Clemens Behr

I find it a pain in the arse that things have to be shiny and perfect.

Clemens Behr, who was born in 1985, is currently based in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Clemens travels extensively and is exhibited internationally. He specialises in plastic arts. His works can be found outdoors as well as indoors. Currently, his artworks consist mainly of wood. Up to now, he has worked a lot with cardboard, but recently he tries to get more and more into new materials.

You work a lot outdoors. How do you approach places and how does your working process look like?

When I work outdoors, it's somehow hard to make plans at the beginning, because it's often unclear if there's a permission at all, if there's a ladder or if I'm allowed to nail something to the wall. It is also possible, that it is simply too windy, which makes working kind of hard. These circumstances vary often greatly - of course I'm happy when a place permits a lot of possibilities.

So is there something like ideal conditions?

When I have a ladder at my disposal (laughs)! It is also good when I can tie things up and when the works are a bit protected.

You work spontaneously and do not plan your works in advance. Nevertheless, do you need a basic idea to get started? What is it that influences your works?

Well, mostly I have an image in mind in advance that I want to realise. But the outcome is always different from that (laughs). Mostly, it's things like the working conditions that shape the final work. There are limits to the working process, for example, when I run out of material or when it's too windy. I try to complete works within a day, so that I don't have to come back the next day. This is also influencing the outcome. So, these circumstances have a lot of impact on the results.

"Lampe 2" Karena Schüssler Gallery
Clemens Behr

You say that you like to arrange. What is behind that?

Well, this is a very general topic. I like it a lot indeed to put up a composition in a balanced way, no matter if it's drawing shapes or arranging objects in a space. That's exciting to me and it's enough then when it finally looks good. It is really a big topic. It gets really interesting when you can walk around the 'arrangements' and look at them from various perspectives. That's when it gets exciting, because different levels seem to merge. My eyesight is a bit poor and seeing spatially can sometimes be problematic for me. So that is why I find the merging of different visual levels all the more interesting. Then, I can work with a room just like with a canvas.

How important is to you to take photographs of your work?

I take a lot of photos of my final works. In the end, it is mostly a frontal view that I chose, representing the view from where I usually start the planning process. In most cases, that it is from where one enters the space. So when one enters the room, one is forced to take exactly that perspective.

The documentation is very detailed. What is, in your opinion, the actual result of your work? Taking photos is half of the work - unfortunately. But why unfortunately?

Only the memory is not enough for me. A photo is all I take with me in the end. But of course I try to enjoy the work while it is there, taking 15 minutes to look at it, observe the people passing by. Not everyone will see it anyways, no matter if the installation is around for a day or two days or for a whole month. That's why I construct the installations often with the photograph in mind.

Neither you work with a yardstick nor with a level. This might look like you do not pay too much attention to precision. When it comes to your works, what's of the highest priority to you?

The overall impression is what counts. Sure, details must be taken into consideration, but it doesn't matter if you can see an odd bolt or nor or if something looks a bit shabby… that kind of adds to the atmosphere. I really can't stand it when things are just too clean, when you have to wear white gloves when you want to touch them - that's absolutely not my world (laughs).

Sure, people want to see things like that. Especially when I work outdoors, what I do is often highly offensive. The things look like trash and that's how one can handle them. I want to keep my rhythm and finish things. A level would only hold me back. When it looks just about level from a distance, that's fine with me. That's where a certain appeal comes from, you know, wood all over the place, stuff thrown together.

“Only the memory is not enough for me. A photo is all I take with me in the end.”
Clemens Behr
Clemens Behr
“It gets really interesting when you can walk around the “arrangements“ and look at them from various perspectives.”
Clemens Behr

Your intentions. You once said something about not taking yourself too seriously. When did you stop taking yourself too seriously?

Well, to certain extent you have to take yourself seriously. But when you do not take yourself too seriously, work's more easy going and that's what you finally see.

How important is irony to you and how does it reflect in the results?

Well, irony is often visible in my works because of the way how objects are tied together. For instance, if things only lean against each other or when I use a binder instead of something more elaborate. Sure, that's not what everybody likes, but I find it funny in a way. As I said, too much perfection leads to a loss of that certain appeal.

Don't your works lose that special appeal in the gallery? Do you work differently in a gallery space?

That's something that bothers me and I don't really know how to handle that yet. One can not only improvise, when one wants to sell. You have to know exactly what you're doing when you want to sell, so you have to be aware of the context. That's what every single artist has to deal with.

As I said already, I find it a pain in the arse that things have to be shiny and perfect. Recently, I tried to make my stuff a bit more gallery-style. That was good fun, but somehow I missed my rather all over the place style. That's a real conflict. There has to be a certain quality to sell your works. But I don't know if one should really worry to much about people expecting 20 years durability only to increase the value. Well, I don't have an answer yet.

Clemens Behr Splitterrelief
“My Graffiti roots are important to me. It's hard to get away from Graffiti anyway, all of my friends are writers. One never loses this special Graffiti-way of looking at things. When I walk through a city, I look at the tags. You keep the Graffiti-gaze for life.”

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