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A symbiosis between humans and machines

Peter Senoner’s futuristic sculptures and drawings hit the Zeitgeist nail on the head. This is met with enthusiasm in the national and international art scene.

Mr. Senoner, your figures – both as sculptures and drawings – recall cyborgs, hybrid creatures made up from living organisms and machines alike. What are you trying to convey?
My work is about an idea of a man that, with different kinds of media taken from art history, tries to stipulate a certain future. It is about an amalgamation and interfusion of humans with modern technologies. About the fusion of mankind with technological-organic, and furthermore indefinable forms. It is a very topical theme in today’s society. Technologies shape our daily routine. In the long run they will also change our genetics. Personally, I’m interested in developing a language of shapes that takes up exactly this phenomenon through sculpture and drawings.

Peter Senoner’s artworks often talk about the fusion of humans with modern technologies.

Where do you think this “technological madness” will lead do? What is it doing to humans?
I do not place any value in any vision, and I do not think that humanity will one day be wiped out by technology. Not at all, actually. There were discussions about humans not being able to survive speeds above 25 km/h when cars were invented (laughs). Of course, if we think about this today it seems absolutely ridiculous! For me it is more about how we handle all of these new technologies. I have lived in Tokyo, where this ‘embracing of technology’ is of course very strong. We, Europeans, are much more careful, sceptical and scared. People in Japan are much more open. They have a completely different approach to technology and live it as part of their culture. There is no “weighing up something against something”, it is more like a “collective”. As for me, I’m merely an observer. I try to find an artistic image that adequately describes this fusion of humans and technology.

You come from a sculptor family. Was it clear to you right from the start that you want to live your life as an artist?
It was clear pretty early on that this would be my path and my life. The question was rather: Where do I find my own place within this industry? What is my language?
It is much more difficult to find your place in ‘the now’ when you grow up in a family home that is engaged with arts, crafts and sculptures at all times. It is the main thing that artists work on everyday: finding their own path.

So the typical figures of saints were never an option for you?
I just had completely different interests. It was only natural that my work developed in different style and direction. I studied at the Academy of fine arts in Munich. After that, I moved to New York for three years, followed by Tokyo, Vienna, Berlin and Detroit before I came back to South Tyrol. The place you live in is extremely important. It influences everything you do. Had I not gone to Munich and New York my work would have evolved in a totally different way.

From South Tyrol to the metropolises of the world: What experiences did you bring back home with you?
In basic principle it is not about whether you come from the country or a big city. It is about growing a personality that is strong enough to find its own voice. A voice that is heard. I’ve succeeded in this. One thing is for sure: Every change of location brings along new impressions and challenges. You have to prove yourself, regardless of where you come from, metropolis or provincial town. These realities merge more and more anyway. It is more about finding yourself in a situation that is far off your routine as an artist. About leaving the old and known behind you and exposing yourself to something new. That’s the only way to really create something innovative. You just have to leave your comfort zone.

Then how come you decided to move back to South Tyrol?
While I was living abroad I always kept my South Tyrolean atelier. I regularly spent time in Klausen / Chiusa, especially during the summer months. About five years ago I had to make a decision: Do I move my atelier here permanently? There were several reasons to do this: South Tyrol had changed; it has become so much easier to move about with public transport and thanks to the internet you can also work remotely from abroad now. Everything is so much easier than it was 20 years ago. In addition to that, my work grew more and more complex over the years. It was a waste of energy to keep more than one atelier at a time. You see, sculptor’s ateliers are very elaborate. You need a lot of space, tools and a special infrastructure. I wanted to bundle up my energy. South Tyrol proved to be the best place to do this. I think about the wonderful culture and nature, the proximity to the first-class Italian bronze foundries and the good connection to the German and the international cultural area.

How do you make your sculptures?
The sculptures are worked out of the material wood in a very time-consuming process. Afterwards the classical, just as time-consuming bronze casting takes place. My work is made with analogue and digital processes. Depending on the complexity of the form, each individual sculpture demands its own approach. The contents are what it is really about – the statement I would like to make with the respective work.
What path I choose to find my way to the finished sculpture is pretty relative. With me it is a mix of analogue, traditional approaches and digital experiments on the computer. Naturally the two methods often overlap. In order to make a cast I need a prototype. I can get this making it myself, in an analogue manner, or I construct it digitally. It always depends on the complexity of the form and on the dimension. So you see, it is more than one factor that I need to consider before choosing the path and tools I will use to materialise my vision.

Wood, as a material, has a long held tradition in South Tyrol’s sculpting scene. You were sceptical of this medium for quite some time. Today you like to work with it…
I have been a self employed artist for 25 years now. It’s only natural that there are always new materials that I experiment with. There’s many reasons why I like to go back to using wood, because it is an incredibly amazing material. You can work on it extremely precisely. In addition to that, there is of course the global awareness that I thoroughly agree with: Wood is “plastic free”. It grows back, it is a sustainable material and ideally it only needs to be transported over to me from a very short distance. These are the main reasons I like to work with wood, even though other materials may feel easier in a first instance. For my latest project, a sculpture for the Fraunhofer Institute in Munich, I chose high-quality, reclaimed aluminum. It is a “green metal”, in the sense that even though it is very energy consuming to produce it, it is recyclable afterwards. It is important to make environmentally conscious and resource conserving decisions, especially in a ecologically sensitive alpine landscape such as ours. Art is no exception in this.

Peter Senoner (*1970, Bolzano)
lives and works as a self-employed artist, sculptor and draftsman inChiusa. His works represent the merging and interfusion of humanity with modern technologies. After his schooling as a master-class student of Timm Ulrichs, Antony Gormley and Asta Gröting at the Academy of fine arts in Munich, he worked in New York, Tokyo, Vienna and Berlin. He has an atelier in Chiusa and he teaches drawing at the faculty for design and arts of the Free University of Bolzano.