Maik Gräf, born 1986, is a photographer and visual artist currently based in Hamburg, Germany.
Central subjects of his work are queer subjectivity and identity, loss, longing and queer melancholia.
His work is based on understanding photography as a sensitive medium therefore he is working with the sensitive surfaces of analog photography.
During the last years his art practice has expanded to include the media of video, installation and painting/drawing, which in connection with photography form fragmented overlays.
Where are you from, where are you based and can you tell us a little about both?
I am born in a rural part in the middle of Germany which back then has been part of the former GDR. Since 2014 I have been based in Hamburg, Germany.
I think being born in a different social structure and essentially in a country that now is non existent might have created a feeling of rupture early in my life.
I moved to Hamburg to complete a Masters degree in Fine Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts Hamburg after finishing my Bachelor studies at the Bauhaus-University in Weimar which most essentially taught me to always continue experimenting.
What initially drew you to Athens?
Since a few years the broken and vulnerable bodies of ancient sculptures form a recurring aspect in my work. Getting deeper and deeper into researching about queer history and trying to mould this research into my work, created the need to come to Athens. Queer History starts in ancient Greece. The myths of Gods and Goddesses and the queer realities being formulated in those fascinate me. Thoughts on queer topics have been formulated early on in greek philosophy but seem to always stay a bit in the shadows and unmentioned. So for me it is important to collect fragments and bring them together in my work.
What are you working on in the City?
I am working on a project that is dealing with greek mythology and society on the topics of homosexuality and queerness. My starting point is the exposed bare marble of ancient sculptures which I will depict in an intimate, emotional and fragmented way. Those sculptures embody a special sensitivity and my camera is tracing the lines of broken pieces/broken edges. But my photographs don’t just rest on dead stone. My project is expanded through conversations and portraits of queer people from Athens. The conversations are intended to trace their relationship to the surrounding city and society. I would like to find out which struggles for freedom had to take place and must continue to be fought against a conservative society in which religion has cast shame for millennia.
How do you go about conceptualising an idea?
My work is following an intuitive way. It mostly starts with a feeling that I am fueling with research that can come from different sources: history, philosophy, sociology, literature, pop songs… All these different aspects slowly form a clearer vision of what could be happening, which pieces belong together. Also I like to keep enough space for unexpected things. For example I am using analoge photography for all my personal projects. This gives me a feeling of giving up complete control. With certain things I like to not know how everything works and make mistakes on the way. I like the mistakes that can happen on the way and the photos that could be considered technically the worst are often the most perfect for me. I understand photography as a body like my own body – the sensitive surface of the film can be seen as a reference to my own vulnerable skin.
Describe your work/style in 3 words?
Dream place / subject to shoot?
The piers and drag bars of 1970s New York.
What can we expect from you next?
Back home I will dive into sorting and scanning the mass of negatives I shot during these 4 weeks I spent in Athens. My plan is to bring them together in a publication, a photo or artist book, that will hopefully be ready for print in early 2022. The release will be accompanied by a show here at SIILK.
Other than that I am working in a collective of other artists and curators on establishing a series of exhibitions supporting and showcasing queer artists. Our aim is to be as inclusive as possible, so we will soon send out an Open Call.
Where can we find you online?