Marius Watz (b. 1973, Norway) is an artist working with visual abstraction through generative software processes. His work is concerned with the synthesis of form as the product of parametric behaviors, marked by hard-edged geometries and vivid colors. His recent work explores strategies for manifesting computational form processes in physical space through digital fabrication.
In 2005 Watz founded Generator.x, a curatorial platform for generative art and design. Recently he co-curated the exhibition "abstrakt Abstrakt" at Frankfurter Kunstverein (with Eno Henze.) He is a lecturer in Interaction Design at Oslo School of Architecture, and gives workshops and lectures internationally on computational aesthetics and related topics.
Design Museum Website questionnaire with Marius WatzWhen did you realize you wanted to be a designer?I didn't even know I had any visual talent until I was 20, I was never good with my hands and focused all my creativity into programming. But while experimenting with cellular automata and early text-based raytracers I discovered that there was a real potential in creating images through code, and it excited me far more than the Computer Science studies I was finding insufferable at the time. I ended up spending the 1990's in the graphic design world before realizing that I really never was a designer at all, and that the ideas I wanted to explore pointed towards an art practice.
How would you define your design style?I am known for a maximalist style, using strong colors and hard geometries. But recently I have been making physical objects using digital fabrication tools, where I typically sacrifice color and motion in exchange for tactility and physical presence. What would you do if you were not a designer?I have no idea. I'm sure my brain is capable of something else, but I think I would have a hard time figuring it out now.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?All over: Architecture, contemporary art, design culture - I am excited by obsession and the extraordinary, whether it's minimalist or hyper-complex. But If I find myself on the top of a mountain I tend to forget about man-made things and realize how nature is the always-present background to everything I do.
Who do you consult about works?My wife, trusted friends, people whose work I admire. If I become completely blind to something I am working on I have one or two people I can email to get an honest (and hopefully reassuring) opinion.
Which of your projects do you consider a success?If I am excited by a piece both at the time I made it as well as a year later, it's a success. If other people are excited by it as well then it might also be a public success.
Which of your projects do you consider a failure?Any project where I end up compromising and taking easy solutions will usually make me unhappy. Not that easy solutions are bad in themselves, only if you know you should have done something more challenging. But it should be said that most people are rarely confronted by work they did 5 or 10 years ago, whereas artists are expected to "own" pieces they made a long time ago. Sometimes you lose interest in something that excited you a decade ago.
What is the first design work you can recall?A rave poster for an event called "Underworld Gravity", created with the designers Halvor Bodin and Marius Renberg who invited me to collaborate even though I was a clueless newbie. I still show it in lectures: http://flic.kr/p/JRpQS
To what extent do you believe that design should be functional?As an ex-designer I am less interesting in utilitarianism than ever, in any case I would reverse the question: I don't believe design should be useless, frivolous or simply a symbol of social status. That said, I think the Modernist ideal of design as an objective, utilitarian practice is outdated and frankly not a lot of fun. But obviously design generally needs to achieve some kind of goal, even if that goal is to induce the joy of seeing a simple thing done well or make you very excited about your favorite Black Metal band.
Name a colleague you admire.My ex-business partner Erik Johan Worsøe Eriksen. He is a fantastic designer, excellent photographer and a sharp dresser who occasionally climbs mountains (literally) and uses his kayak to get to the office.
What have you learnt about design yourself?That objective analysis is a great thing, but without intution it's simply engineering.
What in your opinion is the greatest design invention in recent years?Social media.
With which personality from the past would you like to have coffee?That's not something I've given much though. Maybe the architect Matti Suuronen, who designed the modular Futuro house. I'd love to hear that design story.
Which materials interest/fascinate you most?I am equally fascinated by organic and synthetic materials. As long as something can be shaped or modified through a digital process I'll happily play with it.
What advice would you give a designer at the start of his career or what advice would you have liked to receive at the start of your career?Figure out who you are: Are you an auteur, a team worker or an entrepreneur? Best advice I ever got: Stop kicking in doors that are already open. I'm not sure if that's useful to other people, but it was to me.
What are your future projects?I've been doing wall drawings recently, projecting computer images and recreating them with analog tools. I hope to do bigger, permanent versions of those. Otherwise I will continue to do commercial commissions and pursue my independent art practice as parallel and sometimes intersecting tracks.
Other works by Marius Watz