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Insights of an Eco Artist

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In conversation: Sève Favre

Insights of an Eco Artist Team

Our featured artist today is Sève Favre a Swiss and Belgian creative force, exploring painting, drawing, installation, and digital art. Through interactive artworks, immersive installations, and thought-provoking experiences, Sève invites viewers to engage with landscapes, colors, and the urgent topics of climate and social change. The artist's art embodies the ideals of integration, diversity, and action, seamlessly bridging the gap between art and audience.

6 June 2023

I'm an interdisciplinary Swiss and Belgian artist working in painting, drawing, installation and digital. Using mixed media technics, I create interactive artworks on canvas with digital extension, interactive site-specific installations, user engaged and sensitive experiences through colours, materials and focused on landscapes, colours compositions, climate and social change. Passionate about the concept of integration, I concentrate on transcending the classical boundary between the artwork and the viewer. The main feature of my art is interactivity. The key words that support my concept is being in interaction (be together), variation (be different), activity (be active).

Let's talk about yourself first. Why are you an artist? What inspired you to pursue this career?

It’s never easy to know exactly why we become artists and why we continue. Far from the romantic idea that everyone has of it, it’s a career that is not simple. It takes a lot of courage to expose your artwork and to continue on this path. For myself, I know that the need, the desire to create is something that has always accompanied me. It’s really my way of expressing and understanding the world. For me, art is fundamentally something linked to the human being, and it is this aspect that first convinced me to study art history at university, I had hesitated to study fine arts in the first place. Then life brought me back to artistic practice, in the school where I was teaching art history, I found myself in charge of visual art classes. So I put creation back at the center of my life. Following that, and since 2017, I've embarked on exhibiting my own art projects. And since then, I've continued, opportunities have presented themselves and my art practice is growing. It would be wrong to say that I don't miss teaching at times, but I really enjoy the encounters, discoveries and research that the development of my artistic career brings me.

Your work seems to involve a lot of interdisciplinary elements, including painting, drawing, installation, and digital media. How do you decide which medium to use for each project, and how do you ensure that they all work together seamlessly to create a cohesive experience for the viewer?

The main characteristic of all my works is interactivity and we could say that this interactivity relies on square-shaped sockets which are really my personal mark and these elements are already something coherent. Then, about the various possible mediums, I will choose them by privileging either the thematic aspect or the formal aspect. But it depends on the project and the desired characteristics, especially if it has a specific order, which is often the case for installations. But in general, I like to work in a multidisciplinary way, so it is important to question the traditional classification. It is true that today there is often a “form of pressure” to choose for example between abstraction or realism and to favor one path over another... but I like to continue to explore different things, to experiment. For me, my work grows like a tree with a common trunk and various branches that I choose to develop at different times. I like this liberty.

Être au pied du mur by Sève Favre. Image courtesy of Sève Favre.

Could you elaborate on the concept of integration and how it relates to your art?

Integration can be seen at several levels. First of all, there are different projects that I carried out in connection with social spaces like the SharExpo project which went to the meeting and allowed the participation in artistic projects of elderly people in retirement homes. But for me, integration is also something conceptual in my work in general. I sometimes collect the achievements made by the public from my work to develop for example a project in connection with the social networks, to create digital works according to a participative principle. The idea is in a way a work that continues to live, as if it were not yet truly finished because it still conceals possibilities and that the spectator who integrates himself into the project also becomes a creative part of it.

How do you transcend the classical boundary between the artwork and the viewer, and what impact does this have on the viewer's engagement with your pieces?

I work with the sense of touch. I allow viewers to touch and modify parts of my work, even on canvas. This is a bold choice. It’s literally the body that supports the visual experience and accentuates it. I think it engages the viewer much more directly with the artwork, the time they spend discovering the work and the questions it raises are increased. And my goal is really to generate questions, interrogations, surprises... because questioning is the beginning of something different, of a potential change, of a new contribution...

Captation, Clouds raining by Sève Favre. Image courtesy of Sève Favre.

In your interactive installation Captation, how do you aim to make the viewer question their relationship with water and its value?

In French, the word “captation” has several meanings. It is first used to define the action of physically seizing something, such as capturing water. In a more pejorative sense, it also specifies the action of seizing something by trickery. This word is also used to mark the search for favours, the conquest of a person, of his faculties by interest. In the artistic field, Captation is used to talk about the action of representing reality in an artwork. So, the aim of “Captation" is to question our connection to water and its value. Today, the drift of this vision is that water, which is a natural good, becomes money through the economic process. Indeed, for the first time in 2021, water is listed on the stock exchange, in Chicago. This fact challenges and questions, even more, the notion of the common good linked to this vital element of our Earth. This is why in my installation, the public is called upon to interact with some elements composed of banknote prints. How will they act with this value? What kind of "Captation" will they perform… Water reflects not only our image but also the way we interact with it and therefore the way we take care of it. Will we be able to limit ourselves, to adopt a citizen and participative responsibility in order to manage this precious liquid or on the contrary will we choose an attitude of egoistic capture?

Could you discuss the participatory research you conducted during your residency in Buenos Aires and how it informed the interactive installation Sensitive Peregrination?

This project is based on cartographic documents filled in by various participants and collected during the first week of my residency at La Paternal Espacio Proyecto in Buenos Aires.

The goal was not only to highlight the contrasts of the city of Buenos Aires visible in its architecture as well as in its spatial organization in neighborhoods/Bario, but especially the way people live it on an emotional level. This project is linked to the double meaning of the word projection. Indeed, the term "projection" is used not only to define the scientific method of creating a map but also in psychology to define what we project as feelings in our environment. This is why, in the installation, I reused the elements of emotional mapping that I had collected in order to destabilize the public: is what we read the truth or on the contrary just a totally subjective opinion? should we adhere to it or contest it? should we display it or hide it? The objective is always to question our preconceptions... often linked to personal projections.

Sensitive Peregrination by Sève Favre. Image courtesy of Sève Favre.

How do you plan to use interactive art to question our place among other living species and our actions towards them in your current project, Playing is not Playing?

The aim of the installation is to question the viewer about his interventions in the natural environment, and the consequences of his actions. Is he capable of not destroying a fragile balance, a balance of interconnected species like the Pick-up-Stick game? of having a measured, conscious action on his environment? Will they choose to intervene, to interact with the installation/ecosystem, letting their curiosity carry them along, or on the contrary, will they choose not to intervene, not to play, to leave this installation as it is, like a sanctuary? If the spectator chooses to seize a stick/species, what does his gesture mean: a disappearance, a will to preserve, to study... What is his responsibility? How does he integrate himself as a living species within a complex and endangered ecosystem? 

How do you balance the use of technology in your art with traditional artistic techniques, and what challenges does this pose?

I mostly use technology to develop phygital experiences. I find it interesting to bring together physical and digital experiences. I can develop an infinite number of possibilities from a single artwork. It's rich in lessons because we often act differently depending on the medium in which a work is produced. I have noticed that when an artwork is presented simultaneously on a digital and a physical medium, the reactions are different. In general, visitors feel less responsible for their actions. As if, in the digital world, the consequences of their actions were less important or even risk-free. This casual attitude deserves to be questioned because it is undoubtedly a reflection of our understanding of digital risks. 

Peregrinacion by Sève Favre. Image courtesy of Sève Favre.

In what ways do you see your art contributing to a broader conversation about social and environmental issues?

Beyond the specific themes of certain projects, the permanent questions that underlie all of my work are the notions of fragility and value.

My works place the viewer in a risk zone: risk of stains, risk of breakage, risk of folds, risk of loss... Should we accept these dangers? How should we manage them? Which scale of values to choose? What should be privileged?  

I think that these questions are very contemporary and cover our social and environmental issues.

Indeed, allowing the direct action of spectators on works of art questions our relationship to conservation, security and value. Moreover, the climate activists who carry out demonstrations in the museums come to question that too.

Lastly, are there any books, podcasts, or platforms you would recommend to our readers?

I particularly enjoy listening to podcasts such as "A brush with...", or "The Art Angle" or also the Films on the Louisiana Channel. Reading artist biographies is something I always find very interesting and supportive, especially some of the women artists such as Marina Abramovic or Louise Bourgeois. Indeed, there are not yet many biographies written about women artists, but fortunately, this is changing. At the moment, I am also immersed in multiple research on ecopsychology, on trees and forests in preparation for my next installation on this theme. I will start this project during my next artistic residencies at the Domaine de Boisbuchet in France and Pedvale Art Park in Latvia. For example, I am currently reading the last book of Guy Shrubsole's "The Lost Rainforests of Britain" and also some books from Ernst Zürcher and Michel Maxime Egger.

Know more about the artist here.

Cover Image:

Set-up time in Riyadh during Bienalsur 2021. Image courtesy of Sève Favre.

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