Futura 89+: Philipp Timischl

The Futura 89+ series features interviews with artists, writers, activists, architects, filmmakers, scientists and entrepreneurs who were born in or after 1989. In this issue, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Simon Castets interview young artist Philipp Timischl.


Let’s talk about the project you’re working on as part of your 89plus residency at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris. The project will be presented at your first institutional solo exhibition at Künstlerhaus Graz as an ephemeral installation. The show has a very interesting title—can you tell us about its meaning?

It’s something my friend recently said when he told me about a threesome experience he had with a couple: “They were treating me like an object. As if I were some sex toy or shit. I don’t wanna see them again.” I am currently collecting sentences and phrases that I could imagine my artworks would say if they were real people for this book I am publishing on the occasion of the show. I transform documentation photography into these 3D modeled talking heads that speak about themselves. At the bottom of the page you find these quotes. Most of them are a bit whiny or depressed—the heads try to justify themselves or try to be funny.




You’ve been working a lot with video stills as sculptural objects in your recent work, and this project will include large banners depicting video stills. How do you perceive the physicality of video? What drives you to translate these time-based digital works into a static physical form?

Yes the banners in this exhibition will show video stills of a project I recently filmed. I tried to do a sort of behind the scenes / making of a porn movie. It’s just me having fun with this guy I like, a third person filming it and then a fourth person editing the footage.  I don’t really know what to do with it yet or how to present it in the “right” way. It’s certainly much more explicit and less vague than what I did in the past. Showing stills from it allows me to just hint at something that might be finalized in the future.

Tell us about your artist-run-space HHDM (which operated from April 2012 to March 2014). What inspired you to start it? What is the significance of an artist-run-space for you?

There are a lot of artist-run spaces in Vienna, but they mostly focus on the Viennese scene. It all felt a bit redundant so we decided to found HHDM and invite people from outside. It’s simple as that. We closed the actual space now but sometimes get invited to do projects that happen mostly outside Vienna. So whenever that happens now we try to show people that have a strong connection to Vienna.

I tried to do a sort of behind the scenes of a porn movie—certainly much more explicit than anything I did in the past.

You’ve made photographic vinyl-prints that are installed on the walls and on the floor. At first sight they appeared to be extensions of the actual architectural space, but were in fact scenes from your previous exhibition spaces and some cityscapes. Can you tell us about the significance of these optical illusions and representations?

These anamorphic banners I produced for that show only function from one specific viewpoint in the space and come to full effect when viewed through a screen like your phone for example. I liked the idea of forcing the audience to look at the show from one specific viewpoint and therefore also see the sculptures from the angles I decided on. On the other hand, I also found it interesting to start working on an exhibition by thinking about the documentation photography first, as it usually happens last. To create these anamorphic illusions, you have to decide in advance from which point in the space you want to photograph your documentation later and model the arches accordingly to that.




You don’t appear to be publicly active on social networks. How would you describe your relationship to online socialization and do you see it playing a part in your work?

I am on my phone pretty much 24/7 but it’s true, I don’t post much. I recently deleted my whole Facebook timeline because I just couldn’t relate to anything I posted anymore. It seemed like from a different person somehow. I guess like most people i just started using social media and never gave it a thought on why, how or what I’m posting initially. Also platforms change so when I deleted my timeline it just felt like a clean start somehow. That said, I recently started to get more into Snapchat but I don’t actually see social media playing a big part in my work.

What is the meaning of books to you as a visual artist? What kind of books do you read? Do you ever make your own books?

I am actually working on a book right now. It’s the publication I’m making for the show at the Künstlerhaus in Graz and it will have the same title as the show. It’s not about that specific exhibition but more some sort of catalogue or artist book. Like I mentioned before I often try giving my previous artworks or exhibitions another voice somehow and now that will be published in book form.

What have you made that we can’t find online?

I made the conscious decision to not put any of the videos from my TV sculptures online. They are specifically made for the sculptures and intended to be seen together with the painting. With the way video platforms function that element would be lost. More generally speaking I guess there are some one-night-only events that are deliberately not documented. If I take the performance at the Serpentine Marathon as an example: the essence is that I showed a private holiday video during a cab ride with strangers while I talked to them about it. The fact that none of the rides are documented communicates more than putting snippets of it online. Every ride was different after all. I feel that putting one example or ride online would just make people focus on a subsidiary aspect of it.

I deleted my whole Facebook timeline as I could no longer relate to anything I had posted. It felt like a clean start.

What was your epiphany? How did art come to you or how did you come to art?

I come from a very non-academic working class background. Art, for sure was never something like a career option. I grew up with a big family on the countryside in Austria and even having a high school degree isn’t a particularly desirable goal there. I just always liked drawing and stuff so I have to thank my teachers for pushing me in this direction and also generally leading me towards a higher education. I moved to Vienna when I was sixteen and my much older flatmates all did the entrance exam at the Academy there. That’s why I ended up studying at a rather young age. Often I think it’s weird that i never had any interests outside of this but then again I’m happy things turned out the way they did and how I more or less stumbled into art.




Where does your catalogue raisonné start? What is the first piece you no longer considered student work?

I think that would be a work I showed at the annual exhibition at the Academy in Vienna. By definition it was still a student work, I guess. It was basically a text painting, saying This is supposed to be the answer to the problem I just made up.” I kind of liked that sentence but the work as a whole seemed lame—as in you could write that in neon and see it at an art fair kind of lame. Also the sentence was taken from some song text, I think. It was just too random in a lot of aspects. In the end I turned it 90° and projected the intro of the TV show “In Treatment” underneath. It was basically the setup I use for my sculptures now. My professor liked it and said she didn’t know what it was or why, but that i should show it.

Philipp Timischl (Austrian, b. 1989) lives and works in Wien. He is represented by Vilma Gold, London; Neue Alte Brücke, Frankfurt; and Emanuel Layr, Wien.

Images: 12346, not 5, 2013. Exhibition view at Neue Alte Brücke, Frankfurt; Untitled (Two Parks), 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Vilma Gold, London; 12346, not 5, 2013. Exhibition view at Neue Alte Brücke, Frankfurt.