helnwein archive

celebritarian.pl – January 1, 2009


Interview with Gottfried Helnwein

by Michal Szyksznian

My first performance was with Sandra (6 years old). She was considered a problem child by her parents, and I think her mother had a hard time coping with Sandra's wicked sense of humor. For example, one time, as protest for the punishment of being locked in her room, she cut up all her mothers clothes into tiny little pieces, arranged them in a neat pile in the middle of the room and called her mum with the innocent voice of an angel. Another time she set fire to her parent's apartment. She was one tough and mean little lady, but I liked her instantly. She had the pride of a Latino street gang leader. When she looked at you, her piercing little eyes had a very clear message: "don't mess with me".


I asked Sandra if she would like to participate in some art performances with me. "What's in it for me?" she replied with the cool of a Yakuza negotiating business. "What do you want?", I asked her. "A bicycle" she said. So we had a deal. I bandaged her and she would stand or lie on the street or sidewalk at different locations in Vienna, in the stream of irritated pedestrians. Sometimes she would walk slowly like a sleepwalker and bump into people. She took these actions serious and was very dedicated but always with a cool head - no emotions involved. I also did a series of photographs with bandages, strings and surgical instruments and I was careful not to hurt her, but she was acting with a professional curiosity and encouraged me to try more extreme distortions of her face.
Sandra was my first model and she appeared in photographs, short-films and my early watercolors of the "Beautiful Victim" series. I had great respect for her. We never talked much, but there was always an almost telepathic communication and understanding. I wish collaborations with grown-ups would be that easy.


Complete Interview: