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Filmstill Nr.3 (Installation "Staub") © Mirjam Baker


Immersed in a Sea of Light

Dust fills every crack, it’s impossible to control. The artist Mirjam Baker, who was born in Melk in 1985 and now lives in Cologne, knows how this feels. When she draws with pastels she is covered in particles that spread right across her workplace.

Staub (Dust) is also the title that she has given to her exhibition in the tresor in the Bank Austria Kunstforum, which can be seen until 21.11. For the show, Baker produced an animated film of her pastel drawings. In this interview, she explains to you how she does this.

You’re a filmmaker, but you also create exhibitions. How did you end up in these two such very different worlds?

Yes, how on earth could this happen to me? I started with animated film. There was an elective at St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences called Experimental Shortclips and this gave me such a taste for the genre that I became determined to make films and music videos. I then studied puppet animation and applied to the Royal College of Art in London. It was there that my work began to become more abstract. My animated films were more about capturing a feeling than about telling a story. At the time, I also began to draw and to paint extensively. And this meant that I acquired a completely new set of skills.

Mirjam Baker © Mirjam Baker

Goya, Picasso – but where are the women?

So the fine arts and film function in completely different ways?

Completely, they involve different people who speak a different language. And they also speak about different things. There are different rules, which I had to learn before I could begin. It’s much easier to get a foothold in the area of animated film. Unlike many, who later study painting, I didn’t get any artistic education at home. And, at school, our art lessons ended with Andy Warhol, before which we also had Goya, Monet and Picasso. There were no women, in any case, so it wasn’t so easy for me to find my place in that world.

What’s the story behind your installation Staub, which we can see in the tresor of the Bank Austria Kunstforum?

The starting point is pastel drawings on paper, which I create by using sponges to apply the colour. Several layers are required before these areas of colour are full-bodied. For each colour sequence in the film I created 15 pastel drawings, which I then digitally photographed and animated in order to generate a vibration.

Your pictures are hanging on the walls while the film flickers on the screen. How do you differentiate these media?

I can examine a picture with great precision, fix specific points and see which lines or surfaces I can identify. I can’t do this with film, because the image is constantly changing. I have to engage with the work as a whole. Film is light, which is a completely different material.

Filmstill Nr. 8 (Installation "Staub") © Mirjam Baker

Filmstill Nr.1 (Installation "Staub") © Mirjam Baker

Desert sand on the canvas

Why is the exhibition called Staub?

Because when I work I always feel as if I’m full of these tiny coloured particles. They’re everywhere, find their way into everything. I can’t even completely remove them from my workplace. I was surrounded by dust. Like in the film, in which you imagine that this could be desert sand, being whipped up by the wind. There are lots of possible associations.

And how was the music created?

Together with Carl Ludwig Hübsch and the bass flute player Angelika Sheridan. They don’t create classic tones but, rather, a background noise that depends upon the valves that she has either open or closed. This should strengthen the impact of the pictures, create a song.