Image of A still from Sebastian Buerkner's The Chimera of M

Jarman Award Shortlist Artist Profile: Sebastian Buerkner

Date posted: 20.11.2014

Ahead of the Jarman Award 2014 and the weekend of activity at Whitechapel Gallery, we interviewed shortlist artist Sebastian Buerkner. 

About the artist

Berlin-born Sebastian Buerkner is a filmmaker and artist who works primarily in animation.

His innovative and original work employs a sophisticated and complex visual language, creating fantasy worlds that often challenging our understanding time and space.

Buerkner completed an MA at Chelsea College of Art & Design in 2002 and was awarded their Fellowship Residency 2003. Recent solo shows include Kunsthaus im KunstkulturQuartier Nuremberg, Germany; Tramway, Glasgow; Sketch, London; The Showroom Gallery, London; Whitechapel Project Space; London and LUX at Lounge Gallery, London; and Art on the Underground, Screen at Canary Wharf, London.

About the artist's practice

As with many other artists shortlisted for the award this year, Buerkner's practice evolved from experimenting with different mediums. His background is a more traditional, fine art one, but he found that film provided a time dimension to his work that he was keen to explore.

Technology is key to his work, and he uses this to create complex explorations of reality. This can often be the key starting point when working on a new piece - "the technical investigation is also the conceptual investigation."

In his 2013 work The Chimera of M., he explores what three-dimensional space can offer an artist as an experimental filmmaking tool. "Is there a transgressive quality in that technical opportunity?" Buerkner asks. This brought its own challenges though, in particular how to work with the fragility of 3D and make sure the work doesn't feel flat.

Themes and motifs

A recurring theme in Buerkner's work is the visual representation of our lives and of the everyday. Whether taking a more abstract or literal form, he often uses multiple layers and fragmented imagery that suggest half-forgotten memories. "Whether this is achieved through hyper realism or misinformation of visual entities - this is the playing field" Buerkner explains. These fragmentations also create a personal perspective, allowing the observer to glimpse at what appears to be the artist's subconscious.

Double take

Within this exploration is the repeated motif of the double narrative or dual realities colliding with each other. The journey two stories take then becomes part of the exploration of our reality.

In the film Triband (2010), Buerkner plays with multiple takes of the same image, creating flickering and strobe-like effects. This creates a 'fourth' image for the viewer not directly created by the artist.

Playing with time, effects, and realities in this way is taken further when Buerkner presents the work in split-screen or with multiple projections, leaving the viewer wondering how to piece together these narratives.

The award

Buerkner feels an affinity with what the Jarman Award represents and the work of his fellow nominated artists past and present. He sees a theme running throughout the work of the other artists that also runs through his own, which is a desire to investigate the language of filmmaking and visual representation. Buerkner continues "the people nominated are exercising the things I try also to be part of, that kind of discourse".

But at the heart, the award represents his work and practice, "this award talks about issues I treasure in experimental moving image making".

Derek Jarman

Buerkner explains that he came late to Jarman's work, which he attributes to coming from Europe, in particular the Eastern bloc. As such, he never saw Jarman's work at the time it was made, which gives his experience of Jarman films a historical perspective. 

But the main thing Buerkner takes from Jarman's work his is attitude towards his practice, "I rate his uncompromising ways of going about things".

Coming up

Buerkner is currently working on two projects that are in the research stage. They will be a departure from his current style, especially as he will be stepping away from animation and getting behind a camera.

You can join Buerkner for a 3D screening of his 2013 work The Chimera of M., at Whitechapel Gallery on Saturday 6 December. The screening is followed by a Q&A with the artist and the Director of LUX Ben Cook.



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