Who is Lorenz Potthast and how did you land up in South Africa?
I am an interdisciplinary Designer with an artistic approach, technological interest and cultural empathy. I was raised and educated in Bremen, a middle sized town in northern Germany. After finishing my studies of Integrated Design. I wanted to get some new inputs and broaden my horizon. I stumbled upon the Weltwärts, which is a one year cultural and social exchange program supported by the German government. When I read the job description as Multimedia Centre Coordinator at the BAT Centre in Durban it was just fitting perfectly and so I have been in Durban since October 2014.
What are some positives similarities you can make between the Art scene in South Africa, and that in Europe?
It is not the cultural infrastructure or environment that matters so much, it is the personal, individual artistic vision that leads to interesting and relevant artworks.
What elements of art development do you believe South Africa needs to invest in (or work on) the most?
I think it is a general acknowledgement of the value of art and creativity in the society. Even if artists love what they do, they somehow need to generate an income from it. This is a hard topic to tackle all over the world, but I think in South Africa it would help to integrate more art related topics into the learner’s curriculum at school.
You have produced an exceptional amount of high level and award winning artwork –what is fundamental to your productivity?
I am curious and don’t like to be bored, so I always think about something new to do.
Unless there are some outside restrictions (like a deadline), a lot of my projects are actually more to be understood as an ongoing process than a final result. It took me a while to realize, but I always had problems complete my work and what you see on my portfolio or website is just a part of what I’ve been working on. Even now the act of documenting a project often more feels like a snapshot, as the creative process keeps on continuing in one way or another or is the inspiration for another project already.
Most of your work has dealt with creating art that investigates the relationships between time, reality & perception. How do you think the immediacy of the internet age will affect your art making in future work?
The immediate access to information and communication that the Internet offers are fundamentally different to how the “real” world works. But the Internet is becoming more and more a part of our reality and influences the way we think, act and socialize. I am very interested to further explore and analyze these shifts in our perception of time and space in the future.
Your next biggest project is an innovative animation collaboration titled Oneironaut, can you briefly explain the importance of this project?
For a while now I have been working together with some friends and colleagues under the name Xenorama as a collective for audio-visual conceptions. We combine expertise in the fields of design, animation, programming, sound design and composition and specialize in immersive experiences, interactive installations and light projection shows.
For the 300th anniversary of the German city of Karlsruhe we were invited to contribute to the GLOBALE and create a 3D Projection Show that is shown on the facade of the castle of Karlsruhe. In our show we narrate the vision of the margrave Karl Wilhelm which inspired him to build the majestic palace as a centre of the geometric city.
The 15 minute long animation is projected with 24 Full HD cinema projectors on the 180m long building. Through the use of latest technology and software we are able to create three dimensional illusions and play with the physical appearance of the facade.
The premiere of the show on the 8th of August was visited by approximately 10.000 visitors and the show will run for another whole month. We’ve been working on similar projects before, but never in this scale and for such a big audience and time span. For us this is a very fascinating opportunity to operate in the public space and engage with the audience in a way they have never experienced before.
How important has it been to finally help launch the new media centre at Durban’s famous art hub, the BAT Centre?
I am very happy and proud that the Multimedia Centre is up and running since the opening of the Digital Art Exhibition in May now. The vision of the BAT Multimedia Centre is to increase access and skills in digital technology to the people at the BAT. That includes the staff, the students, the artists and musicians but also visitors. One of my main concerns was to ensure a sustainable development of the Multimedia Centre so currently I am in the process of handing over to a South African colleague as my time in Durban comes to an end in September. But I already plan to return to South Africa in one way or another in the near future.
Overall, do you think South Africa is winning the fight against the digital divide?
It might be more drastic in South Africa, but I think an increasing gap in computer access and literacy is a global issue. It is a divide between rich and poor, young and old, rural and urban areas and also between men and women. I personally think there needs to be a shift away from just keep on developing the newest high tech gadgets when we are not even able to distribute and use the already existing advantages of digital technology. This transformation cannot be pushed forward by companies with a commercial interest, but by governments, organizations and even individuals. The work of the BAT Multimedia Centre is one small contribution in that direction, but there need to be many more if we want to avoid digital media to multiply the already existing inequalities in the world.
How important do you think online presence will be for emerging African artist?
An Email address and a simple online presence (even if it is just a Facebook page or an uploaded PDF) are first steps in the digital world and already offer incredible possibilities to exchange ideas and knowledge with a local or global network or audience. I am currently reading an issue of MCD Magazine (Free E-Book here) that shines a very interesting light on the special role of digital art and online networking and how it is adapted in the African context.
What is most fun about your life as an artist?
I think it is the fact that I never have to be bored. I do what I want and find excitement even in the tiniest things.
How do you spend your time away from the art studio?
It might sound a bit cliché but I don’t have any exiting hobbies outside the art studio. Anyways I love to spend time with my friends and my girlfriend and I think it is very crucial to exchange with people outside your artistic field of interest to stay relevant as an artist.
Who would you say are your 3 favourite creatives in the world right now?
I never really had any idols and I still don’t have them. That doesn’t means I don’t have people that inspire me and that I admire for their work but I don’t like rankings.
When will we see your artwork paying homage to cats & liquorice?
Hopefully after I return to Germany, I’ve been deprived a bit of cats and liquorice here in South Africa.
How do you think your time in South Africa will add to the work you make in future?
Living in a non-European culture for a year helped me to better understand my own cultural background. I question a lot more of the things I do and think and why I do them.
My time in South Africa and my work at the BAT Centre also gave me a way broader view on the role of Digital Media and its influence in an ever more connected and globalized world. I am even more interested in the social and cultural implications of technology now and will try to incorporate these topics in my future projects.
-Interview Q & A by: Cebo Simphiwe Xulu @Mr_MediaX