at the museum consists of 15 graphic works, 8 paintings and about 40 sculptures. Most of these works of art were acquired through the transfer of the Toni Gerber collection to the Fine Arts Museum between 1984 and 1996 (Die Sammlung Toni Gerber im Kunstmuseum Bern, Ausstellungskatalog, Kunstmuseum Bern, 1986; Die Sammlung Toni Gerber im Kunstmuseum Bern, Zweiter Teil, Ausstellungskatalog, Kunstmuseum Bern, 1996). The installation „ohne Titel“ 1980-83, Inv. Nr. Pl. 83.011, is of great significance to the Fine Arts Museum: Markus Raetz created it especially for room 310 in the museum building. The most recent work of art in the collection is „Bioscoop“ 1997-2002 (donated by Mobiliar Insurance).

Assignment of genre
Material and relation to space are very important for many of Markus Raetz' works of art: Both the combination of materials and the combination of objects in the exhibition space do not allow a traditional assignment of genre. The terms works on paper / photographs, sculptures, objects and wall objects, as well as installations will be used below.

Art technology
The group of works from the early Sixties consists mainly of wall objects, for which Raetz used rigid supports or canvases. All the supports were handmade and differ in shape, size and support construction from conventional ones. There are usually several layers of coating, for which Raetz used contemporary coating materials like alkyd resins and dispersion/emulsion paints. The precise execution as well as the individual and unorthodox technical procedure is noticeable. The coatings seem to be homogenous and the colour compositions are two-dimensional. In general the objects are reminiscent of serial design products.In the group of works from the late sixties to the mid-seventies new materials and techniques can be observed. „Kassetten“ from 1970 is of special interest to the Fine Arts Museum Bern. Raetz began this object conceptually with sound, film and photography and continued with graphics and painting techniques on paper (cp. following summary of the talk with Markus Raetz from July 17 2002).
Typical for this group of works is the connection between conceptual procedures and painting techniques as well as the use of organic materials (leaves and twigs) and everyday objects (steering wheels, plastic foil, plasticine, tape, isolated copper wire, feathers, iron objects, …). Consequently, there is a broad variety of techniques and materials. The main work in the Bernese group of works is the „Neapel-Fries“ from 1979/1980.
The installation ohne Titel from 1983 combines oil painting on plywood with organic objects. In the same group of works are two sculptures (cast-bronze and cast iron) from the early nineties.
The most recent installation „Bioscoop“ from 1997-2002 combines miscellaneous materials, light projection and moving air as a shadow theatre.
Of further interest is the substantial number of models, sketches and installation instructions: they raise question about the independence of objects and their separation from the actual work of art.

Outline of conversation
We began the interview by asking Markus Raetz about the general meaning of material in his oeuvre: Of what significance is the choice of material? How did the artist's attitude towards materials change over time and during different creative phases?
We then discuss the following topics:
1. The making of the works
The Bernese group of works consists of numerous sketches, design drawings and models. Of what significance are they for the artist within the work process?
To what extent can they be distinguished from the object itself? How and in what context would the artist exhibit models and sketches? Of what significance is the cooperation with other artists (e.g. Balthasar Burkhart)? How were the unorthodox support systems and coatings from the Sixties developed? About the use of objects found: Is the discovery itself inspiration? Is the site of discovery or the circumstances of discovery of central importance? Does a collection of objects found exist?
2. The meaning of the material
Traditional artists' materials versus new materials from industry and everyday life – Of what significance was this conflict during the different creation phases? Of what significance is the use of gloss or matte surfaces? Some of the used materials suggest a deeper (symbolic) meaning – What is the artist's opinion on this? Did Markus Raetz choose materials because of their weight, their formability or because of their conceivable ageing?
3. Installation – Presentation
Are there any criteria for a precise installation of the objects of art? Did the artist leave any scope for individual works? Does the artist remember any felicitous or adulterant installations?
4. Ageing and conservation
Of what significance is durability? What does the artist think about the defilement of objects and the possible damage to his works? How does he deal with it? Are damaged parts within a work of art replaceable? These questions will be discussed on the basis of examples from the collection.