Axisweb, a network supporting the development, sharing and showcasing of contemporary art practice, UK, 2008

by Claudia Zeiske, Director, Deveron Arts 


For Eva Merz it is life that is the art. Ordinary people’s life, whether shop keepers, street skaters, homeless people or council estate dwellers.

Her methodology is signified by participant observation, approaches that were inhabited by our classic anthropologists. Employing a range of methods, like informal interviews, direct observation, collective discussions, analyses of personal documents, self-analysis, and life-stories, her research strategies aim to gain a close familiarity with the individuals that she is working with. Not unlike the likes of Evans Pritchard among the Nuer, or even the great urban anthropologists Franz Boas, she fully immerses herself into other people’s lives and their environment over an extended period of time.

But then during the process some kind of utopian idea kicks in and she gives their lives a twist. She puts shop owners on podiums, gets street skaters to form pressure groups, gives homeless people a voice in Waterstone’s or organises a Valentines Day in the run-down council estate. It is not a charitable approach of feeling sorry for people, but one of showing respect of people’s life, no matter where or what they are. Her artistic output is multi-facetted, often canningly designed, with attention to distribution and detail. A kind of underground action, where everything becomes part of it: the letters to the council, the drinks with the people, the carefully made books.

‘RESPECT REAL PEOPLE, says a sticker – reminding me of some former GDR slogan campaign - distributed all over Aberdeen as a reaction to the council’s policy against homeless people. And it is the respect what distinguishes her from others. The respect of people’s life that drives her to photograph skate barriers as phallic symbols, organise buffets with street dwellers and cover NO BALL GAMES signs with love hearts to lighten up the Aberdonian February grey.