Verena Mack

offenbach am main, germany

1. greetings from home series

1. everybody do the worm
2. sexy twerk
3. keep on dancing

INTERVIEW by Kim Kleinert

Hi Verena, thank you first of all for taking time for us. How did you come to make art/design? What was your first experience where you noticed that I want to do that?

I have always painted and drawn, as probably many art students have. I was lucky that my parents always encouraged this and I always got positive feedback from my environment. I knew already as a child that I wanted to do "something creative", my childhood dream was "perfume bottle designer". But later I realized that I would rather work freelance than study art than product design.

Where would you classify your own work between art and commercial design/illustration?

That is a tricky question. I find myself on the path of artistic self-discovery and notice how I am constantly working in this area of tension between art and commercial design. In general I work applied, that means there is a theme which I work on with illustration or animation. At the moment I am also working on a project for More than Voting, where we are supposed to design a bus with illustrations on the topic of democracy. For me, illustration is simply applied art, where art becomes a part of cool projects or even everyday life. In this way a visibility can be created for important social topics. Also in my job as a tattoo artist I always come across this tension, because I am a service provider on the one hand, but also an artist who wants to realize her own graphic works or illustrations.

Your works often express themselves ironically, critical of consumption and society. How political should art be? What can art achieve as a politicizing means?

I think art can be as political or "apolitical" as the artist* wants. With artistic works, one's own world views and thus also partly the political opinion/social criticism may shine through. The question is then only how concretely one formulates these opinions/perceptions. You can consciously decide to actively exercise social criticism with your art by placing it as a theme at the center of your work (as in my newspaper project for Making Crisies Visible, which was about generating more visibility and new approaches to current crises).

You are also critical/ironic in other media, but you actively use Instagram as a platform for your work. How can you combine this? Do social, image-based networks, like Instagram, devalue artistic work?

In my work I reflect my own experiences, which I collect by using media. In my work I generally don't take anything too seriously and especially not myself. When I practice criticism, I always practice it on myself. I criticize dating apps even though I use them myself, I criticize the decadence of the first world even though I am a privileged part of it, etc. I am incredibly critical of my environment and myself, which is often a burden to myself, but provides good material for illustrations and artistic expression (haha :D). Instagram is great to use to make your own work visible and like all users I am addicted to likes etc. In any case, it is a problematic platform that can overwhelm you with an incredible flood of images. Also, if you are already a professional in self-criticism, you can fall into the trap of comparisons, because everyone else is doing better anyway and the others have better content, vacations, artist lifestyle etc.  I think in the end it's simply a matter of consciously using the platform as authentically as possible (if you want to use it) and taking the benefits (reach, connections, cool interactions, etc.) for yourself and generating them for others (our contact was also made through Instagram). Reflecting on the effects on your own work or on your self-esteem can't hurt in any case.

The HfG Offenbach, where you are studying, switched completely to online teaching in the summer semester 2020. How the winter semester will run is not yet certain. How has this affected your everyday life, your working life?
What were the advantages and disadvantages for you? Do you think the future lies in online studies?

I find the exchange on site at the university and in general simply irreplaceable. For me, online studies are an insufficient placeholder for the actual thing. In any case, I have noticed that it makes me work less motivated and makes me feel restricted. The technical means are simply not yet so far that real work and experience can be imitated or even replaced on site (Whether we will all be sitting in VR classrooms at some point? And if that will be so cool?). In any case, there are advantages and new possibilities that can be achieved through these means, but I think a combination with face-to-face teaching is simply indispensable. In my illustration series "Greetings from Home", which I created during the online semester, I have addressed this isolation and the static of online interactions. Figures of geometric static shapes squeezed into rectangular windows (Living through the windows) address this feeling of isolation and the need to break out.

Thanks for the answers and your time!