June 26, 2024

It's time for another interview in my creative series, and I'm delighted to introduce you to the next artist today - although the introduction is not quite literal, as he's hiding behind a pseudonym: Peter Hope (or not).

Hope has made a name for himself with numerous journalistic works, radio plays, theatre texts and short prose publications. His radio plays have been produced by renowned broadcasters such as Bayerischer Rundfunk, SWR, WDR and Radio Bremen. Throughout his career, he has won several literary prizes and been awarded various scholarships for his work.

Peter summarizes the interview in advance with a headline:

Art is Love


What is your name?
I don't know yet. My next novel will be published under a pseudonym, in English. How about Peter Hope*? That might be a bit too descriptive... So rather not.
You see: I'm still thinking about it ...

Where do you live?
The Rhineland in Germany. This is the region of communication and the desire for linguistic expression - certainly linked to the historical role of the Rhine as a trade route.
Düsseldorf, with its relative proximity to France (the Rhineland was occupied by France from 1806 to 1813 and again from 1921 to 1925), which also enriched its language – for instance, 'aus der lameng' (from 'la main') is a piece of France in western Germany... Düsseldorf, I would say, is above all a city of communication and the desire to communicate - much more than, say, self-indulgent Cologne, and much, much more than Swabia.
In other words, the Rhineland. If there is an eloquent, self-deprecating Italy of communication anywhere in Germany, it is here.

What kind of art/creativity do you mainly do? (Painting, sculpture, photography, digital design, etc.)
I write texts - prose, plays, short stories, non-fiction. I love it. Writing and reading is "the greater thing", being a part of it fulfils me.
The late Martin Walser once said: "You have to breathe. You have to write." Exactly! 

Have you had any formal training, or are you self-taught?

Both! I have done several training courses in my field, at various universities - for example, the artistic writing course at the German Literature Institute in Leipzig; the certificate course at the Studio for Literature and Theatre at the University of Tübingen; creative writing seminars at the ETH Zurich - with writers of the old school (Christa Wolf, Adolf Muschg) and younger ones (Uwe Kolbe, Thomas Hürlimann).
But I started writing when I was 10, and by the time I got to university I had already put in my 10,000 hours in the vineyard of art, which, as you know, takes a certain amount of skill.
That's why I was able to start publishing seriously when I was 19.

Where can people see your work? Do you have a website or social media profiles you would like to share?
Since I'm writing under a pseudonym, yes, you can see my work, some of it has even been awarded prizes and/or grants, some radio plays and other things, but I won't tell you where.

* Peter Hope? Name is known to the editor 😉

You Are Creative. Why?

Because nothing else matters to me. Full stop.
And there's more: you take life as it comes - and you elevate it, sharpen it, think it through, tighten it, play with it, in short: you do something with it. Instead of passively experiencing, I actively create and reshape my reality in my work.
More precisely, art transcends reality and brings it into dialogue with itself.
One of my first professors, the esteemed public intellectual of the old Federal Republic of Germany, Walter Jens, liked to speak of 'Aufhebung' in Hegel's threefold sense: In art, reality is suspended by transcending, elevating and preserving it.

How Did You Get Into Art? Where Did Your Creative Journey Begin?

My older sister once told me that even as a child I read everything, really everything, that I could get my hands on. Books, women's magazines, baking instructions, more books, TV magazines, picture books (here: "The Sleep of Reason Creates Monsters", or - by the same artist - "Saturn Devours Its Children", isn't that marvellous?), encyclopaedias - every piece of paper lying around had to be read and understood.
I remember my parents coming home once and me, with a volume of my parents' encyclopaedia in my hand, being able to attack the poor seven-year-olds with the question: "What is determinism?"

The sleep of reason gives birth to monsters | Francisco de Goya

I'm no less curious now than I was then.
I'm magically attracted to an inscribed T-shirt, and I've probably irritated hundreds of men and women by supposedly staring at their chest (or tattooed neck) - but I wasn't: I was usually just trying to read what it said.
You can't write something on your neck and expect me to look away.
Texts are, again in the Hegelian sense, "suspended" language. I've always known that you're doing them an injustice if you don't read them - and that their information is lost.

Why is the Rosetta Stone the most visited artefact in the British Museum in London? Because it suddenly brought the whole of Ancient Egypt, which had been silenced, back into the limelight.

Even an uninteresting piece of information speaks volumes, even if it is about those who share it. And because I've always loved texts - not only as expression, language, communication, but also as baking instructions for reality - I wanted to learn how to write them from a very, very early age.
I never wanted to be a "writer". I just wanted to write, to write texts, to tell stories.

What Inspires You?

Anything that calls out to be turned into a text - and that is everything.
Heinrich Böll once said that half a laundry room is enough to write a novel about.
But that also puts me in danger: My difficulty is not in finding interesting, inspiring ideas - but in distilling the ones that suit me.
I often don't know what suits me until I've written it. And I have to be careful not to take ideas that only almost fit me and push them through routine or craft to the point where they look good - but are not really what is at the core of my art: my tone, my perspective, what is typical of my way of storytelling.

Are There Certain Artists Or Styles That Influence You?

Influence, absolutely. The main ones that come to mind are, in no particular order: Sophocles, Brecht, Goya, Max Frisch, Uwe Johnson, William Faulkner, Shakespeare, Jelinek. Joanne K. Rowling (yes, that one too!), Marquez, Vargas Llosa, Hilary Mantel, Salman Rushdie, Dshingis Aitmatow, Tolkien… and many others more. 

What does your creative process look like?

What are your favourite materials and tools to use and why?

I work on the text in shifts, writing backwards and forwards at the same time, inserting something here, adding an arc of suspense there - in my early days (I'm still from the analogue era) an almost unmanageable jumble of paper; now it's so easy.
The computer was practically invented for me.

Is There A Particular Project Or Work That Is Important To You?

Always the one I'm working on.
I often don't understand my own sentences when I hear or read them again a short time later. Why is that? Because I have emotionally distanced myself from them by completing them.

Brecht: "How long do the works last? As long as it takes to finish them. For as long as they require effort, they don't decay".

Only much later, when they come to me from outside (in a reading, in a letter from a school class, in a radio recording), can I find them good again.

What Was The Biggest Challenge You Faced As An Artist?

I once started psychoanalysis with an open mind, curious about the intellectual adventure, interested in what one could find out about oneself. A serious mistake for a real artist. In this milieu, charm, eloquence, "urban parlando" (Walter Jens), love of literature, passion for storytelling are just names for illnesses.
This crap was the worst experience of my life - it set me back over twenty years.
The fact that I survived it (as a person, as an artist) still amazes me.

How Important Is It For You To Connect And Interact With Other Artists And Creatives?

Important. But often to be enjoyed with caution.
Again, there is the self-overestimating bearish mediocrity (as in psychoanalysis) from which one must protect oneself.

What Does Art Mean To You? What Role Does It Play In Your Life?

Everything. Should I fight wars or sell shirts? (Like my father, for whom that was life.) I can't do that.
Without art, without the world-loving expression of civilization of great art, life has as little meaning for me as a baker's life without flour.

What Do You Think Is The Role Of Art In Society?

What Role Do Artists Play Within Society?

I think the most important ones have already been mentioned above.
Why are dictators, militaries, religions, authoritarians so keen to persecute art and artists, to ban them, to issue murderous fatwas, to stab them in the back?
Because art questions everything, everything, plays out alternatives (or not) and searches everywhere for the other, the better - which, by the way, is a form of love.
The authoritarian - the opposite of inspiration (cf. the interpretative clichés of psychoanalysis) - cannot bear this love, perhaps also out of unacknowledged envy of the life possibilities of others; it is characterized by hatred of the love of others.
Authoritarianism is always the opposite of play, creativity, openness to the new, the polyphony of democracy, the most precise approach to a situation, an object, a relationship.
But it is precisely this precision that counts. It's no wonder that under authoritarian conditions this has an effect on the psychological constitution of the individual - that you hear over and over again: "That's too complicated for me", or the devaluation of intellectual presence as "sensitivity" (psychoanalytical therapy), with the credo: "What's complicated, you just haven't understood yet".
A terrible sentence, isn't it? The self-confident celebration of simplicity. It denies the searching movement, the tentative explanation of the complex.
And yes, sometimes it is complicated. That's what art is for. It can give complicated answers to complicated questions.
You just have to turn nonsense on its head: What is complex is complex.
It's as simple as that.

If you have to defend your clichés, you have to walk over dead bodies in your mind (or in reality).
Love is simply a disease.
But art is a constant reminder of that love, never ready to surrender.
And the pain of losing it.

The Shooting of the Insurgents - Francisco de Goya

Which Topics Are Important To You?

Is There A Theme Or A Message That You Want To Convey In Your Art?

My theme, as should be clear, is hidden authoritarianism - which prepares the ground for the overt authoritarianism with which Western societies are currently struggling.
But it's not as if I have a message and then put it in a text. That would only lead to Agitprop.
It's the other way round - I write a text and if it contains enough reality, it will say something about it.
Even if it's just that you have to look beyond the authoritarian to make your life a successful one, if things go well.

Thank you for your inspiring answers, Peter!

Now it's your turn

Did you enjoy the interview? As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.
If you would like to answer my questions and share your creative journey, please get in touch. I would love to hear your stories and ideas in an interview.

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About the Author Lea Finke

Lea Finke is an artist with all her soul. In her blog, she talks about inspiration, passion, and encounters with art.

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