THE SPECULATIVE ARTIST - Meet Mathias Vef                    

by Javier Melian. Chrom-Art.org co-founder

Born in Germany, this visionary artist works between Berlin and London. Vef studied at the Royal College of Arts in the class of Noam Toran and Anthony Dunne. His work has been exhibited in shows in London, Berlin, New York, Sydney and Kuala Lumpur. His art is insane, and fresh, and an open door to the limitless being.

“I am exploring our common and consent narratives that are being rewritten while we face the dawn of the Age of Entanglement. The story lines that seem to be changed from given to created and towards control and understanding – but through incognizable complexity. For the first time we as beings that we’ve created, enter a world that we’ve created, within a reality that we’ve created – but shambolic and without control. I try to alloy these amusing contradictions to visual speculations and finds a mite of understanding within all the messy phenomena.”


Mathias Vef popularity comes from works like his collaged “digital ecosystems” where he  transferred photographic collages onto massive sheets of paper and objects like skateboards. 


“Starting from simple elements varying with each generation, I use a digital collage technique to create digital ecosystems. These systems loom to be an illusion of the natural but are infused by an abstract artificiality and an urge to shape and create”.


Vef finds inspiration from a variety of resources, from screenshots of video games to the images he captures on his own camera. Combining all of these, and seeing which new visuals emerge is like a “survival of the aesthetics,” he describes. “Like in evolution, our visual entities can grow and overgrow the world.” Vef also likens the process to how spam, weeds, and infestations spread. 


Vef works reminds us of the “visual infection” our reality is facing, from the onslaught of wearable technologies such as Google Glass, Oculus Rift, and more on the horizon. The future, he predicts, will split creation in two paths: one that emerges from a genuine, conscious source, and another that’s a wild, untameable growth—much like the visuals he brings to life.

Within his work, Vef conceptualizes people as a dynamic process between egoistic creation and fragmentation – an intersection of their inner and the outer. More than human beings, he sees his subjects as human becomings. Each one is a process of creation that emanates onto the outer, which becomes a self-referenced world, a mirror of ourselves and dissolves.


“For me media not as something of consumption or passive reception, for me it is a tool to work on oneself, like a hammer or a sander, a pretty active device. It reflects the relation we have with ourselves and pictures out how we shape the self, how we do ourselves. And media is a great tool to expand the selves – onto the world! To shape reality according to us!”

In Me-Loop video installation, Vef presents a bespoke queer world one will inhabit when all perception will be mediated and reality will be constructed out of individual likes. The work presumes a future where augmented reality will be ubiquitous, allowing each of us to filter, shape and manipulate our (visual) perception.


The result will be a customised personalised world where we all see and live individually designed realities. Perception will be augmented, with our individual ‘likes’ amplified and our ‘dislikes’ dampened or eliminated. Things we don’t care for will simply be superimposed with things we do. Technologies and services will no longer be a lens between reality and ‘me’, but will enclose ‘me’ in a bubble, a self-referenced loop of hyper-reality – a Me-Loop.

“We curate our selves with a bouquet of likes and artifice, staged constructed collective memories and a self-fashioned publicity. Our self construct becomes a pre-modern artwork, persuasive to ourselves and our illusive and hocused audience”

how did you start as an artist?

I always loved imaginary and visual fantastic worlds. After I moved to Berlin I got a chance to create them at events with projections of photography and stuff I did on my computer. I loved the abstract atmospheric worlds, robots, op-art, triply cowboy settings I was able to create. That was a time when I started to experiment a lot and I think that was when the lust in creation started. I quit studying biology and applied at art schools.

excuse my ignorance but, what is the Age of Entanglement?

It is originally a term about when quantum physics collides with the traditional physics in the early 20th century. That was when the clean logic of physics had to be abandoned and an almost mystical door in science was opened. Danny Hillis, the co-founder of the Long Now Foundation, talked about technical entanglement, meaning that technology is becoming so complex that it becomes mystic – this is very simplified of what he said. But to me it is very essential as we will see a fundamental change how we see the world, how we see us, what we can do – whether it will be in a rational world or in one with objects, networks and entities that are black boxes, and that may have ‚mystic' agendas, programmed by corporations or governments


We have been living in the Age of Enlightenment. We kind of understood the world, through science and then started to master the world through technology. Now we face a turning point as we are about create a world that we  understand less and less and maybe master less and less.  This may sound quite pessimistic, but I’m not – at least most of the time – but very curious.

As an international artist, what is the city in the world you rate as most exciting?

I love Berlin and London, but it would be horrible to be limited to the two. Traveling and exploring is very important. That is when I get the most new inspiration and ideas. To me the new is the most exciting, I loved being able to see Beijing and Dubai!

Who is your muse?

I think the curiosity about what is coming is my muse, curiosity about possibilities we will have.



You are frequently referred to as 'speculative artist'. How did you earn this title?

My inspirations comes from the curiosity of what may come. To think about futures and about the options we will have means to speculate. I think we will have more options than ever before. We can in a way create, design our selves, our bodies, we create the worlds around us in – and more and more the realities we live in. 

To which extend Art school makes you, shapes you or even hampers you as an artist?

That is a very difficult question. I was really lucky that I was able to study with Tony Dunne and Fiona Raby who just stepped down from being head of the Design Interactions program at the Royal College of Art. The program was very unique, a mixture of artists, designers and scientists, speculating with their work on futures and possibilities. It was an extremely inspiring course, it opened me up to new ideas and practices but at the same time was very tough and challenging. You learn to break boundaries, to get rid of thinking in boxes, get rid of the boxes others put you into. And then again you learn that there are many more boxes than you thought before. 


I learnt a lot, but there were definitely hampering times. For future graduates the transitory phase of colleges becoming more commercially orientated will influence their art school experience.


If I give you $1000.000, which artwork/s would you buy (you can't buy yours no)

I would purchase the one year performance documentary art piece of my boyfriend in taking me around the world. 

I don’t know if I ever would spend one million for any kind of object, certainly not art.


You are taking part in our launch show 'ID'. How did you approach this concept?

The work I will show is part of the series Human Becomings and The End of the Outer. The fragmented portraits reflect that I see humans more as processes not steady entities. I think with new technologies and their expression in social functions we boost what was in us anyway. We become experimental, speculative selves, self-created modular identities with fluid emotions. And the ID in a way gets a new playground other than just our brain.

What are your plans in the near future?

There are a few things I am working on. The video piece I Loved You is a collaboration with a musician, Tom Peters. We are working on an extended version of the piece as a spacial installation, a kind of synthesis of a DJ set, a music video and a dance theatre. 

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