Creativity and paralysis: the digital art scene in Argentina

Cristian Reynaga is a curator of new media art based in Buenos Aires (Argentina). With a background in electronic arts and cultural industries, he has developed numerous curatorial projects in Argentina and Colombia and has led governmental initiatives focused on science, technology, and society, as well as commercial projects for brands such as Nike, Pepsi and Unilever. In 2015 he founded +CODE Cultura Digital, an independent cultural organization promoting an international festival on digital culture.

As part of a collaboration between Niio and +CODE, Reynaga has curated the artcast Post-Production, within the series +SUR, focusing on artists from Latin America. In this exclusive three-question interview, he draws a general picture of the digital art scene in Argentina.

Still from Observation Machine 1(2021) by Julian Brangold

1. How would you describe the digital art scene in Argentina?

The digital art scene in Argentina is located in what I would define as cultural periphery: it develops independently, not only facing the economic crises that already identify us as a country, but also the precariousness of cultural institutions in general, and specifically the lack of development of the digital art ecosystem: there are no cultural spaces, galleries, or specialized collectors and there is an absence of managers and public or private officials who are interested in reliably promoting artistic projects linked to digital culture. 

However, talented artists have been dealing with this scene for decades, accustomed to creating without a budget, to experimenting with limited access to technologies and to the lack of spaces that encourage collaboration or the dynamization of the sector, which is necessary to stimulate the emergence of new artists and new projects. In addition to this great effort from the artistic sector, it is worth highlighting the sustained interest of research groups that have accompanied this diagnosis from different study centers.

The crypto art and marketplace boom has had a great impact on the artistic community: for many it has become the main source of income, for others it has meant the first experience of economic retribution for their artistic work in their entire lives, and for others, an acceleration in their artistic projection. Some of them have begun to be exhibited in international galleries and museums while in Argentina they’ve had no opportunities to enter the art scene. This has generated an asymmetry between trajectory and relevance that is very interesting to analyze: it reveals both the dynamics and paralysis of our particular art scene. It can be said that Argentina is, at the same time, scorched earth and also a very fertile soil with enormous talent that should be taken into account for the insertion of new modalities of creation or international collaboration.

Online distribution is creating new audiences with a specific interest in digital art and allows creators to project themselves as artists within a circuit that supports them.

2. Are there networks of collaboration between Latin American countries in the field of digital art?

There are collaborative networks, but they are informal and based on voluntarism, which is a word that has been a recurring theme in discussions over the last few decades as a vector that explains why regional communities of digital artists and alternative institutions or organizations have not disappeared. The desire to share experiences and sustain bonds of interest and professional affection continues to overcome the social context.

At the Latin American level, possible alliances fail to develop due to a lack of interest in sustaining them at the institutional level, both public and private. There are exceptions, such as the governments of Chile and Colombia, which, from their respective governmental organizations, have carried out internationalization actions in relation to digital culture, but which do not prosper due to the lack of collaboration from their peers in other countries, as is the case of Argentina. Our country does not respond in the same way to attempts at internationalization and collaboration. However, there are certain contributions from European countries (Spain, France and the United Kingdom) that manage to deploy certain initiatives but with little real impact, or at least little real impact on Argentinean soil. I believe that this is due to the lack of interlocutors capable of managing the Argentinean scenario.

Still from delta (2021) by Mateo Amaral

3. The pandemic has led us to connect more to our screens. Do you think that online distribution has benefited Latin American artists?

Without a doubt it has given artists something basic and fundamental: interest in their production. The paralysis of the local and national scene, strengthened by decades of precarious actions, has become even more visible when compared to the new online markets: a growing number of platforms have appeared that favor circulation and provide artists with the opportunity to become part of global communities. Online distribution is creating new audiences with a specific interest in digital art and allows creators to project themselves as artists within a circuit that supports them.

Quantum Memories by Refik Anadol

Quantum Memories is Refik Anadol’s most technically and conceptually ambitious work to date. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria, the work explores the opportunities presented by artificial intelligence, machine learning and quantum computing to visualise an everchanging large-scale immersive multimedia artwork.

Installation view of Refik Anadol Quantum Memories 
On display in NGV Triennial 2020 from 19 December 2020–18 April 2021 
At NGV International, Melbourne
© Refik Anadol Photo: Tom Ross

New media artist Refik Anadol has created a body of work that locates creativity at the intersection of humans and machines. His site-specific parametric data sculptures, live audio/visual performances and immersive installations take many forms, while encouraging us to rethink our engagement with the physical world, its temporal and spatial dimensions, and the creative potential of the machine.
In Quantum Memories 2020 Anadol is harnessing a dataset drawn from over two hundred million images linked to nature from publicly available internet resources and processed using quantum computing with machine learning algorithms. Anadol’s work uses the data to speculate an alternate dimension of the natural world as a complex cultural entity with memory.

Installation view of Refik Anadol Quantum Memories 
On display in NGV Triennial 2020 from 19 December 2020–18 April 2021 
At NGV International, Melbourne
© Refik Anadol Photo: Tom Ross

The first true quantum artwork created, Anadol’s arresting visuals and accompanying audio are composed in collaboration with a generative algorithm enabled by AI. In taking the data that flows around us as his primary material and the neural network of a quantum mind as his collaborator, Anadol paints with a thinking brush offering us radical visualisations of our digitised memories of the natural realm.
By representing the complexity of our collective memory in the largest digital artwork staged by the NGV, the artist encourages us to imagine the beginning of a quantum computerised mind and its immense potential for the future of art and design.

Refik Anadol Quantum Memories on display in NGV Triennial 2020 from 19 December 2020 – 18 April 2021 at NGV International, Melbourne.

Innovation Fusion: Art x Technology

A discussion that is focusing on the Intersection of Art and Technology with keynote speakers, renowned artist innovator, Janet Echelman and Rob Anders, Co-founder and CEO of Niio, an Israeli startup company holding one of the biggest names in “new media art” and aspires to become the Spotify of visual art. The conversation also includes an update about how the tech eco-systems in both Florida and Israel are thriving despite the pandemic. Jamal Sowell, Florida Secretary of Commerce and the President & CEO of Enterprise Florida provides updates on Florida’s tech ecostyem and Ori Kaufman-Gafter, Head of International and Tech banking at Bank Leumi USA, provides insights on how the Israeli tech ecosystem weathered the pandemic. Keeping with FIBA’s tradition of featuring success stories of Israeli companies thriving in Florida, this year’s event featured Israeli company, Aviv Clinics, that recently launched its hyperbaric clinic in The Villages. David Globig, CEO of Aviv Clinics explains why Aviv chose Florida as its first site outside of Israel and how the technology works.

Claudia Hart: The Ruins

Solo Exhibition at bitforms gallery, NYC // Powered by Niio

September 10–October 25, 2020

View The Ruins online, presented on Mozilla Hubs

The Ruins implements still lifes, the classical form of a memento mori, to contemplate the decay of western civilization. In this exhibition, Hart revises the canons of modernist painting and the manifestos of failed utopias. Exhibited works are meditations on the flow of history, expressed as a cycle of decay and regeneration. The Ruins is an antidote to a world in crisis, navigating from a Eurocentric paradigm of fixed photographic capture into a reality of malleable and inherently unstable computer simulations and systemic collapse. The exhibition presents a different notion of time, a present that viewers experience through the possibility of simulation technologies that use scientific data to model natural forces, the crystallization of past, future and present into a perpetual now.

The Ruins , the central artwork from which the exhibition gains its title, is an audiovisual animation tracking through a claustrophobic game world from which there is no escape. As the three-channel maze unravels, Hart introduces her newest interpretation of still lifes—low polygon models. These models, hearkening to the idea of a poor copy or image popularized by Hito Steryl, are computer-made replications of copyright-protected paintings. Taken from works by Matisse and Picasso, patriarchs of the Modernist canon, these forms cover The Ruins in flirtatious copyright infringement. Copyright marks the beginning of Modernism as a response to the emerging technology of photography. Music composed by Edmund Campion furthers the ethos of modernism through the tactical mixing of failed Utopian ideologies: Thomas Jefferson On American Liberty ; The Bauhaus Manifesto by Walter Gropius; Fordlandia , Henry Ford’s failed suburban rubber plantation in the Amazon rainforest; and Jim Jones’s sermon, The Open Door . Campion has processed and mixed each recording read by the artist, using Hart’s voice as an instrument that serves as the soundtrack to both the animation and the exhibition itself.

The Still Life With Flowers by Henri Fantin-Latour exists as a three-dimensional sculptural object made from walnut, bleached basswood, and maple, with blossoms in burnished resin. It is a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy—and therein lies its unique character. Hart created this work first through production with a computer model, developed in fastidious imitation of the 1881 original. She then transitioned the digital rendering to a physical object with a CNC router and rapid-prototype printer. Later returning to the model, she dissolved the source into a low polygon model to be placed within The Ruins . Together in the exhibition, the poor copy and sculptural form incite an allegory on the passage of time, decay, and obsolescence.

The third component in The Ruins is Hart’s custom augmented wallpapers. Borrowing motifs that also appear inside her animations, the artist telescopes time and space from her virtual world to real life. Using The Ruins App , visitors can see animations embedded in the wallpaper that combine written allegories, animated abstract patterns, and heraldries of collapsed corporate empires, made visible only through the camera of a smart device.

The final part of this exhibition comes as a series of three monumental animations, The Orange Room, Green Table, and Big Red . In continuation of her study of copyright-protected twentieth-century painting, these video animations were prompted by the significant collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and her work there as a professor at the School of the Art Institute. Hart imports the compositional structures of The Red Paintings by Henri Matisse to propose a paradigm shift in painting practice, creating monumental animations at real painting scale. These works are constructed as images-within-images, architectures that open onto windows and doors, and lead into simulated landscapes bestowed with animated paintings, carpets and wallpapers. The digital, pictorial clockworks turn at different rates and temporal schemes to mesmerize viewers, ushering them into a state of contemplation.

Music and software programming for the custom algorithmic sound engine by Edmund Campion, Director, Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, UC Berkeley. Original spoken voice recording by Claudia Hart. This piece utilizes the CNMAT “Resonators~” synthesis object designed by Adrian Freed. Special thanks to Jeremy Wagner and CNMAT for support with sound installation.

The Ruins is live as a virtual exhibition for Mozilla Hubs, designed and supported by Matthew Gantt. It is featured in Ars Electronica ’s 2020 festival hub, along with a video interview with Claudia Hart about the project.

Screens generously provided by Samsung. Video powered by NIIO.

Founded in 2001, bitforms gallery represents established, mid-career, and emerging artists critically engaged with new technologies. Spanning the rich history of media art through its current developments, the gallery’s program offers an incisive perspective on the fields of digital, internet, time-based, and new media art forms. For press inquiries, please contact [email protected] or call (212) 366-6939.

Interview with Dev Harlan, the winner of Samsung The Wall x Niio Art Awards

Dev Harlan works in sculpture, installation and digital media. He has exhibited in solo and group shows internationally, including “Noor” at the Sharjah Art Museum, the New Museum’s “Ideas City” and the Singapore Light Festival. He has completed residencies at the Frank Lloyd Wright School Of Architecture and the School Of Visual Arts. He is a self educated artist with a studio practice founded on experience, self directed study and curiosity. 

As the winner of Samsung The Wall x Niio Art Award, Dev Harlan provides insight into his artistic practice and direction and the background of the Areo Gardens Series.

What We’re Reading Now: The Rise of Moving Image Art

As the current pandemic has forced many cultural events and spaces to close their doors, consumer appetite for online experiences has been booming. The unexpected situation is ushering in a golden age of virtual media, making good on the initial promise of digital, while offering new life and unprecedented access to some of the world’s cultural touchstones, some previously financially or physically inaccessible. While the world largely remains physically isolated, digital media is offering a bridge to an exciting range of experiences.

Discover what Forbes, The Guardian, Spear’s Magazine and others have to say on how moving image art is experiencing a breakthrough.

Art Credit: Joe Hamilton, Cézanne Unfixed

A Rising Demand For Video Art Redefines The Gallery Business

Originally published by Forbes

During the days of the global COVID pandemic, video art was suddenly everywhere: from major industry headlines to local news reports. The most expensive living artist, David Hockney has created video art for Telegraph Magazine while in lockdown in France. In North Carolina, Ian Berry artist presented a public video art piece celebrating the region’s textile heritage and essential service workers. As museums rushed to upgrade their virtual programming, the digitally-native art has been finally gaining momentum…

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‘It’s great if you’re bored with Netflix’: video art flourishes in lockdown

Originally published by The Guardian

Shana Moulton with Nick Hallett Act one from Whispering Pines 10, 2016. video-still Photograph: Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Gregor Staiger, Zurich

Video Art is experiencing a breakthrough- which started even before coronavirus quarantined culture online. “Coronavirus pandemic has made video art the most essential and accessible art form” – Barbara London, The former MoMA video art curator. As the art world has adapted to the reality of the pandemic lockdown with online exhibitions, video artworks started occupying the space once filled by physical exhibitions. Moving image art is flourishing…

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In Unusual Move, Top Collector Julia Stoschek Makes Essential Video Art Available for Free Online

Originally published by Artnews

Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Büsi, 2001.COURTESY THE ARTISTS

Few collectors have placed as great an emphasis on moving-image art as Julia Stoschek.  Julia has amassed more than 850 works that include many of the most important films, videos, and digital works of the past 50 years. With most of the art world moving online during the COVID closures, the German collector has taken some of her holdings digital too. “From the very beginning, film and video were driven by a democratic impulse and ideas of circulation that were supposed to enable access to art on a wider scale,” Stoschek told ARTnews

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Tired of Netflix? Stream experimental film and video art

Originally published by Hyperallergic

From That which identifies them like the eye of the Cyclops (2015), dir. Beatriz Santiago Muñoz (image courtesy the filmmaker)

The multidisciplinary artist Kate Lain started a simple Google spreadsheet called “Cabin Fever” in the hopes of gathering links to experimental films she could send to her students once classes were moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lain divided her “playlist” into sections, such as “For when you need to laugh or smile,” “For when you wanna sing & dance,” and even “For when you just want to scream or break something.” In less than two weeks, Lain’s spreadsheet has grown to include hundreds of experimental films and artists’ moving image works from around the world…

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Introducing ‘art for the digital age’

Originally published by Spear’s Magazine

“We live in a digital age, defined by technology and the growth of the online world, and that is altering the way we experience art. Increasingly, it means film and software have become the paint, the screen has become the canvas and a new destination for art…” – Rob Anders, Co-founder & CEO at Niio

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