We talked to artist David Lindert about his residency in Basel, gay dating culture, clubbing and not knowing how to hunt.
In a very stripped down and dreamy interview, writer and photographer, David Lindert shared some of his recent thoughts and experiences with PW-Magazine. Having gained popularity online for his unapologetically honest yet humorous work, which he often shares through Instagram, he continues to inspire not only a queer audience. His practice evolves around subjects that some would eventually name as the darker sides of society, still, he manages to maintain a sense of decadence and self-determination to it. His pieces carry a quality of raw and authentic portrayal that is continuously getting lost in today’s ocean of self-staging.
After escaping the acceleration of Berlin’s buzzing nightlife and arriving in Basel for a residency program, we caught up with the self-called »emergency artist« to talk about romanticism, keeping social media funny and verifying your dick size. An interview by Tommy Camerno.
Hi David, how are you? How was your experience in the Swiss Hospital?
Well, I went there because I had an allergic reaction to antibiotics, but it was great. I literally had no other plans on that Sunday so I went to explore the famous Swiss healthcare, and I chose fish risotto for dinner. If you are in Switzerland and don’t know where to take your mum for dinner I recommend a Swiss hospital, they are very nice.
You are on a residency in Basel now, how is it? Can you tell me a bit more about what you’re planning to work on while you’re there?
The accommodation is amazing! It’s just me and my friend Philip, so it’s the whole villa for the two of us, which is three floors. I really like Basel. I think it’s a great city, small but powerful, considering it doesn’t even have 200,000 occupants. You can really feel the alchemy in the city. I think at the moment it’s the perfect place for me. I haven’t been yet, but Philip always goes grocery shopping to Germany because it’s way cheaper. We were using toilet tabs in the dishwasher until our cleaning lady noticed and warned us. She said: »it’s not good for the dishes and not for yourself.« But I hope I’m improving my practical skills as well, getting used to the Household, because before I only knew »Hausverbot«. We also have a beautiful garden. For now, there are some off-season leftovers.
I want to concentrate on my writings and existing texts such as an absurd drama as well as a novel I wrote. I need to complete the editing and translation as both are written in another language, Czech. However, I think my photo work is my main strength and my main interest. Now that I have arrived back from London I’m really inspired to do even more photo books and zines, I like to express myself through photos mostly.
Can you tell us more about that novel?
I’ve been writing my diary every day since 2007. I’ve been writing in order to write the pain away and that is how I got into writing. The novel is about my life, family post-traumatic syndromes and the history of my hook-ups. It is of big importance to me and my family and when I finished it, I was wondering: but does it have any importance for the others? Lately, I’ve received comments that my life is inspiring for others as well, so that’s what makes me want to get it translated and that’s what I want to do here in Basel.
Your photography has a certain »non-judgemental« quality. You try to capture the beauty in, sometimes controversial or even upsetting subjects. How do you choose your subjects and why?
I don’t choose subjects, my subconscious is connected to anxiety, disconnection, dark sides, decadence and a fractured identity in general, it all comes naturally. I know my ideas but I let it flow. I know what I want but I just live and don’t really choose. It’s not that I would call Philip today to make a portrait of him, I am mostly with my camera and my ideas, I wake up with some and during the day when there is a moment where I can feel the idea, I capture it. It can also be just a flower; I don’t really care if it’s a human being or a plant. It can be anything.
So for example, with this zine I showed in London you had controversy, I mean I don’t find it very controversial, but it was maybe not the best thing to sell at a fair where people are mostly buying things for Christmas. I love these moments when people grab my book and as they open it, immediately, in the middle, there’s a picture of a guy searching for some crystal pieces in a bag. Then there’s that picture of an ass with meth smoke coming out of it. It’s exactly in the middle which means in most cases it was the first double page that people saw and then they just put it back to its place. I enjoy that. Actually, I don’t know if controversial subjects still exist because nowadays, many things are just about shocking. I personally don’t remember the last time I saw something shocking. I think it was probably like 6 years ago when I saw a suicide online. It was like a video from Iran or something, someone shot himself and that was quite shocking for me.
Do you see partying as a type of artistic production? Could you talk more about some of your favorite parties and experiences and how you perceive yourself within that scene?
When I go out, when I go to parties, I just want to switch off. Obviously, sometimes it leaves some impression on me and I want to work with the idea, but I don’t go out for my work. There is a great realization right after parties and that’s when I am most productive. I was just reflecting on my friends from Berlin who truly live for parties and just love it. When you skip one weekend you have to tell everyone about it: »Oh no I’m not coming, I’m not going out this weekend« - it feels like a duty. I was not very serious about that. But for some people, it’s like a career, like a sports career, like retirement from a professional tennis career. I really like to have fun and then payback for that, that is the most inspiring moment for me.
You have made a series using screenshots from gay dating apps, how has this culture of online dating changed our lives and relationships? Do you think it is a form of addiction itself?
Yes, right now I finished the zine with the screenshots but my main idea was that it’s an absurd drama which you read from the first to the last page and in the end, you didn’t miss anything. That’s exactly how I feel about gay dating apps. I think people meet amazing friends, or lovers or boyfriends, but it is an addiction that I feel I have, I can’t imagine not going online every day. This is actually something that scares me, how much time I must be wasting with that. Apart from the dating apps being traumatizing, I think the worst thing is that all these social applications want us to stop dreaming. They always have suggestions for us so we no longer have our own taste.
We keep searching for somebody supreme who has never appeared and now you can even verify your dick size with iOS. It’s just another example of bodies never meeting your standards. It’s an addiction and a disconnection from reality, we go to the club and those guys who didn’t experience dating apps have to really communicate - cruising bushes or bars where people really have to communicate. I don’t know if they were also shy before but now we don’t know how to communicate anymore, we don’t know how to hunt. I’m so shocked when I go to a sex club and there are guys on their phone instead of talking with each other.
You have worked a lot in Lisbon, how is that city different and why do you love it so much?
I went to Lisbon for the first time in 2013, I did Erasmus there. I spent two semesters there, but basically, I can say that I stayed there because I didn’t finish my university and I’ve been going there at least twice per year. It’s not like a weekend holiday though, I mostly stay for at least a month and it’s like a very small village but it’s just perfect. There, I don’t care about my career or problems; I just live for the moment. I’m just happy because it’s sunny and I can have cheap wine and coffee and I’m with my friends. I’m hardly depressed there. You’re not really missing anything when you are in Portugal. It’s not only about Lisbon - I also love the west coast, it’s a perfect bubble and always sunny! I’m just quite sad that even though there are so many young artists and party people who are trying so hard, I think it will still take some time for Lisbon to be really happening. The reason why I can’t settle down there is that I know I would just stagnate. And it’s obviously not the best city for art.
Speaking of love, would you describe yourself as a romantic? What does it mean to be in love when having an eclectic and experimental sexuality? Are you in love now?
I think I’m an epic romantic actually, but most of the people are not epic. And at the same time, I could blame it on my astrology because my sun and my Venus are both in Gemini so my attention span is not a strength.
I can have very strong feelings for more people; it’s not that I would be so caught up with one person. As my friend already noticed - I was telling him about my May flowers, because in May I had like 6 different boys who I had feelings for - and he said: »But David, you call them flowers, don’t you already see them as short-lived?« He noticed when I’m into someone I call him a flower. I don’t think I’m in love, I love to remember my flowers. I love remembering beautiful memories - ultra-cliché. I do it my own way, I think I’m very honest with myself. I was not always like that. I had to learn to be honest with me.
I had a post-traumatic syndrome so it was very hard liking myself and I think it’s still a process in my work. I’m gay but I don’t want to be considered as a gay artist. Sometimes I’m receiving messages on Facebook or Instagram from people, I received a message from a girl who said »This might be weird, I never in my life texted any stranger over the internet, but you are a true inspiration, your posts are the most relatable thing for me and I’m not even gay or male. You really do create art with them because you have an impact on the deepest and darkest layers of my thoughts.«
So that’s beautiful - a young straight girl writing me that I’m her true inspiration because of the things I’m sharing on social media.
And who inspires you?
I think life inspires me. It sounds narcissistic but I think my life is my biggest inspiration and my feeling for the others. I do like some famous artists but they are mostly these classical artists who are dead already.
I think the most beautiful things in life are the roughest and the rawest, without a filter. I like children because they speak without a filter. I cling to vulnerable and genuine people and things.
Your work deals with intense emotions, anxiety, addiction, regret, disappointment but also carries a good dose of humor.
That’s what I’m experimenting with in my life. I’m reflecting on what’s happening in my life and maybe this is my strength, that I know some people have the same problems. Maybe people who are living similar lives don’t have the power to reflect it with the same emotions or they are scared of doing so. Some of my friends say I’m oversharing and that I’m too active on Facebook and Instagram, but on the other hand, why do we go on Facebook or Instagram? Because we are bored and what do we want to do when we are bored, we want to have fun or we want to see or read something funny, no? I think I’m one of these people who keeps social media funny.
Do you think there are emotions which can’t be captured in an image?
We live in a world where we always feel like we need to know the truth, but for me, it’s more beautiful when I don’t know a full story because you can always come back. Then you have this feeling of »Eureka!«, when you realize everything. Suddenly. My emotions can be captured in an image but it can have a different meaning for someone else. In general, when I write something I want to say something more direct and I also expect that people will understand much better what I want to say.
Maybe you have a story about a recent occurrence of intense emotions that you can share with us?
Lately, I’m feeling less depressed, more stable and better. Last month I took a late flight from London to Berlin and we were landing in a storm. The last twenty minutes of the flight we had very rough turbulence. I was sitting at 29F, I think the very last seat in the corner of the EasyJet plane, and there was a super handsome man sitting next to me in the middle. People were really screaming because it was a super harsh landing, 15 minutes of hard shaking and I stayed really calm thinking: »OK if we are dying I just want to hug him. I either land safe or I will have a beautiful death. I would just jump on him.« At that moment I was not scared of dying.
I like the feeling of being unconscious. But it’s a super selfish pleasure. I don’t ever want my family and friends to worry about me again. My favoriteclub is actually Lab.oratory in Berlin - but I’m banned there now. If anybody who works there is reading this interview, can you let me in, please?