Art Interviews

Interview with artist and former tech CEO of Vodafone Philipp Humm

German artist Philipp Humm announces The Last Faust, starring legendary British actor Steven Berkoff. Co-written and produced by Humm, the film marks the artist’s directorial debut.

Previously a tech CEO for companies like Vodafone Europe, Humm draws on personal experience to comment on society and his wider objective is to draw as many people as possible into the arts through his multi-layered art making, both film and oil paintings.

Still from the movie

Humm’s first film is a retelling of the classic German legend, Faust – the story of a man who sells his soul to the devil in return for eternal knowledge and power. In Humm’s view we are engaging in this kind of Faustian-pact daily through our obsession with social media. Faust was most famously recounted by Goethe, and Humm’s film is the first time parts I and II of Goethe’s epic have been adapted into film. Watch the trailer for The Last Faust here. The Young Londoner caught up with Philipp Humm to ask a few questions about technology, parenting and London.

Q: Today’s young generation is passionate (obsessed?) with technology and mobile phones in particular. What were you passionate about when you were young and how did your passion influence your life? 

That is a funny question. When mobile phones started to be used, I was already in my mid 30s – so not “young” anymore. I got into technology much later, just before I joined Amazon as CEO in Germany in 2000. Now I am passionate about technology because it changes at a breath-taking speed and alters our lives for the better and the worse.

Trojan Horse, Oil on canvas by Philipp Humm

Q: Art comes in so many forms, where is your inspiration coming from and what art form do you enjoy the most? 

I am interested in a few questions: “Who are we?” “Why are we here?” and “Are we here to stay?”. Art is my way of addressing these questions. I am at heart a painter, but enjoy exploring many other art forms. My recent projects include an illustrated novella, a feature art film and fine-art photos.

Q: In your opinion, how do you see online social engagement and modern technology impacting on human creativity and development? Is this a force for good or are we selling our souls to the devil in exchange for power and knowledge? 

It is a blessing as you can create anything you want. I created photos using extensive photoshop and CGI. They are so well done that you will never know what is real and what not. However, tech also has a big risk factor because as soon as quantum computing becomes mainstream, we will see true Ai being created – this Ai will not need its creator anymore. What for?

Q: As parents, we are trying to do our best to educate and raise the best next
generation. What do you think will have the strongest influence on our children’s priorities when they grow up?

Our children will have to tackle the biggest issues humanity has ever faced, starting with climate change, AI/bionics and extended life (if not, immortality). They will have to learn fast and find new forms of solving world challenges. This won’t be an easy task.

Q: What do you like most about London? 

It is the only true international capital in the world. It is full of inspiration for an artist like myself.

Q: Best childhood memory? 

My childhood memories are very blurred. I don’t know why but if I have any, it was raising wild baby rabbits.

What is the one item you can’t live without? 

My pencils. I need to sketch, draw, paint…

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