Artist Profile: Nick DeMarco

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have a significant body of work that makes use of or responds to network culture and digital technologies.

Nick DeMarco

You hop felicitously from medium to medium: sculptures, gifs, videos, fonts,T-shirts, tweets, products, furniture, and guerilla culture-jamming. I want to talk about your sensibility, which is identifiable throughout your different projects. I remember three descriptions that you yourself have used: "Transcendental banality," "Funky lil-ness" and "Dilbert on acid." They each point to something, so I thought we could riff on them a little, beginning with "Transcendental banality."

I've phased out "Transcendental banality" because it sounded kinda wanky, but it was really one of the first ways in which I tried to describe what I was doing. I came up with it early on in school, where I was interested in both art and design. Art was supposed to be this more transcendental thing—and a failure if it became banal. Design that became banal, however, was considered a success—so successful that it became ubiquitous. Now, the phrase seems a little trite because everyone is interested in "The mundane" in a very NPR kind of way. But for me, it wasn't so much about elevating the mundane in itself,but inserting myself into it and melting into it in my own way. I'm very much an opportunist in that the things around you are usually such wasted opportunities for the transcendent. That's kind of what I meant.

It seems you'd be unfazed without museums or galleriesnot that you're against them in any way, just that you'd be as comfortable or excited if a restaurant approached you to make their toothpick dispensers or if NPR asked for a ten minute Nick show. Or, to use a real example, like the "abstract" font you made, Inscrutable Regular, which produces doodles all over the screen as you type. It seemed like just one more opportunity for you, though I can't imagine it becoming a new standard in Switzerland.

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Artist Profile: Adriana Ramić

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have a significant body of work that makes use of or responds to network culture and digital technologies.

Adriana Ramić, The Return Trip is Never the Same (After Trajets de Fourmis et Retours au Nid, M. Victor Cornetz, 1910), 2014. Ebook, 82 pages. Installation view, Smart Objects, from the exhibition "Never cargo terminal has recently discovered the trembling hand of state secrets resounding oversold bounce child."

Lizzie Homersham: The work you exhibited in the recent show at Los Angeles' Smart Objects ("Never cargo terminal has recently discovered the trembling hand of state secrets resounding oversold bounce child," Jul 12 - Aug 8, 2014) was produced by retracing a series of ant pathways onto an Android Swype keyboard, then translating these movements into every available language. What prompted you to consider the smallest of animals in relation to your personal production of language on a smartphone?

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Artist Profile: Sascha Pohflepp

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The Supertask (Yesterday's Today), installed at LEAP, Berlin, January 2013

Your work displays an interest in the interplay between narrative and identity. How do those notions inform your practice? 

My interest there mainly originates in questions around myth and reality in regard to the development of new technologies, which all tend to have their proper narratives. Any such effort requires the expense of resources and as such has to be 'sold' to society in one way or the other. In the twentieth century this often happened for political ends whereas today arguably narratives of business are more dominant again. Technologies that originated in vast government projects have transitioned into something else. The Golden Institute from 2009 which is set in an alternate history 1980s America was the first project to have the question of the technological narrative at its center and also the first piece in which I worked with an actor. This was a conscious move that aimed to give this fictitious narrative an identity – in this case the strategist of a think-tank which develops and deploys fairly radical energy technologies. The character, Douglas Arnd, is loosely based on historical figures such as Herman Kahn, who was one of the first to point out the importance of narrative in regard to technology. In Forever Future from 2010 he was joined by another character, Robert Walker, who in a sense is the disillusioned customer of the dreams of the 1950s, yet refuses to let go of his dreams of life in space. As a reaction, he constructs a sort of earth-bound spaceship, helping those unfulfilled visions to survive while also hoping that this may be a cure for his own nostalgia for the futures that he never got to live. Both men's identities are probably fairly American, but ...

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Artist Profile: Jeff Baij

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It seems like artists who were actively making and showing their work online a few years ago have either started making objects and pursuing the familiar career path of the artist—gallery shows, teaching engagements, studio assistantships, grants, and so on—or they gave up and went into another field, like programming or web design. You haven’t done either of those things. You’re still making internet art. What’s that like?

its really weird brian

like really really weird

lemme give you a few reasons why my life has ended up like this, and also a few reasons why its weird

um i mean to be honest the first reason i dont show really is because being around gallery people for more than 5 or 10 minutes without being absolutely shitfaced is literally (Literally) in my top 3 least favorite things in the entire world.

teaching could be cool? i actually love the idea of molding (moulding?) young minds but how does one start this career path? maybe you can give me some pointers. even in an [ed.] if you'd like. [I think you’d have to get an MFA. But based on your answers I don’t think you’d like being in an MFA program. – BD]

assistantships are the same deal as showing- artists are gross, both mentally and physically (trust me on this, i am one) and i like making actual money

which brings me to why i dont make objects: im poor

so maybe i should apply for grants? is that how artists get money to work? i have no idea im really bad at the art thing, except that my work looks really nice and makes a lot of cute girls super happy.

ok so its weird because when im at an opening or out with new people they always say OH WHAT KIND OF ART DO U MAKE and i always say UHH I TAKE OTHER PEOPLES SHIT OFF THE WEB AND CHANGE IT A LITTLE BIT AND CALL IT ART and its awk my g, so awk.

another reason why its weird is because i get super wasted with a lot of like "cool" and "up and coming" artists on the regs and being the net guy/ coolest person in the room is like, pretty exhausting u know?

i just wanna use this space to say plz dont remove any of the swearing from the interview, ive waited a very very long time for this

also plz dont correct any spelling or punctuation, they arent mistakes (im just that cool)

also please leave the above note in the interview (also this one)

next!

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Artist Profile: Lance Wakeling

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A Tour of the AC-1 Transatlantic Submarine Cable (2011)

Your videos seem to borrow aspects from narrative filmmaking, the documentary format, amateur travelogues, and even at times experimental cinema. What genre(s) of filmmaking do you see yourself following or challenging?

Well, I don’t really see my videos as being film. One time I tweeted that as an artist I would never let my video work get transferred to film because too much would be lost. It was a joke, but I’m also serious. I mean, it’s hard not to be suspicious of a discipline that has a genre called “experimental.”

From the perspective of how the work is displayed, I feel my videos are not for the cinema. The movie theater flattens space and immobilizes the viewer. I like that people have to stand in a gallery, that they enter and leave the video at random times.

This is quite hypothetical, however, because in practice, most of my work is viewed online, where the artist has even less control.

In your videos you pull images and clips from a variety of sources including Google Street View, web-based image searches, and your own self-shot footage. Your videos range from twenty to thirty minutes in length. How do you structure this footage with the essays that make up your screenplay? How long does it take you to finish a video?

For Christmas my sister gave me an image from a brain scan she took of a human hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for short- and long-term memory and spatial navigation. The hippocampus looks like a sea horse and its etymology reflects this. The functions of the hippocampus intrigue me.

During the making of A Tour of the AC-1 Transatlantic Submarine Cable I researched each location extensively ...

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Artist Profile: Ed Atkins

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    Still from Warm, Warm, Warm Spring Mouths 2013, HD video with 5.1 surround, 13'. Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and Jerwood Visual Arts.

Your video installation Us Dead Talk Love, currently on view at MoMA PS1, makes use of hi-def and surround-sound technologies. How do you approach these in your video installation process? How did you approach the installation specifically for Chisenhale?

It's predicated on immersion, I suppose. An attempt to address the body whole, rather than privilege sight, hearing. This might begin with a redressing of the balance between ocular and aural, and pan down to take in the whole wobbling form, up to some emotional affect – the surround sound penetrating, the visuals interrupting and shifting themselves between depths of field and vast cosmic spaces; infinitesimal motes of dust. These technologies are corporeal in their totalising address, which I see as dichotomous to the material reality of the technology – which seems to be dissipated or perhaps simply deferred to some desperate mine in some OTHER continent. The combined effect being one of possession – the work finding its home entirely within the body of the audience.

You've spoken of the tension between text or writing and filmic realization in your work before. How did this tension come into play during the production of your work in Us Dead Talk Love? Was it exacerbated or sublimated by your chosen technologies?

If I had to choose, I'd say sublimated – though I think that it's more straightforwardly performative. The one to and of the other. New media as a home for these things. Whether that's somewhat apologetic for the a failure of these things to stand alone is moot, I hope.

You've mentioned before your exposure to Hollis Frampton. What influence did Frampton have on ...

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Artist Profile: Simone Giordano

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Bete, 2011 oil on canvas on board 5 pieces 25cm x 15cm

What do you feel is revealed in your utilization of rigid digital pixelated form in the medium of painting?

A constant in my oeuvre is my attempt to create works that have several layers of meaning, most of my choices are open to multiple interpretation and I think none of them are wrong. My paintings want to be the starting point for a thought rather than the embodiment of a thought. First of all, rigid digital pixelated forms attempt to create an order, give meaning to chaos, bring clarity and simplification. It is a tribute to the wonder of color, too, its power, its importance in our life. My colors in a pixelated grid most of the time represent objects, but only if you look at them from the right distance, as you move closer to them the only thing they portray are colors: how they work together and how they react between themselves, how they affect us and how we react with them. But those forms are also something that carries us back to the most synthetic, most artificial part of out lives. I refer, no matter how obsolete the definition, to the virtual sphere of our experience, a part of out lives now merged. It seemed like something I had to talk about.

You've stated that "Consoles, joysticks, cables and wires that litter the desks as a contemporary reinterpretation of the genre scene, aiming to capture the climax of the information society, to consider a digital alternative point of view and tell what lies behind his cold surface, because if you stop to it what we expect is just a miserable future." I wonder if you can talk a little bit about this miserable future ...

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Artist Profile: Flightphase

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Sniff interacting with viewers, debug view

Flightphase occupies a unique space as a design studio that creates artwork for the art world. It would be great if you could talk about Flightphase a little bit conceptually--how do you negotiate the space you occupy? The website says says Flightphase is "creating a unique design and format solution for any challenge"--how do those challenges differ and collide in the world of art and design?

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.  

One way to differentiate between design and art is that design challenges have to do with the ‘how‘ (i.e. how to achieve a given goal), and art challenges with the ‘what‘ (i.e. what is the goal).  If you think of design as a process, all artists are designers and good art is always well-designed.
The projects on which we are hired as a design studio normally call for a lot of formal exploration.  In the art projects, we mostly limit the visual language, because their focus is more conceptual.   We always carry what we learn in one into the other though ...

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Artist Profile: Nadim Abbas

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Cataract, site specific installation, dimensions variable, 2010

Your series "I Would Prefer Not To" consists of 22 photographs and action figures in vitrine, labeled based on disorders and psychoses. The series focuses on "men without qualities," males cut off from society by the Internet, videogames, and anime. What drew you to this subculture? Do you think of their withdrawal as a kind of decadence that accompanies historical and literary portrayals of societies on the brink of disaster?

Growing up in Hong Kong in the 80s & 90s, it was very easy for a boy to become immersed in the manga and anime that was being imported over here from Japan.  For this project, I was drawn to what is popularly known as “otaku” culture partly because of this childhood familiarity.  In Chinese, “otaku” is often translated as 宅 男, which although usually spoken in the same breath, actually carries very different connotations.  宅 is short for housing (complex), or tenement (block), and 男 means male.  The term thus describes the stereotype of the otaku as a socially inept male subject walled up in his apartment.  While this is a generalization of a more complex state of affairs, I do think there is a certain truth to the suggestion that otaku culture arose, or at least thrives within a uniquely urban context.  It’s difficult to imagine an otaku pursuing his/her hobby in a log cabin in the woods.  My concern with this work then was not why otaku do what they do, but rather, what kind of space allows this to happen?  It is as if the extremely dense accumulation of cramped interior spaces that characterize many Asian cities encourages a turning inward, or a vacuum of mental space itself. 

I hesitate to use the term decadent because of ...

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Artist Profile: David Kraftsow

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David Kraftsow's Vlog Artifacts, is featured this month on The Download.

Screenshot of At My Funeral, 2011

Much of your work involves recontextualizing a lot of YouTube and Twitter content. Through this rearranging and reorganizing you compose and assign new meaning to the often banal, unwittingly revealing always-growing archive of user-uploaded videos and status updates. User content here surpasses individual critique and instead is aesthetically reframed and sometimes even gamified under your curation.  What does it mean for you to work with the uploads of others? What can you say about the role of the curator in this process?

I'm not really sure if "curation" is the right word to describe my YouTube projects. While I do, on occasion, go out and hand-pick specific content for display (like for my fun cat video blog or Violet Flame supercut), most of the rest of my YouTube work is either the result of an autonomous script, or a user-initiated generator.

For example, I have a cron (autonomously executing process) running for my At My Funeral project that specifies search criteria for YouTube videos with comments that contain the phrase "at my funeral". The script has generated a database of (to date) 21,000+ videos that people want to have played in their honor after they die. 

Does this kind of algorithmic selection count as curation? The result can be really interesting and even kind of comedic. There is something hilarious to me about mechanically collecting every single "better than Bieber" YouTube comment ever written. But, beyond the initial specification of the program that does the collecting, it doesn't involve any of my creative/curatorial input at all. The content is selected and displayed automatically. 

If curation can simply involve the design and execution of such an algorithm, then the ...

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