In conversation with Berlin-based artist Friedrich Gobbesso
29 apr 2016 by Despoina Tzanou
Friedrich Gobbesso’s artistic practice extends into many fields including sculpture, installation, print, and photography. His experimental work can be realised through his interest and curiosity towards materials of the world. The artist creates new and re-constructed realities deriving from a microcosm. This is then transformed into a macrocosm that in its turn, allows multi-faceted interpretations on behalf of the viewer. His studio located in Berlin is a hidden gem for exhibitions, events, new artists and ideas.
Friedrich welcomes us at his Berlin studio and talks about experimental photography, his 'art club', upcoming exhibitions and new work.
D.T. To begin with a question about the Kaustik photographic series, in which you proceed to visualise the element of sound through the use of water and light, do you consider this action as a research or experimentation on material?
F.G. It is experimentation, yes, but what’s really the difference? You do research through experimentation. It is a kind of research, but my way to work is not only having a certain idea of something. I start by experimenting without exactly knowing what is going to happen in the end. I think that’s the point where it gets interesting, not knowing where you’re going to end up or how materials are going to behave.
D.T. You have mentioned before that “a medium is a carrier of information”; Is there a particular medium you work with that you are most attracted to or inspired by at the moment?
F.G. My main work was around black and white photography, but I am invested in researching light and optics. I recently made projectors for the ‘Mourir par Moiré’ series, where I show the effect through moving images. I currently like the idea of moving images through light. I also have been working a lot with photographic paper as a material to visualise things. I am now working with light, its optical phenomenon when light gets emitted and what happens after that. There are certain examples where I worked with gunpowder, in the Wonderful Disasters series, where light is exposed to photographic paper.
D.T. Having this microscopic base material as a starting point, is your goal to transform it into a macrocosm? Could this be considered as a blurred line between photography and sculpture?
F.G. I would call it experimental photography. The event which happens is three-dimensional, but this is exactly where it gets interesting; The world is three-dimensional and in photography you have to reduce it to two dimensions, because the picture is flat. Normally, when you take a picture it happens in a three-dimensional space and then it is transformed into a two-dimensional picture. But even there you can still see the quality of the event. The surface is flat but you look at that picture and can still see what happened. For example, in the Wonderful Disasters series, you have this explosion of gunpowder, which is a three-dimensional event that goes in all directions and when you see the picture you can still somehow recognise this. There are sparks that get emitted and sparks that come close over the photographic paper that draw a thin line. When the spark goes up it blurs, just like using a spray can. So, on the three-dimensional picture you can still see what happened with the spark and the line it followed.
D.T. Is your goal to make this information visible to the viewer? How do viewers interpret your work?
F.G. Yeah, certainly. I think it is nice when people are interested in looking at art, but it is more fun when art is open to interpretation. People see different things depending on their background. For example, with the Fantastic Plastic series, people in the biology or medicine field always see a picture of cell structures, fungus, or germs under the microscope. Others may think of galaxies, stars, etc. It makes it more interesting for me when others see completely different things, which I would never have seen. It’s more fun and as an artist I don’t want to control it, or take away from it. Art only gets its purpose when people are involved in the process.
D.T. Working with photography, prints, installation and sculpture, how would you describe a regular day in the studio?
F.G. I work mostly in the afternoon and at night, because there is less distraction. I usually get up around 9am, have a long breakfast, read my newspaper and around 10 - 10.30am get going and do admin work. Normally, after lunch I take a nap and then get to doing work. I can’t only stay in the workshop. There are three places in this area: I live and work in my studio upstairs, where I do most of the work. My darkroom is in the basement I share with my neighbour and friend, who does graphics and screen-printing, so we also have a screen printing workshop here. From time to time we also do events like concerts, parties and exhibitions. In the courtyard next-door I also have a steel workshop, which I share with my neighbour as well.
D.T. Your studio space encourages new ideas through events, exhibitions and parties you host; how did it come to be more public?
F.G. I have always been hosting events in my studio even showing my work, but since I live there, I want to keep it a bit more private. This makes it complicated to host events. I then rented out the basement to find a new place for my darkroom. It is a relatively big space, a bit more than 100 square meters. Since it is an industrial area here, we don’t have any problems with neighbours. So it actually just happened, it wasn’t planned. I mean, the place is here and there are so many good artists, for example musicians and DJs, that don’t have a place to play. The opening party was really crowded and people started asking to play there and we went with it. We found an ‘art club’ to make it a more official foundation.
It is also interesting because you also get to make posters and flyers. It is a fun new aspect and it helps refresh the mind. In fine art you always have to find your topics and know what you want to do and this can sometimes be hard to keep up with. So, it’s a bit closer to craft and such a fun process.
Also, being in Berlin where studio spaces are getting more expensive and harder to find, the space becomes available to other artists and musicians. I happened to find a space since I have been living here for 6 years. I took over the space, cleaned it up and made it usable. Since I have a steel workshop where you can do construction work, the art club allows artists to realise their work. I mean, I can’t use it all at once, so when I organise it, there can be other people working in here as well. For example, if we have people producing work in the ‘art club’, then they can do an exhibition. But, it’s all quite new, since I recently rented the workshop space.
D.T. How important is the idea of craft to you and how do you feel about digitally produced work?
F.G. The “work in process” is mostly an experimental set up, in which I try around stuff and at the end I come to a result, that I consider being the work of art. I think it is important to do it on my own. I probably could have someone helping me, but I want to control the process. I know that a lot of artists work differently, sometimes they know exactly what they want and this is enough to develop the idea. So they can find someone to do it for them, and in that way I think my work is different. The craft part in my work is important. My parents also did crafts and I have inherited a lot of tools from my father. I also do a lot of design related stuff, for example the jewellery or glasses I wear or the posters for the events. I’m just interested in making things, but I don’t necessarily consider these designs as my art. It’s research at the same time connected to the artwork.
Funnily, when people see my work the first time, especially when they see it online they ask me weather it was made with photoshop. It seems that if they see something they can't really explain, they straight away think of Photoshop because it is somehow known that with that tool you can do eveerything. If someone sees my work one-to-one, it is much more clear that I don’t use those tools. For the magnesium light pictures where I worked with colour, I got the film scanned and then did an inkjet print. So in a way they are digitally produced. I prefer inkjet to the plastic coated photographic paper, but the black & white pictures don’t involve any digital medium. The Fantastic Plastic series involved burnt plastic that I used as a slide and then printed it directly with light. For the Kaustik and the Wonderful Disaster series I didn’t even use a printer; I just exposed the photographic paper to light. I don’t mind the idea of Photoshop or other similar tools. It’s just that experimenting on a computer for me is not inspiring, because in that case you know exactly what you want to do and then just do it, there is no randomness.
D.T. How did you decide to become an artist?
F.G. Hmm, I kind of grew up in my father’s workshop. He was a silversmith, and there were always tools lying around. So I had already built a lot of objects. I always thought it was fun. Then a lot of my parents’ friends were involved in the arts. So after school I applied to the Arts University in Berlin. I can’t imagine a key event in my life when I decided to do art, it just happened. I think that the amount of time you spend working is a big aspect of your life, so you should try doing something that you enjoy. Art for me is the form of work where you have more freedom in what you do and hopefully you can make a living out of it.
D.T. Being in Berlin, can you name a few of your favourite spots? Are there any places where you seek or find inspiration?
F.G. The nice thing about Berlin is that it’s surrounded by the country that is low populated. It has to do with the political history. I like to bike out of the city or take the train. When you leave the city you find yourself quickly in the nature.
D.T. What are you working on right now?
F.G. I will be taking part in the European month of Photography (EMOP) in Berlin. I am also working on a new project, but I don’t exactly know where it is going to go. I am building a multi lens camera, that can take multiple pictures at the same moment. The lenses are factory made though. I did similar work with the panoramic series that was based on the idea of a movable lens. Now I want to capture mostly the moment, either the same spot and time from different angles or different angles from the same spot, but I can’t really say where this is going to go.
Friedrich Gobbesso is a visual artist based in Berlin. He holds a BFA in Sculpture from the Berlin Weissensee School of Art, Berlin (2006). He has published his theoretical thesis entitled 'Critical Mass' in the publishing house "form and purpose" - Berlin (2010).
All images courtesy of the artist.