Psychedelic Science: Interview with Fabian Oefner

 Fabian Oefner, an internationally well-known artist, uses photography to capture beauty in science.  His projects, like psychedelic images or kinetic installations that translate sound waves into motion, represent science in incredibly unique and poetic ways, encouraging us to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.

Impakter Magazine: Fabian, can you tell us when you started discovering the beauty of science and its connection with art?

Fabian Oefner: Well, since childhood I have been very curious about the world around us. As I remember myself, I always drew, took pictures and tried to record and investigate my surroundings. At the age of 10, I was even building a telescope to explore the universe more deeply. The connection between science and art, it came entirely naturally, as I like both. I was always interested in science, especially in molecular biology and astronomy, and I also like cameras because they help me to capture the beauty I discover.

How did your career as an artist and a scientist begin?

F.O.:  I studied product design at University, I never had a degree in photography or art, but straight after my studies I had a job as a product photographer. However, besides my job I had my projects, you can call them “science-art projects,” which later received so much attention in the media, that I decided to resign from my job and work full-time on these projects.

I am familiar with your “Black Hole” series. Tell us more about this project.

F.O.: The “Black Holes” project was one of the earliest. The idea is to manipulate the painting with various different natural forces, like pressure or gravity. For this project, I used different colors of acrylic paint that were dripped onto a metallic rod, which was connected to a drill. When I switch it on, the paint starts moving away from the rod and creating these beautiful structures. The “Black Hole” series were strangely the most prominent to a particular extent. More likely, the name of the project has a lot to do with that, as many scientists are attracted to the images, even though the pictures do not have any connection to the original Black Hole. It is just a simple form of visualization.


 Photo Credit: Fabian Oefner  In the Photo: Black Hole (2013)


What challenges have you met during this project?

 F.O.:  I think, one of the challenges is to choose the best-looking pictures. For example, for the “Black Hole” series, I created around eight hundred different images; some of them looked pretty nice, while others were not worth the attention.

 Another challenge is when I start working on the project. I never know how it is going to turn out, especially in the case of “Black Hole” project. I had been experimenting with a paint that was causative to another paint, it should splash nicely around, but there were other details which needed to be researched.

Coming up with the idea is one challenge; finding a way to capture it in a photographic way, in which the image will look appealing is another. The whole process of developing a project might take around 2-3 months. Of course, the length depends on the project.

You have another project that is connected with music,”The Field of Sound”. Can you tell us more about this?

F.O.: “Field of Sound” is an installation, where I explored sound and tried transforming it into physical art. It is a more complicated than the “Black Hole” series. This project was created in collaboration with Peugeot Design Lab, and it was a kinetic sculpture with more than 5,000 glowing Plexiglas blades, which were triggered by the sound of the piano. This project took about four weeks, and four pianists were playing all day long the compositions they have in their mind: Beethoven, Mozart, and others.

Where did the idea for this project come from?

F.O.: The idea of the “Field of Sound” came from the actual field. I saw how the wind came beautifully through the field and it made me think and imagine of how the wind will go through the music and how music can give this field emotions. It is beautiful to see how the intensity of the music transforms into motion at different positions in the field, resulting in an emotional, poetic and unique interpretation of sound.

This project required a lot of time to think how to record the music, how to transform it into emotions and other details, which could not be solved without people who helped me to work on the project. As the famous quote says: “You don’t need to know everything, you just need to have the right people who know everything.” It is absolutely true.  I can emphasize that another fascinating aspect of such projects is that it brings a group of people together, and creates a connection.

Speaking of fascinating aspects, can you tell us, what inspires you?

F.O.: Quite often, most ideas come from the studio where I am working at. For example, the work on “Black Holes” gives me some ideas of using different forces to model paint in a different way.
Sometimes inspiration comes from the scientists I talk with or from everyday life. The idea for the “Oil Spill” series came when I was walking down the streets and saw a little puddle with petrol in it, that created brilliant colors.

You can meet inspiration on every corner in your life.

Oil_Spill_No_impakter Photo Credit: Fabian Oefner

Let´s speak about difficulties. How do you motivate yourself to keep working through them in your work?

F.O.: When I have these moments, I put the project away and work on something different and then come back. However, if you always quit, you can never achieve spectacular results. Therefore it is better to stick to the course and not give up.

Can you please share your opinion about the key to success?

F.O.: From my perspective, as an artist, I think the key to success is to be grateful because when you are grateful, you really appreciate everything, what you have around you. That helps me to see beauty and share it with other people.

Any plans for an exhibition soon? 

F.O.: The  exhibition of the “Disintegrating II” series has already started in Geneva, in the M.A.D.Gallery, and it will be open until February 2017.

Recommended Reading: “Dream worlds inspired by childhood memories revealed on canvas”

Featured Photo: Millefiori (2012)  Photo Credit: Fabian Oefner  
About the Author /

Anna Durbanova, a graduate Master student in Management, is passionate about a wide range of topics: photography, art, travel, lifestyles, start-ups, technology,ecological and sustainable design.

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