We had the good fortune of connecting with Malte Sänger and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Malte, what are you inspired by?
I believe that in the things that seem ordinary and everyday to us, very often there are unknown realities and human history. To extract these from the forgotten, overlooked, and sometimes hidden historical, political, and often even geological layers with the help of my art fascinates me.
For example, in my current artwork I am following the practice of using canaries as gas detectors in mines, a practice that has been going on for several centuries. My artistic research journey has already taken me to small German medieval villages, as well as the American Appalachia and even to bird singing competitions in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I think all my work is about entering alluring and intricate opaque realities.
I hope that the evidence of these journeys, my artworks, will captivate the viewer as much as
they captivate me, and more than that, hold the possibility to remember that we human beings
are embedded in space and time axes that often transcend one’s own personal biography.
For example, for one my first artworks „Partition“, I bought a quarter ton of electronic scrap,
repaired the computer hard drives it contained and restored them using software. As in an
alchemist‘s dream, I was able to revive „dead matter“. And from the trivial materiality of the
data carrier, human life suddenly appeared in multiple dimensions again.
In a following work „daemon“ I was captivated by entities that invisibly embrace, observe, and
protrude from their sphere into ours-as in the myths of ancient Greece. Here I intercepted radio
signals from orbiting observation satellites and converted them into the original image files.
Juxtaposing these with the photographs of the actual infrared grids that smartphones project
unnoticed onto our faces in order to create biometric datasets.
Or now I find myself in my current project. It is the story of the Harz Roller, a german bred canary that for more than 300 years was used as a gas detector in the mining industry and has had no choice but to be at the mercy of humans, witnessing their movements and actions through space and time.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
That’s pretty simple. I can see it right in front of me. I would pick up my friend from LAX. Packed in the trunk: Hiking backpacks, sleeping bags, tent, camping stove. A bottle of very dry Chianti, and all the ingredients for a risotto with mushrooms. Then about 2 hrs drive east to the vicinity of Victorville. Probably we will reach the destination only in the late evening hours, so we will have to hike into the valley where the “Deep Creek” flows through, at night. The ever louder sound of a rushing stream promises that we will soon be at our destination. Once in the gorge, we will already discover the steaming hot springs and now enjoy a bath in them. Before heading back to the city with all its museums, galleries and art venues we will probably go hiking in the Angeles National Forest for another 1-2 days.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I think choosing one person, or a few people, who have had a strong impact on me and to whom I am grateful is so incredibly difficult because I firmly believe that, for example, the smallest kind gesture from another person can change you profoundly. I believe we humans are individuals, but only in exchange with others can we be aware and actually grateful of this. We are embedded in a social fabric that we constantly coordinate with ourselves.
To try it anyway: This morning I saw an elderly couple on a high meadow in the Italian Alps. One of them had settled down in waist-high, lush green mountain grass. And was happily snapping photos with a smartphone of a beetle on a flower.
The other, as if there was something rare and wonderful to observe in this nature scenery, knelt down and paused. Watching his partner with a deep relaxation and joy.
As cliché-laden as this picture may be, what I could sense was their partnership and the trust that had probably built up over decades. The silent communication of their bodies. The fun of the two in itself and the simple fact of sharing time and life together. I was allowed to observe this in passing and take it with me.
portrait: Lauren McAvoy, 2022 project images from the artwork “coal mine canary research center”, Malte Sänger, 2022