5 Questions: Christian Jankowski

Five questions to SFMOMA artists, staff, or guests. Last week Berlin-based artist Christian Jankowski was at the museum. He was on a trip through parts of the U.S., beginning in Chicago for the Expo art fair; followed by his partner Jorinde Voigt’s exhibition opening at the Nevada Art Museum; then on to L.A. to his gallery, Regan Projects, and the Santa Monica Museum of Art; and finally to SFMOMA. His video work Casting Jesus is on view through October 8 in the fourth-floor media gallery.

Christian in the SFMOMA offices


If you could spend an afternoon with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

Dead is, of course, more interesting than alive, I have to say. Maybe it would be my grandfather, whom I never met. Alexander the Great would be interesting. If you think of what started with Alexander, if he had not formulated the Western world, who knows where we would be. The question now would be: would I meet him in my time or in his time? I would love to go there.I would like to see ancient Asia with an ancient Greek eye.

If you could steal any artwork in the world to have in your home, what would it be?

You make me into a collector. In my home? And if it wouldn’t fit? Could it be The Lightning Field? Let’s steal the property with The Lightning Field. If you are there in New Mexico and you have no other light that touches you on the horizon somewhere, it’s fantastic to look on this land art piece. I wouldn’t mind to own it.

If you weren’t an artist, what would your gig be?

Either archeologist or musician. Similar to how in art I’m always interested to try to find something that has not been seen before, and I think that archaeology is something similar. You dig into the past and you get clearer and clearer ideas about how it was in the past, so I think it’s almost the other extreme. And music is another form of expression — if you make visual art or acoustic art I don’t see a big difference.

Have you ever run out of money?

Oh yeah. I just ran out of money. I sent a very demanding email to my gallerist yesterday and received an answer this morning that help is on the way.

It is so easy to spend money on art, especially when you are producing your own work. To produce art is quite expensive, sometimes. I don’t nesessarily make better pieces when I put my money into my own art projects, but you have the feeling that you need to.

What’s your favorite tool?

I guess my computer. And this [phone] is a tool, but is it my favorite? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s my old Mercedes; I have an old ’84 123 coupe Mercedes. My partner always says I should throw it away because sometimes when the weather is not good we stop somewhere and have to call the AAA. I like old cars. I also don’t know much about them. I just came across this old car and I can’t let go.

See Christian Jankowski’s video Casting Jesus (2011) in the Stage Presence media gallery each day at noon and 4 p.m. through October 8. The work brings up notions of Jesus in art history, culture, and the church, while connecting these ideas with mass media, specifically the impact of casting shows such as American Idol.

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