In conversation with François Vogel
François Vogel, a French artist renowned for his thought-provoking and surreal creations, welcomes us into his world, where he bends the boundaries of reality through the lens his camera. After an education in the sciences, Vogel ventured into the world of art, driven by an innate creativity that had always simmered within. In this exclusive interview, he shares his unique journey, inspirations, and his perspective on the art world, including the exciting topic of NFTs.
What made you take up the creative career after studying sciences?
I was a very creative kid, always drawing. I switched to the arts thanks to a friend of my sister who suggested I apply to an art school. My parents were supportive of this shift from a secure engineering career to an uncertain future as an artist. At that time, the direction to choose was unclear, but looking back, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to make the change.
What made you choose a pin hole camera and not a digital one?
When I started, digital cameras didn’t exist, so the choice was between a regular film camera and a pinhole camera. The pinhole camera fascinated me due to its pure geometric characteristics. It’s a mathematical projection of the world onto a piece of paper. I was also excited by the idea of building your own camera and the endless possibilities for experimentation.
What is your thought process behind the reality bending, almost surrealist works?
My goal is to view reality from a different perspective. I enjoy capturing the simplicity of everyday life and presenting it with a unique and unconventional point of view. Distorting images unveils a new dimension of our perception.
Out of the different types of projects you work on, which one calls out to you the most?
I alternate between larger commissioned projects and personal, no-budget work. I appreciate both, and a harmonious balance between the two extremes is ideal, though it’s not always the case.
Which has been your most favorite project till date?
A few years ago, I created a piece for an exhibition in Enghien Les Bains. I had the opportunity to work on an original creation commissioned by the Center of Arts. It had a budget, assistance from others, and time for project development. It was a fantastic experience to receive support for a pure artistic creation, as I typically work on my own. Collaborating and sharing a project were truly enjoyable.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Most of my inspiration comes from daydreaming. I love to take long walks and allow my inspiration to flow freely.
What would be the takeaway for your audiences from your installations?
I find it most rewarding when the audience shares with me their sense of experiencing the familiar through an unexpected lens. They can grasp what they’re seeing, yet the visual illusion often strikes a balance between being seemingly evident and perplexing to explain.
What do you think is a trend right now that will leave a lasting impression?
It is hard to say. They are new things all the time. I don’t even know what the current trend things are! I also have serious doubts that all the digital stuff we are doing will last. Things that last are for instance beautiful songs that go from generation to generation and from mouth to ear.
What does your creative process look like?
Typically, I start with an idea I want to experiment with. I capture it through film and then engage in post-production. Sometimes, post-production goes smoothly, and I’m satisfied with the result. Other times, it’s disappointing, but the best moments are when I’m pleasantly surprised.
Could you please share what your journey has been like till date?
I consider myself fortunate. I lead a peaceful life surrounded by people I love. I have beautiful, healthy children and the flexibility to spend time with them. Commissioned work has allowed me to travel and secure funding for my personal projects.
Do you have creative blocks? If Yes, what do you do about them?
I sometimes have issues with my work. Things don’t always go the way I want them to. I’ve recently been working on a video for instance. I made a rough version of it. I was not great. I pushed it in post to make it work. But the result remained bad. There was something wrong on the shoot. I felt sorry I spent so much time in front of a computer for something that will never show up. In hindsight, I wish I had been more discerning and willing to let go of the project sooner.
How do you feel about the current technology spaces like NFTs?
I think NFTs raise important questions about the authenticity of artwork and the value of the speculative business surrounding art. When photography first entered the art market, they introduced the concept of producing a limited number of prints and then destroying the negative. I’ve always found this to be somewhat hypocritical. Why not keep the negative when you can duplicate a print anyway? The only purpose seems to be to maintain the market’s exclusivity. In the digital realm of NFTs, you can’t physically destroy a file, but the idea of designating a person as the official owner of an artwork does make sense, even though the digital file can circulate worldwide.
How do you spend your downtime?
I enjoy taking a stroll or do some cooking.
How was your time serving for the military? What was the creative output at that time?
I was a drummer in New Caledonia marines. I was away from home for an almost a year in an exotic place. I made some friends with the other military guys. We did may things beside our military service such as exploring the country and enjoying the beautiful Caledonian stargazing nights. I had the chance to spend some time in the North tribes invited by a Kanak friend. It was a kind of initiatory trip for me and also a creative trip. I did a lot of pinhole photography as well as two commissioned animated short films created with kids on an urban school and a tribe school.
How do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself as I am today, just with a few more wrinkles. I’ll continue to seek out fun visual ideas, hoping I won’t become an old fuddy-duddy..
What are you currently working on? Whats next?
I’m currently working on numerous time and space distortion videos. There are many I’ve already shot that require post-production, and there are more ideas I’m eager to capture. I’m particularly excited about an upcoming project involving a black hole hat. I can’t wait to do it!