Berliners and notable disruptors of art conventions Douglas Gordon and Tobias Rehberger landed on Ibiza, Spain, to shift the island’s narrative from blackout to white slate with their joint exhibition After the After in MACE. Here, they peel off the layers of collaboration, explore the gap between a dialogue and a conversation, and ponder the weight of tears at a good party.
Tobias Rehberger: We met in ’95.
Douglas Gordon: In Rotterdam.
TR: In Rotterdam. I knew Rirkrit [Tiravanija] before, and then we just started to hang out together and that was it. Since then, we just sometimes hang out together.
DG: One of the great things I remember was that Rirkrit and I made a very discrete piece about the socialization of cinema. Most of it was in the dark. And Tobi’s piece was essentially undercover, so there was an undercover in the dark connection. And also the fact was that the herring season had just started in Holland, and the three of us — Rirkrit, Tobi, and I — just ate gallons and gallons of herring and beer. And that’s where the story stops.
Douglas Gordon, Sleep, 2015 © Studio lost but found / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015 (bronze object on window sill)
TR: The funny thing is that it feels like we’ve worked together a lot of times, but we never have. And of course, you know, working together, in the end, not only means you do actual artwork, sculpture, or whatever together. If we sit around at four o’ clock in the morning, we also speak about things and feel things.
DG: This is the important thing. Work is not a product. So, have we produced anything together? Yes and no. Materially, no.
Installation shot of Douglas Gordon, Something else is possible, 2015 (vinyl banner, left) and Douglas Gordon & Tobias Rehberger, Sad and forgotten object, 2015 © the artists / Studio lost but found / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015/ Studio Rehberger Photo Studio lost but found / Bert Ross
TR: You cannot really say that because somehow, as we speak to each other and speak about things, the other always produces something in you that you might use. You know, it’s not a conceptualized or necessarily straight line of logic. But in the end, if you’re somehow close to each other, and then even have the same job, it just happens that you kind of work together. Even if you haven’t produced an object together, in some sense, we decided that we have to make an object together. And not even for this show did we start out like that. We just happened that some work grew together and made more sense coming from both of us than being separate works. But we have all kinds of works from the show that are separate but then together because they are works about each other — sometimes it’s a collaborative work in the sense that it’s really one work made by the two of us. But there are all kinds of — you know it’s more like a moiré effect. You have these two patterns and then you overlap and sometimes they make another pattern and sometimes they don’t. That’s how it works.
Installation shot Douglas Gordon and Tobias Rehberger, After the After, 2015 at MACE, Ibiza © the artists / Studio lost but found / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015 Photo Studio lost but found / Bert Ross
DG: And sometimes — it’s funny that Tobi’s saying “moiré,” which is really a specific thing with the exhibition.
TR: I think this sort of deep sense of otherness [is the common thread that connects us]. That there’s something else, there’s, you know, a “don’t trust the status quo” kind of thing. You know? I mean, I think that’s very general, but somehow I could almost say with all my close artist friends that that’s the common ground. That they are skeptical in a certain way, no? Douglas? You’re frozen?
DG: Come on, I was trying so hard.
TR: That’s a good idea, but you should let me know!
DG: There’s no challenge in collaboration.
TR: Not in the way that — you know it was not that way.
DG: No no, you don’t wake up in the morning and say, “You know what, goddammit, I’m gonna collaborate.” That’s not how it really — I’m sure some people do that, but we don’t. It’s not just Tobi and Douglas and our whole group of friends, which is out of our control. It’s about believing in talking to people. We believe in giving ideas to chit-chat. This is not the Frankfurt School of Philosophy here; We are aware of that. We are up to speed with philosophy, and I’m sure that they are too. We just talk to people. We take ideas from communication. We have ideas when we’re asleep. We have ideas when we’re awake. We have ideas when we’re talking to our daughters, to our sons, to his daughter and his son. We get ideas when we’re open. The thing is to leave the window open and don’t lock the door.
Tobias Rehberger, Sébastien Lifshitz, Presque Rien, 2000, 2015 © the artist. Courtesy Studio Rehberger (mural on terrace wall)
DG: I’ve got this all written down on my hands, you know?
TR: Actually, the way it started was not that we said, “Hey, how are you doing, again?” We said, “Hey you should say, ‘Hi! how are you doing again?'” The starting point was that we decided that we should tell each other what kind of work we should do. That’s how the dialogue, if you want to call it that, started. Because we spoke about ideas; We were trying things out; We were sending images to each other. That’s the dialogue. And it’s not I have an argument and you have an argument, so uh, let’s talk about it. It consists of more than just what you just say, you know? I think that the basic line of the dialogue is that the work is exactly about that. It’s not “Let’s have a dialogue about the atomic program of Iran.” The dialogue is the thing. So, all the works circle around what it is to make work, what it is to look and think about somebody’s work that you know quite well. How does it come together? What are the differences? What are the common things? And that’s the work itself. The dialogue is the thing.
DG: Can you see what’s happening here? There’s no dialogue. There’s no dialogue. It’s a series of conversations between people. And through conversation we feed one another. That’s it. The end.
I have a friend from Ibiza, and she told me that there’s a museum there. I said what kind of a museum is it? And she said it was really the first museum in Spain, because during the years of General Franco, he wouldn’t be interested or supportive of the kind of things we would be interested in. So, Ibiza became this kind of haven for, let’s say, a freethinking and outsider mentality. That’s what happened in the late 50s and early 60s. And then we know what happened in Ibiza in the 80s and 90s, and we thought that it was kind of time to start it up a little bit again. So, it’s not just a tourist hangout anymore. We want people to — they shouldn’t just go and get fucked out of their minds at clubs. They should also use their minds. We have a museum there, and the museum was brave enough to accept Tobias and me, to try and provoke a little bit of thought. It’s a different way to get out of your mind that doesn’t involve chemicals or — you know what I’m talking about. So, yeah, we thought it was about time that things were stirred up a little bit.
Douglas Gordon B-Movie, 1995 Single channel video installation without sound Dimensions variable Courtesy Studio lost but found, Berlin © Studio lost but found / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015
Why After the After? The big thing is, there’s the party, and then there’s the after party. And going to the after party is more precious than the party. But then after the after-party, which is about 10 o’ clock in the morning, you start to have your recollections of the afterparty and the party, and you know it’s not an issue of how to deal with a hangover. Tobias and I have, or had, a lifestyle which is very honest with things like that.
Particular works are represented with, um, a lot of tears. And many regrets. It’s a very melancholic exhibition in the sun.
I can’t remember my first experience in Ibiza. At least, I can string some words together to say I can’t remember. If I had been so fucked up that I couldn’t say anything — actually, you know what the best quote is? “No remember.” That’s what my daughter says to me when she’s had a hard day at school. “No remember! No remember!”