Julian Brangold Sits Down with the Argentine Artist
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 2 of a 3 part series. You can read part 1 here and part 3 here.
JB: What is your process in general terms? At what times do you usually work? Do you have a routine? What are your ideal conditions? Tell me a little bit about that…
FV: It’s changed a lot over the years, obviously. Something that generally has to happen is that I go into that state. I don’t draw much from ideas, but more from sensations, or emotions I had. If I feel that something is happening to me and I can’t express it, or if I feel an emptiness or a pain in my chest… I generally work from there… from frustration, pain, negative emotions. There are very few times when I work from positive things. It can even be love, but love as something negative, or questioning how far love can go. I always draw from things that I can’t express in any other way. If that engine of inspiration is not there, it’s very difficult for me to do something I like.
Throughout the years I gave myself more and more space to take advantage of those moments, being a person who never had many fixed schedules except at school because they forced me to go at a certain time. All these years, the only thing I’ve had with a fixed schedule has been therapy. That was part of what my therapist told me to work on, that I had to have something fixed because otherwise, everything was pure chaos. In that chaos, I always liked to feel that freedom that if inspiration strikes me at 3 o’clock in the morning, which in general it does, I can work. That’s the time when I feel more alone. That is also one of the main engines: feeling alone. In fact, I believe that I have to feel alone to enter that state. Frenetik does not come out with other people around. I would say these are the factors: that something is happening to me, to be connected with that emotion, to have the freedom to be able to catch it when I can. So I set up my life in such a way that I don’t have many schedules. My life is still that way.
When creating an image I don’t diagram anything. I throw things together, I organize them as they come out, it’s very much a process of flowing, where the forms call me. I almost always start from something. It was easier before because there was almost always a body from which I started, the shape of the body, and how that morphology led me to the space in which I placed it. There have been many ways I started a work, but I think the constant is this space of solitude, of feeling connected with what is happening.
I almost always put on music. That for me is quite important, I think I have never or very rarely done Frenetik work without music playing in the background. There is something there that drives me. For many years I only worked at night, so my life became very unbalanced because basically I lived at night and slept during the day. I couldn’t do much more than that. I’ve had to change those ways a little bit in the last few years, and now I try to balance things more. It’s harder for me to get into that maelstrom that I was in before where I produced a lot more, but only because back then I was dedicated to that, and the rest didn’t matter to me. I didn’t care about my body, I didn’t care about going out, my friends, my girlfriend. I was very focused on just producing and producing works because I felt I had a lot to express. And today one of my big frustrations is that things keep happening to me. I’m the same person with the same sensibilities, but I don’t have as much space to express myself as I did before. That obviously frustrates me, and it burdens me more, and sometimes things come out more loaded, sometimes not, obviously I can’t be just one thing so now I’m trying to balance.
JB: Since you mentioned the body… there are two big themes in a large part of your work, which are: the body on the one hand and the mind on the other. Do you feel that there is a big division between the body and the mind? Or do you feel that there is a union between them that you are trying to reconcile, explore or recognize?
FV: Definitely yes. Recently, in all this work of digging into the past, I remembered that when I was 3 years old I had a hard time socializing because I could not accept losing, so I got very frustrated and angry. I was aggressive to myself and to others. My parents sent me to a psychologist (which was what the school required), and they told my parents that I had a big dissociation between my intellect and my emotions. I was very advanced in one for my age and not very advanced in the other. There was this separation. And I feel that, even though you said body, not emotion, somehow it’s linked. In my work the body is the emotion, in fact, the virtual bodies are empty bodies. They don’t have that content, you can look inside them and they have nothing, they are a skin. You give them that weight, that soul, that emotion. There is definitely something there, there is dissociation, a conflict.
JB: I love the fact that you said: “In my compositions, I start with a body” and on the other hand you said: “I start from an emotion and then I develop that,” there is something there about putting a body and through that, elaborating a certain emotion.
FV: I feel it was the easiest and most direct way. Since I hadn’t studied art at all, in a way it was like a naive act, or a young act, to go as fast as possible. It is very easy to relate to a body, just seeing it already makes something happen inside you. I feel that it was born more from a naive place. It was what attracted me the most at first, to do things quickly. Then it changed and mutated, today the body is still present in my work but it is becoming more fragmented, or dissociated, or dissolving. I’m looking more for “my bodies” now. At that time I also reappropriated them, I always put my materiality on them. I didn’t try to make them look like the real thing.
JB: There are works of yours that people see anywhere in the world and can clearly say “This is a Frenetik Void.” How do you get along with having a “signature style”? On the one hand to have a sort of obsession with a style, which is replicated and recognized around a huge body of work, and on the other hand, something a bit weirder, which is that suddenly there is a style that is “Frenetik Void,” and there are people who copy it. How do you deal with that?
FV: Last year I started thinking about this because I particularly saw that an artist was trying to do something that I was doing in 2019. At first, I felt a bit attacked but then it made me feel something beautiful: a push to keep exploring, which at that time I was already doing with other things. If you see my work from afar, in its entirety, you can scroll and see how all the colors change in a repetitive way, everything goes from desaturated, black and white, body and similar shapes, then everything becomes more surreal, the skies appear, the spatiality, more open. Now it is more like an explosion, in some cases of horror, in others digital glitch, there is a bit of everything.
I feel there is a lot of change in my work, from what I can do today to what I started doing. My second stage, which was two years ago, was more surrealistic or took elements from surrealism. The skies and the infinite planes of water that I used a lot (now that I look at them) are a constant in my work. Surely there were people doing it before me, I don’t consider myself the first in anything. I do consider that I always did things without looking too much at others’ work. It’s something that comes naturally to me, I know a lot of colleagues who always fill themselves with references before doing something. They look for inspiration in other people’s work. That never consciously happened to me. I never looked at something and said: “I want to do something like this”. It was always a more unconscious process, generally, the works I do are very rarely conscious. At the moment of creation, I’m not conscious of what I’m doing. I start to put things in their place and work from there.
JB: Very intuitively…
FV: It’s totally intuitive. So all the reference (which is obviously there because you get them from somewhere), it’s not that I’m saying that it’s created out of nowhere, they are in my head but “further back.” I don’t stop to say “this is something that relates to my work”, or “I’m going to use this”. That’s also why it seems to me that things came out that are hard to liken to something else. Then, if they see my work and want to copy it, it’s just another “act of design.” I don’t judge it. At first, it bothered me that they market it that way. You feel that they are taking a sample of your work and want to take commercial advantage of it. Which is not so bad in the end…
What gets me out of the obfuscation is that first of all I feel it is very immature to give mental time to that, and secondly that if I have always made my own and I am always changing, I don’t need to worry about that. I’m going to keep doing what I do, always changing. The question came up because of how I feel about it: I would not like to be recognized as an artist with a style.
From the last series, It almost feels as if I’m drawing from previous styles, that is to say, I’m jumping from style to style. I don’t feel that there is something that defines me. That’s part of the process and progress that I feel grows my narrative. Not being married to one way of doing things. I do sustain working intuitively, but not in terms of it having to look “the same.” I would love to know: If I put this work from before and this work from now, could you tell it’s by the same person?
*FV sends me these two works over discord*
JB: Clearly there is a change in style, in the resources, in color, in every sense It could be a completely different artist.
FV: I’m always changing. I don’t like to stay in one thing. I’m not afraid to go back, now I’ve made a couple of works that are quite related to what I did before. They are simply things that have a parallel. At the end of the day I make my work for myself…(and for others) but I try to reflect on what I feel, and that keeps changing. Now that I’m more chaotic and annoyed with my life, maybe I do things that express more than anger, before there was more of a sorrow, a loneliness, maybe it was functional for something else. I would not like to be defined, that would be the conclusion.
JB: Regarding your most recent work, which is becoming very critical, it feels as though there is a sort of feeling of disagreement with something. How conscious is that? And where does it come from?
FV: Obviously, my life, my art, and my way of making work changed a lot with NFTs, crypto art, people starting to buy my work, entering a market, etc. That made me change my whole conception of making work, unfortunately. I still have this romantic hope that someday I will be able to create again without giving a FUCK about everything that happens around the work itself once I publish it, which is a bit the way things were before. My path was much simpler: I created, I shared it, and then I moved on to something else. Now it’s like: “Oops, where to? and will it be tokenized? will it sell? and for how much?” A lot of questions come in that don’t do my work any good, that bother Frenetik a lot. This whole new market obviously gives us… it allows me to make a living, etc. I’m super grateful for that and proud of it, but there’s anger with all that, it binds me. And what I like the most, or what we like the most is to feel that freedom to do what we want and to express how we feel. All this market and all the shit on Twitter and all the bullshit, which is a lot, it busts my balls.
I try to consume as little as possible because every time I read the amount of bullshit that is being endorsed, and the people who give value to something that in my opinion (and who am I to say what has value and what does not) but in my opinion did not have it. The market bubbles, the poor quality and the things that stand out, and people doing shady business behind the curtain, all that disillusioned me a lot. In the beginning, when I started to tokenize the works it was something much more rebellious (or at least I felt it was rebellious), much more underground. The community, the people who were around it were people who wanted to be there because they liked the work. There was another kind of connection that was much more real. There was a much more real connection with the collectors who put 1000 dollars to collect work and it was like “wow”. It was more real. And it deformed into what we know, this monster-bubble-business-machine. I try not to be completely outside, and I separated myself enough in recent times. Now I’m trying to generate my own space where I can continue to create as I did before without any pressure.
I care less and less about the market itself. I think it’s all nonsense, and that there are many people copying things, many people who know nothing, who do not know how much work is involved in each thing. There is much deception, it’s all very money-driven and very little driven by anything other than money. I see it as very dishonest and harmful to most artists. There was a period where I protested quite a bit against that, basically because I got away from the networks. If you stop reading Twitter and you stop going on the SuperRare activity feed, etc, you stop getting bitter. I feel much calmer now. I’m reconnecting with what happens to me, my life, and expressing that. The reality is that I deeply dislike everything that happens in the NFT space or most of the things. There are good things, it’s good that digital artists or digital generalists, or digital designers are getting a piece of the cake. I like that, but in the end, most of those who are doing well are businessmen, who care very little about the quality of the work or about the work itself. They care very little about artistic gestures or about growing the culture. The only thing that interests them is filling their pockets and sucking each other’s dicks.