Artist Alex Schramm was interviewed recently by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate allowing us a unique insight into the thought process and meaning behind the AgriBot series currently on display at Anise Gallery.
C: From the way you work, using modern technologies in the manner of traditional ones, to the way your work displays, there is almost a sense of melancholy coming through your work. What triggered this journey?
A: The melancholic sense is something I have not thought of and it is interesting for you to mention it. I guess that the process of my work is quite close to romance. When you are working and you want to produce something beautiful that draws people’s attention, lures them in, to begin with, then this attraction could somewhat be considered melancholic.
I think everything that is beautiful has got some degree of lust to it, something that is quite desirable. I am not sure that this is a conscientious intention, but the interesting thing about working with the primitive side of things is the simplicity that emerges.
C: Ambitious stories seem to emerge from your work which are reminiscent of images of the future which we may have seen reflected in Jules Verne’s books or more recently in Japanese animation. What made you chose this path and how does a somewhat traditional process fit into it? Could it be called primitive futurism?
A: I don’t think calling it a primitive futurism is that far off. The technology I am working with is not a complicated one but its language, which is based in a more industrial almost scientific outlook, it is what I use as a starting point when I initiate my work.
In the AgriBots I like to think my role is somewhat similar to that of a scientist. When it comes to drawing, the execution of the work is a primitive one and it is based on an intuitive way of reading, translating or finding out what I am looking at. There is a momentum that builds up in both the preparation and the production of the work which is architectural. It is quite similar to how an architect starts to work from the planning stage moving on to construction.
It is an automatized pre-established process, but it allows for details to develop and new elements to emerge. This initial stage of planning, followed by that of production of that first “something” to work from, gives me the freedom to explore.
C: Artists tend to look at the world through their own eyes and express their own version of it. What motivates a man of the twenty-first century to explore primitive forms of art valuing the collective perception rather than your own individual one?
A: It is certainly a question of perception – the interest lies in figuring out what it is that perception is about. On a basic level, all you have got is your body to interact and communicate through to your surroundings. So at the end of the day you don’t get around your own perception. When you draw bodies, when you look at bodies, they are all about perception, perception being about movement, a way towards a thing or thought.
What is as interesting as thinking of others people’s perception is trying to distance yourself from your own perception as much as you can, to allow something unexpected to develop that fleshes out the narrative and is surprising and fresh. The intent is to find out new things that are not necessarily new but un-thought of by myself.
The AgriBots series that I am showing at Anise Gallery has developed through a part automatic process that began in the planning stage, before I started drawing. The automatic process then takes me through stages of drawing bits of body, narrating it with bits of science, elements from biology and physics.
C: Do you think your work is political, analytical or utopian?
A: Analytical yes, a bit too analytical some may argue. However I think once you go past the production stage there is an emerging quality that invites the viewer to navigate. The analytical process then becomes secondary and turns into narrative.
I would probably have to make a lot more sense of my work first before it became political.
C: Your work is like an instruction manual for some mysterious machine, it is evident that technology interests you. Do you think that technology is the new religion, has it taken over that place of the ‘something’ that people can aspire to?
A: I think what technology enables us to do, what religion finds very difficult to do, is to bring us closer to nature and to find ourselves being closer to nature. I think this is the advantage that technology has, as an initial force.
Technology is not the same thing as religion, the question maybe is whether technology can help us to be more spiritual. I think in the past this was true but nowadays, in a global society, there is an abundance of spirits or companies promising to satisfy your inner most.
C: On the opposite spectrum – your work is about craftsmanship, do you think there is still room for craftsmanship and technological progress to share a dialogue?
A: Yes, you can’t do without either of them. To achieve progress, technological or other, you need craftsmanship – whether it is physical or becomes digital, it is still a matter of having to put things together and combine their different properties, now more than ever. What technology does is it streamlines and simplifies craftsmanship in a way that makes it accessible to all.