How did the digital change the art?
Digitalism changes the art world in various ways. It affects basically every actor within the industry. From the artist, to the gallerist, to the collector, to the art magazine. Let us for instance take the example of the gallery. Many upcoming galleries nowadays are solely focusing on online channels to promote their artists, showcase works in online exhibitions and sell works in their online shops or in collaboration with other online sales platforms. Collectors are increasingly interested in sharing their artworks on social media and other online platforms. New art magazines tend to be exclusively online. Artists apply the new medium both in their practical creative work, but also use the opportunity to promote their work, mainly through social media platforms such as Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook and so on. I belong to this species of artists. The digital, both aesthetically and conceptually, plays the most important role in my work as an artist. Nevertheless, the digital and the analog are cross-fertilizing each other. I try to engage in a conversation between the two worlds, which are for me not isolated, but highly interconnected. And that is the very reason why, online galleries organize physical pop-up exhibitions, online magazines publish special paper editions, collectors still have their favorite pieces at home and not as a digital file on their computer, and most digital artists translate the digital into analog artifacts.
Where did the idea of representing the contemporary with your techniques come from?
My family home was always characterized by a liberal, open and progressive worldview. The past has never been more important than the present or the future. In addition, I have been always influenced by contemporary art and design through my father, from my early childhood on. With the years, I have embodied a thrive for progression and future trends that have the potential to affect society as a large. For me, it was a logical step to combine my drive for “nowness“ and innovation in my work as an artist. Early on, I started to experiment with different mediums such as paper, canvas, garment or plexiglass. As the work with my computer, due to my studies, became more prominent, I started to expand my experiments to new media. My first interdisciplinary screenshot, smartphone and printer works came into being. That’s when analog techniques have been complemented by digital ones for the first time. Afterwards, I tried to combine both worlds in series of works, which would, for instance, combine oil crayon or spray paint with inkjet prints on paper. Digital techniques continue to play an important role in my work. In fact, they have become the most important in my work.
In our society, where’s the connection between tradition and modernity?
Mh, good question. For me, tradition and modernity can be interpreted as past, present and future. All three are always interacting with each other. On a personal level, we as human beings will always have a past, present (and future). According to the German philosopher Heidegger, we find ourselves in a certain given situation (past) that somehow restricts or even limits us. But it is the very interpretation of that given situation, which defines our present and ultimately influences our future. He basically wants to tell us that it is in our hands, what me make out of our lives. He tells us to make the best out of a situation. To not feel bound or even chained by our past. To live in the moment. And that is very “now“ for me. Tradition also represents fixed actions that have been working out for a certain period of time, in my opinion. Tradition could be also interpreted as rituals and has a lot to do with comfort zone. Modernity on the other hand, is questioning given assumptions and promotes out of the box thinking. And that hurts sometimes, is scary sometimes. It requires to step out of our comfort zones. Both tradition and modernity are entitled to exist and can contribute to a life worth living.
Even if your works use colors and digital painting, how much of yourself do you put in them?
There’s definitely a lot of myself in my work. My smartphone works for example directly reference to snapshots of my personal life. Selfies, scores on Tinder of my friends, the delivery of my washing machine in Berlin, website articles about colors or used apps like Google, Safari, Whatsapp, Instagram and so on can be found here. Another example are my screenshot works, which always reference to personal web applications that I use at the bottom of each work. Also some of my printer paintings and my digital paintings have something from me in them. My “Selfietrait“ (printer) series for instance critically examines the relationship between me, social media and such viral phenomena like Kim Kardashian. My “Cradle of Humanity“ series (digital painting) as another example, reflects my fascination for Silicon Valley tech companies, their aesthetic and almost religion like belief in technology. In fact, all of my works somehow reflect what I feel, see, hear, smell. I always tend to absorb my surroundings and filter the impressions through my personal experiences, beliefs, values. My works are always a personal interpretation of signals from my surroundings. But it is the connection with other beings and things that really inspires me.
I’m interested in systems, consisting out of complex constellations of myself, other human beings and things of all kind, especially technology.
In a society where everyone can post something on social media and the internet, what do you think self-expression is?
Self-expression is by definition to bring one’s inside world to the outside world. People tend to say, too often too easily, that we live in a world where everyone can express oneself openly and show who we truly are. People tend to say that we’re free and liberalized, both in our private and professional life. And there might be some truth in it. But I think that we’re still very much limited by our environment, but increasingly subtile. Instagram, Snapchat, AirBnB, BlaBlaCar and so on are celebrated as mediums that free ourselves, where everyone has the possibility to express openly who we are as individuals, mediums that enable us to live a free life. But is that really true? I would argue it’s not. In a world where even photos of our daily life have to be photoshopped, we have to arrange our flats and cars according to the wishes of potential customers and track every bite we eat and every step we take, where is the personal freedom, the truth about ourselves? In my opinion, we have to start fighting for our personal freedom again, against mechanisms that aggressively invade our private zone. I can see a tendency of corporatization, capitalization and overall optimization of our private lives. A sphere that was once exclusively reserved to express who we truly are. So, I think, self-expression is to find a way to use new technological possibilities in a way that is not restricting us in our personal freedom, but can indeed help us to liberalize. To not be afraid who we really are, whatever that might be. To not stage every aspect of everyday life. Not easy. Also not for me.
Do you think it is still possible to express ourselves in a world that teaches us how to live and be?
It goes hand in hand with my answer to the foregone question. I think that it is very hard to express ourselves nowadays, even though many people say it’s the opposite. Nevertheless, it is also true that it is easier to pursue our dreams, may it be to become a DJ in a family full of doctors, to leave church in a deeply religious family, or to leave one’s job as a Ph.D. chemist to brew beer. All examples that I got in touch with. Society has been liberalized, in certain areas. Society has become more open and democratic. It has been easier to express openly what you’re standing for, in one way or another, than in the generation of our fathers and mothers. But it is being put ultimately into question, with the recent political tendencies of ultra conservativism, nationalism and protectionism. In addition, the phenomena previously described, mainly driven by new technology and invasive business models, tend to restrict us in our personal freedom, in our private lives. All in all, very turbulent times that we’re living in. We have to stand in for a liberal and free world, before it’s too late. I try to be part of it, within the boundaries of my own capabilities.