Suicide Tools and Art – an Interview with the creator and artist Zandmann

Suicide Tools – my first thought was that it’s fascinating but somehow banal, at least the subject is crying out for attention. I don’t like to ask the question „is this art“, but I’m sure we can agree that it’s a tremendous provocation?

Zandmann: In fact, the subject of „suicide“ obviously moves people’s minds. To be honest, the genesis of the idea was in no way about provocation. A provocation is always directed at a recipient. But my discussion was of a purely egocentric nature. I studied classical painting and quickly felt that there were other things at stake besides formal abilities. The quality of an artistic work is closely linked to your own personality. It’s about personality development and about questioning oneself. Who is this „I“ actually and how do I penetrate to a deeper authenticity and thus truthfulness? An adequate means for me was a consequence of borderline experiences. A constant confrontation with my fears, but also a questioning of my motivations. At some point I ended up in a kind of positive crisis. I had found a coherent quality in my painting, but had lost the inspiration for further works. The feeling of having arrived, can also trigger an existential crisis. To detach from the world, but to be physically and existentially in it was a shocking experience. At some point it became clear to me that there is basically only this one, completely clear and, of course, banal borderline experience at which our entire existence can be reflected: the question of life and death and the freedom to answer this question for oneself. This was the basic idea behind the Suicide Tools.

As you present it, it is a philosophical reflection on our existence. At the same time, you can hardly deny the brutality and uncompromising nature of your suicide tools. How does this fit together in terms of content?

Zandmann: The logical consequence of the idea of suicide lies in its implementation. I found it interesting to see in my circle of friends and also in myself that everyone seems to have a personal preference as well as an idea. So the way of a suicide is in most cases very personal and specific. And yes, of course, an induced death has – as in many „natural“ cases – mostly something raw, brutal, uncompromising. But even in this radicalness there are gradations, affinities, which have something to do with one’s own experiences and life. It can go very quickly or slowly, painfully or gently. You can look death in the eye or, still in the process of dying, try not to encounter it.

You offer your suicide tools like everyday items. You have written product descriptions and customers can configure the machines to their own taste. There are even advertising campaigns that encourage suicide. Is this coquetry or criticism?

Zandmann: For more than twenty years I have been in exchange with intellectuals, artists and scientists who sit in their ivory tower and work relatively lonely on their topics. Even for people who are better educated, open-minded and cultured than average, it is difficult – not to say impossible – to enter into an exchange at this level. To stay with the topic of contemporary art: either it is banal, or difficult to comprehend. I suddenly had this vision that my suicide machines could break all boundaries. With the campaigns, the beautiful materials and surfaces, the fascinating mechanics, I attract attention. But exactly in the moment when the viewer understands what such a machine does, what it was constructed for, he is suddenly completely in the center of his own examination. It’s as if the art object has jumped into the viewer’s head and almost made it explode. The idea of finding oneself in such a machine triggers an elementary debate in everyone, regardless of age, nationality, educational background or social milieu. It really doesn’t need anything. You don’t have to understand or be explained anything. My own paintings, for example, were far from that. But of course you are right with your question. I couldn’t resist playing with the narcissism of our super-capitalist era. The idea that the individual defines himself almost exclusively through his consumer behaviour is not new, but that he can now „individually“ configure the tool for eradicating his own existence, I found quite amusing.

The group of those who experience the topic less „amusing“ but as a tremendous breach of taboo is probably not exactly small. You have decided to remain anonymous for the time being. What prompted you to do so?

Zandmann: I came to the subject of suicide primarily through an artistic examination. To be honest, I was surprised myself when I started researching this topic. I have little to do with everyday politics, as I am more interested in basic ideas and contexts. The motives why people kill themselves could hardly be more different. The associated tabooing and stigmatization of those affected is downright disgusting. And I am not even talking about conservative, religious groups. Especially in Europe, the topic of active euthanasia is currently being discussed again and again. It is a disgrace how even in the supposedly most progressive countries of the world, the freedom and dignity of the individual is curtailed by the state.

One of the campaigns bears the title „Save the planet – kill yourself“. The slogan came to my mind at night and as simple and banal as it is, I fear it corresponds to the attitude towards life of many young people.

Maybe I chose anonymity out of pure cowardice, but in the face of such realities, I feel a certain gulf. And I have not the slightest desire to give up control over who I am willing to deal with and who I am not willing to deal with.

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Suicide Tools and Art – an Interview with ZANDMANN

My first thought was that it's fascinating but somehow banal, at least the subject is crying out for attention. I don't like to ask the question "is this art", but I'm sure we can agree that it's a tremendous provocation? […]

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