Art Is Not An Idea, It Is A Process: A Conversation with Sven Vollbrecht

December 29, 2023
"Lullaby", 2023
"Lullaby", 2023

Sven is a conceptual artist born and raised in Berlin. Three years ago, he made the decision to fully commit his life to art:

“Since I chose to be an artist, I've felt fewer negative emotions within me. It makes me more authentic, granting me the freedom to be honest when I'm alone with myself. When I engage in art, I feel a profound sense of purpose because, in this society, I've come to realize that nothing else resonates with me as deeply. Art serves as my mission, my therapy—it's what keeps me truly alive.”

Sven's art isn't confined to a static Idea; rather, it unfolds as a narrative of his current existence and emotions. His art evolves alongside him, creating a dynamic space where all the variables of the complex human experience converge and take shape - it is a Big Process, reflecting the diverse facets of human experience.

"Lullaby", 2023
"Lullaby", 2023

SM: Let's start with your artistic journey. Could you share some insights into your background and the pivotal moments that set you on your path as an artist?

SVEN: I come from a working-class family in Berlin. During my childhood, my only exposure to art was through school trips to museums. Art was not a part of my surroundings. Given my limited financial means and opportunities, I had to improvise everything to pursue what I wanted.

I became a photographer and director for commercial videos, TV series, and magazines, primarily for small brands. While this made me creative, I felt unsatisfied because I wasn't a free creative artist operating at my full potential.

Three years ago, with my father's illness, I began questioning if this was the life I truly wanted to lead.

I kept telling myself, 'Hey, you don't know how much time you have left, how long you'll stay healthy. So, what do I really want to be?' The answer was clear—I wanted to be an artist. I desired freedom, the ability to do what I wanted rather than following someone else's directives for money. So, three years ago, I made the decision to become an artist.

My friends had always told me, 'You are an artist', but I never had the courage to take that leap. No one knew me; I lacked formal education. But one constant in my life is that I've always been a self-learner, using my own hands. Just as I succeeded in becoming a photographer and director, I believed I could thrive through art.

"Trust", 2023 - "Trust in the food industry? Do you pay attention to the ingredients? Are the claims correct? Are the vegetables loaded with pesticides? Is it organic? This is the question my artwork ‚Trust' deals with. Is reaching for the supermarket shelf the same as reaching for the rat trap? What do you think?"
"Trust", 2023 - "Trust in the food industry? Do you pay attention to the ingredients? Are the claims correct? Are the vegetables loaded with pesticides? Is it organic? This is the question my artwork ‚Trust' deals with. Is reaching for the supermarket shelf the same as reaching for the rat trap? What do you think?"

SM: Your art seems to focus on the controversial human-machine relationship. What's the idea behind it?

Not exactly, but I like to see what emerges through the eyes of the observer. My works center around human connections and mirror our consumerist society. They explore how we, as humans, navigate our interactions, with industries serving as integral aspects of our culture, akin to religion.

I don't have a fixed idea of art. I align my art with myself, it is a process that evolves alongside the artist, not a set idea. I consider my art as Selfish - it reflects my status quo, what I'm experiencing in this moment of my life, and how I'm feeling.

I prefer not to explicitly share what’s behind my art, where they come from, and how they were created. This would impose a label on the observer, potentially limiting the connection between the art and the viewer, obstructing the viewer's imagination. This would undermine the primary and essential function of art in this world.

SM: If I were to ask you about the vision behind one of your most impactful artworks, 'Circle' - what would you say?

Here, there's a shopping cart with pillows and cameras. What do you see? What do you want to see? Perhaps tomorrow, you'll go outside and come across a homeless person with a cart, and you'll remember when you went to a gallery and saw that artwork. You'll recall and create a positive connection with that object, with that moment.

"Circle", 2023
"Circle", 2023
We're bombarded every day with a flood of information, commercial messages, accumulating other people's ideas in our heads. Art should be an alternative way to touch people. The most fascinating aspect of this mechanism is that I'm not here to inspire others with my idea. Instead, I love how the observer perceives or interprets my works because that's what nourishes me.

SM: As an artist in the year 2023, the role of social media has become increasingly significant. How do you navigate this digital landscape, and what's your perspective on social media as an integral part of an artist's life?

SVEN: Social media is like any other tool – be it scissors or a comb – you use it because you need it. For artists, it's a prime opportunity to expose themselves and be seen. The great artists of the past leveraged the media, and today, we are fortunate because the means to reach a large audience is in our hands. We should all take advantage of that. Even if you're on the shy side, it's crucial to find a way to convey your shyness and authentically showcase your uniqueness. The frequency of your posts doesn't matter in this game; what counts is authenticity because people can sense it, and they appreciate it. Of course, we're artists, and what distinguishes us is our style and personality. Sharing ourselves on social media is just another facet of our creative process.

"SIGNS", 2023
"SIGNS", 2023

SM: I'd like to inquire about your statement, "Prompts Are for Losers", as cited in your work "SIGNS". It appears to be a straightforward expression of your views on AI. What are your thoughts?

SVEN: I see Artificial Intelligence as a powerful tool. However, the fact that now, one must be able to give the right commands to a machine to receive a good artwork seems belittling. Creating meaningful art requires an emotional connection and real-life experiences. Some people believe that being able to write prompts makes them artists, but, in my opinion, it's quite boring.

It's a bit like the NFT trend; when it emerged, everyone started calling themselves artists just because they could sell images of hats in different colors. If your goal is to make money, that's fine, but don't label yourself as an artist. AI is only a tool; it's acceptable to use it to enhance artistic capabilities. Using AI to generate aesthetically pleasing images is merely a thought, an idea.

Art is not just an idea; it's a complex process with various intricate variables that can't be boiled down to a simple mental command.

"Digital Void", 2022
"Digital Void", 2022

SM: What challenges have you faced as an artist, and how have you overcome them?

SVEN: As an artist, I haven't encountered many challenges because I'm confident in my path. I dedicate significant time to study, envisioning my artistic journey in the long term rather than setting short-term goals. My focus remains on authenticity and doing what feels true to myself.

Upon observing the art world, I've noticed a tendency for individuals, be it museums or galleries, to conform in their pursuit of sales. While I am part of this system, I strive to navigate it uniquely. Understanding my identity and capabilities, I patiently await someone who recognizes this and can contribute to my artistic development.

Artists shouldn't have to face challenges; people endure harsh destinies, facing wars and health issues. Being an artist should simply be about BEING YOURSELF, HAVING FUN, TRYING YOUR BEST.