Let’s start with the title of your exhibition. A Greater Being. Is it an anagram of your name?
Almost. There is one too many e’s in A Greater Being for being an anagram of Tina Braegger. The meaning of the exhibition’s title doesn’t refer to myself, but to the Grateful Dead bear, which we see again in the exhibition. I think the coincidence of the exhibition’s title almost being an anagram of my name is another sign that the bear and I are meant to
A Greater Being sounds similar to The Grateful Dead. Both are names that are typical for any group or alias. And both have a spiritual intonation referring to their actual meaning.
For me the bear is a greater being. I love its spirit, it brings so much joy and fun. It comes with a certain hippie- flair from the seventies, when it was initiated. As we see in the exhibition, I am making new large scale bears in oil on canvas, 2 x 2 m, so the title also made sense concerning the new bear’s scale.
I see, yes. The bear seems to be an important motive in your artistic practice. Can you tell me something about it?
It originally is a logo of the US sixties rock band The Grateful Dead. Bob Thomas, an artist responsible for some of the Grateful Dead’s cover art, came up with 5 bears, illustrating a sequence of movements for the album History of the Grateful Dead Vol. 1 (Bear’s choice).
Bear is a nick name of Owsley Stanley, also Owsley Bear, who produced this album and was the sound engineer and acid dealer of the band. And the bear drawing was a reference to Stanley.
Alright. And how is that still interesting today? And why are you interested in it?
First of all, the bear movement is ongoing. The fans of the band, the Deadheads, are still making bear fan art and upload new versions of it to Grateful Dead platforms. And you still find it on merchandise objects, on mugs, stickers, posters, t-shirts, magnets, sneakers, etc.
As I already mentioned, the figure was initiated in the seventies. It correlates with the esthetics of that time, with the shaggy ears, arms and legs and the colorful, psychedelic drawings inside. It contains the historical and political backgrounds of the latter and transports them to nowadays.
It is not just any comic character. It is a bear (and not a cat or a dog or a lion or an eagle etc). It therefore has other characteristics than a different animal would have. And it was never defined further; it was never animated, was never part of a story, did never "do" anything, has no voice and is free of any narrative. We don't know whether it is female of
The bear allows me to illustrate different aspects I am interested in and to artistically develop them. It is a modular case with endless orchestration – and combination possibilities. This is a reasons why I chose this speci fic figurative motive, out of all
available images and possibilities. It wouldn't work if I myself would have come up with the bear. It needs to be linked to its background and its story. I take the bear as it is and I repeat it like a mantra.
Do you know the relation of the name of the band to the bear? How is that linked?
I have to say that I don't know how and why the band chose the name The Grateful Dead. But there is a saga of a dead person, who gets help from a stranger, after a proper burial has been denied by authorities. The stranger helps the dead to be put to his final rest.
Another proof that the Grateful Dead bear has a spiritual background. I see a potential in situations like these, generally, and speci fically with the bear, the gap between its name and what it actually is. When you stumble across the bear for the first time out of the context of the band it makes no sense. I find that funny.
To me the bear feels kind of static, but then also flexible. How did you discover it? What was your first encounter with it?
I started working with the motive of the bear back in 2011, when I made ink jet versions of the bears. In 2015 I released a picture book on the occasion of the exhibition Wer wagt mit mir ein Tänzchen, der wird sich verrenken, at Forde in Geneva, with a collection of the bears. The title of the book is The Grateful Dead. 2016 I released another book, this time a fictional story, a novel. It is also called The Grateful Dead. The bear is only discussed in the periphery of the of the book, but it is still very important. It is a patron, a mystical figure that holds the story together or at least frames it. After the novel was published I wanted to keep working with the bear, as it more and more becomes a part of me. It is this spiritual animal that might even be my spirit animal.
Let's come back to the large bear you are showing at Passenger. It carries a rose in its right hand.
Because of the large scale the perspective and the view on the bear change, the viewers don't look the bear in the eye, but they look the comic sun in the eye, which is painted on the bears' tummy. The bear is larger than me and painting it requires my physical strength.
It was my decision to make something in the city I live and then bring it to Pristina. It was speci fically made for the space where it is shown, but it wasn't made on site. It travelled from Berlin to Zurich and then from Zurich to Pristina. It is a single bear with a rose in his hand – a Rose for Pristina.