What Matters to Anselm Wiethoff

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Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.

Anselm Wiethoff is an artist, designer, & recent graduate of the School of Visual Arts. Driven by the allure of uncertainty to cultivate spontaneity, he translates mental property into uncharted potential.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

Using a compass.

My compass isn’t a physical one but more of a mental one. I use it to discover my ways ,but also other people’s ways. I use it to make sense of everything I notice and remember, to create maps with legends that help me truly understand certain things, or people. Without intending to reference The Matrix, I like to believe it was coded into my mind, and it’s also a second heart if you will— because it’s always in flux.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

I was a little child in Amsterdam and I was upset with something, or someone. I locked myself in my room, and threw all my belongings— including furniture— onto the floor. Eventually, my temper diminished into a relief that felt restful and refreshing. It took me a lot of effort to throw everything onto the floor, so I thought: I might as well make a collage out of this chaos— and I did.

It felt like I threw all my mental energy onto a tangible surface so I could physically make sense of my emotions, or maybe I just liked arranging things to feel “right.”

What is your biggest regret?

It’s not that I’ve never been disappointed in myself, but absolutely nothing. Panta Rhei (“Everything Flows” —Heraclitus).

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

Fortunately and gratefully, I have not experienced one that is inevitable— such as death. But if we’re talking about intentional heartbreaks, I just recalibrate my “compass.”

What makes you cry?

I’m a sensitive person; I absolutely do not mind crying, and I wish I could have during all the times I felt that rush— but it’s hard for me to cry.

However, when I miss my parents and talk to them on the phone while I’m halfway across the world after not seeing them for a long while, I cry. I also shed a couple of tears when my mother expresses her love to me— I could kill for her.

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

It lasts until the moment I feel like I lost touch with myself and the things I love doing. This gives me opportunities to accomplish new things. It’s a painful and repetitive process, but I absolutely love it.

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

I used to be afraid of death, but I am progressively becoming more content and accepting as I experience more and more happiness in my life. I’m not saying my life ever sucked, but genuine happiness over the course of one’s whole life is extremely scarce. With that said, life is short, and I’m seizing this one.

What do you hate most about yourself?

I hate that I used to take the most irrational and extremist ideas from controversial people and dissect them to become rational for me. It’s hard to explain without being specific to who I used to refer to, so I won’t elaborate. I realized that this dissecting/filtering process was absolute nonsense, because if you want to be rational, listen to rational people— there are plenty of them. In other words, be resourceful, and don’t forget to clean out dirty laundry.

What do you love most about yourself?


What is your absolute favorite meal?

A steak tartare with an egg yolk on top; raw.