Interview with Johann Arens

February 2017

A series of interviews with SPACE Art + Technology artists in residence

What were you doing in the year leading up to the residency?
As most of my works are site-related installations; I was recently invited to work with Kettle’s Yard on a public art commission in a school in Cambridge. For that a sculpturally altered classroom was introduced, without tables, chairs or marked lessons. The purpose of the weekly engagements in the space throughout the year was to help students challenge their immediate surroundings through a range of debates, dance & drawing work groups, and a program of sensory walks.

I subsequently presented a body of work highlighting the role of tactility in art for the exhibition Prize for Young Art at the Neuer Aacher Kunstverein in Germany. In order to continue this inquiry in the field of haptic technologies and responsive touchscreens, I took up a residency last autumn at the Asia Culture Center in Gwangju, South Korea, from which I’ve just returned.

What are you working on at the moment?
During the residency at SPACE I have collaborated with Dr. Alejandro Granados from the Imperial College London on a workshop. Participants are invited to negotiate the possibilities of contact-based simulation tools and the implications for the plasticity of sculpture, as well as bodily sensuality. Our point of departure will be the simple observation that both medical training practice and experientially driven art are conditioned by a shared frustration; the limitation of touch.

What’s coming next?
I’m working on new sculptures based on the fabrication methods of prosthetics and delicate artefacts suffocated by bespoke Instapak foam mouldings.


Johann Arens uses installation and video to survey the documentary properties of public interiors and their inherent social textures. His sculptural interventions are an enquiry into the role of mobile interfaces, the desire to touch artefacts and the mechanisms of user behaviour. Recent exhibitions include ‘Preis für Junge Kunst’ Neuer Aacher Kunstverein, Germany; ‘Somatic Matter’, Le Foyer, Zürich; ’New Acquisitions’, Fondazione Fotografia Modena; ‘TTTT’, Jerwood Space, London; and public commissions with Kettle’s Yard Cambridge and Arnolfini Bristol.