Tim Berresheim calls himself a “maker of images” and that’s because his work is impossible to pigeonhole. Almost entirely based on digi- tal processes, he cuts across various genres such as fine art, CGI, digital installations, magazine and even architecture. Some of his images are augmented with apps, which Tim uses to deliver a second layer of meaning. Because of his bold visions and unique visual language, we asked Tim to collaborate with us for the cover of our 10 Years Anniversary issue. Here’s a look at some of his artwork along with an in-depth conversation with the man himself.
Tim, you have developed your own visual language, and it’s purely digital. When and how did you discover this concept?
I discovered it by sheer instinct. Back in 1999, I began studying art. I was already 25 and had no idea what to do with myself in life. We’re talking about the dawn of the digital era. The internet was far less expansive and quite rudimentary. During an arts course, the professor showed me the very first still images done with a computer and I was immediately hooked. I came at it with a total lack of background knowledge. When I began studying painting for a brief period, I already had the instinctive knowledge of implementing computers. Mathematics and computers had always come easy to me.
Most people looking at your images have no idea of the tremendous resources in computing power that are required to create your images. Can you explain?
Sure. I have to mention that I no longer work all by myself at this point. In order to realize better images and denser exhibits we have a workshop situation where up to 13 people are currently involved in the process. This type of office work is still relatively easy to imagine. Then there’s an invisible and not very obvious side of the production that happens on the computer, which I would file under “cybernetic cost.” We always keep an eye on the latest tools for creating images or tools for feeding images into the computer. For instance, we have a laser scanner. And equally important is how to ultimately render the completed image, especially when we’re talking about wall space of around 18 meters times 9 meters per image, like in our latest exhibit.
That’s a huge image! What pixel count are we talking about?
One such image comes at roughly 90,000 x 60,000 pixels. So, you really need a render farm, which we now operate ourselves, where you have several computers spending several days calculating these images. This all started back in 2012 when I had the keen idea to bring these largescale images into the world that could not be rendered with the conventional computers available at the time. That’s why I ended up renting a render farm up in Trollhättan, Sweden, where 600 computers spent 6.7 days processing the data set. At that point, you don’t have the image yet but just this one file on the hard drive.
So that means a conventional computer would take about a full human lifetime for the same results?
Eighty-one thousand hours! That’s how long my computer told me calculating a single data set would require. Ultimately, we decided to get help and approached the RWTH Aachen University because they were heavily involved with computer graphics. This initial contact in 2012 turned out to be the spark of a lasting partnership with the RWTH as we continue to work with scientists until today. This year we created the visual design for their new supercomputer cluster.
Speaking of design, your images also often have super deep storytelling which many observers may not fully grasp at first sight. Is it an important concern to you that people understand the entire context?
I can’t expect that everyone will be able to follow what is being negotiated in my artwork. It’s an important concern to me that those who don’t know anything about it and those who know a lot are equally entertained. In the sense of drawing something for their own day-to-day lives from it. Which to me has always been my idea of the purpose of art. And in order to shed light on certain processes and make them transparent, we are developing our own apps.
You’re often using augmented reality with your apps, like you also did with our cover artwork. What’s the ideal function of such an augmentation in your opinion?
This augmentation on top of the image serves certain functions. Of course, there’s the gimmick-driven, entertaining use of augmentation. But there’s also enlightening uses. There are ways of explaining certain processes to the observer directly on the image because otherwise it’s hard to understand how it was created. You know it’s not painted or drawn and not photographed. So that’s where I like to have an extra layer to explain.
Your images also often revolve around aspects of chronology…
Yes, one of the big pillars on which I like to rest my work is time. And the simultaneousness of various temporal sequences. Which means that in film and photography in the analog world, you’re constrained by the physical laws of our world. You can only show one sequence of motion with one lens setting. Assisted by the computer, I am able to simultaneously view various elements in a certain aperture while others are displayed at the same time at entirely different aperture settings.
I do believe something is changing. And at the same time, since I’m competitive and unpretentious, I’m also attracted by sparring with other image-creating forces such as graphic design and advertising and so on. Can art still draw the line and differentiate today? Am I able to deliver something that will work just as well for your readers as someone who simply wants to consume art? And that’s really what I’m asking myself right now: In how far can art create a difference to all the other image-creating forces? And can it be integrated into people’s everyday lives? Are they still going to dig it regardless?
What is your own relationship to sneakers?
I became socialized in the 1980s and I was extremely passionate about skateboarding during that time. I started in 1984 when there was no skateboard shop around and we had to travel quite far to buy our gear. This era was my socialization in terms of footwear. It’s my emotional stance and I never progressed any further. You can probably see this in my shoes and my entire outfit (laughs). I’m definitely at risk of being branded a lifelong teenager because of my outfit, but it really stems from my socialization as a young punk rocker and skateboarder.
The Nite Jogger is a shoe that was created in the 1970s and is now updated with the latest technology. Is that something you can relate to as an artist?
They’re absolutely interesting ideas because they also resonate with the title of an exhibit I had two years ago in Los Angeles: “New Strength from an Old Root.” Which means you take something old – in my case art history – the images that have been created and entered our habits of seeing, and you try to upgrade them by the use of new possibilities like the computer and evolve them, so that the result is something new but something that’s still firmly rooted with both feet in art history. I can definitely recognize something like that in this shoe. It’s been upgraded with the latest technologies but also stems from a certain point in history. And that’s also how I like to shape my own work.
This story also appears in our March 2019 issue of Sneakers Magazine with additional Augmented Reality features!