Interview with Johannes Hess, Artist at freeters

Anyone who deals with growth or development, and particularly with man-made developments, will come across this question sooner or later: Where do these ideas, brainwaves, and strokes of genius come from? Or: Under what circumstances do I have good ideas and when not? Is there fertile soil, conducive circumstances, or even a recipe for this?

As a start-up campus for Robert Bosch GmbH, grow is an institution that is often confronted with these questions. After all, a start-up campus is the place where entrepreneurs and engineers develop ideas, which in the best case do not even exist on the market yet. But firstly, there need to be ideas.


So, where do these ideas come from? This is a question we artists also ask ourselves again and again. If there were an easy recipe for this, I would certainly share it. Or, one of my artist colleagues would have done so already.


From my point of view, there are two areas from which I as an artist can draw my ideas. One of them is the world around me. These are the impressions I have, my views and perceptions. They can be visual, acoustic, tactile, or any other kind of impression.


Jumping in cold water, the warmth of the sun, a mountain landscape … or something quite small: the movements of an insect or a rare phenomenon that suddenly strikes me. In other words: simply everything that impresses or fascinates me from the outside world and stays stuck in my head.


The counterpart to this is the world within myself. The typical longings, wishes, and dreams a person has. But they can also be needs, like hunger, thirst, pain, or a fear of heights. The tingling in your stomach when you drive too fast over a bump, the desire to listen to music loudly or to exercise, to move. For me, it is often wishing to see a shape or color that I can’t find in the world in the way I imagine it. But of course, these are also convictions, hopes, or even ideals. So, it’s always interesting when I feel that there is something that I need to express or, in other words, something that I want to bring to life.


“It is eminently important not to want to understand too much too early.”



Whenever something wants to make its way from the outside to the inside or from the inside to the outside, it becomes interesting to me. But here comes a key aspect. It is eminently important not to want to understand too much too early. I try not to understand too early why I have the need to express this or that, why I have the need to suddenly stop and listen to a completely trivial sound, or to deal with a certain book, be totally fascinated to observe an ant, or whatever it is. What is important is that I can do this without having to come up with an explanation as to why it’s a good idea or where it might lead. Experience has taught me: we’re generally much smarter than we think! When it comes to developing ideas, it’s not the usual, well-known concepts that help me along. It’s a question of common sense. I need to leave my safe surroundings behind if I want to move to another one. I shouldn’t apply the old benchmarks when I want to set new ones. To a certain extent this means always thrusting myself into unknown territory. A bit of a paradox, but perhaps that’s why it’s the key factor here. From my point of view, without this point, there would be no developments at all. At least no man-made ones.


To sum it up, we could say that sensuality and passion can be considered wellsprings. And if we manage to dive into what we come up against there without drowning in intellect, we’re sure to safely reach a place where, in my opinion, we can talk about inspiration. So inspiration is by no means something for which there is a simple recipe. It’s not that you can just come up with a great idea whenever you want to.


But, and it’s my personal wish to make this clear, it’s not like there is a patent for inspiration either. Even artists are just ordinary folks. I know that it probably isn’t something the art scene wants to hear, but anyone who’s prepared to follow a couple of basic rules can show their inspiration to the world. You just need to be bold and follow the signs—they are everywhere! All the time!

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