Interview with artist Veronika Schubert
For Veronika Schubert, language in spoken and written form represents the center of her art.
Her works include animated films, videos, photographs, collages as well as text and textile works.
The artist collects sentences from which she conceives new creations. By taking them out of context, she gives them new meaning.
Her specialty is the animated film, which is largely produced in time-consuming manual labor and then digitally refined.
Currently, her video work "MINDSET" can be seen at ASIFAKEIL and the collage „Die Kunst, ..." created especially for Q21 / MuseumsQuartier is on display in the Q21 showrooms.
In conversation with Magdalena Winkelhofer she talks about her projects and gives insights into her exciting work.
MW: Language is the source material for (almost) all of your artistic works. How come? What does language mean to you
Veronika Schubert: I’ve always felt a certain affinity for language. I never write the text myself because I find it more exciting to quote. For this purpose, I have been collecting newspaper headlines for more than twenty years now. Printed words are a wonderful raw material delivered by daily and weekly newspapers. Taking sentences out of context, re-combining them, and transferring them into a new context has incredible appeal to me. It creates something new and individual.
MW: Your collages ‘Standard Situations‘ consist of newspaper headlines. What criteria did you apply selecting the headlines? How do you proceed in practice?
Veronika Schubert: I have an entire set of rules. First, I cut out the headlines and collect them in folders. After a while, I have two piles of boxes, each two meters tall. They contain all kinds of topics, for instance, ‘Identity’, ‘Community/Us’, ‘Arts and Culture’, ‘Questions’ or ‘Absurd Things’. Apart from my physical archive I have also created a digital one. From this repository, I often compile my exhibition titles. I always use original typography and note the source and the date on the back side. My artistic intervention is re-arranging the headlines and putting them into a new context.
MW: You designed the cover of Q21/MQ’s December 2022/January 2023 programme, which is also on display at the Q21 showrooms. What was your motivation?
Veronika Schubert: I love to draw on the abundance of material. From thousands of sentences in my archives, I have selected specific newspaper headlines which relate to themes of art, have similar structures and allow a kind of humorous approach through condensation.
Installieren der Collage „Die Kunst, ...“ in den Q21 Schauräumen
„Die Kunst, ...“, 2022
© Veronika Schubert/Bildrecht
MW: Your sentence creations can also be found as ‘written interventions‘ on building facades in public space. What do you aim to inspire in the viewers?
Veronika Schubert: I want people to reflect on what language can do in public space, that it can be experienced consciously. The great thing is that everybody moves in public space, even people who usually do not have access to art. So you can address all of society and generate a lot of attention.
MW: How do you employ language in your video works?
Veronika Schubert: Similarly to the way I collect printed sentences - but it is much more complicated. To create a sound collage, I start by transcribing the sentences. That way, I have visual versions and I can experiment with new combinations, which is quite challenging. For this reason - and also for the creation of individual pictures - my animated film projects sometimes take more than a year, even if the final result is only a few minutes.
MW: You invent elaborate techniques for the production of your animated films, requiring time-consuming manual work. Can you tell us a bit more about your works ‘Tele-Dialog‘, ‘In erster Linie‘ and ‘Tintenkiller‘?
Veronika Schubert: I start by creating an audio collage of collected sound fragments relating to a subject that has spurred my interest or moved me. Next comes visual realisation, where I want to find a connection between theme and technique. The beautiful thing about animated film is that you can create a new aesthetic, a new visual world for every film you make.
My diploma film project, ‘Tele-Dialog‘, is about afternoon and early evening entertainment television, which is rather simple in terms of themes and style. The animated film consists of 800 individually knitted pictures, produced by myself. I created a video template and turned it into pixel images, which I then printed out and used for knitting instructions: one stitch per pixel. This technique turned out to be very ambitious. The result was ’wool sausages’, which I had to iron, starch and put on a nail board in order to take pictures.
The animated film ‘In erster Linie‘ is about the refugee situation in autumn 2015. It was a very ‘grave’ subject for me, which is why I engraved 3,000 glass plates for the animation. They depict the contours of cloud movements I had previously filmed in time lapse and used to create templates. I employed rotoscopy to engrave the images in the glass. The sound collage, consisting of TV quotes taken from politicians and news presenters, illustrates the helplessness and ineptitude of the Austrian government.
With ‘Tintenkiller’, I addressed the typical Sunday evening TV phenomenon of an entire nation, connecting people of all ranks: detective series ‘Tatort’. I used ink to ground 3,000 single frames, erased specific spots with ink eradicator and digitally combined them with 3,000 more single images on which I had drawn the fine facial expressions with a pen. For a detective series, you write a story – its symbol is the ink. And in the story, a life is eradicated, hence the ink eradicator. I compressed and intertwined recurring elements such as discovering the body, investigators’ internal communication, hectic phone calls or wild chases. From this concentrate, I generated an abstract story.
With such incredibly elaborate techniques, I put my heart and soul into every single video project.
MW: In your video work ‘MINDSET‘, currently exhibited at ASIFAKEIL at MQ, you criticise the urge to self-improve and be productive spreading in social media. Can you tell us more about it?
Veronika Schubert: The algorithm of Instagram tries to push me toward something it thinks I need. That makes me angry, it makes me want to react creatively. Especially sponsored content, which is often difficult to distinguish from friends’ content, served as my source material. But advertising does not only rain down on us digitally, it is also sent to us by mail. I used such advertising folders and punched out circles, affixed them, scanned them and further processed them with a mosaic software. A 3D programmer built maze-like rooms according to my instructions. Then, I designed the rooms’ ‘wallpaper’ using the circles.
‘MINDSET‘ starts with coarse, large circles, which keep getting smaller and more delicate until they reveal themselves to be screen videos of scrolling through social media. For the exhibition at ASIFAKEIL, I used the punched out circles of the film as an element in actual space. ASIFAKEIL, the showroom of the animation association ASIFA Austria at Q21, is extremely important because it is an ideal place for such experiments at the interface between animated film and spatial installation. Free access to the Q21 showrooms allows animated films, which usually lead a niche existence, to connect to MQ visitors in public space.
ASIFA Austria has always supported me a lot. They offer a wide range of projects, events, festivals and publications.
MW: Your works often contain a humorous element. Why and how do you employ humour?
Veronika Schubert: I love to re-arrange sentences, that is how humour emerges. It can be blunt, but also a more sophisticated, subtle sense of humour. Next to an artistic value, my works are also meant to have a certain entertainment value. I like to include different things, that is how you can reach people from all walks of life. Humour can be a tool, making it easier to address certain topics.
until Sun 22.01.2023
Venue: ASIFAKEIL / Q21
„Die Kunst, …“
until Mon 26.01.2023
Venue: Q21 Schauräume