CHASED) Art and People Berlin

Whats On: Adrian Pocobelli at Factory Berlin

14 Jan

Adrian Pocobelli


Factory Berlin, Rheinsberger Str. 76/77, 10115 Berlin

Exhibition: Sept. 12, 2017-Jan 15, 2018


Factory Berlin is pleased to present “Screenshots”, a 27 work art exhibition by Adrian Pocobelli. Using an iPhone 6S, as well as traditional oil painting, Pocobelli recontextualizes the everyday content on our smartphones based on screenshots of news websites, web advertising and promoted links.

Like the Pop artists, who were focused on mass media iconography, and the Surrealists before them, who re-examined and psychologized the physical objects of our everyday lives, today’s shared visual vocabulary is found on mobile devices. If the study of human nature is the ultimate value of art and literature, then the study of the content on our screens provides us with unique insights into the popular psyche. In other words, the form and content of our newsfeeds provides us with a psychological portrait of the hopes and fears of the collective unconscious, as it once did on television. From this perspective, fake news or promoted content are just as valid as so called real news, just as commercials were equally important to television, in regard to what it reveals to us about ourselves.


(c) Adrian Pocobelli

(c) Adrian Pocobelli


The news as seen on our phones can be beautiful, as well. In some artworks, iconic Renaissance painting are superimposed overtop of screenshots of news articles as a means of bluntly comparing the two kinds of imagery while also highlighting the beauty of UX design. The use of touch as a form of mark making is also central to the exhibition, as ‘mobile art’ is one of the freshest new areas for contemporary art makers: the camera, the capacity to take screenshots, as well as ever changing apps for painting, drawing and editing images are creating a new aesthetic that is developing organically from the smartphone.

The portability also provides a liberation from the confines of the traditional art studio. Mobile artists could work from coffee shops, bars or subways, uploading finished works to the internet for immediate global distribution while they travel in foreign cities. Some might remix each other’s works that they find online, while others might prefer to work, like the Impressionists, en plein air, replacing the easel, paintbox and canvas with processed photos, and painting and image editing apps.

The high speed in which work can be made on a smartphone also provides the ability to create a real-time visual commentary on contemporary culture, as an op-ed columnist might write about the day’s news events. In this respect, mobile art represents an opportunity for contemporary art to become more accessible to the masses, while still maintaining the potential to be high concept, relevant and challenging.


Interview with Adrian Pocobelli


Q: What is your work about?

 A: The main subject of my work exists between two general polarities, or concerns: the inner world, the study of human nature, the mystery of consciousness, and the external world, the world of the present, from the iconography of mobile news websites and user interfaces to advertising, mass media and space exploration. I think of my work as addressing the space where these inner and outer worlds meet.

And for all of the incredible miracles that modern science has delivered to us, scientists run into a wall once they attempts to grapple with anything that is not quantifiable, particularly in dealing with consciousness, art and story. Nevertheless, anyone that’s exposed themselves to related disciplines knows there is a profound gnosis, or knowledge, to be gleaned from these traditions, though it remains qualitative in nature.


(c) Adrian Pocobelli

(c) Adrian Pocobelli


And so, I see myself as a qualitative scientist of sorts, examining and reframing the images and stories that exist within a culture, in my case, Western culture, and each of our minds. Stories govern our lives, so I analyze and interpret these narratives — visual and written — in a way that provides some kind of reframing or destabilizing of what they’re conventionally understood to mean. In a world drowning in images, I don’t think we need another Picasso, what we need is perspective in the form of a visual commentary. With all of the world’s information at our fingertips, this is a time of summary and synthesis.

From this context, the Surrealists and the Pop artists provide the framework from which to build a qualitative analysis of visual narratives. If the basic element of story is the association of two ideas and their meaning in relation to each other, Surrealism and Pop Art’s focus on juxtaposition, and later, overlapping, provide us with the conceptual building blocks to analyze imagery according to its own visual language. By examining the visual structure of online news websites, promoted links and news articles and replacing and reframing them within different contexts, taking screenshots and adding art historical references, I hope to create a kind of panoramic view of a shared identity, a series of portraits of the mass subject, different aspects of the popular psyche.


Q: How and why did you start working on a smartphone?

 A: In January 2016, I began experimenting with image editing apps on my smartphone, and within one or two sessions, I began to realize the fresh possibilities that apps provided as a form of mediation in image making. I had already been making oil paintings of screenshots, but ‘mobile art’ — which is the term I use for this kind of art making — was providing novel digital tools that were unique to a touch device. This isn’t Photoshop and a mouse. With touch there’s an immediacy. The body — your finger — is your tool, and you don‘t run out of paint. You’re directly, physically related to data. This enables a kind of obsessive, continuous stream of mark making — it’s quite a different beast from oil painting.


(c) Adrian Pocobelli

(c) Adrian Pocobelli



Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of working on a smartphone?

A: One of the fascinating advantages of working on a smartphone is the speed in which you can work. Here it’s possible to make an art piece about a news story as the news cycle unfolds. That’s kind of amazing. Within hours of an event occurring on the opposite side of the world there can be an artistic response that deals with it that is distributed back into the world.

As well, the ability to undo a mark is also an advantage over analog painting. You can try things out and if they don’t work, you simply go back a few steps, a luxury that analog painting could only dream of. Some people would say that this shortchanges the creative process and introduces a level of superficiality to it, and they have a point, but I think the ability to undo a brushstroke, or go back in time, so to speak, should be explored according to its own merit. When you think about it, the implications of introducing undo into the art making are quite profound. It also evokes questions relating to randomness and chance. With undo, you can introduce an editing function into so-called random activity, so how random is it really?

The size of a smartphone screen is one of the biggest and most obvious disadvantages, although the capacity to zoom in partially makes up for this drawback. Another major disadvantage is the lack of texture. There is also the question that a lot of digital art faces on how to present the work, but there are interesting solutions for that. I’ll make inkjet prints on paper, or I’ll print on canvas and paint overtop, for example. I think the interplay between the different mediums creates an interesting visual conversation.

(c) Adrian Pocobelli

(c) Adrian Pocobelli


Adrian Pocobelli is a Berlin-based artist from Toronto, Canada. He has had two solo shows at Fata Morgana in Berlin’s Mitte district in 2017. He has also written a book on The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard, which is under review.

Instagram/Facebook/Twitter: @pocobelli





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