Saturday, July 2, 2011

Karl Raschke - Photographer

Karl Raschke

Name: Karl Raschke
City/State: Minneapolis, MN
Website: profile:

Karl Raschke is a Minneapolis-based photographer. Hereceived an MFA from the University of Minnesota in 1999. His work has been exhibited most recently at Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis), Minnesota Museum of American Art (St. Paul, MN) and Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (Tehran, Iran). Since
2003, Raschke has been part of the team behind Creative Electric Studios, a Northeast Minneapolis art and
performance space. He is currently at work producing a movie about his father, the professional wrestler Baron von Raschke.

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
The 2010-2011 McKnight Artist Fellowships for Photographers show just went up at Midway Contemporary Art ( The show runs through 7/24/2011. I was working on things for that right up to the day before it opened. I’m showing two boxes of photographs along with a one of a kind LP record - also available on cassette!

The boxes are laid out on a couple tables and anyone is invited to take the pictures out and look through them, sort them, do whatever they want. I’ve included some suggested methods for viewing the pictures but people are free to do whatever they want to do. I think of them as books without bindings or books that have lost their bindings.

The record is a new thing for me. It includes audio that relates to the pictures in tangential ways. I think of it as a weird version of the self guided tour thing. Maybe a self guided detour? A couple tracks are wrestling interviews that my dad did in the 70s and 80s. One track is a recording of a friend of mine reading a 1970s sports column from the Chicago Tribune. The writer just goes off on my dad in this great over-the-top way. He says things like - “I want to tell you about a grave threat to our way of life” and “The two tools of America’s enemies are von Raschke and dope.” Its got songs, too, and a couple more arty, maybe c-grade John Cage ripoffs. They all relate to the pictures in some way and might even give some insight into the pictures. Hopefully it’s fun to listen to as well.

I haven’t really tried to describe any pictures or sum up the content here yet. The content of the pictures varies and that’s very much by design. I want these things to be open and mutable. One box is called Obfuscation: Pro Wrestling Edition. There are photos of my retired wrestler dad in there but a lot of the pictures don’t have any obvious connection to wrestling. A number of them relate to obscure parts of my dad’s biography that you’d probably only know if you were a friend or family member. The photo selection process and the construction of the box is this very inward looking thing, very personal. I have no illusions that anyone will pick up on that stuff on an intellectual level. Hopefully it’s something they’ll feel without necessarily being able to name it.

"What is Art?" is certainly too big of a question to ask here, but what do you hope your audience takes away from your art? What statement do you hope to make?
I wouldn’t say I’m trying to make a statement with my work. It’s more like asking a series of questions. The basic questions for me are - what is a photograph and how does it accrue meaning? These questions come up for me simply because I love making photographs and once they’re there in front of me I wonder why I’ve made them. I don’t have the feeling that “I’ve made this” when I look at my pictures unlike, say, if I make a drawing or something more labor intensive. This is probably the result of the mechanical process and instantaneous result among many other things about how photography actually works. The photographs become objects of my curiosity and I start thinking about what they mean or what they could mean.

I’ve made a series of books over the years that I call Google Books. I do a google image search for a word and then download the first hundred results. I print the photos and bind them into a book. I did one for the word David because that was my grandpa’s name. So I have this book that offers a photographic definition of what “David” is. I look through that book and think of my grandpa even though the book’s content is all over the map - sharks, empty parking lots, and lots of head shots of guys presumably named David. The book is like a different kind of snapshot of my grandpa - one that makes different demands on me as the viewer and that calls to mind all sorts of memories.

These are the kinds of things I think about when I’m making pictures but I don’t necessarily want people to come away with a specific conclusion. I want to open things up.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
I copied down something Robert Rauschenberg said and it’s taped up at my desk. I read it everyday - “When you make something nothing should be clearer than the fact that not only do you not have to make it but that it could look like anything, and then it starts getting interesting and then you get involved with your own limitations.”

That’s more admonition than advice but it’s something I like to keep in mind.

Tell me about your work space and your creative process.
I don’t have a dedicated work space. I have a shelf full of camera equipment in the basement and I’m usually carrying around a box with some pictures in it that I’m thinking about. I don’t do “street photography” per se but I think of my work space as somewhere out there. Similarly, when it comes to editing my work, where ever I happen to be sitting with my laptop is my work space.

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?
Justin Newhall ( - Justin and I went to grad school together and I’ve loved his photographs since we first met. The Walker acquired some of his work recently and he’ll be appearing there to discuss it on June 23rd. (

Zak Sally ( - Zak does a comic called Sammy The Mouse and runs a publishing company called La Mano 21 that puts out all kinds of great stuff.

Amy Toscani - Makes big awesome sculptures (! You can see her work at Franconia Sculpture Park ( and she’s in the current show at SooVAC (

Stephen Shaskan ( - These days he’s calling himself a children’s book illustrator but to me he’s just an all around great drawer - if that’s a word! His first children’s book A Dog is a Dog comes out in November on Chronicle Books.

Richard Barlow ( - Richard’s Bromides series is a “body of work is all based upon a single photograph by Fox Talbot, the inventor of the silver negative photographic process.” They are wonderful. Two of the works are murals that can be found in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood. (

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?
I have a toddler so art outings are a bit curtailed these days. We managed to see the Franconia Sculpture Park thing - Franconia in the City @ Casket ( during Art-a-Whirl and I take him to the Walker Sculpture Garden from time to time. When I get out it's to the usual places. I haven't had the chance to discover any hidden gems lately.

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?
I like twitter for finding out about art stuff. Top Art Tweets (@tw_top_art) uses an algorithm to decide what art and design related tweets to retweet. Lots of interesting stuff pops up.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I’m working on a movie about my dad with Phil Harder ( It’s going to be a weird kind of documentary. I’m hoping we can finish that up within the year. We’re going to be shooting a scene at the Walker on August 4th as part of their Open Field program. Show up there if you want to be an extra in the Baron movie!

I will also be speaking at the Walker on July 7th as part of two discussions with other McKnight Photography Fellowship recipients.

June 30: Lex Thompson, Paul Shambroom, Gina Dabrowski, and Chuck Avery
July 7: Carrie Thompson, Monica Haller, Karl Raschke, and Amy Eckert

Image List:
All images are Untitled, C-prints from Obfuscation: Pro Wrestling Edition, 12 x 12 inches, 2011.

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