Robert Saphin is an artist who lives in Vienna. His work is not for the faint of heart and it combines art with science http://robertsaphin.blogspot.com/. I wanted to find out what inspires him and why he sees art always linked with science.
MICHAEL: Hello Robert, Your work is very intriguing. It's very clinical and looks like parts of the human body in formation. What is your inspiration for this work?
ROBERT: The “Profane Poetry” series is the last step of a massive failing.
It was an attempt not to lose contact to ground by touching what I was trying to understand by thinking - consciousness. I could not find a way to understand it so I had at least to touch it with my hands. Of course not consciousness, but the organ that seems to be intensively involved in the process of consciousness. I loved feeling the material (animal brain).
Profane Poetry is the documentation of that trip. Nothing more, nothing less.
And it did become beautiful for me. Very beautiful and very helpful.
MICHAEL: And so, what did you learn from touching and photographing animal brain? Is this really art or a science experiment?
ROBERT: For me there is no clear difference between art and science. The most relevant art at present, in my opinion, is Coding or Experimental Mathematics. That’s clear. No moralistic values. What did I learn by doing Profane Poetry? I don’t know, but it did calm and cool me down.
MICHAEL: You're a conceptual artist. However, what do you consider your medium? Is it photography or installations? How do you decide what to use as a means of expression?
ROBERT: Actually my intention is to create a connection between virtual realities and the "real world." Sitting in a real space, a place in Vienna, that functions as a kind of open space, connected to the whole globe by a web platform, trying to focus on "generation problematics in present and future." So my actual "medium" I am working with is interaction, system-oriented communication - finally the individual as it is. Again a fusion of art and science, based on system-theory and constructivism, with a massive interest in “trans-humanity” ... not in the sense of how I can put my whole consciousness onto a hard disk, but in a sense of working with future-concepts as a guide for the present.
MICHAEL: Does this mean that you're not interested in making art that people can buy and put in their homes? Most people don't buy art anyway, so I think they might think that your work is "difficult" or hard to understand. No?
ROBERT: Definitely. I am not interested in art that is put in homes to make nicer surroundings. That’s the point. As long as art has the function of decoration for mainly rich people, we are lost in an understanding that is trapped in the 19th century or earlier. Art for museums does not go much farther. Beuys did not change anything because the people going to museums are mostly already aware of what he tries to communicate. And those who are not aware, don’t go to museums. The question (still) is, how to reach those who stay away and aren’t primarily interested in receiving art; those who are fixed in front of manipulating TV programs, newspapers and corrupting education- and information systems. No chance for artists to find an answer to that in the art markets, art fairs or in museums.
If my art is hard to understand, I am on a wrong way. I know that I am still on a wrong way. I am working on being understandable, without losing my intent and my ideas.
MICHAEL: Vienna seems like a magical, fairy tale place to Americans like me. Do people there appreciate contemporary art? What's it like for you to create your work there? Do you live in a loft or big space for creating art?
ROBERT: Vienna is a fine place for contemporary art. Aktionismus or Vienniese Actionism was born here. Artists in my age range have been confronted with art that tried to break traditional limits from the first moments. Hermann Nitsch, Vally Export, Peter Weibel, Konrad Beyer, and many more did influence me and the following generations of artists. Both big schools - the University of Applied Art as well as the Academy of Fine Arts are nowadays places where very interesting young people try to find new ways of understanding life. Yes, in this way, Vienna is somehow magical, but not because of Mozart and old traditions.
Vienna is a city that for a very long time has been directly on the border between Western world and the big Communistic cage. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, we only had to go for some kilometers and did find ourselves in front of barbwire and strange guys with machine guns. Thats a wonderful place to create art!
I live in two places. One is a perfectly fitting to the "fairy tale place" perception. It’s an apartment in an old castle 20 km outside of Vienna and the other is a place, founded by a friend in the 80s, where everyone can stay and do what he or she wants. It’s a kind of cultural and art space - a bit fucked up, but great in the sense of the people you meet there.
MICHAEL: Wow. Are you a full time artist? Let me guess. Are you also a wealthy scientist or an attorney? How do you make your living? Do you have a rich, patient wife? LOL.
ROBERT: Not at all! The owner of the castle is an aristocrat with the heart of a communist. In the end, it’s just hard work, surreal ups and downs between jail and psychiatric hospitals and sometimes really good luck! No, life here is not that expensive like in New York, London or Paris. And yes, I am a full-time artist. Not a scientist or attorney.
MICHAEL: So many people don't appreciate or understand contemporary art. What do you think it'll take to change this?
ROBERT: As long as people are looking for big heroes, there will not change anything. That’s the same for politics and arts. As contemporary art, from my point of view, tries to get rid of this (all-destroying) hero-game, it does not fit in current perception patterns.
Even though I sometimes have the feeling, that step by step, the human race becomes grown up, I have to realize that most humans still act like stone-age man. That does not coincide with contemporary art. But contemporary art can help by growing up. It will take ages. I don’t want to say that most people are stupid. Of course not! But most of the billions living around the planet are deeply manipulated and undereducated. Still slaves, but with a distinctive difference; they think they are not. They think they are free in their decisions. It’s hard to argue in that situation, without
provoking the feeling of being overbearing.
MICHAEL: Very interesting. Finally Robert, what does art do for you and what is the importance art merging art with science?
ROBERT: For me, art is a possibility to enhance mental abilities without a forced need. Perceiving art creates new connections in our brains, which we then are able to use for other challenges. Art and science have always been related. If art were not merged with science, it would lose its character.
MICHAEL: Thanks Robert. Nice chat.
ROBERT: Thanks Michael. It was also fine for me to speak with you!
Check out Robert Saphin and his work at http://robertsaphin.blogspot.com/.