Field Work – Visiting Gustav Mesmer’s studio

Buttenhausen, Germany. We read about the outsider artist Gustav Mesmer in a copy of Kunstforum. We found him by asking the Buttenhausen phone operator if she knew of an artist (recently released from an asylum) who was partial to flying machines. She knew of two. We were lucky to find Mesmer on our first try.

All logic said there would be no photographing this dark, dank space. It was 1992, years before digital photography. The light was dim, the surfaces and dirt floors were slanted and presented no opportunities for long film exposures. But once I began to shoot the photos, I knew all would be fine. Much like a jolt of electricity, you always knew, just knew, if the film was going to cooperate, if the camera was going to give in to your will, if your efforts would be rewarded in some way, although you would never know in what way. In retrospect, I think the film, the camera, all cooperated because it, they, felt as at home in this workspace as I did. I didn’t want the day to end.