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UPDATE: On April 12, Sascha Weidner died suddenly at age 38. Nearly a year prior, Fridey Mickel talked to the Berlin-based, world-travelling, award-winning photographer in advance of his receiving the €15,000 Entrepreneur 4.0 prize and his show Aokihagara at Pavlov's Dog.
Fridey has this to say about his passing:
I don't want to talk about the shock I felt this weekend on learning that Sascha Weidner had suddenly passed. Instead, I'd like to remember one of my treasured moments I had with him. We were at a collector's breakfast during Art Week, where a rather famous British artist was being honoured. During the podium discussion between artist, collector and curator, I was sitting next to Sascha, whom I had sort of roped in to cover up a shyness I was feeling towards the other guests. He never once left my side. The British artist was presenting himself and his works in a very intellectual, high art sort of way. All the while, I kept glancing to Sascha who would smile back at me. While the big guy talked with his megaphone, Sascha sat back in the shadows, smiling back with such a graceful humility. He didn't need to prove, he just was.
Sascha was one of my absolutel favourite Berliners, even though he wasn't quite known as being "from Berlin". With his flat above Uschi Obermeier on Torstraße, he was kind of hidden from us, yet ultimately present. Running into him was like a breath of fresh air. He will be missed, but never forgotten.
Your series about the suicide forest in Japan is quite striking.
I was there, like eight times, in that forest where people kill themselves. It’s the second-biggest location for suicide. In the one I won the prize for, the cherry blossom at night, there’s also some weird thing inside, for the aesthetics or whatever to add up.
Where do your photos come from?
That’s a good question! I like what the jury said, they gave me the prize because i knew myself and that my works are like different aspects of approach to photography, questioning photography, and also questioning myself in the field of photography. There’s a big biographical aspect in my work, but also a huge fragility. There are some German moments inside of a romantic, clinched... restlessness, like since my first cry as a baby. Always in a hurry, trying to find images.
But how is what you do different?
In one of the exhibitions I did in the museum of photography, there was one room with 1001 photographs. They were arranged by colour, which is totally strange, and totally stupid for photography in a way. So actually, I invited every person who visited the exhibition to take one photograph with them as a present. Every photograph was signed, there was a stamp, there was a number. So here you can also see how the exhibition space changed. Of course, it was intellectual manipulation. If you say, “You get one for free”, the person looks at the exhibition differently. There were people coming and spending 40 minutes in this room...
“You don’t have to photograph it to own it.” What do you think about that?
Sure. Maybe I am the one who took the picture, but that doesn’t mean the image belongs to me, I was just the one able to see it. I don’t need to pick the flowers, because also maybe the photograph leaves them there. That’s almost too sentimental and starts to get kitschy, but for example, a lot of images that I photograph are like codes.
Do you have an example in mind?
I have that one photograph of a bed linen. You were not in that bed. Maybe I was, you don’t even know. The photograph stands in one context for love; in another, it looks almost like an aerial view of mountains. If I put this in this installation where I did it already, where you can see the death portrait of my mother or my dad, you have sheets inferring lovers and sex moving over to the last sheet, which you pull over a dead body. So, it’s about the codes. If I photograph flowers, the image might remind them of another location in their lives, and even more about smell, feeling a stage of their lives. This is also a very interesting thing, it’s full of interpretation. It’s always in a flow; it’s kind of like the puzzle of a psycho.
Your exhibitions are never quite just about the photos...
It’s not about putting pictures on the wall. I use the room to tell my story, to create a theme, a storyline, underlined by a romantic melancholy. It’s totally authentic, like I am. A lot of times, it’s also too much, like I am. Feeling too much and speaking too much.
Originally published in issue #127, May 2014.