Interview: Michael Sailstorfer x COS

©Collage / Julia Zierer

As Berlin’s acclaimed Gallery Weekend kicks off this Friday Cos and Michael Sailstorfer invite us to the artist’s studio, where his installation Silver Cloud will be presented. After working with Carsten Nicolai in 2012, it is Cos’ second collaboration with a Berlin-based artist.

The design team led by  Karin Gustafsson and Martin Andersson raves about Berlin’s relaxed lifestyle and explains that Sailstorfer’s art has inspired their work in a way: “Michael’s work is very exciting and both of us were drawn to his creative process as an artist – his ideas of reduction and his ability to combine the technical with something ordinary to create something extra-ordinary.  Themes of reduction and reinvention was something we applied to our SS16 collection.” The two designers appreciate the German art scene, precisely because of the many galleries and artspots the capital. Thus they think it’s important to give the artist plenty of rope to assure a fruitful collaboration.

On a gray April afternoon I visit Michael Sailstorfer in his studio in Berlin-Weißensee. Through a sudden hailstorm I  make my way across the backyard to the studio. The door is open already, and as I enter  a mixture of White Cube and industrial warehouse is opening up before me. Michael welcomes me warmly and explains that the building is in fact a former film studio previously owned by Joe May who was a famous producer in the 1920s – minimalism meets history.

Sailstorfer and his team are in the middle of their preparations for the Silver Cloud exhibition. All the better that he was able to make time for our interview. We speak about his body of work, which leaves the limits of figurativeness far behind and includes sensory elements such as odors and noises and by that creates fluctuating sculptures and installations with peculiar momentum.


Your works, often deal with the topics nature, transformation and contrast. How does that come about?

The very first work I’ve done at the art school was Waldputz. I grew up in the countryside in Bavaria is in a small village called Bichel. As a student it’s hard to showcase your work in galleries or other large institutions, but I still wanted to exhibit and I think this contrast between urban material and nature was pretty exciting, which is why many of my first works were realized around my parents’ house. Many of my works subsist on this antagonism. Sometimes I find it interesting not to add any new material, but to rather create the work by I take something away. So it’s about working with found material, an existing environment and of course a moment of irritation.

My works are often related to a certain habitat and they occur to me spontaneously and intuitively, so it’s almost a juggling with things that surround me anyway. To me, it is also important that the work has to do with our present time and in that respect it is perhaps inevitable that environmental issues play a role.

You studied sculpture in Munich. What led to the decision to choose that medium?

Yes, I studied sculpture under Olaf Metzel in Munich, but when I started I really did not have a fixed discipline in mind. I prepared my portfolio for the Academy on short notice, just to give it a try and simply waited what happened. Then at the interview, the professors (among them Olaf Metzel) said what I outlined were sculptors’ drawings. My sketches were always about objects and space and they were very architectural and sculptural, so Olaf advised me to choose a sculpture class.

Many of your works reveal a destructive element. What it that about?

Yes, somehow this disruptive element appeals to me more than the smooth surface. The unease and anxiety, as well as the fact that things do not last forever, are ideas that haunt me. With works as Loma or Zeit ist keine Autobahn is is always about transitoriness and I find that very interesting.

Oftentimes your works very bear quite metaphorical titles. What is the idea behind that?

To me, a title like a door or entry, that takes the observer on a certain track. Whether that is the right way is an entirely different question. But ultimately it’s all about giving food for thought or even about clarifying my own direction.

How did the collaboration with COS come about?

About a year ago I was contacted by COS. It was about a collaboration for the Gallery Weekend and initially we even had targeted last year’s event, but it turned out to be too short notice, because for me it is important to take my time while developing a project. So we’ve been working on it ever since. I met with the designers and it was all very free and unconfined. And I had been hoping to realize a large scale project for quite some time, that’s why it was a great opportunity to make a start on that. And naturally, it is exciting to reach a new audience that might not necessarily be that art savvy.

The theme of the current Cos Magazine is “Senses” and your art is in fact, quite the sensuous experience. Is it important to you, to activate the five senses in your art?

Yes that was always a vital consideration. Around 2003/2004, when I people started to showcase my work in institutions I just had to make other arrangements. Like in a white cube display room I had to ask myself: How does the work asserts its presence in the interior? Also it was quite the economical approach to include sensual elements. Let’s take Zeit ist keine Autobahn as an example: It is in fact, a relatively small sculpture, but because of its smell it is able to fill the entire rooms and corridors. So the smell kind of becomes a sculpture and captivates the viewer in an entirely different way. It is similar with the popcorn machine. You’re in Christian Boros’ bunker and suddenly it smells like popcorn – this is obviously an irritating moment. Yet it also presents a contrast between the brutal bunker architecture and the sweet scent of popcorn which actually evokes quite different connotations.

What can we expect from your upcoming installation Silver Cloud?

Basically, it’s like the Cloud sculptures I made back in 2012. They were made out of two rubber tubes (the ones they use for truck tyres) put together and hung from the ceiling. It is a cloud made out of rubber that was casted in iron and now weighs more than two tons. It is a performative work: there will be a crane in the parking lot in front of the studio, with the cloud hanging off from it, approximately 25 meters above ground. Then, for about half an hour the cloud will be dropped down from differing heights, so that it gradually destroys the concrete floor in the backyard. So it’ll be just in between lightness and heaviness. It quotes two works of art history: firstly Andy Warhol’s Silver Cloud. Where pop, fashion and glamor are called into the picture. Secondly, there is a work by Michael Heizer, which he performed within the famous exhibition “When Attitudes Become Form”. With a wrecking ball and a steel ball Heizer worked the asphalt floor in front of the Kunsthalle Bern. The title Bern Depression is also symbolic for my work.


The COS × Michael Sailstorfer installation Silver Cloud is publicly available

from April 28 to 1 May 2016 from 10 am to 16 pm, in the studio Michael Sailstorfer (Liebermann Straße 24, 13088 Berlin).

Opening Night Michael Sailstorfer x COS Art Cooperation “Silver Cloud” in Berlin

After spending a gap year in Paris, Jessica Aimufua set her heart on Berlin, starting her art history and cultural studies undergrad in 2012. As a keen observer and critical thinker she developed an urge to express herself inventively at an early age. In both English and German she writes about contemporary culture and modern aesthetics, with a focus on film, fashion and art . At hey woman! she writes, edits and translates.