Serge Ecker: “The real challenge is to see how to get digital information back into the real world”
“I am always a bit scared to call myself an artist because this is not for me to judge, but OK, there is no real other fitting description,” says Serge Ecker, a Luxembourger who’s about to leave a creative footprint in Kaunas, Lithuania. Among Serge’s previous works are fascinating ideas, including an aluminum intervention at the Luxembourg Police headquarters; a site-specific installation involving wood and projections for the Luxembourg Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale; an infrared-heated sculpture; a concrete paper plane; a sailing installation–raft in Bulgaria and many more. Both with his personal projects and for group exhibitions, the artist has travelled to Austria, Greece, the US – Lithuania, too. And there’s more about Serge’s relationship with the latter.
Both Esch-Alzette, where our interviewee was born, and Kaunas, the second city in Lithuania, will become European Capitals of Culture in 2022. Serge and Lithuanian sculptor Algimantas Šlapikas have been remotely working on a future project in Karmėlava, Kaunas district, for some time now. A few weeks ago, they won an idea competition with their proposal called “Flying Cepelinai”, which aims to embrace the importance of cepelinas, traditional Lithuanian food made from meat and potatoes resembling a flying object – the zeppelin. Time to hear more about the gastronomical installation and Serge’s artistic journey before it.
How did your artistic path start? What was the art climate in Luxembourg like back then, and has it changed a lot since?
I started working on art-related projects by coincidence and mainly out of curiosity about what I could do with my skills and tools back in 2010 when I did primarily architectural visualizations and had my own small company. The art climate in Luxembourg changed positively during the last years. My generation of artists realized that they need to work together and support each other to create a critical mass and be relevant in society. For the moment, we also have a very supportive Ministry of Culture, which (not only) but especially now does what it can to make the current Covid-19 situation somehow bearable and less threatening from an existential point of view.
How do you choose the best media for your ideas? Do you tend to search for new tools for expression, or do you trust those you know well?
As I said before, many things happen by coincidence or curiosity when I ask myself if something could work. Since I work a lot with digital tools – 3D software, digital photography, planning, sketching, 3D scanning – I love to see what happens if these “tools” screw up, and produce glitches or what happens, for example, if I transform or reduce the number of polygons … Experiments like these, or reconstructions of reality, “scanning” a place, an object, by translating it into the digital world are interesting.
How did you get involved with the Capitals of Culture?
I am a friend and fan of Lithuania for quite a while now due to the friends and people from there that I have met here in Lux and LT during my visits. When I saw that Kaunas would be an ECOC and, by coincidence, Esch, where I was born and went to school, with the Minett region around it, would be as well, I kind of felt obliged to contribute and engage myself in this process. For Esch2022, I started some and applied for the projects I am involved in, but for Kaunas 2022, I was very surprised to get picked and asked if I would like to develop a sculpture/installation for Karmėlava in collaboration with Algimantas Šlapikas by the organizers, which I am quite grateful for.
Can you tell us more about the projects for Esch 2022?
“Anthroposcape” is a project for the commune of Kayl/Tétange about an open pit mining which changed the landscape of the town I grew up in. We do it in collaboration with the last remaining iron foundry. “DKollage” is a process with our artist collective DKollektiv, where we are making a participatory renovation of an industrial hall in Dudelange which will become a common creative space, workshop and photolab. We’ll achieve that with the support of the commune of Dudelange, the Œuvre Nationale de Secours G.-D. Charlotte and Esch2022. Also there’s “Konkasser”, a project to construct a stone grinder in the commune of Sanem with two other members of the DKollektiv, Misch Feinen and Eric Marx. Besides, I was part of a jury to select photos for an exhibition of the Lithuanian society here in Luxembourg.
So, cepelinai. What do you think about this culinary object? When did you realize it can be more than just food?
I was introduced to cepelinai on my first trip to LT and love them ever since… Especially the fried ones. When working on the project and talking with Algimantas, we thought about shapes. Of course, the cepelinas has quite an iconic shape, also in relation to its flying counterpart.
What was the base for the idea in Karmėlava? How much was/is the local community involved?
The idea’s base was the briefing which defined a particular framework in relation to Karmėlava, including the airport, war, and local folklore like the Cepelinai. Algimantas and I thought we should also add a little humor to spice up the recipe. I could not come to Kaunas, so, unfortunately, we couldn’t meet or interact with the local community due to the Covid situation; otherwise, we could have imagined a cepelinai contest to find the most suitable and most iconic cepelinas to 3D scan. Maybe once the work is in place, we can inaugurate it with a cepelinai festival.
How do you get along with Algimantas Šlapikas? Do you work remotely these days, or how does it go?
Algimantas is an interesting character and artist with a good sense of humor which I find very important to get along with a person. He is a much more experienced artist than me with a long career and his “tools, he knows how to work shapes and volumes, materials with his hands, and I admire this approach since I am working with plans and 3D models. It is always interesting to mix these worlds, which seem and are opposite, but this I see as a benefit and a true collaboration, where both artists use their tools for the project.