As the olde ye saying goes, or the title of a Timberlake track, what goes around… comes around. So it does with the intuitive former fashion designer Simon Freund. The artist used to stock copies of Glamcult at his own concept store, LOCAL, in Berlin, as well as produce his own sustainable clothing label, SIMON&ME, in his motherland of Germany. Today he’s boomeranged back to our attention as a full-time Künstler living in Gotha. We spoke with Freund about crafting his own identity in the form of sculpture and photography while utilising and mocking the digital landscape.
Every day we see hundreds (or thousands) of images as we plod and paddle through the battle of life, in attempt to sedate and indoctrinate our minds to the point of purchase. Freund is a one-man showcase in that scheme, staging and photographing his work like a Net-A-Porter product page. None of his works are for sale, however, and that’s the point. His philosophy? “What I really hate is when you need to pay for museums and most artwork is with private collectors somewhere in storage”—believing art should be free for all. “I want everyone no matter how much money, no matter which background to be able to look at the work”.
A creative at heart, Simon grew up in a small village with parents who weren’t interested in art “at all”. When he announced his pursuit of becoming an artist to his grandfather, his response was: “Oh, now that’s the first artist I know in my whole life”. Discovering his non-inherited self as a child of the ’90s, the Internet became an integral resource in nurturing Freund’s artistic interests, allowing him to watch videos by the international publishing house Gestalten about forward designers and artists.
This pixelated avenue gave him his first confrontation with the creative world—and Freund has fully incorporated the resource that only keeps on giving into his sphere, creating what he likes to call “internet sculptures or online installations”. His most recognised online installation is Selbstportrait, a photo series portraying 100 humans wearing his muted Where’s Wally-esque uniform and vice versa. It’s a social document has the likeness of Ari Versluis & Ellie Uyttenbroek’s portrait series Exactitudes, taking him over a month to complete with plenty of washing up.
A different project, again exploring the arrangement of the grid, alliposess.com is a “register of each and every object that the artist owns at this specific time”. Updating the objects’ status every so often, whether they’re damaged, lost or stolen. The website truly captures the beauty of the inanimate and tests the “notions of how true or honest the Internet can really be”. It’s this concept, the smoke and mirrors of the online world, which reoccurs in Simon Freund’s signature.
What we see may be a reflection, but it doesn’t guarantee fact. This is clearly demonstrated by the artist’s fiverooms.cam installation; at glace you assume the project’s authenticity as Freund monitors his everyday activities in a sort of Big Brother reality. And no doubt there’s a sense of reality—but actually the video was recorded last year, for one day, on repeat. “I wanted to trick people… there’s a clock at the bottom of the page so you actually think you’re looking live into the apartment of this guy.”
However, it’s not all tricks and perception play for Simon. Just head to countless.info to discover the debt Freund actually owes (updated twice a day by the bank). Currently living off student loans, the artist is adamant to make his work free for the world to enjoy. And so he started support.simonfreund.com, hoping “people would give me the money as appreciation for the work that I’m doing”, and accepting donations for the cost of living and funding his artwork. This year, Freund will be travelling to Austria to attend the Salzburg Summer Academy of Fine Arts and hopes to be moving to Copenhagen to study in the fall.
It may be clear to all that Simon isn’t searching for fame and fortune; he wants to communicate an altruistic viewpoint that the (intelligent) pleasures of visual entertainment should be universally available, no matter your standing on this planet we all call home.