Paper Kite Artists in Residency: Kirsten (Kisa) Sauer

From: 
Wednesday, January 1, 2003
To: 
Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Interview with Kirsten (Kisa Sauer)

DF: So Kisa, how did you first get interested in kites?

K: As kids, our grandpa Martin showed us how to build kites out of paper. Also, there were those plastic birds we always had. Actually, come to think of it, I always had a kite. Always. During every vacation or visit, a kite was somehow always in play.

DF: Your grandfather always flew kites?

K: Yes, he did it for us children. When I was a child, maybe ten years old I’d say, we built our own kites out of wood and newspaper, Eddys. Then we’d get on our bikes and ride down to the Rhein where they have large, large fields where we’d try them out—with a little grass bound to the tail. So, yes, kites always played a central role. Always.
Later I always had a kite as well. In France I saw cotton stunt kites. Stunt kites, two liners. Later I reproduced these at home from memory, without a plan, and flew them. I had never heard of spinnaker or carbon fiber before, though. Then my brother (how old was I then, maybe 25?) gave me a stunt kite for my birthday. On the same birthday a friend of mine gave me a stunt kite as well. Suddenly, I had two stunt kites! And that’s how it happened; a week later I had built myself a high-tech speed storm rider.

DF: Kite building also fits with your work somehow?

K: I can apply kite techniques to theater sculpture. It simply expands the horizon for theater sculpture. Exactly like sewing. Sometimes I sew my own clothing. Sewing, kite building techniques, and three-dimensional sculptural techniques all simply expand my repertoire.

DF: And the first materials that you worked with tended to be modern?

K: If I’m saying that, after the stunt kites, I started working intensively with kites again, then yes, I used carbon fiber, glass fiber and spinnaker, high tech materials. At the beginning I also built stunt kites and made my own designs. So, for example, one stunt kite was icon zeron (?), that a friend of mine had developed. I wanted to make my own design though, so I made a stunt kite for me personally, also taken from a four-liner. They’re black and red. And it wasn’t until later that I got into painting because a friend of mine collects shells and I wanted to make her a small one-liner out of Tyvek. I painted a big shell and had that thing hanging in my apartment before I gave it to her. I was amazed, the whole time amazed, and thought, “Look, I did that, I painted that!” As a sculptor you don’t have to take light and shadow into consideration. It comes on its own, of course, because it’s three-dimensional. When you paint, though, and you’d like to let something appear, then you have to draw in the light and shadows. That’s difficult, you know. And I just stared at this kite and thought, “Should I really give it away? Or should I keep it?” It was so beautiful. Afterwards, all of my painter colleagues praised me, “Oh, you did a beautiful job on that!” And I was like, “mmm(happy) .” And then I thought about what it would be like if I painted these kites on spinnaker. I got myself the colors, transparent airbrush colors with a binder for spinnaker nylon. Uwe had that in his shop. And then I painted these shells and thought, “Yeah that’s good, that’s it.” Then I worked together with Uwe on the frame, said, “Look, Uwe, I have this sail. I’d like to have a frame now, but I don’t want a cross that pushes through it.” He had millimeter thick carbon fiber rods, which we lay behind the shell, one behind each groove. He showed that to me and I said, “Yeah, looks good.” Then I had a kite that looked three-dimensional when it flew, and the frame didn’t destroy the painting one bit, didn’t slice it up. I flew it for the first time at Easter in Berc sur Mer in France, and the French all stood there (the kite is small - it’s only sixty centimeters, that’s, I don’t know, two feet), and the French stood there, “ Ahh, la coquille, la coquillage.” That was so nice. And when I brought it back down everyone was very disappointed, “What? It’s flat? We thought it was three-dimensional!” And that’s how I started to paint, because I like naturalism. I also like my work, my three-dimensional work. But I wouldn’t want to put styrofoam in the sky.

DF: So, only the appearance that it is three-dimensional.

K: Yes, I had to overcome my fear of painting color, light and shadow and just do it. That same year I met Robert, who also painted. I never really thought of painting a motif on a rectangle like on a canvas. Rather it had to be a thing freely cut in the sky. So, something cut out. The shell is not painted on a rectangle, rather it’s freely cut, cut out. That’s what interests me: bringing something to the sky that looks natural, like the Skywalkers that I made. That’s the first time that I made them…

DF: And the shell, was that on paper? When did you first work with paper?

K: I worked with paper when we went to kite festivals at Dieppe and Cervia, because there were opportunities to work in a tent on the festival grounds. There Robert showed us how you split bamboo, so we just sat together and started working.

DF: So there were workshops at these kite festivals with bamboo and paper?

K: Yes, but they weren’t planned. They arose spontaneously. Spontaneous building.

DF: Led by Robert?

K: No, we were there…

DF: It developed more organically.

K: Yes, I know Anna from Cervia. She saw kites there for the first time. Yeah, we were in a tent and suddenly you see how people are building, how paper gets brought out, bamboo split and then, hmm, how that works. I was afraid of bamboo at first. I thought it was a fine art. You can learn everything, though. But that was very exciting. Spinnaker was less frightening for me, although you can make many mistakes that quickly become expensive. With paper, honestly I have to say, I’ve made paper kites in Seattle for the first time this week that I’ll transfer over to spinnaker later.

DF: Interesting. The paper as model.

K: Yes, as a test. As a model but also to try it out. I can make many kites without having to sew.

DF: It gives you a certain freedom to experiment.

K: Yes, exactly, I painted something yesterday or the day before yesterday that I didn’t like. I threw it away. You don’t do that as readily with spinnaker because it’s so expensive. With spinnaker every attempt has to hit home. It demands perfectionism so that I’m no longer relaxed. But working with paper, if nothing comes of it, you just throw it away…

DF: Without a guilty conscience.

K: Yes, exactly.

DF: Can you say a few words about your current work, what you made or started this week in Seattle?

K: Yeah, I started…two or three days before we left I sat down and wanted to make a few sketches for a four liner stunt kite. All of a sudden there were these people, these people shopping, seen from above, from a bird’s eye view. They were suddenly there, two small drawings. And I thought, “Oooh! Great! I’ll do that in Seattle.” And this naturalism, this idea of letting a person walk over the sky, that one sees from above, so from a bird’s eye view. As if a mirror hung from the sky but instead of seeing the street you only see the person and they are walking along the street or somewhere else. It’s funny, yeah, hilarious. Personally, I look at the things and laugh because they are so, “Hehehe!” For me it is cheerfulness, laughter, comic and lightness above all. These skywalkers are so light. I am totally happy with this subject right now.

DF: I think it’s funny because the kite is looking down at us from a bird’s eye view, you know? The kite flies above and looks at our heads and then we look up and see their heads…like a reflection.

K: Yes, that feeling happens when you fly kites. You stand with your feet on the ground, string in your hand, look up, and forget the time. Time no longer exists. You just look up, watch the motion, and sense the wind. The line is the extension of the body, and it goes all the way up so that it is high but grounded. You know? My head is actually up there. Maybe that’s where the sensation comes from that you just expressed. For me it’s like the sky is a huge, free space, the landscape is a huge, free space that doesn’t cost a dime. It’s there. And when I fly a kite, I shape the environment. It’s like an interaction between all the possible things that are out there. You can’t work on a bigger scale than that. You can’t work bigger than that. You can make the kites bigger or smaller, but the canvas that’s actually here, doesn’t get any bigger. Yeah, and the absurdity of letting people walk over the sky! I worked with this theme already with my four-liner clown. That’s a clown that does a flipflop, a backwards motion. And you can turn a four-liner, so it really looks as if a performer, a gymnast or a circus performer, was jumping on a trampoline and flipping.

DF: Yeah, exactly.

K: That is a motion from the side, whereas the sky walkers are seen from above. Yeah, I can’t quite express it, but it’s just pure fun—pure fun, and shaping an environment and a movement. I like these movements, with people: they jump, and with a kite I can continue the movement or simulate it. I can make things possible that you can otherwise only do in film, computer games or computer animation. Of course, they don’t really move, but people associate it with movement. It’s normally not possible but I can do it in real space with kites. You know? I can build myself a universe. My planets are my own galaxy because unfortunately I will never fly in a space ship through the universe. It wouldn’t be possible. It’s more probable to have my universe down here. That would never be possible outside in nature, except with kites. You know? Or with big sculptures but that isn’t our subject. It is making something impossible, possible. Creating a reality that wasn’t there before.

DF: Oh, interesting. The last question is what you’ll bring with you from this workshop when you go back home.

K: This workshop is a present. It is a present for me. I have a week, in which I can work completely undisturbed and have an exchange with the others. If I can’t go any further with something, all I have to do is ask. Working together, I much prefer working with people in a space. I hear how they move, how they say something. It is unbelievably relaxing. Now almost half of the time is up and I’ve made stuff, kites that I wouldn’t have made at home during this time. In a good atmosphere and with good people, things are much easier. At least it’s easier for me than when I sit alone at home in my studio. Of course, it is also exhausting for the entire day but it goes by very light and relaxed. Just the mixture—Robert, Anna, Anke, Yoshizumi-san. You see, “Woah, what are you doing? What are you doing? Oh cool!” And this whole universe that I’m opening. That makes you so rich. I feel so great, I can barely describe it. I have come a giant step further. That’s why it is such a present for me, this week. I have the Skywalkers. They were suddenly there and I could transfer them right away. And I worked some more with paper, got more comfortable with it. Learned that you can impregnate paper so that the color doesn’t run any more. I didn’t know that before. You learn so much by working together, or working parallel with one another. Yes, it is a present. Thank you so much!!

DF: You’re welcome.

Project Type: 
Research
Project Type: 
Art
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