About Faust, the Golden Lion and films. Thilo Garus, Berlin based performance artist and film maker in conversation with Maria Abramenko.
How do you balance all of your creative activities, as an actor, performer dancer and model?
Acting and performing is a passion of mine indeed. Even though in the last two years I am concentrating in film more. Also the pandemic made me switch paths a bit. With most of the venues closing I am glad for this change. I realised I spend so much more time watching things on the Internet. For example Josh Johnson that is working with brands like Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton. I helped him creating his movement vision by filming and/or taking part in it. In of my recent works, the performance Duo HARTMANNMUELLER invited me to be part of their latest piece ‘’No Fun’’ that premiered at Tanzhaus NRW in Duesseldorf. And at least this got streamed in the Internet. My friend Ferdinat Feldmann casted me his movie ‘’The Mysterious Opacity of other Beings’’ , too. This is another project I wish I can do more in future. It’s poetic film making that catches me. This year though was an exiting one so far. My first short movie ‘’GOOD BYE’’ I directed premiered this year and got his first film festival selection. My main cast in here Gina Henkel played here ass off and my DoP Henrik Alm made it look beautiful. Also I filmed and directed a commercial for Reebok in collaboration with Ximon Lee. Here I worked with Yongshen Deng. Well I guess my key is, to always work together with great minds. As you can see I can do many things at the same time. If I balance them I don’t know. I try to go with the flow.
You had the honour to be present at the winning announcement of “Faust” by Anne Imhof in Venice 4 years ago. How did you feel about this experience? Did in change your carrier? If so, in what way?
I used to study architecture at that time. Then I switched to performance and it looks like I end up in film. But mostly it’s the people I met along the way, they had an impact on me. I’m super proud of that I was selected to be one of Anne Imhof’s performers. The whole team is wonderful to work with. I learned a lot in that time. So that from this moment I wanted to pursuit a more artistic carrier. The movies I do now, they are a result of my performance past. I’m also but not mainly interested in showing a complex or confusing narrative. I see a lot of beauty in not explaining things. I enjoy this as a recipient too, if I notice the artist is trusting the audience. ‘’In my head’’ is a tryout of how confusing decision making is in general. It’s a thing I could do on a stage, too by multiplying my voice or with other video installations. But for now it’s a video.
What is the main concept in your performances?
I do have the idea to entertain or at least strike an image in peoples heads that they can’t forget for a while. Also I love to tease my audience from time to time by them having to listen to me screaming in a microphone for 20 minutes over and over the same text for example. I watched all those crazy movies like 120 Days of Sodom and Cannibal Holocaust. It’s the thing you don’t want to see but can’t look away.
Of course my performances or films are not that crazy but to make people uncomfortable while entertaining them is fascinating for me. As I say this I sound like a sadist, haha. I hope I’m not though. There are two performances of me and Josh unfortunately not a lot of people saw. One of them happened in Berghain. That’s why there are no pictures at all from this, because of their no photo policy. But it had something that can be put in the same row with a performance I did with him at ‘’june’’ Gallery in Berlin. The concept was me screaming over and over the same test in a microphone with an annoying echo effect and Josh just being Josh and being one of the best dancers the world has ever seen. The key was just, it happened in Gallery and the people were standing outside. They had to watch us through the display window of the gallery. But the moment Josh started to dance and he switched off the light, the viewers could see their own reflection while watching us. Like we were sitting in a vitrine like animals and they just came to the zoo or something like that. I loved that moment. The performance was called ‘’Pith’’ by Josh Johnson and me.
What is your opinion about art in fashion and fashion in art? Are they making sense together at all?
I think you should always mix stuff. That’s the beauty in all of this, I think. You can mix also art with art and fashion with fashion, too. But for example a movie, theatre piece or performance properly styled, adds another layer or maybe can be essential for the piece. For example the piece ‘’Piety’’ by Josh Johnson, I was lucky to be a part of, was styled by Nicole Walker. For her vision it’s hard to find a proper word. I see it almost like a mistake if you don’t to anything in this way. Why not caring about everything that is in your hand in your work. Art in fashion also has a violent side to it. It’s like art in a public place. It’s art people can’t escape from. In ‘’Sometimes’’ a piece that is about wrestling and love. I asked my friend Ximon Lee again to help me out with clothes. If you just have a two minutes trying to express something you need to have another layer. I used to model and still do sometimes and it’s a way I come back to this. Fashion is a thing that is learned. At least for me. Now I love it and I use it.
What are your future plans?
A thing I want to concentrate on in future is to combine performance and film. In the past I was working to combine theatre and performance. You see probably the different definitions do not make any sense or are already the same. I still have some unfinished movie ideas I want to realize and direct. I’m hoping for more opportunities and collaborations in general. I do not function as a lone wolf that much. I do appreciate working together. Luckily film and performance is never a one-person show. Also I can’t wait for places to open up. To show work in front of big crowds or to have a lot of people on set, that’s a dream.
Artist: Thilo Garus / @thil.o
Art Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko
Assistant: Antoine Schafroth / @a.schafroth