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Interview with Michael Hoepfner

This April, Michael Hoepfner met AUCA and Chuikov Academy students to tell about his experience and create an installation for exhibition. Michael Hoepfner defines himself as a walking artist. His works are based on his hiking trips around the world.

What does it mean to be the walking artist?

First of all, this is not the idea I created. Ever since the Greek philosophers time, artists were doing it to connect themselves with nature and try to discover something out of civilization. There are many walking artist now. But not many who do it on the nature. Many artists do the urban walking - they walk and they can go home any time. For mountains you have to bring your tent and food with you and make a certain commitment to your trip.

How did your walking begin?

It started with this simple idea that walking out is the way to get the information of your environment. During my days in the art school I went out for a hiking trip and basically crossed all Western Europe. This was the moment when I realized the power of change, perception of space and time. I covered the distance of 3000 kilometers afoot in ten days - the distance you usually cover by driving car in 2,5 hours. This is the perception I was looking for. This is,perhaps, the point when art comes in - when you learn to perceive the distances. Moreover, it is an inexpensive: you basically put on your shoes and go out!

How walking changes your artistic view on things?

Walking puts you in a different sphere of perception. The visual art in the last twenty years got so much involved with the screen and working with the computer, that the direct connection with landscape and urban space suddenly became quite relevant again.

What was the most unexpected things you have discovered during your wanderings?

The last thing I am in right now are the discoveries in the regions where the nomads are living and surviving in their harsh landscape. I was fascinated with the relationship this people build up with nature. Many of my hiking trips were in the natural landscapes which have not been invaded by human beings (and destroyed by them). I got interested with idea of perception of nature without the Western idea of modernity and science.

Have you tried walking in Kyrgyzstan?

I was here ten years ago, when I crossed the Tajikistan and came to Kyrgyzstan. I found a lot of traces of military. The last walking I did here was with a group. That was basically walking from the city center straight to the mountains. We crossed 50 kilometers until we reached the mountains.

The point of this whole thing is to take time in your own environment, you are living in. In a strong way, walking tells you different information about different places you might never visited, Probably, most of the people probably never had this experience of walking out to nature or to farming land. Usually we go to bus station and take a car. Because of that we don’t really know the city, even though we live in it. Walking makes you learn how city goes to the nature.

What is the message of your road photos ?

If you look at the photos of the road - you see the sequence. I wanted to show the certain rhythm. The rhythm of steps of moving, looking to the horizon. And leave it as a moment information.

What kind of things are attractive for you in Kyrgyzstan?

When you walk in the city - you perceive the architecture and urban space as given, however with nature it’s a completely different moment of desire. Leaving the urban space so easily and seeing the incredible nature in front of you - this is very special in this country.

What is your installation?

As you can see I brought yarn material and rocks to create this installation.Many nomad tribes are marking their way with yarn. They believe that bad spirits can be catched by this structures. It’s all about the body in space.

Have you had any challenging situation on your trips?

I can not say that I ever had problems with walking. However, once big nomad dogs attacked me!

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