Artist Profile: Mike Ruiz

Extended Bliss, 2010. Digital C-print

In many of your works (Blank is the New Blank, ReplacedExtensions, Auto-CAD Freestyle) you utilize chance operations to simultaneously demonstrate the creative successes and failures of software and technology.  The calculated spontaneity of generative systems such as the Content Aware Fill or the Roomba, become exposed through their capacity to adequately finish or begin an artwork.  Your works highlight the novelty of these systems and how they algorithmically output formal expression.  Could you speak more about this automative process and the motives behind working this way? 

 I am interested in automated improvisation. I design situations in which an artwork can take place. Often time what I am asking from the technology is something it is not intended to do. So there is a collaborative process between the automated tools I employ and myself.  I am interested in co-authoring works--arriving at traditional media such as drawing, painting, prints and sculpture0--with various consumer forms of artificial intelligence.  

In Replaced you use Content Aware Fill on the Mona Lisa. The resulting image contains not a modified software interpretation of the sitter but rather her entire absence from the scene.  Filling her place instead are assorted fragments of the background landscape; attempts made by the software to cohesively continue the vista; the portrait becoming a glitchy patterned landscape--though in a way 'failing' due to the lack of landscape found originally in the picture.  From the software finishing your gesture to the outsourcing of your image to China to be made an oil painting, there's a certain distancing, or alienation, found in both your making process and then carried out in its actual methods of production.  Besides the obvious dynamic of image to object to image again, what does it mean for you to outsource this image and have it be made into a painting? Is 'Replaced'  also just another attempt to historically continue the heavy mockery and modification this exhausted icon has endured? Is this your 'upgraded' version?

The work was produced as a painting for conceptual reasons. I was interested in manufacturing the painting in a similar form to that of the original, a 77 x 53 cm oil painting. I wanted to make a painting that could essentially replace the original, and therewith also replace the entire history and mythos of the icon, literally replace Mona Lisa both physically and conceptually. In a more expanded form this work is an application of the many-worlds theory, by creating a mythology about the work and providing potential alternative histories and futures.

Your Extensions series are first interesting because the Content Aware Fill that is applied actually works to fluently continue each images' surrounding space.  Within the series though I'm particularly interested in Extended Bliss and Extended Aurora. The default desktop images found on Windows and Mac computers are usually perfect, idealized, seemingly non-existent images of nature (Windows' classic saturated hill) or captured natural phenomena (Mac's Aurora Borealis).  Similar to the purpose of skeuomorphic design, nature here is meant to coax the user into a familiarized safe, 'authentic' space while also simultaneously using that familiarity to conflate and coat the product with a certain impossible utopian aura, demonstrating an infinite exaggeration of user/product possibility and compatibility. Extensions becomes the over indulgence, the overkill; the residue of the over consumer.   The scenes potentially extending forever if it were not for their fixed and paused existences as digital images / prints.  Why choose to 'end' them this way?  Is this done to hint at the banality of the Content Aware Filter's subtle 'extensions'?

 I like very simple ideas, beginning from the default, using the lowest common denominators or presets. What is the default situation for so many people? It is starring at a computer screen, and what are they looking at? The same image, Bliss, is probably the most widely recognized image of all time. What we see in Extended Bliss is an extension of this default from standard to panorama format. The idea was to just continue the piece to a feasible point. I didn't want it to look exaggerated. I wanted it to appear as a realistic image, one that could have been cropped to create the original. I wanted to engage with the mythos of the image, create an alternate reality where this image supercedes the original.

'Ugly is the New Fun', 'Geeks is the New Currency', 'Learning is the New Wine', 'Ginger is the New Vegan'.  These are just some of the snowclones that your website generates. 'X is the new Y', or 'Blank is the new Blank' is an expression that signifies a sudden, perhaps unexpected, rise in popularity amongst something.  However, with your website there is no logic per se to the phrasal template.  Because the phrases don't reflect any solidified reality, in that they don't actually represent any established cultural trends, they become immediately absurd and humorous, producing unforeseen linkages between concepts where literally anything is and becomes anything else.  Randomizing the flow and delivery of content within an Internet of filter bubbles, predetermined search destinations and targeted advertising is one strategy of prioritizing creative thinking today, which also just means finding value in play and experimentation (Fluxus).  Could you speak more about preserving and encouraging these aspects of non-productivity and randomness? Within art? Within your own practice? 

I think the work, although yielding random results, is quite productive. I don't equate randomness with non-productivity, quite the opposite. If the situation is designed to create random results, there can be a very specific reason for that. In this case, I was interested in the arbitrary nature of this phrasal template or snowclone, rather than exposing that fact already inherent in the structure of the language, I was interested in the chance moments where the new statements actually created new 'truths', more convincing or real than their originals, when the words line up and create something of political, factual, or comedic significance. Essentially the work is an infinite poem, constantly refreshing it's relationship to itself through the constant recombination of its elements.

You freestyle for nine minutes straight over a muted Oliver Laric Versions (2010) video.  Where in previous works you use CAF to literally fill a scene, in Versions Freestyle your stream of conscious rap is reduced to just that: a filler.  Where CAF tries to mathematically determine new space by interpreting surrounding content, you use the video's content, whatever is momentarily on screen, to feed, riff off of and contextualize.  Rapping here becomes another tool used to achieve constant engagement with content in an accelerated environment, while producing meaningful unexpected improvisations.  Lil' B does this too.  Can you tell me more about your relationship to hip-hop and rap?

I have been freestyle rapping since I was about 16, I can improvise well. I have been a big fan of hip-hop and rap for as long as I can remember. But I have always been attracted to freestyling in particular, I like the idea that something is formed in a very specific way in a very specific moment under very specific conditions, which will never be duplicated, pure thought verbalized. This work was actually birthed out of my relationship with Oliver, a friend and fellow freestyle rapper. This was a way to engage with his work on a very familiar level. I wanted to literally create a remix of versions. Here my improvised vocals illustrate one interpretation of the work.







How long have you been working creatively with technology? How did you start?

My dad always had a computer since I was like 5 or something and I just started drawing with kid pix. I guess that was my first creative encounter with technology.

Describe your experience with the tools you use. How did you start using them?

I usually see how something works, but rather than see it for what it can do rather than what it is intended to do. It then becomes a sort of game of experiment , putting things to work doing counter-intuitive tasks.

Where did you go to school? What did you study?

I went to a St. Edward's University in Austin, TX where I got my bachelors in philosophy. I am currently finishing my MFA in sculpture at the Berlin University of the Arts.

What traditional media do you use, if any? Do you think your work with traditional media relates to your work with technology?

Many traditional materials are used in the execution of my works. I am interested in reimagining possibilities for arriving at these media, approaching them from new angles. For example, create a drawing without actually drawing.

Are you involved in other creative or social activities (i.e. music, writing, activism, community organizing)?

Freestyle rapping and running Future Gallery.

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?

I teach English, edit texts, and sell work. I think all three activities have influenced my practice is someway or another.

Who are your key artistic influences?

Luigi Serafini, Thomas Ruff, Godfrey Reggio

Have you collaborated with anyone in the art community on a project? With whom, and on what?

I have collaborated with many of my peers through Future Gallery.

Do you actively study art history?

On a case by case basis.

Do you read art criticism, philosophy, or critical theory? If so, which authors inspire you?

Sure, it varies from project to project. I am into Plato, Alain Badiou and Paul Virilio. I am currently reading Daniel Birnbaum’s Chronology.

Are there any issues around the production of, or the display/exhibition of new media art that you are concerned about?