Jens Pecho interview: Opposites attract (2014)

R. J. Preece
artdesigncafé - art | 14 September 2014

Sometimes polar opposite clearly define positions. At other times they attract and offer a mental space to consider the juxtapositions, and the in-betweenness, of the two opposites. Such is the case with the recent work of German artist Jens Pecho, who “quotes” popular culture— and other contemporary elements. His favored media in these artist pursuits include text, video, and video installation, site interventions in public spaces, with film, musical and sound appropriations.

A graduate of the Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln with previous studies in social sciences, Jens Pecho has been very active exhibiting at film festivals and in group exhibitions, largely in Germany, including Bielefelder Kunstverein; Kunsthalle Osnabrück; Kunstmuseum Bonn; Kunst im Tunnel (KIT) Düsseldorf; Kunsthalle Nürnberg; Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Frankfurter Kunstverein; Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn; as well as Casino Luxembourg.

The following are excerpts of the conversation:

R.J. Preece: You see that one of the key themes of your work as dealing with power. Could you explain this?

Jens Pecho: Instead of dealing with high culture/low culture issues, I’m more interested in the power structures which regulate cultural production, especially in regards to language. The way its normative usage structures our perspective on life often prevents us from undergoing actual experiences. In that sense cultural products are very powerful.

R.J. Preece: For Medley, I have to say: I really like it. It’s funny— and creepy— at the same time. (Laughs).

Jens Pecho: (Laughs) Yes! People often stand in front of the screen with the headphones on, and you can see they are mentally disgusted with the lyrics, but their toes are tapping. Here one can see how a simple rhythm— which I tried to keep intact throughout the video— can outwit our moral agendas quite easily.

R.J. Preece: You are into opposites, compare / contrasts, like Right / Wrong, Good / Evil, Love / Hate, and Day in / Day out. OVERKILL is contrasting a sound element with two visuals. Why is this?

Jens Pecho: I suppose, my usage of these opposites is a result of my interest in extreme terms and the empty power that they possess. In OVERKILL sixteen albums of trash-metal— the complete œuvre of the band after which the piece is named— were merged onto one record which is played in a narrow room. The two additional prints contrast a statistical representation of nuclear weaponry during the cold war with all death-scenarios taken from the band’s lyrics. The installation performs an overkill out of material which claims to be exactly this. But it also reveals that the term is an empty shell which can’t be sufficiently filled.

R.J. Preece: Are you also interested in the mental space between the two “things”. For example, you appropriate “love” and then “hate” (in the Love/Hate installation, juxtaposed John Lennon Love lyrics and sound with Iggy Pop’s Hate) and there’s also this mental space between them. Are you interested in that space?

Jens Pecho: Actually the whole piece is about that in-between, which is not part of the songs.

R.J. Preece: Are you also interested in the appearance on the surface and the reality underneath? Because with Medley, sometimes there’s ambiguity whether the singer means their extreme homophobic lyrics, or if they are adopting a persona and presenting that, sort of in the Marilyn Manson kind of way of “I am just putting forth what I see in society”.

Jens Pecho: Yes I am, although in Medley I focused more on songs that do not use homophobic terms in an ironic way. But the mixture varies in its aggressive potential— there are punk-songs, cover versions, as well as ragga, right-wing extremist bands and of course a lot of rap music. By montaging all this, including the differences in pronunciation and articulation, the same words can turn out to mean something different. Nevertheless the whole piece is held together by stereotyped heterosexual male perspectives.

R.J. Preece: With Day in / Day out, this may seem like a strange question, but do you consider yourself a romantic with that work? It’s very clear, very ordered, but there’s a longing for something, wanting meaning, within that presentation.

Jens Pecho: I’d totally agree, but I don’t like the use of the word “romantic” here. Maybe one could call it minimal poetry.

R.J. Preece: It’s such a tense work, like Clockwork Orange, waiting for something to happen.

Jens Pecho: Basically, it’s just a literal description of the days passing by over and over again. But yes— by doing this, it enfolds some longing as you said.

R.J. Preece: With The End, where you have these two elements clashing and eroding, again, I’d use the term “romantic”, but again not in a mushy way.

Jens Pecho: Here, I’d say it’s more romantic because it’s actually nice to hear the two versions of the song played together. There is no rivalry in the confrontation of Jim Morrison and Nico. It’s more like a duet that even allows some beauty to develop – although the constant corrosion of the dub-plates will lead to a union apart from lyrical approaches. The End will be factual, when the music turns into a scratching sound. But somehow this also unites both singers at last.

R.J. Preece: What would you describe as your influences in addition to popular culture? Are there any artists that have influenced your thinking along the way?

Jens Pecho: I like Hans Haacke’s art. Lawrence Weiner’s definitely. Jenny Holzer, Felix Gonzales Torres. And Bruce Nauman, but who doesn’t love Nauman?

R.J. Preece: I’m not influenced by Bruce Nauman.

Jens Pecho: (Laughs) Okay!

R.J. Preece: And which artists are you not influenced by? You’re not influenced by Damien Hirst.

Jens Pecho: I don’t think so.

R.J. Preece: How do you deal with quotation, appropriation and copyright issues in your work?

Jens Pecho: I am well aware of appropriation and copyright issues, and I closely review them with a lawyer. What I find missing in the copyright discussion is to question the political power associated with copyright. Cultural production can’t be a one-way-street of indoctrination. A critical reuse must be possible.

R.J. Preece: What are the current issues and pursuits in your practice?

Jens Pecho: Lately I am very interested in language theory seen from a philosophical perspective. I guess my work will be dealing less with the cultural industry and more with the tools that enable us to have cultural expression at all.