Alicja Kwade: 'It is not a fact that a day has 24 hours'

With her playful, poetic sculptures and installations, Berlin-based Alicja Kwade tries to understand how the world around us works. Her solo exhibition 'Die Notnauwkeit der Dinge' can be admired in the Voorlinden museum until June 9. MASTERS talked to the artist: 'I am often asked whether I am not afraid that a stone could fall from one of my sculptures or mobiles.'
Museum Voorlinden
Museum Voorlinden

Alicja Kwade was born in 1979 in Katowice, Poland, the daughter of a cultural scientist and curator. Kwade graduated from the University of the Arts in Berlin in 2005, where she still lives and works. She has exhibited in many places around the world, including the Venice Biennale and on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Her works of art have also found a home in many international art collections. Museum Voorlinden even cherishes some of its masterpieces, some of which were made especially for them. Asking questions is paramount in Alicja's work. Her work starts where she no longer understands it. Now the tables are turned and MASTERS asks the artist a number of questions.

Museum Voorlinden

Where do your ideas for your work come from?

'I want to know why things are the way they are, I want to understand as much as possible about the world around us. As humans, we need objects, ideas, political systems and social structures to understand our world, to live in society, to make our lives possible. We create those things, define them, make agreements about them. But they are not a given; it is not a fact that a day has 24 hours, that is something we have agreed on.'

How do you see that reflected in your artwork?

'I often try to take things apart as much as possible, to the point where I can't go any further. This is to investigate what makes 'something'. For example, I take apart a television, grind it into sand and then use a little epoxy resin to turn it into a table. Is it still a TV? Or do you call it a table?'

So we can't take anything for granted?

'Precisely. I am often asked if I am not afraid that a stone could fall from one of my sculptures or mobiles. But strangely enough, no one ever wonders whether the ceiling is going to fall down or the floor might collapse beneath our feet. Because we want to believe that we are safe in our constructions, in the things we produce.'

In WeltenLinie, a spectacular installation with black steel beams, mirrors and objects, you also play with that uncertainty

'That's right. When you walk through this installation, you see that everything changes non-stop. You see one thing change into another and reflections of yourself and other visitors appear and disappear. You cannot pinpoint exactly what you see directly or reflected. With the installation you are confronted with questions about what you actually see, how things are described and how they can be seen differently.'

In a room in Voorlinden, no fewer than 4.000 A4 pages hang on the wall on which part of your genetic code is written - your entire DNA covers 259.025 A4 pages. What is the meaning of that work?

'For me it was a kind of experiment: how much can I know and show about myself? You can read my DNA in Voorlinden, but you still know nothing about me. We often focus on how we are different from each other, when I think it is much more important to emphasize our similarities. 99.9 percent of all human DNA is identical, only 0.1 percent is different. What I also like is that with this work I spread my genetic material to a large group of people, which was previously only reserved for men. Visitors to Voorlinden can take one of the 255.025 remaining sheets of A4 with them on which my genetic code is printed.'

The solo exhibition 'Die Notlikkenkeit der Dinge' can be admired in the Voorlinden museum until June 9. To attend? Order your tickets here.