Frederik Heyman

Antwerp-based artist Frederik Heyman is always game to push his work into territories unknown. Going from photography into cyberpunk-ish digital installations, he’s made a science of exploring the essence of the photographic and the desire to overcome humanity. We chatted about his recent love for 3D techniques, the future of our visual world, his latest expo, Circadian Rhythm, and extreme mummification.

Interview by Isaline Raes
Photos shot by Tiny Geeroms in Antwerp



This project is about the desire of people to overcome humanity and the influence of technology on our society

How did your artwork evolved from photography into three-dimensional, digital installations?
When I worked as a photographer, I always built my own sets by hand. But a couple of years ago when the digital art vibe was rising, I started to collaborate with 3D designers to create my sets in three dimensions. Suddenly everything became possible. Without worrying about my budget or other production restrictions, I could design the most daring stagings. This experience became the starting point of a fascinating journey. After ten years of being a photographer, I got a bit stuck and wanted to go beyond the two-dimensional. So I began to teach myself to work with 3D techniques, like 3D scanning, photogrammetry, etc. Although I never intended to become the best 3D designer in the world; I still see myself as a photographer who makes pictures, except now they’re three-dimensional.

At Het Bos you will show Circadian Rhythm. Can you tell us bit more about this project?
My latest work, Circadian Rhythm, combines five digital artworks, called clusters. At Het Bos the clusters will be presented in an installation consisting of four monumental screens set up in a square with a smaller screen on the ground in the middle. Each screen will show a different digital world wherein other digital installations are integrated. As a viewer it will feel like you’re entering a digital exhibition space. Each cluster is accompanied by a manifesto. But in general this project is about the desire of people to overcome humanity and the influence of technology on our society. At the same time, Circadian Rhythm renders a reflection of my research into the whole medium of 3D and the essence of photography. How is digital imagery related to photography? What’s the meaning of a snapshot and a photographic message? How has this been evolved in our society with the rise of digital media? What’s the difference between reality and digital reality? And what’s the relevance of knowing this? In an age wherein the virtual and the 3D world are coming more and more within our reach, it’s good to question the media that visualises our past, present and future.

Herrentoilette subtly hints to fetishism and digital sexuality, the way the men are spinning around the toilets on a conveyor belt, harnessed as if they are prisoners of the staging

On your website people can already watch some videos of the clusters. ‘Herrentoilette’ is, in our opinion, one of the most intriguing. To what does it refer?
‘Herrentoilette’ is also one of my favourites. It subtly hints to fetishism and digital sexuality, as you can see in the use of light and ambiance, the way the men are spinning around the toilets on a conveyor belt, harnessed as if they are prisoners of the staging. Their communication is controlled as well. They don’t speak, their words are initiated by means of a surtitle displaying an imposed dialogue. 

I saw that one of the clusters is inspired by Meltdown, a novel by Nick Land, the English philosopher and father of accelerationism (a theory that the acceleration of the prevailing capitalist and technosocial systems will generate radical social change). Do you share his worldview?
I got this essay from Daan Milius, a Brussels-based dramaturge, with whom I’ve started a fruitful back-and-forth relationship of exchanging texts and dialogues. Some quotes and passages we’ve literally integrated into my works; others are visually reflected. Meltdown is a dystopian essay on the quick evolution of our technological system and its negative influence on humanity. This corresponds both with my formal research into the evolution of photography and with the apocalyptic punchline that slumbers through all of the clusters.  

What are you working on now?
Currently I’m researching how different cultures use images to design memories. How do we want to remember and be remembered? In Puerto Rico there’s a new funeral trend, called ‘extreme embalming’. Instead of being laid in a coffin, the dead are mummified in lifelike poses, dropped in familiar situations and surrounded by their favourite stuff. For example, the family of a passionate biker mounted his corpse on his motorcycle, enabling him to attend his own funeral. It’s the ultimate memorial of a person. Like waxwork models, the deceased are remembered as who they were, almost like a copy-paste of a moment from the past. Besides this, I’m also excited to be working on Kane, a theatre play by Naomi Velissariou for which I create visuals that dialogue with her performance.

Circadian Rhythm runs from 15 to 18 February in Het Bos, Antwerp. More info here.