German artist Tobias Rehberger is a leading figure in the world of contemporary art. His practice often incorporates a range of disciplines, such as art, architecture, design, and installation, making it difficult to pigeonhole his practice. His work is frequently thought-provoking, challenging viewers’ perspectives by utilising familiar concepts in unexpected ways. Rehberger’s works are astonishingly visual and engaging, from art and sculpture to interactive installations that alter gallery spaces, examining the role of functional objects within this context.
This October saw Rehberger unveil his intriguing “Into the Maze“ labyrinth-style installation in collaboration with LG SIGNATURE OLED R at Frieze London 2022. A gravity-defying immersive space of disappearing images that audiences were able to explore and walk around was indeed an experience to behold.
I use certain concepts and strategies from different fields and try to see what they do if I use them in the field of art or sculpture
“Into the Maze” is a multimedia experience of geometric patterns that embraces the dazzle painting technique used by the British in the First World War as a distraction. It creates an optical illusion for the enemy, making it difficult for their U-boats to accurately calculate their course and target.
Rehberger employed this technique in his “Dazzle Ship London” when he repainted the 1918 warship HMS President a project commissioned by the Chelsea College of Art and Design, Liverpool Biennial and Tate Liverpool.
Rehberger’s practice is one-of-a-kind, and his unique approach and perspective have made him renowned in the arts. His work is held at some of the most notable museums and art foundations, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden collections in Washington, D.C., the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in Germany, and the Serralves Foundation Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, Portugal, as well as receiving the Golden Lion award for best artist at the 2009 Venice Biennale.
Rehberger currently resides and works between Frankfurt am Main and also teaches at Städelschule, a place he used to study under prolific German artists Thomas Bayrle and Martin Kippenberger. We caught up with Rehberger shortly after Frieze London 2022 to learn more about this practice, inspiration and his collaboration with LG.
Q: Hi Tobias! How are you doing? Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you please introduce yourself for those who do not know you?
A: My name is Tobias Rehberger. I am an Artist working in Frankfurt and Berlin.
Q: Can you tell us how you started in arts, how art has played a role in your life, and why you decided to become an artist?
A: I started to think about art more often and more seriously around the age of 14/15. Artbooks and museum visits were kind of normal in my family. But to really become an artist myself was something I never thought of as a possibility. To imagine that I really could be an artist myself only occurred to me much later.
Q: You have a multifaceted practice that moves freely between painting, sculpture, design and architecture – well known for your visually confounding objects and room-filling environments that Play with perception, literally and conceptually and question how art is defined. Can you tell us more about your practice, your inspiration and what the creative process looks like?
A: Actually, it’s not so much that I am floating between and in all those fields. It’s more that I use certain concepts and strategies from different fields and try to see what they do if I use them in the field of art or sculpture more precisely. Concerning my practice, I work with a team that helps me to fulfil my needs much more precisely then if I would do it on my own.
Q: Your latest collaboration, titled “Into the Maze” with LG Electronics (LG) for Frieze London 2022, is an immersive gravity-defying labyrinth of sculpture and technology that challenges viewers to “see and unsee” powered by LG’s OLED screens. Inspired by dazzle painting, a camouflage technique developed for battleships by British artists during WW1. Can you tell us more about the essence of “Into the Maze,” Why did LG’s OLED screens perfectly complete your installation, how this collaboration came to be, and what visitors can expect to experience?
A: The LG OLED is a perfect tool for the installation I made for Frieze. It all started out with the rollable TV from LG. I was asked if I could imagine using the TV for a sculpture. And since the rollable TV has a similar concept as my camouflage spaces, namely because it’s something that is made to see or look at something. But then it’s also made that you shouldn’t see something.
That’s because the TV is made to roll down into the box, so you don’t see it anymore. Just as the dazzle camouflage I am using is visually very strong, but it’s also made to not see something. That’s why it is a camouflage. So somehow, the basic concepts are very similar. The space is then kind of an extension to the sculpture. And so it becomes a sculpture itself.
Q: Out of all the open space art objects and sculpture installations you’ve done over the past three decades, from “Slinky springs to fame” to “Asocial Daughter” and “The Moon in Alabama”, to name a few, which one is the most memorable for you and why?
A: It’s hard to say. It’s a bit like asking which is your favourite child. But a project I had a lot of fun with is “Haus an Linsen mit Spätzle “. It’s a sculpture that is a house that I built for the “The Land “project of Rirkrit Tiravanija in Cheng Mai in, Thailand. It was originally built in Sweden for a show at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm.
The idea was – and it was just executed like that – to ship the house to Thailand and build it up again there. Since the materials that had been used in Sweden are not the materials that are functional for a house in Thailand, piece by piece parts of the house had to be replaced until in the end the house changed from a Swedish house into a Thai house completely.
Q: The studio is the sacred temple of creativity. What are three things you can’t live without in your studio?
A: Tea, food and cigarettes.
Q: What’s next for Tobias Rehberger?
A: As an artist the next is the opening of a facade that I made for a friend’s restaurant. That’s the coming saturday.
Q: Lastly, what does art mean to you?
A: Art means to make you able to make your thoughts get a different direction. Thanks to a round head. As Picabia said…