DMTV Milkshake: Artist Fabian Oefner on Taking Things Apart to Bend Time

07.12.23 | By
DMTV Milkshake: Artist Fabian Oefner on Taking Things Apart to Bend Time

Artist Fabian Oefner takes things apart on the grandest of scales: in his “Fragments” series, he dissected devices like landline telephones and encased pieces of them in resin, like a three-dimensional, barely-there puzzle that hinted at the object’s former use. In “Disintegrating,” a series of work Oefner has been working on since 2012, he takes high-performance cars apart, down to their screws, then photographs each of these elements before reuniting them in a finish composition that looks as if he’s captured an image of the car as it explodes. His latest work, “Escape Velocity,” sees everyday objects embedded within walls – a chainsaw seems stuck within a corner of a room, caught in some unlikely flight.

For Oefner, these and other projects use the process of disintegration to investigate the nature of time. It’s captivated Oefner since childhood: “I remember using the toy cars, mostly from my brother’s collection, and putting them into a vice and starting to slowly crush them to see how they came apart,” Oefner says. “I still do that, in a way. I’m playful about trying to understand how objects are made – what’s inside them. But moreso, I disassemble objects to have the pieces by themselves [and] to be able to use those to create a new composition. In a way, it’s almost a bit like I’m painting with those parts – from a car, for example, or from a camera – and I use those individual building blocks to then create something. Something that tells us a little bit about time, and how we interact with it, and how changing that dynamic of time a little bit also changes our perception of reality.”

image of a Nike show broken up into cubes and reattached with rods

Heisenberg Objekt No. V – Cortez, 2021, Resin, Nike Cortez 1985, Acrylic Rods

A similarly minded project, created in alliance with Google Arts & Culture, used LED drone painting and long-exposure photography to visually trace the retreat of glaciers in the Swiss Alps.

photograph of mountains and glaciers

The Trift Glacier, 2019 – 202, Inkjet Print

In this week’s Milkshake, Oefner also talks about this kind of technology in his work, and how “when you work with science, or scientific elements, you’re not always in control of what the outcome is. Rather, as you work through the project, you start to better and better understand where this is going and through that you adapt your ideas – and that’s also the beauty of it, because when you do that, you actually start to learn something.” Oefner continues, “The projects where I don’t have any surprises and I don’t have to adapt – those are usually not the ones that stand the test of time.” For that and more, tune in!

angled corner with a split old Macintosh computer and keyboard suspended as if it's built into wall

Escape Velocity III – Ma | tosh, 2023, Plastic, Resin

cut up old NASA camera in case

CutUp, 2019, Resin, Aluminum, Glass, Brass Plastic

a sculpture of a real chainsaw breaking through a corner wall to the other side

Escape Velocity VII – Chai | aw, 2023, Metal, Resin

image of an exploded red sports car with parts suspended

Disintegrating X – Lamborghini Miura SV, 2018, Inkjet Print behind Plexiglass

Diana Ostrom, who has written for Wallpaper, Interior Design, ID, The Wall Street Journal, and other outlets, is also the author of Faraway Places, a newsletter about travel.

Milkshake, DMTV (Design Milk TV)’s first regular series, shakes up the traditional interview format by asking designers, creatives, educators and industry professionals to select interview questions at random from their favorite bowl or vessel. During their candid discussions, you’ll not only gain a peek into their personal homeware collections, but also valuable insights into their work, life and passions.