Michael Weinzettl on an upcoming exhibition in Berlin with the focus on Hermann Vaske's famous "Archive Interview" question.
30 years ago – I had been with Archive magazine for less than a year – I first met Hermann Vaske, today a much-awarded filmmaker, author, creative director and professor. In the mid-80s he'd been at Saatchi & Saatchi, London, working under the tutelage of the legendary Paul Arden and later at Grey, New York. He had come to Frankfurt (where Archive had been founded in 1984 and had its HQ until the early 2000s) to meet with Walter Lürzer, who then headed Lowe Lürzer, the German branch of the Lowe Group. Hermann had the bright idea to suggest a series of interviews with top ad creatives for Archive magazine and Walter, for whom Archive was a pet project next to his extensive activities for his two agencies (one in Frankfurt, one in Düsseldorf) welcomed the idea very much. And in Vol. 3/1988 the very first interview saw the light of day. Hermann had chosen one of the top creatives of the era, Jeff Stark, then Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi, New York as his subject and the interview was titled: "A good ad has to be green". From then on, each issue of the magazine has been prefaced with an interview, most of which you can find on our website (by clicking on Magazine, then Back Issues and then selecting the year and issue you want. Alternatively, you can enter the name of an interviewee in the search function).
Hermann, who had meanwhile been hired by Walter Lürzer as Creative Director for Lowe Lürzer, then came up with a campaign for these interviews. On a spread in the magazine the people Hermann interviewed responded to the somewhat innocuous-sounding (but really quite loaded) question "Why are you creative?" in a number of ways, some of them with words, phrases, drawings and artefacts. The project went far beyond the simple image campaign for Archive magazine that it had started out as and reaped more than 1,000 replies from the likes of directors such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and Wim Wenders, musicians (David Bowie, Björk, and Bono), writers (Günter Grass, Michel Houellebecq), artists (Marina Abramovic, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst), fashion designers (Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier), actors (Angelina Jolie, Isabella Rossellini, Willem Dafoe and Sean Penn), scientists (Stephen Hawking), architects (Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry) and even such luminaries as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.
For the 30th anniversary of this project the Berlin Museum of Communication is putting on an exhibition featuring some 300 of the original replies. Opening on February 1, it will run through April and then travel on to other cities – most notably Cannes, where the exhibition will be shown at the Cannes Lions Festival. A feature-length documentary – "Why Are We Creative? The Centipede's Dilemma" – will then hit select movie theaters in July 2018.
Here are some examples of the "Why are you creative?" project that ran in the magazine in the 1990s as double-page spreads: