Julian Brangold Sits Down with the Argentine Artist
Alter ego, escape, virtual entity, artist, symbol, critic, mystery.
Frenetik Void is so many different things it is hard to place them in one category. With almost 200 artworks tokenized on the blockchain, their production is an ever-evolving behemoth that invites us to look into the depths of virtual existence. Enigmatic, both in behavior and aesthetics, they have created a body of works that pushes the boundaries of what 3D tools can do, as well as a series of critical performances, downloadable virtual experiences, and varied experiments in the digital realm.
As I dive deeper into their work, I gradually realize that the concept of duality is ever prevalent throughout the Frenetik Void project. Duality as in a clash, a polarity, a separation, but also as in accepting contradiction and uncertainty. Maybe even as in trying to reconcile things that were once united and have now been separated by force. It feels as though they might be showing us just how contradictory we all are ourselves.
Whether we try to codify Frenetik Void as the creator of worlds, the sensitive being, the truthseeker, the virtual experience, or the commodity, or whether we accept no one category will deem fit, it is clear their contribution is highly relevant in several different ways, both in the appreciation of aesthetic experience, as in our understanding of technology and how it affects us on a daily basis. There is no doubt their critical, sensitive voice will resonate forward as we traverse the uncertain times the new world is bearing.
The following is a transcript and translation of an audio conversation between artist Frenetik Void and artist Julian Brangold recorded over Discord on the 24th of April, 2022.
This is part 1 of a 3 part series. You can read part 2 here and part 3 here.
Julian Brangold: Let’s start at the beginning: when do you consider that you started making artworks?
FV: It’s a difficult question because if I start to retrospect, I can connect further and further back into the past. Over four years ago I created a virtual experience called “Sereno de mi Mente” where I started to do a retrospection because it was about my past, my house, and my family, very nostalgic, so I started to look at notebooks from when I was a kid. I could clearly connect the things I used in drawings I did back then with the things I do today. So it’s very difficult for me to leave aside any part of my life. If we are very open in that question, I feel that it is something that I feel that I have always understood or that I somehow managed to relate to all the things that have happened to me. If you want to talk about a more current narrative or specifically about digital art and how my relationship with the computer has evolved, I think that when I started to catalog my works, I was able to see how my work evolved. Last year I did the extensive work of cataloging all my artworks and decided what to place at the beginning, what to place at the end, and which ones fit and which ones did not.
JB: What did that cataloging entail?
FV: Basically I started to look at all the files I had on my computers and my backups, etcetera, looked at them extensively one by one, and asked “Is this is part of the narrative or not?”, the “Frenetik” narrative, because for me Frenetik is a kind of character. I use dissociation with Frenetik… for some reason, the artist is called Frenetik Void and it’s not my name. I’m very used to creating characters and avatars in the virtual universe, with role-playing games and so on, so I feel like that’s where that comes from. I’ve been going through this whole series of images that I’ve been sharing (and not sharing too), that I created in the last 9 years. The first one is from 9 years ago, but there were lapses of time where I didn’t create. So 9 years ago I made a work on my cell phone called “Camel” that I put in place “-2” in the order of the catalog, that is, I didn’t put it as 0, as I feel it was [2 years] before the “Frenetik” narrative. But it is part of it, years before I started using 3D or Photoshop, it has the same expressive gesture. When I did the work of looking back and seeing all these artworks, it was clear that was very much my expression.
I don’t know how I marked the beginning of Frenetik’s path, so to speak, but there were several beginnings. There’s “-2”, then there is “-1” and then there is one that I marked as “0.” “-2” was the first work that I did in Photoshop on my cell phone, then I used Photoshop on the computer to make the one marked as “-1” and then the first thing I made in 3D I marked as “0,” I don’t know why it is “0”… maybe because technically it was in 3D. Somehow that limited me in my head, but it was at that moment where I realized there was something very fast, very easy, very direct: scanning my body with the [Microsoft] Kinect that I had, that I used to play games with on the Xbox, I plugged it to my computer to play with and to experiment. When I saw myself scanned there and knowing how to use Photoshop, I retouched the scan that I had done in 3D, and I felt too related to what I was seeing on the screen. I felt like I was inside the screen, as a kind of reflection. That would be the “0,” I don’t know how but I feel that right there I realized what I was doing and the path I was starting. And from there I didn’t stop… from there it was 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019… I created “Camel” in 2013 and the next one dates to 2014. In 2015 there was a time I did not know what I wanted. The first two were very sporadic and spontaneous acts that came out but it wasn’t the actual start of Frenetik.
JB: And in that timeline, when would you say that the name Frenetik Void appeared? Was it a conscious moment, or had it happened for a while, and at some point you realized, looking back “okay, this thing that has been happening will be the entity Frenetik Void?”
FV: I think in “0,” it would be the third image, that’s when Frenetik Void was born, that’s why it’s “0,” and the previous ones are like gestures that I felt had to be in the narrative, but they were part of it without me knowing it.
Camel was much earlier and something that I did half fucking around even though things were actually happening to me at that time. I remember when I created Camel, I was at “Lu’s” [Lulucollages] house, and I wanted to use the computer, and I didn’t have it with me. It happened to me frequently that when I was at Lu’s I wanted to have my computer nearby, so I took my cell phone and made this. I worked on it for a while, quite a while, I was manipulating the parts and cropping them and glitching them, etc… And nowadays I see it very much as a Frenetik gesture, very much like something I would have done knowingly.
JB: And that awareness that the name Frenetik Void is a separate entity from you, was that also in that “0” moment?
FV: I think it was. Now, because I have been doing psychoanalysis for 11 years, very often I am very aware of my timeline and the personalities I have been adopting, and somehow they are mixed a little because now I am exploring personalities or people that I create from myself, throughout my life. There is one there that is very similar to Frenetik so I don’t know if it is Frenetik or not… but somehow I feel that the artist Frenetik Void was born in that
“0” artwork. I felt that it was something that I needed to do, that I needed to express, that it was good for me. I felt a kind of classic “cathartic act” that later became a kind of medicine.
My relationship with Frenetik was like he was separate from me. Over the years I consciously felt it increasingly more separate because I feel that I could not be Frenetik all the time. It is the moment in which I am not myself… or I am myself, but I am in a very different state. … or in another space: I am inspired. At that moment I am 100% connected with what is happening. It is that very intimate moment in which I try to connect and express myself more honestly and more viscerally, it’s so emotional I had to separate it. From the beginning Frenetik was separate and at the same connected. I named him Frenetik Void because those are my initials. There is something there of feeling it very close and at the same time very far away. I could not be Frenetik all the time because I could not socially interact as Frenetik, it is someone who is not functional to develop in other spheres of my life.
JB: That functional dissociation, you said that you started to make it more and more conscious, or unconsciously you started to separate yourself more and more from the character…
FV: In the beginning I needed it, it wasn’t something I was conscious of, but it came more viscerally. I always say that I didn’t look for it so much, that it just happened. At no time (I think… maybe I’m lying to myself) did I say “I want to do this, to be an artist, to be Frenetik Void.” I didn’t plan it, it just happened, at the beginning it was more organic and imminent, it had to come out. At that moment I wasn’t nearly the person I am today, I couldn’t talk like this, I was very inarticulate, much more inward. I was much more unbalanced psychically and emotionally. It was a period in which I was much more coiled. Later, as the years went by, I grew up and structured myself, I understood I needed a kind of control, if you will, it looks like I have things under control, but I don’t. Controlling myself, somehow separating myself to say “I want to use this part of me at this moment, or this other part of me at this other moment,” more than anything I do this to take care of myself. Having lived very fragile moments, or in which I was in danger of myself, I feel that they are all mechanisms to protect myself.
JB: Do you come from a family with an artistic background?
FV: Both my parents have degrees in technical disciplines, which impulsed my relationship with technology and computers at a very early age, but neither of them developed artistically. In the family narrative, there were not many decisions to pursue the artistic path. One of my grandparents’ mothers was a pianist, her whole career developed in the music industry. But the rest did not follow an artistic path. I consider my father a very artistic person, but he did not develop that part professionally, he kept it more to himself.
JB: And that relationship that you thank your parents for with computers and technology from an early age, how did that bond with technology begin?
FV: Through video games more than anything. I always liked to play everything, I always loved gaming, and I loved it in all spheres. Since I was a kid, my old man had computers lying around, so I would go to his office and grab some computer parts and build my own. I would use them to play, they were always full of emulators. I had everything on those computers: Nintendo, MAME, arcades, everything that others had on separate consoles, I had it all on one computer. I also had the Gameboy which blew my mind on a whole different level. I became a super fan of Pokemon, which is something that I carry with me until now and I love. But I think there is something that defines me a lot: this search for getting lost in the virtual world (or finding myself). I always used it to escape reality or to feel like I’m in other realities and project myself there. I always had a great fascination with that since I was a kid.
JB: Do you feel that video games have an influence on your work?
FV: That’s the crazy thing… maybe not so much. It is the trigger, because the moment I learned to use the software 3D Max, and the techniques with which I started to express myself more, was when I was studying to make video games. I was studying to become an audiovisual professional but it was not enough for me because there was a practical part I needed. “Image and Sound”, the bachelor I was studying at FADU University [Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Urbanismo], and more than anything the people I met, gave me all this theoretical and conceptual framework that was great, it changed my way of thinking. I was always very non-academic, or the opposite of academic. I did not like to follow the blocks of information they gave me and I always went off on my own, in every aspect.
I went there because I knew it was a place of knowledge development and exchange of ideas, but I always took only what was useful to me, what I liked, and I exposed it in my own way. The same thing happened when I learned to use 3D software. I had to do something and instead of making a soldier, or whatever the task was, I created what I felt, and that’s when I started to use the tool out of the curiosity of knowing how the video games I played were created. I think it is linked in a non-aesthetic way, but more a technical one. I don’t look for much inspiration in the videogames that I like to play, even if I do it for long periods of time. Surely there is some influence, although consciously I don’t look for that. A couple of years ago, when I started to make virtual experiences, which now I haven’t done for a while, I did a conscious job of reviewing what I had played, what I liked, also in the narrative of the games. It then ended up not being a game, but a virtual experience. Beyond it being a game or not, I like to communicate and express myself through virtuality and the digital.
JB: Do you also see your still image work as a virtual experience?
FV: Yes, you could say that. Even though you can also print them and see them in physical form, at the end of the day they come out of pixels. A lot of the expressions, at least of the gesture, of doing everything on the computer and looking at the pixels all the time, and that the output is more pixels, and that the best way to see it is also that it is shown in pixels, that they shine, that they live, that makes it a virtual experience.
From “0” I started to see myself very reflected there, I went from using my scanned image (despite the scan being all twisted, not even looking like me) to finding these virtual bodies that were already half pre-made, putting my stamp on them, and seeing how I could, in a Frankensteinian attitude, give them life. I could feel the expression in those bodies, in their emptiness, fill them with things that I was feeling. Definitely the process of creation is a virtual experience and in the output, it seems to me that it is too.