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Our friend Katharina Korbjuhn Talks Recognition vs Expression, Renaissance AI and French Taxi Drivers!
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N: Hi Katharina, we are big fans of the Paradigm Trilogy... so it's awesome to have you here. Let's start with your backstory! I know you were discovered as a model at a very young age and then later decided to switch to the other side of the camera. Can you tell us the story of your first modeling gig and then of your first job post-modeling? What do you remember about this transition? 

KK: Here comes the playbook model discovery story. I was 13 years old, on a school trip, when an agent approached me. I took their card, but didn’t think much of it. Months later, another agent stopped me on the street in Zurich and my dad encouraged me to try it.

Till then, I had had no sense of self-image or branding; if I think about it, even my notion of gender was blurry.

So, modeling was my introduction to "the female archetype" and whatever fits that shoe for better or worse. My first job post-modeling is less definitive. It was probably a photoshoot that I volunteered to assist at the last minute in Berlin for Wolfgang Tillmans, shooting the cover of Document Journal. 

N: In 2021, you launched the Paradigm Trilogy to explore how technology shapes cultural production. With the third and final issue almost around the corner, what should we expect? Without giving away too much, is there a specific message you're aiming to convey with this last instalment? Or is there maybe a personal goal you are hoping to accomplish with it? 

KK: I love endings. They make everything worthwhile. After focusing on the past in our first edition (Avantgarde & Kitsch) and the future in our second (Man vs. Machine), we are now looking at the present. The title is Recognition vs. Expression. I don't want to give too much away, but let's say we're exploring an entirely different medium.

I hope that my approach to the final issue won't disappoint fans of cultural theory. I'm tired of trend forecasts et al., so the issue explores universal constants rather than micro-trends. 

N: The second edition of Paradigm, titled "Man vs Machine," delves into the dynamic between the precise, automated nature of machines versus the emotional, sometimes unpredictable, nature of humans. The profile picture on Paradigm's Instagram page happens to be a brain, which is also emblematic of this dichotomy: the left side ruling our analytics and the right side our imagination. Funnily enough this somehow resonates with our original logo for Newlife: the renaissance man, master of both science and art.
As technology increasingly automates mundane tasks, it's likely that the workforce will gravitate more towards roles that prioritize creative thinking. My personal prediction is that those who can master both left and right brain intelligence will be the winners of the next cultural era... any thoughts on this ? 

KK: I wonder, and still do, whether our emotions will save or kill us. I just texted this afternoon about how the best designers in fashion currently seem on a hunt for a new silhouette.

My texts: 

Where I am going is: if the body becomes obsolete because of physical labor becoming obsolete, then primal instinct and desire vanish with it. What remains is the mind and the digital 010101.

Under this paradigm, everything becomes a prompt, even if powered by emotional, cognitive triggers.

Every expression turns into 010101, and the differentiation between real and fake becomes an inadequate metric. In other words: Yes to the Renaissance Man, but what about the Renaissance AI? 

N: Each issue of Paradigm is connected to a specific city, starting with New York, moving on to Berlin, and now Paris is up next. On one hand it seems like the digitalization of society is making the need to physically move to these cultural hubs less crucial for engaging in cultural production. On the other hand, when you visit places like Paris or London these days, the energy is crazy! It feels like people are really craving those real-life interactions, especially post-pandemic. What comes to mind if I say "physical presence"? Underrated or overrated ?

KK: Physical = glitch.

It's the discomfort of fighting with a French taxi driver about whether you can pay with a credit card that does it for me. 

N: Paradigm has been designed with a "mobile-first" approach. Do you think our collective phone fixation has peaked, or is there more to come? How do you foresee our relationship with smartphones evolving? I find this topic especially relevant for young creatives who feel the need to be "in the known" about everything... 

KK: The next frontier is thought command vs. navigating your phone by hand, which feels clunky. Basically, the thought that triggers your thumb to move would instantly change your song without the physical delay. 

N: Thank you Katharina, it has been a pleasure! To wrap this up: how has your view on happiness shifted over time? If you were to envision happiness right now, what does that look like for you? 

KK: Happiness is a choice. Don’t feel obliged to be happy. Life is pain. You are neither pain nor happiness. They’re temporary states. 

All images courtesy of Katharina Korbjuhn
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