Artist and author Johannes Stüttgen studied at Düsseldorf’s art academy as one of Joseph Beuys star pupils. “It was him who instilled my interest in the concept of art”, admits Stüttgen before elaborating with ease on the decades that have passed since his graduation. “Essentially, you (Age of Artists) are striving for something similar. You are not searching for single artistic particularities, but a paramount concept of art.” By establishing the extended concept of art – the idea that artistic practice is not exclusive to art itself, but applicable to a range of disciplines – Joseph Beuys and Johannes Stüttgen became pioneers of a movement which refused to understand art solely as a physical artwork. “Nowadays art is usually understood as one artist’s particularity or style, which is always a constricted point of view”, explains Stüttgen. “The artwork of which I am speaking is much more extensive than those single model cases.“ The expanded concept of art comprises not only of artists in the traditional sense, “but all people and all fields of work. It transcends limitations. If we concern ourselves with this concept for a prolonged period, we will find within it the key to question and correct all conventional conditions.”
Anyone who argues in this way cannot shy away from political and economic engagements. In order to actively contribute towards a future-compliant society, Stüttgen converses publicly about the idea of an unconditional basic income with Götz Werner, founder of drugstore DM. Furthermore, Stüttgen is a co-founder of ‘OMNIBUS für direkte Demokratie’ with whom he lobbies for alternatives to current developments concerning the understanding of democracy. “The increase in information in our world is not paralleled with an increase in vocabulary”, diagnoses Stüttgen in want of new concepts and clear terminology e.g. about what makes a company. “Ultimately, a company is an artwork, too, which is why, both its roles in business and the global economy are of interest. I am deliberately choosing to forego the concept of a national economy, as it has expanded to a global economy, in my opinion. At this point, every business needs to ask about its role in the the bigger picture. One’s corporate objective cannot be limited to single products in the market. Today, every corporate objective is accompanied by a parallel process which attempts to locate the company in the broader context of the world. Thus, companies are well advised to create a department responsible only for this process. The underlying idea is that every employee should be able to work in this department, independent of their usual one. Processes also need to happen in certain, rhythmic intervals and embrace opinions and questions that go beyond the horizon of the company.”
Anyone unwilling to hastily group Johannes Stüttgen’s arguments along with past utopias will be prompted to inevitably explore and discover the self. “The question about the archetypal is always a question about the beginning; and the question about the beginning is a condition to be fulfilled if one aims to find out who one is. However, most people will make the mistake and not allow this question. Their career and external, existential worries are bigger than their curiosity and search. Thus, they increasingly devote themselves to the system.“ Stüttgen perceives the 70’s subculture of punk as an example of questioning existing beliefs and socially established goals. “However, if one asks oneself what became of punk, the conclusion is sobering. Punk wasn’t an ongoing movement. Nobody took it seriously, everyone simply went with the flow, and as soon as one entered professional life, the image was shed. Even though a lot of adolescents were transfixed by punk, today they do not question what it meant for them back in the day. If a movement hinders the career, it remains nothing but a fond memory or nostalgia. The adolescent impulses wither away. Instead, they should be understood as instructions of where things are heading. Success is possible, if one stays true to oneself and oneself only. ‘Why should one put a wretched career before the fulfilling search for a deeper meaning or the raison d’être?’ Most people’s reason is pure fear – the fear of looking down their internal abyss – so they take the easy way and choose not to look. Admittedly, searching for a deeper meaning is strenuous, but so is climbing a mountain, and the view in both cases is worth the effort. That is why I perceive my path as the obvious choice and see, in said outlook on life, a contribution to mankind. ”A contribution which Johannes Stüttgen pursues with a certain perspective and method. Metaphorically phrased his perspective boils down to this: “My ideal is the upright gait. Standing up straight, head above water, feet on the ground, heart at the core. It is a cooperation between hand, heart and mind. (…) My stance is clear. I want to stand up straight.” His method is especially characterized by curiosity, “because I long to find out, what another person actually wants and how this compares to my experiences. Essentially, it is a fabrication of relationships; an approach that shows my own work results and patterns, while the other person is influencing my imagination. Every person has an existing, artistic impulse, and I believe this impulse to even be the key to the future of human evolution. Progress lies in human connection, because connection transcends external contexts and frameworks and enables people to recognize their similarities. Although this broadens the concept of interpersonal relationships, it will end in catastrophe, if this recognition remains unnoticed. Communication and mutual cooperation create an artistic and social task.“ Stüttgen claims quick wins are not to be expected from this concept. “Generally, these successes take time and there are detours and step backs along the way. Any artistic process is a kind of experiment in the name of progress.“ But a higher level is in reach with the correct form of appreciation. “A person’s life – from their birth, via childhood, adolescence and adulthood, till death – is a permanent process. If one questions what all of it is leading up to, it is easy to become dissatisfied or distracted. One is at risk of being ruled by external influences, although some factors, such as ageing, can only be disturbed by a limited amount. I perceive all stages of life as artistic processes, because they embody freedom. They are processes of freedom and a biography therefore, becomes a piece of art.“
The complete Interview with Johannes Stüttgen in German language
Text by Dirk Dobiéy.
The interview was conducted by Dirk Dobiéy on 16/03/2017.
Image source: Johannes Stüttgen.