11 Artists Interview: First Encounter with Art

“That was the beginning of my film and photography career – my first image ended up under the Russian soldier’s boot.” Watch Jonas Mekas, Laurie Anderson, Paul Auster, Gerhard Richter and 7 other acclaimed artists on how they began their career.

Avant-garde filmmaker and poet Jonas Mekas (b. 1922 in Lithuania) got his first still camera the very same week that the Russian tanks began rolling in, and his first picture was thus of Russian tanks – until a lieutenant took his camera and smashed it. Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist (b. 1962) really just wanted to get hold of a free ticket for a film festival when she submitted her video ‘I’m Not The Girl Who Misses Much’ (1986), which she now considers “the only good work I ever did.” American visual artist George Condo (b. 1957) reflects on his first set of oil paints, while it was the gift of paper and pastels on his 22nd birthday, that made German artist Jonathan Meese (b.1970) realize his true calling. British painter Cecily Brown (b. 1969) nurtured an early fascination of “scary” art: “I had sneak looks at it, like you might look at Playboy”, just as German painter Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) was attracted by art’s capacity for uncertainty, perplexity – and coincidence. American writer Paul Auster (b. 1947) tells the story of how striking out on an autograph from a legendary baseball player led him to become a writer.

“Try to do something on the right scale – something that you can do yourself.” From the beginning, American multimedia artist Laurie Anderson (b. 1947) wanted to keep things simple, which has allowed her to try out different things. At the age of 14, performance artist Marina Abramović (b. 1946 in Belgrade) received her first painting lesson: the teacher created an explosion by setting fire to the painting, and this experience is at the root of her understanding of performance art as being about the process, not the result. South African artist William Kentridge (b. 1955) failed at painting, acting and filmmaking, but rediscovered everything again at the age of 30, when he accepted that he was indeed an artist with all that he wanted to include in that term. Finally, Syrian poet Adonis (b. 1930) shares how he presented the president with a poem he had written in his honour, and how this poem made such an impression on the president that he granted him a wish – that of going to school: ”That’s how I got to go to school with a poem. And that’s why I feel that I was born for poetry.”

All interviews by Kasper Bech Dyg, Christian Lund and Anders Kold, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, except Adonis who was interviewed by Hanna Ziadeh.

Edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
Produced by: Kasper Bech Dyg and Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2017

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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