October 13, 2012


Painter. Detektive. 

Anyone who knows me, knows too well that Kati Heck is my favorite painter, and no one knows that more than Kati herself, who I repeatedly and drunkenly tell every chance I get.

I met Kati in Antwerp, Belgium where she lives with her husband Gregory Brems. (Kati is from Germany.)  My partner Colin Matthes had become good friends with them a few years before and while we were traveling in Europe we stayed with them. Seeing Kati’s paintings for the first time, for me, was a revelation about what art could be. It was the moment every artist has when they see a work for the first time that paralyzes how they think of themselves or what they do.  To me Kati’s paintings are like looking through a keyhole into Gods bathroom and seeing him squish his belly fat or pop a pimple. They are honest and brutal and hilarious and unfathomably beautiful. I know I am gushing. Imagine what I say to her.

Kati and I have become good friends over the years. Last year she came to Milwaukee and along with Colin Matthes they collaborated on the third exhibition of The parachute project in abandoned stores at the Grand Avenue Mall. Last week Kati was again in the United States traveling to California to see her brother. She stopped for a long weekend to visit me in Milwaukee. I am recently living above Sky High in a small corner of the building where I have a small bedroom and the only source of heat is an electric blanket. We dubbed the tiny space The Idea Room, and spent most of our time together in it, her dressed as Santa Clause and me in a white bathrobe, drinking wine and whiskey through pairs of plastic drinking glasses we found at Science & Surplus.

Makeal Flammini: Will you move in with me?

Kati Heck: Of course. Great idea, in fact. Maybe we can look for a new venue.

MF:  I’ve brought you here, now you’ve seen it, we could do this EVERY DAY.

KH: What are you doing? Are you just pretending you’re writing?

MF: I’m drawing a swastika.

KH: Typical. Yah, look. I would move in with you under one condition that we could take this warm blanket.

MF: We can take this blanket anywhere.

KH: True. Whoa. What a wonderful thought. Yah. We could take it anywhere. Maybe we should make this road trip. We can even stay in your car and have it be all warm with this blanket, put it into the cigarette lighter.

MF: Hold on. I gotta catch up.

KH: …But Makeal if you take these notes it’s going to take forever…the flow of this interview is kind of gone now already.


KH:  Allay. What a bad pen too!

MF: Ok. Hold on.

KH: I better not say anything anymore or you will never catch up. This is... Ok. I should shut up. I shut up.

MF: How long will you be in the U.S.?

KH: Two weeks.

MF: What will you do?

KH: Well, I come to the idea room and then I go to visit my brother in L.A. and investigate baby detective cases.  I will just get drunk in the pauses.

MF: Are you a baby detective?

KH: Don’t you see that?

MF: Can you tell me what the Baby Detektive Club is?

KH: It started with wanting to bring all the people I admire or worship together. So I wrote to all these people and they would return membership cards. Right now there are 60 – 70 members, not all of them are artists. I want to bring them together to make change or to do actions. The people I have invited can invite others and it will grow away from me. Of course, you don’t just admire the living but also the dead.. My first letter is to Herman Hesse. So I send this letter to him.

MF: Why Herman Hesse? I know the book Steppenwolf has a big influence on you, did the Baby Detective Club come from that?

KH: No. It came later. Everything was figured out by the time I read that. The book somehow just told me I was on the right path. The idea for the Baby Detektive Club came while I was traveling in an RV around the U.S. making a film with Bissy Bunder. I went to the toilet and when I came back I said-There has to be a Baby Detektive and he has to say, “Is it going downhill or am I wrong?” In German it sounds nicer.

MF: Can you give me an example of a case?

Baby Detektive Office, Kati Heck and Tina Schott

KH: You can’t go into that all. The work someone makes is the investigation. You look at people, you look at a painting, you make a painting-everyone is standing here with a magnifying glass. I just want people to share what they are working on.

Gretchenfrage, oil on canvas, Kati Heck

MF: I’ve heard you say that you don’t care for being put in all women artist shows. Can you tell me what you mean?

KH: Well, most of these “all women art exhibitions” are bad. Why do you make a big point that we are all women? I somehow think that these shows are more against feminism. Woman, Man, I don’t care. I’d rather be a something. If it’s just an exhibition of men they don’t make this point.

MF: ( I am fumbling to catch up) We will just let this do its job. (I put my phone recorder on.)

KH: What do you think?

MF: I hope it works.

KH: Can we check it out?

MF: Nah. It will disrupt the flow.

KH: It’s true, but then we will have to do it again or can you memorize?

MF: I don’t remember how to use these glasses. What’s happening!
(my beer glasses are coming apart and beer is dripping down me everywhere.)

KH: Cheers!

MF: What do you think about Milwaukee? Well what do you think of this room since I haven’t shown you Milwaukee?

KH: It’s the idea room so I need it. I was looking so forward to this trip and now I am here and we are in this room for 3 days.
In the idea room

MF: It’s sort of like a retreat. You’re getting successful now, sometimes you have to go away to the idea room.

KH: Exactly, I mean these Russians they pay to be beggars.

MF: Can you pay me?

KH: Mmmm.

MF: They pay to be beggars?

KH: Yeah, they want for excitement they try out to be a beggar for one week or something.

MF: No.

KH: Yeah. It’s like going hunting for tropical animals or something. Just like, adventure.
Bored of life. They choose to be a beggar for a week, and probably pay 2,000 bucks for or it or something.

MF: Oh my god. I’m not sure if this recorder is working. I’ve heard of these people that do the same thing but spend a night in a prison for fun. Not sure if that is true.

KH: Ah, yah. I think we even talked about this already.

MF: We have nothing left in the idea room.

KH: Why did I come to this idea room!! Yah, my life, yah. If you’re earning money you don’t know the real life anymore. That’s why I come.

MF: Yeah. That’s what I’m showing you, real life. Yeah, because now I’m thinking when you leave I’m just going to be in this room making crafts.

KH: This is a nice apartment.

MF: It is, I love it here.

KH: At the end you will be able to skate. New friends.

MF: I don’t go outside.

KH: New outfit.

MF: I have a new shirt in this case ( I point to my suitcase sitting on the end of my bed)
That I am waiting to unveil.

KH: Maybe you can do the virgin wear out tonight.

MF: Are we going somewhere?

KH: I hope so.

MF: I thought staying in this room was the plan.  

Kati Heck is represented by the Tim Van Laere Gallery in Antwerp, Belgium and you can see more of her works HERE