Who's afraid of digital art?5th May 2017
Following on from The Digital Art Debate, which took place at The Tetley as part of Leeds International Festival, over the coming weeks the blog will explore the relationship between digital art and the contemporary art world. Excerpts from ‘Dealing the Digital: How Bits & Bytes became Art Objects’ by Lumen’s Assistant Director Charlotte Lee will trace how the perception of digital art has changed in recent years and what channels are now available for artists working with technology.
Despite main contemporary art’s refusal to seriously reckon with new media art, new media art is, in a manner of speaking, an art world force to be reckoned with.  Edward Shanken.
THE MEDIA FORMERLY KNOWN AS NEW
The term itself, let alone the medium, has caused confusion and in this discussion ‘media’, ‘digital’ and ‘technology-engaged’ art will be used interchangeably to refer to any work that is grounded in information technology. Namely, any work that is created on, viewed on, and distributed via the computer. This can include, but is not limited to: digital art, net art, virtual reality, robotics and software art. A central characteristic of this type of work is its behaviours – the work tends to be interactive, performative and generative. It is this, and digital art’s embrace of the dematerialised art object, that places the medium in relation to conceptual and performance based practices. However, while these have been successfully integrated into the main contemporary art world – the infrastructure of galleries, museums, auctions, fairs and journals – new media has continued to remain on the side-line.
The roots of media and digital practices can be traced back to the instruction-based art of Conceptualism and Dada, but the integration of technology into art practices did not really take hold until the 1960s. This decade saw the establishment of Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T), founded by the engineer Billy Klüver and the artist Robert Rauschenberg in 1966. Encapsulating the era’s enthusiasm for art and technology, E.A.T ushered in a number of joint projects between engineers and artists, and around this a burgeoning critical reception towards media practices developed. From Jean Tinguely’s self-destructing Homage to New York (1960) to Robert Rauschenberg’s Soundings (1968), prominent artists began to create works of art that drew on the information technology developing around them. Grounded in the new technological possibilities, these works engaged critical and institutional reception and were celebrated in the landmark exhibitions of Cybernetic Serendipity (1968), Jack Burnham’s Software (1970) and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Art and Technology (1971). Unfortunately, it was also through these exhibitions that media artists became subsumed under the banner of conceptual art. Furthermore, it was during this period that the unpredictability of the medium began to make itself apparent. Indeed, the software failures that troubled Burnham’s exhibition were recently mirrored at the Whitechapel’s Electronic Superhighway held in January 2016, which was plagued by technological faults – leading many visitors and critics to conclude that the works of art themselves had failed [Figure 2]. As a result, the unpredictability of the medium and its over-reliance on technology was highlighted.
If the medium is not dismissed by the art world in its entirety – through its absence in exhibitions, fairs and art publications – then the work is regarded as being too spectacular.  That is, it focuses too much on technological innovation rather than artistic criticality. This criticism is not new, and Jack Burnham, despite being a champion of art and technology, recognised that much of the work placed under the banner of digital art had “more than a little of the uptown discotheque” about it. Here, Burnham notes the reigning critique that has long contributed to digital art’s ghettoisation.
ART IN THE GHETTO
The tendency for artists to use the technology and tools that defines their society has long been written into the history of art. So why, despite the proliferation of digital technologies today, are media art practices still not integrated fully into the art world? For Marc Garrett, co-founder of Furtherfield, an online art community and gallery space, the divide that exists between digital art and the main contemporary art world is institutionally related, observing: ‘the art world is stuck in a rut, and it can only remain relevant to others, by expanding and letting in new ideas beyond its hermetically sealed silos.’  This comment was made in response to Claire Bishop’s article ‘Digital Divide’, part of Artforum’s fiftieth edition issue Art’s New Media. Opening her article with: ‘Whatever happened to digital art?,’ Bishop argued that the art world has not embraced digital practices because they fail to engage critically with technology.  Taking no account of artists that have successfully infiltrated the main contemporary art world – Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Cory Arcangel, Rafaël Rozandaal, JODI, TeamLab, and Trevor Paglen to name but a few – Bishop concluded that the most dominant trend in contemporary art is the abstention of the digital. Placing herself in line with Nicolas Bourriaud, who argued in Relational Aesthetics that ‘the main effects of the computer revolution are visible today among artists who do not use computers’, Bishop disregards media art from the art historical canon. The dismissal of new media practices put forward by Bourriaud and Bishop has led Paul, the Adjunct Curator of New Media Art at the Whitney, to identify them both as re-enforcers of the ‘digital divide’.  Responding to Bishop’s misreading of art history, Paul produced the New Media Framework, which outlined the key critical theories, artist texts and curatorial positions associated with media art history [Table 1].  Considering the similarities that have already been noted, it is unsurprising that new media art operates within the same theoretical frameworks that both Bishop and Bourriaud have used to underpin relational and participatory artistic practices.
It is their behaviours – principally, their interactivity – that unites media and performance practices. Nonetheless, while the participatory practices of Jeremy Deller and Francis Alÿs have been acclaimed by the art world, media practices have yet to clear the same hurdle. Central to this is the medium specificity that clouds the reception of technology-engaged art. Of this Lee Manovich has asked:
If all artists now, regardless of their preferred media, also routinely use digital computers to create, modify and produce works, do we need to have a special field of new media art?
The tendency to pigeon-hole artists by their medium has contributed significantly to the ghettoisation of artists that use technology. Today, all artists use technology in some way during their practice – whether that is as part of its creation or its promotion. While the distinction between a digital artist and an artist should be disintegrated, Jon Ippolito, former curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim, argues for the contrary. Believing that media and digital art should be considered independently of the main contemporary art world, Ippolito views the art world proper as a threat to media art’s integrity. For Ippolito, this tension primarily exists between the accessible and open-source nature of digital art and the art market, which Shanken has termed the ‘self-perpetuating elitist system that brokers prestige in exchange for capital’.
More than any other art form, digital art has gained for itself a level of self-sufficiency that is perhaps unprecedented in the art world. With their own institutions, galleries, festivals and fairs, artists engaged with digital technologies have managed to exist independently. Yet, in recent years digital art has edged ever nearer to the main contemporary art world and technological innovation has been at the forefront of this shift. As screens, projectors and computers continue to become cheaper, and as institutional budgets shrink, museums have begun to turn their attention to media works. Notably, since Bishop’s 2012 article there has been a garnering of institutional and critical interest around digitally engaged practices, and since Paddles ON! the worlds of new media and main contemporary art have increasingly collided. In the last two years new media art has received extensive attention from the art press, and galleries have established dedicated programmes to new media, most notably Pace’s Art + Technology centre in Silicon Valley. Just like photography and moving image before, steps are finally being taken to integrate digital art into the main contemporary art market. However, the greater accessibility of digital art challenges the exclusivity revered by the art market, and if digital media is to be accepted, this needs to be combatted. The challenges that the medium poses to the art world and how these are being dealt with will be the focus of the next two chapters.
'War of the Worlds' from Dealing the Digital: How Bits & Bytes became Art Objects (2016)
Introducing the 2017 Lumen Prize Jurors18th Apr 2017
The deadline to submit to the 2017 Lumen Prize is fast approaching! That’s when our International Selectors' Committee (ISC) begins the task of selecting this year’s Longlist before our Jury Panel take up the reins in August to select the recipients of the category awards and top prize. So, who are these wonderful people who have been appointed to select those works that are exceptional examples of digital art?
Introducing the ISC:
Irini Papadimitriou (@irini_mirena) is a curator, producer and cultural manager, working at the forefront of digital culture. As Digital Programmes Manager at the V&A Irini is responsible for the annual Digital Design Weekend, she is also Head of New Media Arts Development at Watermans, one of the UK’s leading venues for Digital/ New Media Arts with a long commitment in presenting innovative work as well as supporting emerging and established artists working with technology.
Janice Lane is Director of Gallery Development & Visitor Experience at the National Museum Wales, which manages seven museums across Wales. Janice leads on Exhibitions and Gallery development, Digital Media, and Visitor Experience across the museums. She works internationally and is a member of the ICOM UK committee.
Carla Gannis (@carlagannis) is a New York-based artist and is currently a professor and assistant chairperson of The Department of Digital Arts at Pratt Institute. Her artistic work examines the narrativity of 21st century representational technologies and reveals the hybrid nature of identity; since 2003 her work has appeared in numerous solo and group exhibitions both nationally and internationally. In 2016 Carla was awarded The Lumen Prize Founder’s Award for her ongoing project The Selfie Drawings.
Kelani Nichole (@kelaninichole) is an independent curator and user-centered design specialist. She is the owner and director of TRANSFER, an exhibition space in NYC that explores the friction between networked studio practice and its physical instantiation. The gallery supports artists working with computer-based practices to realise solo exhibitions, and travels internationally promoting new formats for exhibition and appreciation of contemporary art.
Alessio de Vecchi (@alessiodevecchi) has been working for over twelve years as an art director and cg artist in New York, Milan and Tokyo with clients like Adidas, Samsung, Nike, Citibank, La Prairie, Shiseido, H&M, Ferrero, Nestle', Margiela, Deloitte, HBO, Green Cross, Cappellini. In addition, his creations have earned positive attention from Vogue Italia, I.D.Magazine, The Creators Project, Monitor, Icon, Frame. His work as a visual artist has been screened at Pause Fest 2015 in Melbourne and he was part of the Italian duo that won the 2016 Lumen Prize Gold Award for Hyperplanes of Simultaneity.
Ruth Catlow (@furtherfield) is an artist and co-founder of Furtherfield, an art-led platform for arts, technology and social change since 1996. As an artist, Ruth works and plays with emancipatory network cultures, practices and poetics to engender shared visions and new cultural infrastructures. Catlow has co-curated Furtherfield exhibition programmes since 2005 including Being Social, World Wild Web and Digital Zoo.
Andy Lomas is a digital artist and Emmy award winning supervisor of computer generated effects. In 2014 he won the Lumen Prize Gold Award with Cellular Forms and received an honorary mention from the jury at Ars Electronica.
Scott Draves (@scott_draves) is a pioneering software artist best known for creating the Electric Sheep a collective intelligence consisting of 450,000 computers that uses mathematics and genetic algorithms to create an infinite abstract animation. Electric Sheep won the 2015 Lumen Prize Founder’s Award.
Laurence Hill (@laurencehill) is director and head programmer for Brighton Digital Festival. The festival brings together arts and culture, digital business, the city's two universities and the council for an annual, month-long, celebration and exploration of digital culture. Laurence is particularly interested in the subject of digital and 'otherness', which he is exploring through the festival programme and in his freelance work.
Keith Watson, a former gallery owner, is currently procurer/curator of digital and kinetic art from all over the world for Level39 and the Canary Wharf Winter Lights Festival.
James E. Marks (@jamesemarks) is the mastermind behind the #HackthePlanet virtual reality app, which was recently selected for the 20th annual Webby Awards. James is also the founder of the Immersive Arts Without Boundaries Festival #HACKSTOCK.
Melanie Lenz is Patric Prince Curator of Digital Art at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum; the institution that holds the UK’s national archive of digital art. Melanie has worked on a variety of contemporary art exhibitions and digital commissions; she was formerly Curatorial Fellow, Barbican Art Gallery (2006-2008).
Phil Dawson is the Head of Brand and Marketing for Leeds Dock where he is responsible for commissioning digital art. He has a background in design, communication & events, and has worked across multiple industries including music, hospitality, charity, fashion and media.
Genetic Moo (@GeneticMoo) are a UK based collaboration between Nicola Schauerman and Tim Pickup. Since 2008 they have been creating interactive art using computer code, graphics, sensors and projection. In 2013 they received the Lumen Prize Founder’s Award and were selected for the ISEA2016 Open Sky Project in Hong Kong.
Katerina Athanasopoulou is a Greek-born artist living in London who creates animated films for cinema and gallery space. Katerina is particularly interested in the place where Animation and Architecture meet: through the use of 3D animation, she builds digital spaces, which the viewer traverses as imagined documentaries. In 2013 she won the 2013 Lumen Prize Gold Award for her film Apodemy.
The 2017 Jury Panel:
Douglas Dodds is Senior Curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Doug is responsible for developing the UK's largest collection of digital art, from early computer art to recent born-digital works.
Foteini Aravani is the Digital Curator at the Museum of London where she develops the museum’s digital collecting activities and identifies opportunities for acquiring digital material to enhance and enrich the Museum’s collections.
Michael Takeo Magruder is an internationally recognised visual artist working with digital media whose projects have been showcased in over 250 exhibitions in 34 countries. Currently artist-in-residence at the British Library and winner of the 2015 Lumen Prize for Immersive Environments.
WeiWei Wang is Curator for the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) Shanghai, WeiWei has curated numerous shows, most recently "Animamix Biennale 2015-2016", as well as several projects for the museum's projects space "MoCA Pavilion".
Tessa Jackson OBE is a UK-based gallery director, curator and arts consultant; founding Artistic Director of Artes Mundi, Wales' International Visual Art Exhibition & Prize and past CEO of Iniva, Institute of International Visual Arts, London.
Bruce Wands is Chair Emeritus of the New York School of Visual Arts MFA Computer Art Department. He is a widely-exhibited artist, author of Art of the Digital Age and Director of the New York Digital Salon.
Call for Artists - 6th Lumen Prize11th Apr 2017
An international open call for artists engaged with digital technology.
Deadline: June 1, 2017
Open to emerging and established artists working with technology and digital media, the competition offers a prize fund of $10,500, plus shortlisted and winning artists will have their works included in Lumen’s annual programme of exhibitions and events around the world. Now in its 6th year, The Lumen Prize has already awarded over $40,000 in prize money and has staged over 30 exhibitions worldwide, in cities including London, New York, Shanghai, Amsterdam and Athens.
The 2017 prizes are:
- Gold Award ($3000)
- Moving Image ($1000)
- Still Image ($1000)
- AR/VR ($1000)
- 3D/Sculpture ($1000)
- Interactive ($1000)
- Web-based ($1000)
- Founder’s Award ($750)
- Meural Student Prize ($500)
- People’s Choice Award ($250)
The 2017 Jury Panel includes:
- Doug Dodds, Senior Curator, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
- Foteini Aravani, Digital Curator, Museum of London
- Michael Takeo Magruder, 2015 Lumen Prize category winner
- Tessa Jackson OBE, independent curator and consultant
- Weiwei Wang, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai
- Bruce Wands, Chair Emeritus, School of Visual Arts, New York
The Longlist will be determined by the International Selectors’ Committee (ISC), co-chaired by Irini Papadimitriou (V&A and Watermans) and Janice Lane (National Museum Wales). This year’s ISC, which is made up of curators, gallerists, and academics, includes Carla Gannis (2016 Lumen Prize Founder’s Prize winner and digital professor at Pratt Institute, NY), Kelani Nichole (TRANSFER Gallery), Alessio de Vecchi (2016 Lumen Prize Gold Award winner) and Scott Draves (2015 Lumen Prize Founder’s Prize winner).
In 2016 the Gold Award was presented to the Italian duo Fabio Giampietro and Alessio de Vecchi for Hyperplanes of Simultaneity, a virtual reality experience which transformed the traditional canvas into a 360° cityscape. Since winning the award the duo have been featured in national, technology and arts press, and Fabio recently hosted a series of workshops at the House of Peroni experiential event in London.
Shortlisted artists and recipients of The Lumen Prize from other years have also gone on to achieve success around the world. British artist Andy Lomas’ 2014 Prize winning work Cellular Forms is now in the collection of the V&A; Alexandra Handal, winner of the 2014 People’s Choice Gold Award, whose web-based Dream Homes Property Consultants has recently been acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denmark; and Michael Takeo Magurder, recipient of the 2015 Immersive Environments Award for A New Jerusalem, who is currently artist-in-residence at The British Library.
Other artists who have been shortlisted and/or received awards include: Jon McCormack, Carla Gannis, Golan Levin, Esther Rolinson, Fabiano Mixo, Sam Rolfes, Matteo Zamagni, Claire Reika Wright, Marpi and onformative.
Things to remember:
• There is an administration fee of $45 - covers two entries. Each additional entry costs $22.50. Fees go directly to the prize fund and global tour.
• You must select a category to enter from: Moving Image, Still, Web-based, 3D/Sculpture, Interactive, VR/AR, Student
• The Student Prize is only valid for still and moving image. To enter the Student Prize email email@example.com
• Digitised versions of traditional artworks will not be accepted
• Deadline for submissions is June 1 2017
• Longlist will be announced at the V&A Digital Futures on July 11th
Fifty Sisters launches Lumen's online channel28th Mar 2017
The Lumen Prize is delighted to announce the launch of Lumen’s online curated channel on the digital platform Meural. Giving you access to some of the best digital art, the Meural canvas provides a new and dynamic way to experience art away from the exhibition and gallery space.
The beautifully crafted Meural frame lets you change the art on your walls via your phone or through gesture control, and each month the work of a Lumen artist will be showcased with their very own collection. In the coming months, you’ll be able to discover the collections of Edward Bateman, Harvey Goldman, Nicolas Bernier, Claire Reika Wright, Julia Romano and many more!
The partnership has been launched with Jon McCormack’s 2016 Still Image award-winning work Fifty Sisters. An Australian computer artist, McCormack has created a series of 50 algorithmically grown plants derived from the graphic elements of oil company logos. A comment on the impact that the oil industry has had on the environment, Fifty Sisters uses digital DNA to create new and exotic species of plants.
You can explore the Lumen channel here.
Prize-winning work in Times Square9th Mar 2017
We're proud to announce that Lumen's 2016 Mixed Reality Award winner Nature Abstraction by London-based artist Matteo Zamagni has taken over New York's Times Square Midnight Minute for the month of March.
Midnight Moment - the world’s largest, longest-running digital art exhibition - is showing Matteo's Nature Abstraction across the towering screens of Times Square nightly from 11:57 pm to midnight daily.
Midnight Moment has previously played host to Pipilotti Rist's Open My Glade (Flatten), Lorna Mills' Mountain Light/Time, Laurie Anderson's Heart of a Dog and Rafaël Rozendaal's Much Better Than This. The exhibition is one of the largest digital art exhibitions, with an annual viewership of 2.5million.
We're looking forward to seeing more Lumen artworks light up Times Square in the future!
Lumen turns 56th Jan 2017
It's been 5 years since Lumen was founded and in April, we'll be launching our 6th call for entries. In between, we've been around the world 4 times, given out more than $40,000 in prize money, and staged more than 35 events, seminars and shows.
It's been quite a ride and one which only becomes more and more interesting as the technology artists employ continues to develop and more artists become comfortable with adding digital tools to their practice.
People often ask me why I founded the prize and the honest answer is, simply, because I could. The contemporary art world is not interested in work it can't price and selling digital art remains a challenge. It's easy enough to set a price for an eager buyer but until a secondary market develops, digital art will remain a tough sell.
But sales are being achieved and we're pleased to see this developing. The early adapters, interestingly enough, are a growing number of museums who want to add the best digital work to their collections.
When I founded Lumen I was merely curious - not driven by any financial considerations - to see what was out there. My curiousity was stimulated by the Royal Academy's 2012 Hockney exhibition, The Bigger Picture, which I went to 3 times with different friends each time. While staring at the works in a room of iPads, I caught the energy in the room and thought to myself that it couldn't just be Hockney who was using digital tools.
Turns out it wasn't just Hockney. And aren't we lucky that so many artists all over the world are as inspired by today's digital tools. It's only a matter of time before the contemporary art world catches up with these artists.
Carla Rapoport, Lumen’s Founder and Director, takes a look back at our recent show in Winns Gallery, Walthamstow.4th Jan 2017
From November 14th to December 4th, Lumen was honoured to be showing a specially curated show “Adventures in Digital Art”, which drew upon work from some of the best art from 2014-2016 Lumen Prize artists, including this year’s Gold Prize winner, Hyperplanes of Simultaneity and Carla Gannis’ Augmented Reality Selfie Drawings.
The venue was the brand-new Winns Gallery in Lloyds Park, Walthamstow, just a stone’s throw from the brilliant William Morris Gallery. Our theme was to bring together some of the most exciting interactive works that have qualified for the Lumen Prize shortlist over the past few years and to show visitors of all ages how digital art can really be enjoyed by everyone.
Exhibition Manager Jack Addis was pleased to have the opportunity to show interactive works in this public gallery, remarking: “This show was completely about engagement – from scanning your whole body with Passage to whistling into the microphone to make animals come alive on the wall. It was very family friendly."
Our sponsor, the borough of Waltham Forest, was equally pleased with the show. Lorna Lee, head of Culture and Heritage Services for Waltham Forest, commented at the opening: "How illuminating! The Lumen Digital Art Prize in the Winns Gallery was a real eye opener for me, in terms of the range of works on show and their interactivity - it brought out my playful side and also sparked my imagination in terms of new ways to engage with our diverse communities and their participation in our local culture and heritage."
We look forward to more collaborations with Waltham Forest in the future, particularly those which draw on the incredible talents of Lumen Prize artists from past years as well as the current one.
Carla Rapoport, Lumen’s Director and Founder, reflects on Lumen’s recent show at Caerphilly Castle.23rd Dec 2016
Filling the Great Hall of Caerphilly Castle, one of Europe’s oldest monuments, was one of the biggest challenges Lumen has ever faced. Happily, it all worked better than we could have hoped, aided by the stunning light installation of Flown by Esther Rolinson, this year’s 3D/Scultpure Award winner, and Nathan Selikoff’s extraordinary projection, Audiograph which allowed us to bring light, sound and action to the towering east wall of the Great Hall. (You can view all the works in action here.)
But the real highlight for me was the chance to interact with more than 750 members of the public over the show’s 6 days and to enjoy their incredible enthusiasm for the show. People would open the door of the Great Hall and some would say, “Oh, I’m not interested in art particularly.” But after they came in and started interacting with the work, we couldn’t get them to leave! Virtual Reality was a particularly huge hit, as was Yiannis Kranidiotis’ touchable sculpture, fittingly called Touch Me.
We were also honoured to welcome, on two separate days, refugee families from centres in Swansea, Newport and Cardiff who were given free access to the Castle to see the show and the castle itself. As one of the volunteers wrote us:
“Thank you …. everyone had a fantastic time. We had a full coach for this trip and to be honest it was difficult to discern what was enjoyed the most, the Lumen Prize digital art exhibition or exploring the amazing Caerphilly castle. The exhibition was great, especially as it was hands-on and people were encouraged to interact with the exhibits. “
She continued: “People eagerly queued to try the virtual reality headsets and to touch and play everything. I sat down outside at one point and marvelled at all our friends exploring the whole castle with heads popping up over battlements and turrets, folks running in and out of numerous doors and up and down towers at different levels and calling to each other excitedly through arrow-loops. I wish I'd set-up a tripod and made a time-lapse recording, it was a real joy to see. “
The marriage of digital art in a heritage location, it seems, is a natural. So we were also delighted to have the following feedback from Dr Ffion Reynolds, Heritage & Arts Manager of Cadw, Historic Environment Service: "We would love to have Lumen back at the castle next year, it was a fabulous event, and I think it could be expanded across the site even more.”
We definitely agree. And a big thank you to the Wales Arts Council and Cadw for making this show possible.
CYLAND's Anna Frants interviews Carla Gannis29th Nov 2016
Carla Gannis received The Lumen Prize 2016 Founder’s Award for the Selfie Drawings, a collection of 52 digital drawings completed over 52 weeks in which “the self” has been performed through drawing, augmented reality, and sharing on social networks.
Carla spoke to CYLAND MediaArtLab founder Anna Frants about the project, modern communications and her upcoming solo video exhibition in honor of the 10th anniversary of CYFEST.
Using 2D and 3D elements in my work, fragmenting the body, attaching it to, or intertwining it with digital augmentation devices all seem to be about my desire to express the state of existing simultaneously in virtual life and physical space — in symbiotic relationships with digital technology.
Q. How did the Selfie Drawings project begin?
I initially began making selfie drawings in January 2015. I was down South, as in the southern United States, where I’m originally from, visiting my family. One day while there I began making iPad drawings of my 99 year old grandmother, Pansy Mae. At some point, I stopped drawing, took a photo of her, and then took one of myself. I began to analyze her portrait, a “pre-digital” person born before women had the right to vote in the United States. I compared it to my “selfie,” one of a “post-digital” woman in her 40s who’s life had been recently upended by a break up and subsequent move to a new location in New York.
From there I quickly began to draw on my iPad the selfie I had taken. Over the course of a year I completed 52 digitally drawn selfies, a kind of hybridization of selfie photography and more traditional self portraiture. After I completed each drawing I would upload it to several social media platforms — begging the question is it a selfie if it is not uploaded to a network?
Q: How did its initial idea inform your creative process?
The drawings, as well as the expanded videos and AR narratives, are an inventory of how a self, both the physical and virtual body, can be perceived in the Digital Age. Using 2D and 3D elements in my work, fragmenting the body, attaching it to, or intertwining it with digital augmentation devices all seem to be about my desire to express the state of existing simultaneously in virtual life and physical space — in symbiotic relationships with digital technology.
Q. Your artist's statement emphasizes that, first and foremost, you’re a storyteller working with technology. What possibilities within digital narrative do you find so attractive?
I’ll begin with a quote by media theorist Janet Murray. “Not only is the computer the most capacious medium ever invented, but it also allows us to move around the narrative world, shifting from one perspective to another at our own initiative. Perhaps this ability to shift perspectives will lead to the technical innovation that will rival the Shakespearean soliloquy. … All of these story patterns would be ways of enacting the contemporary human struggle to both affirm and transcend our own limited point of view.” Hamlet on the Holodeck (1997)
One of the most compelling (and sometimes daunting) aspects of digital narrative is how it can traverse electronic pathways and physical spaces in more adaptive ways than traditional mono mediums. For instance, in “The Selfie Drawings” project I began with digital drawings that I then translated into videos and interactive augmented reality works — from print to projection to screen. I have shared these works on social networks and in online exhibitions, as well as in physical galleries and media centers. Each iteration and locality provides a different emotional and cerebral context for the subject matter.
It’s no longer IRL vs URL; real world vs “Second Life;” metaverse or meatspace. It’s all “real life” now, and artists and storytellers have always been very good at reflecting on and teasing out the most intriguing parts of life.
Q: What can an artist gain from modern communications and social media?
There are challenges in trying to express oneself amidst a cacophony of media channels. More and more artists, like myself, are learning to use social networks as platforms for transdisciplinary expanded art action. It is important to harness electronic networks, and as critical, human networks, to be active creative participants in our future. It’s no longer IRL vs URL; real world vs “Second Life;” metaverse or meatspace. It’s all “real life” now, and artists and storytellers have always been very good at reflecting on and teasing out the most intriguing parts of life.
Q. It is so true about Shrimp Mermaid Goddess from the Garden of Emoji Delights, your artwork featured at the 9th CYFEST at the Pratt Institute. What was your aspiration of reconstructing Bosch’s iconography with contemporary digital symbols?
The current speed of technological advancements suggest biological organisms and the environment are irrevocably changing. In light of this, it is fascinating to discover how easily the visual vernacular of our day aligns with the symbology of a prescient artist from 500 years ago. “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” Hieronymus Bosch's most ambitious work, embodies the conflicts, humor, darkness and absurdity of human, earthly and cosmological conditions.
In “The Garden of Emoji Delights,” I have transcribed the figures, elements and narratives from Bosch’s 500 year old painting into a “hyper mediated emoji phantasmagoria.” I am fascinated with digital semiotics, and the ways in which new modes of communication collide with more historical forms of expression, revealing both constancy and change.
Q. Much of your work is informed by the art of old masters, but as a contemporary artist do you think technology continues the tradition or rather disrupts it?
I studied quite a bit of art history, so many works of the Canon are laser printed on my brain. I remember when I was younger, I was always looking for female artist role models throughout the history of art, and I found few until the 20th century. Most of the classical works I reference resonate with me deeply as capital A art, but the exclusive “old master” system, extending into contemporary new media art, is deeply troubling to me. In the selfie work, their is a disruption occurring, by digital inserting myself, as Object/Subject/Author, into these canonized works.
Q. In December of 2016 A Subject Self-Defined, your solo video exhibition, will be presented at the 10th CYFEST in New York. How did this new body of work vary from the Selfie Drawings?
In “A Subject Self-Defined” I have translated the selfie drawings into a collage of moving image works. The title of the exhibition takes its title from Joseph Kosuth’s 1966 neon sculpture that spells out and is eponymously titled “A Subject Self-Defined.” He belonged to a group of artists involved in stripping down the art object, reducing it to ideas and information that were detached from personal meaning. Fifty years later, when we find art in the age of networked identity and digital dematerialization, I am perplexed by subjecthood and self-definition in relationship to the “personal” when performed publicly.
In the video works, I have heightened, via an animated gif-like looping timeline, my emphasis on identity performance, in relation to our constant uploads of “self” via social media platforms. Each mise en scène is more developed than in the drawings, providing broader depth to the storylines.
Q. As a professor at Pratt Institute’s Department of Digital Arts, how do you help other artists to orientate in the world of cutting-edge technologies?
2016 marks ten years for me as an educator in the Department of Digital Arts. Over that time I have taught technologies that have evolved and radically transformed the discipline.
Today young artists have immense opportunities in the multiple ways they can communicate and collaborate via and with technology. Guiding students in criticality and conceptual thinking is as important as teaching them the specifics of a single computer aided skill set. I encourage my students, as I remind myself, to remain elastic, empathetic and informed as they contribute to the future of art produced with and in response to 21st century technologies.
Founded by CYLAND Media Art Lab in 2007, CYBERFEST was held annually for six years across St Petersburg’s top art institutions (The State Hermitage Museum, Peter and Paul Fortress, Kuryokhin Modern Art Centre, Creative Space TKACHI, Borey Gallery, Gallery of Experimental Sound and Art re. FLEX gallery), earning a reputation as the original and the most significant New Media event in Russia.
Making a pivotal leap in 2013 — CYBERFEST’s 7th edition expanded for the first time outside Russia to Berlin, attracting over 10,000 visitors over 5 days. In 2014/2015, CYLAND & CYBERFEST reached even father by branching to innovative cities (St Petersburg, Moscow, Tokyo, Berlin, New York, Bogota, London) on the Art & Tech frontier, strengthening the cultural exchange among innovators.
#LumenInFocus: Hyperplanes of Simultaneity30th Oct 2016
Fabio Giampietro, alongside Alessio de Vecchi, took the 2016 Lumen Gold Award for the vertigo inducing artwork Hyperplanes of Simultaneity. Superbly navigating the worlds of art and technology, Hyperplanes brings the boundary between the voyeur and the work of art tumbling down.
Fabio spoke to Lumen’s Assistant Director, Charlotte Lee about his collaboration with Alessio, his inspiration for the piece and his decision to delve into the world of virtual reality.
Hyperplanes was never meant to be an ultra-interactive experience in a fictitious dimension, rather a hypertrophic glance into the canvas itself - a process of identification with the painter.
So, you’re a painter by trade – tell me a little bit about how Hyperplanes of Simultaneity came about; what was your creative process?
I have been painting well over a decade. I get to my atelier in the morning and I start chain-smoking. Between one cigarette and another I start landing some strokes on the canvas. By that time, Alessio - who now lives in Tokyo and sleeps VERY late - also wakes up. He usually calls me up and we start talking ideas, but mostly nonsense. I stand in front of the canvas sipping beer while he turns on his workstation and drinks green tea. I send him pictures of what I am working on and he sends me screenshots. Through this daily routine we got to conceptualize and execute Hyperplanes. Each of us incarnates his respective dimension, physical and virtual.
And these dimensions become accessible through Hyperplanes?
Yes, Hyperplanes is a project about the three temporal planes and their paradoxical simultaneity through the combination of a traditional exhibition and a virtual reality experience.
The inspiration for this came from the block universe theory in which these three temporal planes coincide. The plane of the past is represented by my artistic production of the last decade and the VR side allows a glimpse into the future.
So, Hyperplanes is in a sense foretelling what viewing an artwork will be like in the future? With that in mind, do you think that technology has the ability to break down the barrier that exists between the work of art and the voyeur?
My whole artistic production hinges on the concepts of 'vertigo' and 'immersion'. Vertigo isn't meant as acrophobia, but rather as a research into the voids, and I think Hyperplanes somehow fills this void, building a bridge between traditional fine art and digital art.
Immersion in this project, and in others I have previously worked on, was meant to take the spectator inside and beyond the painting. I believe, and here I quote Umberto Boccioni from his Futurism Manifesto, that through new technologies we'll be able to create the illusion of being immersed in the artwork. And this is what Hyperplanes is all about.
The subject of my paintings always lent itself to some sort of interaction on the spectator's side. Especially the "Vertigo" series. I started noticing that people were constantly attempting to take selfies pretending they were falling in the canvas. At that point I realized this body of work had potential to be broadened and virtual reality would be the way to get the point across.
Alessio has being working with 3D for over 15 years and, given the long time friendship that unites us and the understanding of mutual artistic sensibilities, collaborating with him was an obvious choice.
When we hear about VR we immediately think of complex algorithms, programming skills, videogame-like worlds: a distinct departure from reality. This wasn't the case with Hyperplanes. We amplified the very nature of the painting.
...through new technologies we'll be able to create the illusion of being immersed in the artwork. And this is what Hyperplanes is all about.
Hyperplanes was never meant to be an ultra-interactive experience in a fictitious dimension, rather a hypertrophic glance into the canvas itself - a process of identification with the painter.
Therefore the challenge was barely technical, but human, emotional. It was all about maintaining the warmth, the haptic component of the original media, conveying the power of the brushstrokes, the vibrancy of the gesture, the integrity of the vision.
For the first time the viewer gets offered not only the point of view of the artist, but the exploration of a broader context of inspiration, that literally puts him in the middle of the experiential journey.