Interview: Johannes Fricke Waldthausen

©Julia Zierer

I met Johannes Fricke Waldthausen back in the early days of Digital Life Design (DLD), the conference in Munich. Much has happened in the meantime: alongside of working with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist and Galerie Sprüth Magers he founded his own label GoodRoom. The gallery is currently showing Dreaming Mirrors Dreaming Screens, an exhibition curated by Fricke Waldthausen, dealing with the technologization of the self. We asked Johannes a few questions and got some pretty exciting answers in return:


How did you come up with the idea for your project, Goodroom?

GoodRoom is not a series of projects, rather a label that I founded in 2015 in collaboration with Slater Bradley. Over the course of the last few years, after a variety of activities and collaborations, I came to understand that I enjoy the production of art and an exchange with creatives and artists in the direction of the future development of their work.

For more than ten years I’ve managed the back catalog of the band Popol Vuh (early ambient electronic, Werner Herzog soundtracks, among other things). Because of that, I’ve always worked in a very practical way with other labels. Starting the GoodRoom label was an obvious way to center those activities. GoodRoom allows me to produce creatively at a higher level, alone or with other labels.

GoodRoom has more continuity and I’m able to implement and control my ideas; at the same time, as a company, it offers better conditions for collaborations with artists, labels, museums, galleries, companies, collections and so on. The artists are the most important aspect.

What’s special about it?

GoodRoom is a lot of “creative direction” and operates in a timely manner through flexible structures. We work with artists, designers, innovation and new technologies. With GoodRoom it’s primarily about location and state, to inspire people to feel more creative – and it’s about quality initiatives that are full of energy: good, energetic locations and places where people can come into contact with other people; people who other people can relate to and be inspired by. “Inspiration” and “good” are central. It’s not about distance, irony or cynicism. It’s about intuition, new physicalities, energy, innovation and creativity.

We are surrounded by so much technology and due to this state of “alienation” we loose the ability to  connect to ourselves.  Thus, in search of a new conception of man,  the magical, the unconscious and an interest in spirituality are becoming more and more important. At GoodRoom it’s about “feeling yourself.”

A central question is: What can make us more spiritual and how can we help technology as a planetary social to become more spiritual? You could call it an interest in the “Super Real.” This reminds me more of new approaches in the 1960s than those the 1980s. In art as well.

How did the collaboration with Galerie Sprüth Magers develop?

After a year at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, I developed the Thank you for the Music exhibition at Sprüth Magers in 2005. It went well, so it was also able to go to London. Afterwards we continued to develop and implement more projects like Uneasy Angel – Imagine Los Angeles, Source Codes: 12 Influential Artists from the 1970s, Rethinking Location or good solo exhibitions like the one from David Maljkovic. At Sprüth Magers, it’s always about art that has the potential for long-term relevance. This is exciting. Sprüth Magers obtains international reputation and highest level expertise in art. This is great environment to consider Goodroom collaborations.

What was the criteria you used for the artists represented here?

For Dreaming Mirrors Dreaming Screens the screen is the starting image. It was interesting to compare the work of younger artists who are, on the one hand, representing internal procedures, and on the other, the logic of the internet and New Materialism, but the artists are not grouped specifically according  to their generation.

Vector-based animation and New Materialism, like 3D printing, refers, for example, to a new form of understanding, a melting of the mold; you could say to a changing energy of the form. Very early on David Bowie said that in the future music would be like running water – and he was right. This will also become more and more true in art.

The work of the surrealist filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek and his daughter Sara VanDerBeek, who both have several works in the exhibition, are an important interface for the whole. VanDerBeek’s animation from the 60s and 70s has an impact on very current artists like Ryan Trecartin or Jon Rafman.

On the other side, I looked for works that strongly relate to internal dialogues, the surreal, the unconscious and the subconscious, like, for example, Solar Shields from Slater Bradley and the works from Andro Wekua, Lucy Dodd or Theodora Allen. They all have the qualities of “inner screens.”

One of the initial questions, which has interested me for a long time, was about how art responds to our intuitions and shares it with locations and states within ourselves, which we feel as energy, instead of being able to analyze them. “What do we feel in the screen and how do screens feel internally?” was one of the most important questions.

What brought you here and what did you do before Goodroom?

Co-working with artists. The logical consequence was to start my own label in order to work with others and to better implement my own ideas and whatever else interests me.

For a long time I worked as an art scout and I have a good intuition for what’s new, I also have a keen sense for high quality. Because I was the Associate Curator for art at the DLD conference for eight years, I’ve always had a lot of contact to young artists who are working with new technology. The approach of the conference influenced my own thoughts about the “new.”

Another influence was my long collaboration with Olafur Eliasson. Olafur explores the mechanisms of immediate perception and the “impact” of art. Altered perception, intuition and the unconscious are things that interest me on all levels.

Looking into the future: What’s coming up in the next few weeks? Where do you see the project in twelve months?

More international Goodroom projects. I’m interested in collaborating with creative people who penetrate the surface, in the sense that they look back on and deal with structures and the mechanisms of energy.

One could also call it the “Super Real.” The Super Real combines reality and things that we can’t classify, but are inevitably there as energy. I’m interested in working more with this: It’s possible that energy will soon be pop culture.

How important is Berlin as a place for you. What international approaches does the project have?

Berlin is Germany’s center for art and creativity – many international artists and creative that are developing new  things live and work here.

Berlin – and this is crucial for the workflow here – is not as expensive as other major cities: it doesn’t sell out and it experiments. That’s why Berlin is an important place.

Goodroom attempts to connect Berlin to other international locations. This takes place through collaborations with initiatives that are networked in other places or through the initiative of Goodroom.

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.