Mario Mentrup as Lou Mario in “Homestories” (2016), a photo installation by Kerstin Cmelka

Editor’s note: This is the 16th in a series of interviews with artists that will continue without direction and outside any one person’s control. The artists are asked seven questions about their art and their ideas about art. The questions are blunt, but open-ended enough to be answered in any way the artist chooses. The final question is a request for the artist to select the next artist to be interviewed — anyone they wish, well-known or unknown, working in any medium, anywhere — any artist whose work they think highly of, an artist deserving the same public interrogation.

The first question I ask artists in this series is a cruel one: “Why did you become an artist?” The why bumps out the customary how to suggest that a reasoned choice was made at some point in their lives, but few artists ever make such a deliberation. They are predestined, perhaps. At the same time, artists are good people to present with blunt questions because they’re unfailingly imaginative, well-versed in pulling something out of nothing.

Installation view, Mario Mentrup, “Chicken or Egg – Dilemma (THE ANIMALS)” at Kunstverein Langenhagen, 2016

Filmmaker, writer, director, actor, and musician Mario Mentrup says that he had no way out of a film studio and therefore embraced his fate as a dramatic foil. In his works, which are all performative to varying degrees (meaning they require bodily action, such as dancing or creating site-specific installations), he tests our psychological limits at the threshold between sense and nonsense. Mentrup’s collaborator Kerstin Cmelka, who invited him to be interviewed here, finds motivation in his mantra: “No excuses and no restrictions,” as she puts it. “Get rid of what holds you back!” But is Mentrup holding back something with his mysterious answers below? Maybe — or maybe he’s enlisting us as part of his own art.

*   *   *

Rob Colvin: Why did you become an artist?

Mario Mentrup: I went into Skull Cinema and didn’t find my way out.

RC: How would you describe your development and what you’re doing now?

MM: During the process of finding my way out of Skull Cinema, I stumbled across Psychogeographics and fell into Psychonautic Sound Holes. Finally I got rid of a Repulsive-Anti-Art-Disorder-Syndrome. For some reason, then I was locked into a Film Studio with only one door that leads to Stage Scenario. No Exit.

Stills from Ich Begehre (2007), a feature fiction film by Mario Mentrup and Volker Sattel (photos by Jonas Schmager)

RC: Have you been influenced by anyone or anything in particular?

MM: I used to challenge my nemesis and overthrow my rivals. But this is a longtime ago.

YouTube video

RC: What challenges are unique to your process?

MM: As we all know, everyone and everything is unique and every time and everywhere is unique, so it cannot be my challenge to be or do something rather unique. Challenges and processes change, if I am lucky, which I am and do hope I am most of the time.

Set photo from Mario Mentrup, “The Return of Practice vs. Performance“ (2016) (photo by Eric Bell)

RC: If you could own any work of art, what would it be?

MM: I am not the kind of person who wants to own any work of art, although I do, but these are gifts by artists and you do not see these things in my space. I used to like to get books, comics, posters or vinyl records when I was a young man, but since the days of CD and DVD I stopped buying things like this; they are not my fetish. I became a peaceful VOD and YouTube/SoundCloud type of consumer. If I would like to own any art, I would like to get “The Jewel” by Jay DeFeo, “Arrangement in Black: La Dame au brodequin jaune” by Whistler, and an ongoing, never-ending installation work by Martin Creed.

RC: So what is art anyway?

MM: I don’t know; I did not finish my studies.

RC: Who should be interviewed next?

MM: Stewart Home, a writer and artist from London. He is a self-proclaimed post-proletarian modernist, and he is further saying about himself that he is inauthentic since 1962, which is the year of his birth.

Rob Colvin is the editor and publisher of Arts Magazine.