Interviews
January 1, 2009
AssociatedNews.US
Michal Szyksznian
celebritarian.pl
Michal Szyksznian speaks with Gottfried Helnwein
HELNWEIN: LA is a strange place. A few blocks from my studio the streets are filled with thousands of homeless people, huddling on sidewalks or staggering through the streets -- and from time to time some lost soul is gesticulating franticly and shouting at invisible enemies. I live and work in the so called "artist district" in downtown Los Angeles - an innocent little island with old warehouses and brick buildings that look like left-overs from a noir movie set, inhabited by artists, photographers, musicians, skinny girls with nice tatoos, freaks, and Japanese students from SCI-Arc (The Southern California Institute of Architecture) placed in the former Santa Fe Rail Road freight-depot, a concrete block one-quarter of a mile long. The heart of the artist district is the "Groundworks" cafe in a red-painted building across the old, run-down "American Hotel" where Bukowski once wrote the screenplay for "Barfly". The air is heavily polluted from all these diesel trucks that blow their unfiltered exhaust gases through their erected chrome-pipes into the air of downtown. When I touch my paintings my hands gets black from the layers of black dust, that sets on everything all the time.
Los Angeles
2003
CELEBRITARIAN: In common notion, America is seen as the land of freedom. But at the same time it seems to enforce definite canons and models on the world, and put the hand of censorship on the unconventional expression of the individual. I know that you enjoy living in LA, because it gives you freedom. What kind of freedom does LA have to offer?
HELNWEIN: LA is a strange place. A few blocks from my studio the streets are filled with thousands of homeless people, huddling on sidewalks or staggering through the streets -- and from time to time some lost soul is gesticulating franticly and shouting at invisible enemies. I live and work in the so called "artist district" in downtown Los Angeles - an innocent little island with old warehouses and brick buildings that look like left-overs from a noir movie set, inhabited by artists, photographers, musicians, skinny girls with nice tatoos, freaks, and Japanese students from SCI-Arc (The Southern California Institute of Architecture) placed in the former Santa Fe Rail Road freight-depot, a concrete block one-quarter of a mile long.
The heart of the artist district is the "Groundworks" cafe in a red-painted building across the old, run-down "American Hotel" where Bukowski once wrote the screenplay for "Barfly". The air is heavily polluted from all these diesel trucks that blow their unfiltered exhaust gases through their erected chrome-pipes into the air of downtown. When I touch my paintings my hands gets black from the layers of black dust, that sets on everything all the time.
But that's only one ride in the theme-park that is LA. There is also little Tokyo, Chinatown, Mexico, Russia, Armenia, Korea-town, etc. All together more than 140 different ethnic groups and 224 different languages. Here you can find any religion that people ever dreamed up - from the Church of Satan to the Chassidic Jews wearing huge fur hats and tight caftans, like their ancestors wore in Galicia 200 years ago, walking with their children on Shabbat under palm trees in the Californian sun.
In South Central, black kids loiter at street corners with a magnum in their waistband, controlling the drug-trade. And in the heavily gated communities of the rich, private police officers in smart, black uniforms protect all the precious miracles that plastic surgery is creating these days.
And all these different people live here in some kind of peaceful anarchy. And of course there is that industry which has fabricated dreams for the whole world since 100 years: Hollywood.
LA is a city without a center, and it has no memory - there is no past and no future, only the here and now. It is like a raw wound that nobody cares to bandage. I never felt so free in my life. I think it's a freedom that comes from the fact that nobody gives a shit.
Los Angeles
2003
Helnwein
2004




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