This week, Swiss Touch partnered with the pioneering digital arts 1 space ARTECHOUSE to bring Swiss digital art and innovation to Washington, D.C. We were thrilled to welcome Geneva-based multidisciplinary artist François Moncarey along with sound artist Nicolas Senjaric for a unique live performance, and we took the opportunity to ask François a few questions about his inspiration, motivation and life as an artist.
You have worked with CERN in Switzerland, which is one of the world’s largest and most respected scientific research centers. Where do you see the connection between science, technology and the arts?
In modern times, the arts and science are often separated into two different worlds that are opposite to each other. Art looks at the world with emotion, psyche and personal impression, and science looks at the world through the prism of rationality, measurability and quantitative analysis. Modern society tends to keep the arts and science apart, despite the fact that they have common roots: they are both curious and spend their life trying to understand the world around them.
However, I think the 21st century challenges that separation: especially issues like climate change are a good occasion for the link between art and science to reemerge, with the common purpose of helping us to see and understand the beauty of nature, and to maybe reconsider the relation between humanity and nature.
Your art is influenced by science — do you think science is also influenced by art, and if yes, how?
Yes, and that’s already been the case throughout history: for example with Leonardo da Vinci, who was an artist but also inspired scientific discoveries through his observation of nature. In astrophysics and in subatomic science, it is common to first imagine a scenario in order to understand the behavior of the universe, so in a sense this is artistic as well. In a second step, scientists need to prove their hypothesis with mathematics and science. At the end, both have the same result: that we can’t be sure of anything and that everything is about perspective.
How can art and science help and support each other?
In concrete terms, research and technology can help artists by providing tools like the 3D engine and supercomputers that I use. Art can help science by creating a frame of realization and creative thinking, which science needs to progress.
But besides that, science is a fantastic resource to draw ideas from. Just think of quantum physics, which depicts a world led by chaos, a world of superposition and supersymmetry, or general relativity where space and time can stretch and extend. Those are infinite sources of inspiration.
3D-scanned impressions from CERN in Geneva, Switzerland
Digital arts is still relatively new. What was your motivation to go into digital art?
In school, I studied technology and science, but I was also a photographer and electronic music producer. Throughout history, artists have always used the tools of their time and many have gone for cutting-edge tools, so for our time it’s only natural to use the latest technology. But in the end, it’s just another tool to represent feelings and meaning, just like a musician would use a piano.
Is there something like a typical day in your life as an artist?
My life is not as exciting as you’d expect for an artist: I wake up at 5am, respond to my emails and do the more boring tasks of my job. Then I have breakfast with my kids and take them to school. The rest of the morning is spent developing new tools and doing research, because my brain is more efficient in the morning and I can focus better.
I usually have lunch near Lake Geneva and then spend the afternoon working with the tools I’ve developed in the morning. At 5pm I pick up my kids from school and spend time with my family. After I put the kids to bed, I like to work on techno/electronic music for a couple of hours. Usually I go to bed at 10pm.
Every day is exactly the same and because of the kids I need to have a strict timeline. As an independent artist, it’s also very important to stick to a schedule. And it’s essential to separate work and personal life, so I use the weekends to calm down and spend some quality time with family and friends, which helps me to find inspiration again.
Is there anything you’re striving towards with your art?
I want to move away from the computer, and create more in the real world with my hands. In the past few decades, I feel like technology has come to dominate people more and more. It’s a cliché, but I want to use technology in a better way to help create a better world.
Francois Moncarey & sound artist Nicolas Senjaric answering questions from the audience
You have performed all over the world. What are some of your take-aways?
Of course it’s exciting, but I don’t feel like a glorious world conqueror, and I don’t think we should all strive towards that. In fact, maybe we need to leave our ego at the door more often. I want to make change around me in a local way. The best challenge is to raise my kids with good values, in a world where humans return to their position in the ecosystem, so I’d like to develop this locally in Geneva, Switzerland.
You have incorporated nature and the environment into your performance, so this seems to be an issue that is very close to your heart.
Yes. I think many people feel stressed and I think it’s because of their disconnection from nature. When you are born and grow up in cities, you aren’t as in touch with nature. That’s why my kids go to an outdoor kindergarten, and go out into the forest. This way, you can have that connection with nature.
This is extremely important, because you can’t protect nature if you have no relationship with it. In Switzerland, we are lucky to be surrounded by amazing nature and to experience that in person. This is why I include it in my art as well: I want to show people what is at stake. If we can reach people and touch them like that with art, my job is done well.
You are also giving classes and workshops to inspire the next generation of artists. What’s your best advice for them?
First and foremost: wake up early. You also need to think deeply about what you like, and don’t follow trends too much. You’ll stay true to yourself that way, and remember that art is not a business and you shouldn’t think about it in terms of marketing. Don’t just be in it for the fame. But once you’ve found your path, never give up and keep going!