who is Tobias Putrih? | inside-act profile

Overhang video still, Tobias Putrih, 2009. From the 2009 exhibition, Within Without, Tobias Putrih and MOS, MIT List, 2009.


*** On September 24 as part of the MIT History, Theory, Criticism Program’s HTC Forum, Felicity Scott will present a lecture entitled, Code Wars, which will feature ACT’s Tobias Putrih as respondent. More info. ***

ACT Students asked faculty and lecturers questions about their life and research– what is artistic research? why ACT? Read on to find out what goes on inside-act…

Tobias Putrih engages 20th century Avant-garde’s, particularly utopian and visionary concepts of architecture and design, through a range of conceptual and materially ephemeral projects. He designs makeshift architectural modifications of public spaces—cinemas, a library, galleries, and a university commons—constructing temporary environments out of paper, cardboard, plywood, monofilament, and light.

This semester, Putrih will co-teach 4.312/3 | Advanced Studio on the Production of Space with ACT Director Associate Professor, Gediminas Urbonas.

When and how did you decide to become an artist?

I’m not sure. What I remember is that I didn’t want to be an artist like the rest of my family. Both of my grandfathers were sculptors, building heroic monuments in socialist Yugoslavia and I was dragged by my parents (also artists) to art shows all over Europe. So by the time I was in the high school I pretty much hated anything connected to art.

What is your background or training?

I spent a year and a half studying physics, but by the third year I was already enrolled in the sculpture department of the art academy in Ljubljana. Later, I spent a year at the Düsseldorf art academy, but soon realized I couldn’t deal with art schools anymore.

What does ACT offer or allow that you wish you had when you were a student?

Its amazingly structured access to the knowledge, but frankly I’m not sure if I would have taken any structured education seriously at the time I was a student.

What could you not live or work without?

I don’t need anything specific to “work”. I don’t have a proper studio. I have a computer, but would be much happier without it. Maybe a pencil is the only useful, essential tool.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I think teaching is about dealing with doubt and inability to do things. This knowledge is essential for any art school. As Woody Allen put it – Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym. And those who can’t do anything, teach at my school.

In your own words, what is the Art, Culture, and Technology program? Similarly, what does “Art, Culture and Technology” mean to you?

I guess it’s a place you end up if you hate art school but don’t want to be a scientist.

Whose work, artists, writers, scientists, or otherwise has influenced or inspired you?

Mostly outsiders. I like things I don’t immediately understand.

How does your own work relate to or differ from the traditions of art production at MIT beginning with György Kepes and the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) in the 60’s?

My work is about understating how the things get made, how and why we should or shouldn’t build an object, construct an image. I think understanding the process of image and object production was the core idea at CAVS.

In your words, what does “artistic research” mean? How is it similar or different from “scientific research?”

In my case it’s a way of mistreating, misinterpreting knowledge and using it to create something meaningful and unexpected.

Do you have any hobbies?

I wish I could have time for a hobby. I would brew beer in my studio.

Have you had any project disasters or crises? What Happened?

Usually it’s a problem when something should be finished for an exhibition opening, but it’s not. Or when something is not working properly for the opening. It’s happened couple of times. But I wouldn’t call it a disaster. If you see your art as a potential disaster or crisis it means you are taking it too seriously.

What book(s) are you reading right now?

Picture a Moon Shinning in the Sky – it’s a conversation with Martin Kippenberger. I love Kippenberger’s interviews.

What book/film/album should every MIT student read/see/hear, and why?

I would say Yona Friedman’s Toward a Scientific Architecture. It’s really poetic book, but it’s poetic exactly because it’s such a scientific failure. It’s a prime example how quasi-scientific research can consciously or accidentally turn into art.

This semester, Tobias Putrih will co-teach 4.312/3 | Advanced Studio on the Production of Space with ACT Director Associate Professor, Gediminas Urbonas.