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You probably get asked this at every party, but we’re going to ask anyway: why did you become an artist?

That’s a really bad question, but luckily, people don’t ask me that often (laughs). I didn’t have a moment of awakening. Even as a kid, I was creative. Later, I wanted to study graphic design. But then I found out more about the profession: graphic designers can be creative, and in fact, they have to be. But they don’t have much personal freedom. That’s why I decided to be a freelance artist.

In your art, you are interested in physicality. You explore how people perceive and interact with their material environment. You work mainly with marble and glass. Do you choose these materials because of the content of your art? Or why do you prefer to work with these two materials?

I started my studies in film and sound. But it was too conceptual for me, so I switched to glass. There was more appreciation for material in the glass department; more emphasis on the physical and its processes. So I only discovered my favorite materials during my studies.

Is appreciation of a material linked to its tangible value? Do people appreciate marble more than glass?

I certainly don’t. I’m particularly interested in the history of the material. When I was a child, I spent a lot of time in the workshop of my father’s and stepmother’s sculpture school in Ticino. This meant that I came into contact with Swiss marble, cristallina marble, at an early age. When I started my art studies, I didn’t want to work with marble: the material was too close to me. It was too familiar because it plays a big role in my family. It also takes a long time to work stone. I found it a bit dull at first. But in our fast-moving times, I began to find this slowness exciting again.

You were born in Germany and grew up in Switzerland, but you’ve spent almost your entire career in the Netherlands. Why did you move there?

I just wanted something different. I found the art scenes in Amsterdam and London exciting, so I applied to study in those cities. I grew up in Ticino, Schaffhausen, St. Gallen and Appenzell Ausserrhoden, and graduated from high school in Germany. So moving again for my degree didn’t seem unusual to me.

Your art project for ti&m is called “Avoiding the Void.” How would you explain your concept in a few sentences?

There’s a parallel between you as an IT company and me as an artist: we both want to make something meaningful. As an artist, it is important to me that the viewer can take something away from the artwork. I try to create a meaningful confrontation with my art for the viewer. I assume it’s similar in IT. The difference is that you move away from the material, and I work with it. My idea for the project is to question how we perceive space, both physically and virtually. But it all comes down to meaning: without it, art has no right to exist.

Marble is the polar opposite of our fast-moving times, as it demands a certain slowness from the artist.

You usually create large solid works of art. For art@work, however, you’re making screen-sized pieces. Does the subject matter, in this case IT, determine the size of the artwork?

Whether I like it or not, my works are always a certain size. They aren’t easy to handle commercially because of it. The art@work viewings are held in Zurich, Bern and Frankfurt, so all my works need to fit in a car. That’s why I decided to use “smaller” formats ‒ you’ll see at the viewings whether they are screen-sized or not.

You’re working on a project for ti&m, a digitalization company. Our product makes the mediated environment even more abstract – we make the world accessible via a device. How is digitalization changing physicality and our perception of the world?

Digitalization is changing our perception – our consciousness is constantly being stimulated. Social media in particular can be addictive, which is something physical. The virtual world is very mind focused. That affects our mental state and distances us from our own bodies at the same time. My projects often examine physicality and the space that the body occupies. I am interested in questions about our physical and mental space. And then there’s digital space and how it interweaves with other types of space. For me, it’s interesting that the virtual space is based on the same logic as the real one. Digitalization hasn’t created a completely new virtual world. Instead, we have just a virtual reproduction based on the logic of real space.

In a way, art is a static representation of reality or at least of the artist’s subjective reality. The digital world is constantly changing. Can it really be represented with solid materials such as glass and marble?

These materials are the polar opposites of our digital world. That’s exactly why I find them so suitable. The Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Denmark put it beautifully at an exhibition on marble: “Especially in recent years, marble has become ‘in’ again, as we focus more on nature and our material world in a digital age.”

Avoiding the Void – das art@work-Projekt 2022

In ‘AVOIDING THE VOID’ untersucht Milena Naef die Wahrnehmung des physischen und virtuellen Raumes und wie sich diese beiden Realitäten gegenseitig beeinflussen können. Es sind Wandbilder aus Marmor und Glas, sowie eine eigenständige Arbeit aus Glas, entstanden.

art@work goes Metaverse

An unseren Vernissagen in Zürich, Bern und Frankfurt können die Besucherinnen und Besucher die entstandenen Kunstwerke zusätzlich mit einer VR-Brille in einer Virtual Gallery erleben. Übrigens: Beim Kauf stellen wir für jedes Werk ein Non-Fungible Token (NFT) aus.

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