New York City, November 1986:
Klaus Ottmann: You studied medicine. How did you get into art?Wolfgang Laib: The more I knew about the natural sciences, the more I saw that they were too narrow for me and it’s just not what this body, what all these things are all about.
Ottmann: Did you ever think of going into something like holistic medicine?
Laib: No, because that would have been too small a step, and I tried to make a big step. It’s not about homeopathy or anything like that.
Ottmann: What kind of art did you start with?
Laib: I left university and half a year later I was already making my milkstones.
Ottmann: Where did you get the idea for the milkstones?
Laib: The milkstones are the direct answer to what I left, to what I found milk and stone are about. Because milk is not what is told in hygiene. You can teach everything about this liquid but have no idea of what it is.
Ottmann: When did you start working with pollen?
Laib: That came about two years later. This, of course, I would also have never done without studying medicine and avoiding an art college.
Ottmann: Tell me about your work process.
Laib: For years I had no studio at all. I collected my pollen from early spring to August/September, and then, in the late fall, I started to be very free, not being fixed to a space. So my studio was where I collected my pollen. Then, when I was doing more and more work, I bought a beautiful space, but it’s less of a studio and more like a space where I want to see my work in and be with it.
Ottmann: How long does it take you to collect pollen for one single piece?
Laib: It’s very different from one pollen to the next. Dandelion, for instance, has very little pollen and blossoms only for about four to six weeks. So I get only a small jar of dandelion pollen during one summer, and the piece is therefore very small. Pine has much more pollen, so I can make a large piece in the same time.
Ottmann: Do you collect the pollen just around where you live or do you collect also while you travel?
Laib: No, I always thought that would take away the concentration. It wouldn’t become more, so I collect only around my studio and the village where I live.
Ottmann: Does the pollen change with the time?
Laib: You have to be very careful because of the humidity, but I have pollen that is fifteen years old. For instance, with dandelion you have to be more careful, because it is very coarse, very organic. (excerpt from Journal of Contemporary Art. The rest of the interview can be found here.)