In this editorial series Artsted is offering a dive into the stories of artists, taking them on a weekly discovery sprint: learn about the practice, process, philosophy and conceptual research behind the platform’s best contemporary creators.
Hello Benjamin, it is pleasure chatting with you. Where are you currently based — and how would you describe your practice in one sentence?
I am from Switzerland and live in Olten, while working in Zurich. I am a multimedia artist with the focus on painting and sound installations.
When did you first realise you wanted to pursue this career?
Maybe when I was 17 or 18 years old, I realised that the artistic (or at least a creative) practise will be important to my life. But it was not until I was in my Bachelors in Fine Arts between 2016 and 2019, when I knew that it was my proficiency. So since my mid-twenties I call myself an artist.
What is your creative process like? Anything that inspires you particularly?
Mostly I get my inspiration from situations, encounters or fractions of moments which I experienced and that somehow don’t want to leave my memory. It then concerns me for some days or even weeks and months. That is when I start to ask myself, why it bothers me so much, why this particular glimpse of a memory was so beautiful, absurd or unsettling that it kept me thinking for so long. Then I begin to formulate my thoughts and questions through my artistic practise. A large part of the time, I work in my head.
And walking helps me activate and organise my thoughts. This is why I do not have the studio in the same city where I live. So, I have a little time to start my brain and flow. I also love to go for a walk at night or in the rain (or both). Since then the surrounding environment sends just a little amount of stimuli, which softly embraces one’s body and mind; and I can concentrate myself on my own stuff.
The reason I create is that I get out of my head. And more important: to formulate my thoughts other than with words; to open a discourse and a discussion; to teach and learn; to interact with other subjects, to act, to evoke a reaction and to react to this reaction.
To explore and observe.
How would you describe your identity as an artist?
As an artist I try to be balanced. I think that fits the best. I am open minded and enthusiastic, but also critically thinking and rational. I am calm, but with a deep, ambitious energy. I like to be clear, as well as to have secrets.
I love surprises. And to observe.
My works interact with the senses.
The Paintings for example are usually with bright, overwhelming colours. On one hand it is to show how I perceive the world as a highly sensitive person and how I get overstimulated everyday in my life. On the other hand it is a challenge for myself. To use colours which generate a blurriness and fuzziness to my eyes and brain, so that it is difficult to paint a sharp edged line or area. And that I am overstimulated by my own artworks and even my own body can’t fully grasp what it perceives. At the moment motifs for my paintings are bodies, human beings or relationships / social encounters.
The acoustic sound installations aim in another direction. They are normally almost silent and are sending just a few stimuli. Which leads to situations, where the sound part at first is occasionally overheard. I concentrate the attention on those handful stimuli and explore how the audience reacts / changes their behaviour.
In this mainly extroverted art world (or also western world) I want to be a position of the introverted side of this society. As an opposition, as a voice.
Which artists have inspired your research the most?
If I had to name persons which inspire me, then it would be Olafur Eliasson, Susan Cain (and especially her book “Quiet”) and Kenzaburō Ōe.
What is a project of yours that you makes you really proud?
I think the most moving and genuine response I received to an project of mine was non-verbal. It was to an early acoustic sound installation, which I first was afraid would overheat. It was indeed a quiet artwork. But nonetheless the audience heard it. And they stood still like statues in the room to hear the sound clearly. Each of them seemed disconnected to the world around them. Nobody moved nor talked.
That was truly a strong and beautiful response, to which I didn’t know how to react.
I’ve had and still have some smaller difficulties being part of the art world. It’s because my social batteries may get empty faster than others. This is why I can’t get to every opening to socialise and connect. But hey, my art thematises that and plays with it.
A question we ask everyone: how did you spend 2020? Was the quarantine productive for you in terms of artistic creation?
Apart from the healthcare reasons, it has been an interesting time.
It was like the tables have turned: normally the introverted artist had to leave their comfort zone and go out to socialise, while the extroverted were in their natural and energy-bringing habit. During the lockdown, it was otherwise. Most extroverted persons had to deal with themselves and their own problems or thoughts.
Even though being isolated and being introverted is not the same, it was an fascinating switch.
In addition I could work almost full time for the art (though at home, but full time), which I am not able to at the moment. The pandemic made it crystal clear that I want to follow my art practise full time and I am ambitiously heading further this direction.
Any exciting future projects you want to share with the readers?
At the moment I focus on painting or painting combined with drawing.
But.. there are two sound installations I am preparing too!
Sadly we have to be patient a little bit more, because they are supposed to be interactive and work with audience through touch and which is slightly problematic and difficult to realise due to the pandemic.
Until then stay updated on my Instagram account @benjamin.mario.massa or on www.benjaminmassa.com :)
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