Where's the frame
April 4, 2023 10:31 AM
Textured with striking light and dark contrasts, the works of Johannes Bosisio capture you right away. Some of the works look abstract at first until you start to recognise car parts, deformed metals, and shiny headlights. His work is all about the relations between humans and machines, the effect technology has on us, and in its turn, what we have on technology. wtf? had the pleasure of visiting his studio to discuss the well-considered theories behind his practice.
Everyone who visited the 2022 RCA degree show must remember Johannes's work. Showing work from his Shape Shifter series, you could see a very intriguing combination of a large and a couple of small paintings and sculptural pieces, one on the floor, one hanging on the wall, and one coming from the ceiling. Presenting a range of textures, shapes, hard, soft, reflections, matte, and half-abstract figurative works, they all show his primary interest: the dialectics of the man and the machine and thinking about the implications of the cyborg. This idea of dialectics, meaning how clashing dualities can become something else is a thread throughout his body of work.
“I’m always working between our relationships between man and machine and how technology is in its own environment and how it’s changing us and the effect it has on us and the effect we have on machines. It’s about the dialectics of creating cyborgs: the relationships between the organic and inorganic.”
A dialectical method is a way of thinking about how things change and develop over time by looking at their contradictions and interactions. His approach involves the idea of that two opposing ideas are combined to form a new and more complex understanding. Johannes sees the relationship between humans and machines as dialectical, meaning that it is a process of constant change and evolution. He works around the notion that humans and machines are not separate entities but rather interconnected, constantly influencing and changing each other.
Johannes clarifies that the reason why he decided to explore other mediums at the RCA is actually linked to this idea. ‘During my two years at the RCA, it was most important to be as eclectic as possible in my practice to experiment as much as I can’. He expanded his practice and incorporated sculpture and different kinds of materials so he would work ‘with this contradictory medium: showing painting next to a sculpture or a mirror. I’m playing with the analogy of two different kinds of materials to create a cyborg/ hybrid between the mediums.’ Also, in the presentation of his works, he likes to create a cyborg-like atmosphere within the space. “I might place a car part next to a figurative painting, encouraging a relationship between the two objects."
This way of thinking about the relationship between humans and machines is influenced by two writers: Donna Haraway and Andy Clark. Already in 1985, in her famous essay "A Cyborg Manifesto", Harraway argued that the boundaries between humans and machines have become blurred. She envisions a world where humans and machines are intertwined, creating a new form of being called the cyborg. In his concept of "Natural-Born Cyborgs", Andy Clark argues that the human usage of technology is not a recent phenomenon but goes way back. Humans have always used technology, or tools, to enhance their abilities to the point where technology has become a natural part of our systems. His concept challenges traditional notions of what it means to be human and suggests that technology has played a crucial role in our evolution as a species.
Dialectics also plays a role, as his artworks often incorporate a blend of technology and traditional techniques. The body of work he is working on right now is part of a new series. ‘It’s still connected to my precious work: it’s a continuation of the Shape Shifter series, but I want to bring it to the next level.’ He explains that while the starting point of the previous series was pictures of old car scraps and deformed metal, for his new works, he is bringing in what he calls ‘ a third element’. He is reworking and distorting the images in Photoshop before he starts to paint. Using tools to manipulate and transform the images, he sometimes applies Instagram filters to add a unique technological twist to the pieces. He plays around with the pixels, distorting the images and seeing how they move. ‘I take a snapshot, and then I choose certain elements of the snapshot, which I then cut out and double them on the work.’ Again, in a dialectical way, he involves a process of combining and interacting with different elements to create something new and more complex.
Often working on multiple works around the same time, he starts with smaller works, which he refers to as sketches that function as actual works themselves. ‘I create them on paper attached to wood, as it allows me to work more efficiently. Then, I choose the pieces that I find most appealing and enlarge them, making any necessary adjustments along the way. In my artistic practice, I enjoy exhibiting large and small works in the same space. I find the contrast between the sizes, materials, and subjects to be intriguing. For me, it's all about contrast and transgressing dualism’.
“For me, it's all about contrast and transgressing dualism."
Being asked how much of his own experiences have influenced this interest, Johannes reveals that his commitment to transgressing dualisms comes from his background. "Identity plays a significant role in my artwork. Growing up in a small mountain village in South Tyrol, I often felt the need to hide or justify my origins. I tried to eliminate my identity and immerse myself in a subculture, hoping to leave behind my old persona. However, the contrast between my past and present identities has become an integral part of my artwork.’
He also explains how growing up in South Tyrol, an autonomous region, made him give a sense of not fully belonging to any particular nationality. “When I speak Italian to someone in Italy, they say I'm not Italian, and the same thing happens when I speak German in Germany. This ambiguity plays a big role in my identity.” However, what’s important is that he’s not trying to judge whether it's good or bad. “I'm simply observing it. I like to play with ambiguity, change paths, and explore different possibilities.” He explains how Donna Haraway's way of thinking resonates with him because she emphasises the importance of detaching ourselves from traditional dualities and embracing fluidity. “By combining opposing ideas, we can create a third way of looking at things. The dialectic between the two is what inspires me to create and explore these themes in my pieces."
Johannes’ work can make you rethink your relationship with technology and its history to consider the ways in which it shapes our lives and identities. What’s important to him, however, is that it’s more about observing the relationship between the two. It’s more about the act of looking closely and attentively at it without necessarily making judgments about its goodness or badness. In a world that often focuses on the binary of good and bad, right and wrong, observation without judgment is a refreshing approach. It allows us to appreciate the complexity and nuance of the world around us and to recognise that there is rarely a clear-cut answer to any given situation.