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Hans Ulrich Obrist

Hans Ulrich Obrist: “I believe in generosity as a medium”

May 18, 2022

Mr. Obrist, you are an art curator, a critic, a historian, an author, and the artistic director at Serpentine Galleries. Where do you find the time to do all this work?

(Laughs) It’s not that the work gets faster or easier over time. It still takes a lot of time to do all this work, but I’ve come up with certain systems. One big change in my way of working came around 10 years ago: I realised that I wanted to work with a night producer. There are people who don’t want to work during the day, so to liberate someone from working during daytime, I would hire them to work with me at night. During the day, I have interviews, scholarly things, team meetings, meetings outside the gallery… At night, I then do correspondence for my books, or I’ll do research, or I produce and continue to work with my night producer. This routine is a great excuse to leave dinners and parties early, as I still have to work.

What is the curfew you give yourself?

There are only very few exceptions, but I basically almost never go home past 11:00pm. I go to sleep around midnight and my night producer continues to work, so when I wake up at 6.00am the next morning, a lot of things are already done, and I can just continue.

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SydEmerging Masters

Syd: “I’m ready to move forward”

May 13, 2022
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Syd, can you remember the first time you were moved by a song’s lyrics?

Oh, definitely. Kenny Lattimore, he has a song called “Heaven and Earth.” In it, he says, “I’ll move heaven and earth, the moon in the sky, cross mountains and rivers to be with you. Risk everything I possess for your happiness. The only thing that comes first on heaven and earth…” I mean, all his songs are such well written songs. But that’s just the first one that comes to mind. It’s so poetic. For me, what made me want to start making music was hearing songs like that on the radio and thinking to myself, “Man, I wish I made that, I wish I could take credit for that!” (Laughs)

Does that also inspire you as a songwriter?

Absolutely. The best push for me is competition. And I'm not outwardly competitive, but I love hearing something from someone else that makes me want to write. Most of the writing that I have done has been a result of me hearing somebody else write something that I'm like, “Oh, hell yeah, I need to write an hour, I need to write some songs.” So for me, the catalyst is usually another good song, not even a life experience or anything, but another good song from another artist.