A Conversation about Our Conversation When We Work
Katharina Mischer: So, a conversation about how we work. What is our dialogue like when we start a new project?
Thomas Traxler: I believe that the interesting dialogue does not take place right at the beginning of a project. Rather, it starts after we have each thought individually about the project and have conducted individual research, when we bring that into the conversation.
KM: You mean it’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle – each of us comes in with certain elements and puts them on the table, and some of them fit and form an image while others need to be eliminated in order not to destroy the picture. So you bring some parts and I bring others, and together they become something.
TT: Yes, even though I think a puzzle is too static an image for this process, which seems more fluid.
KM: Maybe we can describe it as a good cocktail – but how is our cocktail different than others?
TT: Well, you say something that triggers something in my head. I react to it, and we both think a bit further. I believe the difference in comparison to other conversations is in how we continue each other's thoughts.
KM: I can give you an idea of what I believe could be right, and I always have the feeling that you understand what I mean. Then you infuse it with your own ideas, perhaps twisting it, and through this back-and-forth exchange our thoughts slowly turn into a project.
TT: I always thought that that was your magic – we talk about something that interests us in relation to a project and bring up ideas, and after a while you connect all of these elements, and suddenly it all makes sense.
KM: But in order to bring everything together, I need you to first take my thoughts and turn them into something more interesting, otherwise it feels like something is missing.
TT: Now I feel it’s gotten confusing. Maybe you were right in suggesting that we talk about the pendulum project as an example.
KM: I am often right – it just takes a while for you to realize it! Generally speaking, I like how the dialogue between us transforms our ideas into one nice outcome. This is what we have tried to show with the pendulum project – that by combining things together, everything becomes more interesting, and one achieves better results.
TT: Our goal was that the audience would also be able to experience this act of combining things. This was a concept we agreed on quite easily. We thought that the aim of the exhibition was for the visitors to understand . . .
KM:...how we understand dialogues, and our goal was for people to feel what we feel. But that was still just a concept with no shape or form.
TT: And then we did what we often do when working on a project. We went for a walk, because it is easier to talk and have a conversation while we are walking.
KM: Our brains work better in motion. Our legs walk, our feet feel the ground, and we can think.
TT: Because when we are walking, the brain is already focused on one thing, which is not stumbling or falling, so that it has more freedom to think about other things. Walking also helps us because we are not distracted, and are stimulated in a completely different way.
KM: We can focus on the project, because suddenly we can digest our thoughts and play ping-pong with ideas without feeling the pressure of immediately needing a result.
TT: We slowly developed the project while also talking about other things that we find interesting about our conversations. For example, the concept of balance – the fact that our conversations are usually evenly distributed.
KM: The balancing act is not just about the talking. When we work in dialogue, both individual directions need to be balanced or complemented. It’s about two worlds meeting and really forming a single unit. A bit like in our project cuprum, in which we had two elements that needed each other in order to exist. If I would create projects on my own they would just be half-projects – they would never be as good and full. When working with you, I feel that you bring in everything I miss and lack concerning an idea.
TT: In discussing this project, we tried to find different visualisations for conversations and for a dialogue. We wanted to connect people as we did in our project relumine, where we connected two different lamps...
KM:...so that they would shine more brightly.
TT: In relumine, two elements are connected through a static third part, but a conversation or an idea is not a static third part. There is more movement. This was the point where we thought of introducing a back-and-forth motion into the project.
KM: We had the idea of mixing colors. Changing appearances became important for representing the input coming from two parties. It’s like mixing two colors that change and become a third color.
TT: And we had to find a way to involve the audience in the project.
KM:...so that they can play their own ping-pong. We always talked how a conversation is like a ball. So this mental jump to a sphere of movement between two people was not so far.
TT: Then the whole project came into being. We thought of having a pendulum that swings between the two partners in a dialogue. Depending on where each one is standing, there is a certain color, and in between them the sphere forms this beautiful mixed color that one did not expect before.
KM: As the pendulum moves back and forth, the colors mix. The idea was that the color should continuously evolve. So that if you have blue and red it becomes lilac, but not a static color – it is a lilac that seems to be “breathing” lightly. As long as two people have a conversation, the color cannot be static – it has to evolve and be alive!
TT: We also came up with the pendulum since we wanted to have a moveable ball and a pendulum was a feasible solution – both technically and in terms of keeping to a realistic budget and timeframe.
KM: This is your strength – finding physical solutions and budget-friendly options.
What I like about the pendulum is that it is in the air – like words. A pendulum is more poetic than a ball.
TT: A pendulum never reaches a limit or end, since it keeps moving slowly back and forth, and also conveys a sense of rhythm and time. It is not one quick bang. Instead, it is about slowness and continuation.
KM: Do you think it is the ideal visualisation of how we work?
TT: I don’t think it is the perfect visualisation, but I think it gets quite close. It shows that with this back-and-forth, over a longer period of time, two separate elements become one. And I think the two of us have kind of merged over time in our way of working and thinking, in how we see and connect things. We have incorporated elements from each other, so that now we are not Thomas and Katharina anymore, we are more like a mixture. You are maybe 70% Katharina and 30% Thomas, and I am maybe 70% Thomas and 30% Katharina. In 20 years, we might be 50%-50%.
KM: Which is pretty much what the title coalesque means.