'Data Error': on art, technology and the environment
– an interview with Konrad Wyrebek
Konrad Wyrebek is a Polish artist living and working in London. His work has been exhibited at Circle Culture, Hamburg, Germany (2019); Eduardo Secci, Florence, Italy (2018); Sophia Contemporary Gallery, London, UK (2017); Ron Mandos Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2016); Annka Kultys Gallery, London, UK (2016); Clemens Gunzer Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland (2016); Brand New Gallery, Milan, Italy (2016) and Praz-Delavallade Gallery, Paris, France (2015), among others.
"I like to set conditions but not always control the outcome, leaving room for randomness, errors, change and mutation."
Could you tell us about your artistic practice and how it has evolved over the years?
As far as I can remember, I have always been painting and over time my practice has expanded into other mediums such as sculpture, installation and video. The work I create now is actually the type of work I was creating before studying art. While studying I was drawn into a representative way of painting, which is very different from my current work. I went through these educational hoops just to realise that it was there from the beginning. It's funny how you can go full circle in that way. Of course, it's still great to have all the technical and conceptual background I acquired during those years.
What are the main themes you explore in your work?
My artworks are inspired by current affairs, social, political and environmental issues relating to our contemporary society. My work addresses issues around image-making, self-identity in a digital world and how information is accessed and interpreted.
What role does technology play in your work?
Technology is very important for me. It shapes the way we see our world but also the way we interact with each other and ourselves. I work closely with different types of software and machines, as well as paints, brushes, tools and various techniques. The process of creation feels almost like a collaboration between all these various elements - it comes naturally. I like to set conditions but not always control the outcome, leaving room for randomness, errors, change and mutation.
What does a typical day at your studio look like?
I would say it's rather a night than a day! I start late in the afternoon, hardly ever waking up before noon, but I work late and sometimes until the early hours of the morning. I usually work on a few different things at the same time. Some layers of paint need time to dry, others need to rest while I reflect on where to take the work next. I think a lot about my work, in particular the aesthetic side - composition, textures and colours - and how it relates to the concept I’m working on. Certain days I only think and plan and can be working on my laptops and other days I am at the studio getting my hands dirty with paint or clay.
Could you tell us a little more about ‘Climate Change 21.05.2007’? What is the genesis of this work?
This work comes from a series I have been continuously exploring since 2005. It is based on images of environmental changes from National Geographic films and feature videos. The conversation in the media about climate change at the time was in its early stages. It was still a matter of scientific debate whether climate change was natural or man-made. Earth has experienced cold periods (or “ice ages”) and warm periods (“interglacials”) of roughly 100,000-year cycles for at least the last one million years. Opinions on the causes of this change continue to be divided. The information and data available is interpreted in different ways. In order to make the work, I streamed video footage of the environment on old-fashioned tv screens using VHS video tape and signals from an antenna. By using this process some visual errors and glitches occurred and I collected the most interesting ones to create this series which I named 'Data Error' paintings. The glitches on the screen are a metaphor for the corruption of the environment created by modern technology.
Climate Change 21.05.2007View work
What is your definition of art? What makes a good work of art in your opinion?
It’s hard to define art. It can be anything. It can be beautiful or quite the opposite - ugly and displeasing. It can be aesthetic or conceptual. And of course it can be all of the above at once or in different combinations and intensities. But for me a good work of art makes you react somehow - it makes you think and feel.
Do you listen to anything when you work?
Yes, I like to listen to music while I work. All sorts of different genres, my taste is eclectic from electronic to classical music. Usually, I like to listen to music that gets me into a fluid, dynamic and somewhat dreamy mood.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you do?
I'm not sure. I'm lucky I've never had to worry about that. I've known since I was a kid that I wanted to make art and had fantastic and loving parents who encouraged and supported my talent. But I like animals, nature, sociology, psychology, humanitarian activities that make the world a better place - so I would probably do something related to these interests.
If you could own any piece of art, what would it be?
It’s an impossible question to answer simply because there are so many artworks I love and they are all very different. Some of the first examples that come to mind would be ancient Egyptian, Cycladic and Greek sculptures. The list goes on…
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m working on two projects. The first is a new series of paintings which is called for now 'Human in digital landscape'. The series explore both an aesthetic of technology and the idea of self-identity in contemporary society. The second project consists of three photo installations exploring how people present and manipulate their own identity online.