We started Flightphase by presenting our artworks in a design context -- to a design audience and a design market. As a result, the projects we were engaged for were usually some kind of hybrid of design and art including art commissions, and we're hoping it's going to shift even further in the art direction. This probably speaks more about the state of the art-design tension and about the artworld’s changing attitude towards design -- what used to be seen as the ‘inferior’ art form has gained new respect, as evidenced by shows such as Talk to Me. New media practice in general seems to engender the attitude that its necessary focus on formal and functional considerations doesn’t preclude a high concept.
Beyond an ethic of collaboration, how has being a group of artists operating as Flightphase helped facilitate the creation of your work?
Overall, it probably makes our projects less medium-driven and more concept-driven: not being limited to the set of one own’s skills makes you think less about what you can do, and more about what you want to do. On the other hand though, you also tend to be seduced by what somebody just peeled back for you in terms of technical possibilities.
The fact that we have to communicate well with each other makes us articulate our assumptions about what we’re thinking and doing, and that becomes part of the vocabulary of how we think and talk about our work, so a kind of shared knowledge is always a by-product of collaborative projects.
A lot of your work uses new media tech to converse with environmental concerns (Puff, Forth, Wildlife). How does the capacity of the mediums you use to create such immersive environments affect your handling of natural phenomena?
Likewise, projection has the idea of disappearance and ephemerality literally built into it, and so in Wildlife, it can easily evoke the idea of being surrounded by absence of animals. Because it is made out of light, projection has qualities that other more concrete formats can’t have. It is a nocturnal medium, and I love the fact that darkness makes us rely on what we remember or what we infer -- both of which are in a large part products of our imagination, distorted and inaccurate. Projecting the imaginary into such half-perceived, half-imagined space makes it seem more believable.
More conceptually speaking, nature and technology are a pair that has always existed in tension. Humans have made their tools and technology to deal with nature: to understand it, to protect ourselves from it, to conquer it. Now we’re looking to technology for the solution to the environmental crisis. So it is natural to use technology to speak of nature too. In fact we already see nature through the lens of our current technologies. It’s no accident that in the age of computing we see nature as a dynamic emergent system that unfolded from a set of initial conditions following a set of given rules. The concept of what nature is changes with our understanding of ‘how things work’, and what’s our own primary framework for making things work.
Puff is a tool that, like a plow or axe, defines our relationship to nature on a very practical level, marking our current concept of it. It also talks about the private and the public -- the ethics of personal choices in the light of social pressures -- leveraging technology in a social context. A tool for self-regulation and self-surveillance, is, like other experiments in openness, at the same time comforting and constraining.
How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?
Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them? Where did you go to school? What did you study?
Between us we have been educated at SAIC, Calarts, and University of Washington’s DXARTS and CS programs, in fine arts, experimental animation, digital media and computer science. A lot of the tools we know came from what we have learned at school. Equally a lot came from having to pick up the tools for the kind of projects we had in mind.
What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?
What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously? Do you think this work relates to your art practice in a significant way?
Previously we’ve worked as designers, animators, editors and developers for various kinds of productions.
Who are your key artistic influences?
Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?
Do you actively study art history?
Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?
Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?
The biggest issue however is still that new media tends to be 'ghettoized' in its new media world rather than seen as part of the normal artworld and design landscape.