Matteo Zamagni: interrelations: nature/technology

Roxanne Vardi

Matteo Zamagni is a multi-disciplinary artist who works across the visual arts, electronic music, multimedia installations, and film production. Using analytical geoscientific tools, VR/AR/MR, real-time generative imaging, photogrammetry, and CGI techniques Zamagni explores the complexities of the different crises that define our contemporary age and society. Zamagni’s artistic production is characterized by the exposure of the interrelations between nature and technology through machine-driven visual artworks.

Matteo Zamagni is represented by Gazelli Art House, and has exhibited works at international exhibitions and festivals such as the Barbican Centre, V&A Digital Futures, and Torino Film Festival. In conjunction with the release of Matteo Zamagni’s artcast on Niio titled Experiences of Synchrony we spoke with him about his artistic practice, and his work on the project titled “Unison” for Paraadiso, the new audiovisual collaborative project from producer TSVI, and visual artist and producer Seven Orbits. The audio-visual artworks included in this artcast induce altered states by presenting works which are played out as hypnotic journeys of sound and visuals.

Many of your video works include a sound element as a fundamental focal point. Could you please elaborate on your ongoing exploration of combining the visual and the auditory?

Music has always been a driving force for my works since a very early stage; over the years I have been working with many musicians and producers collaborating on music videos, short films, live visuals and installations, and more recently after delving into music production myself I began exploring real-time audio-visual experiences through the following projects ‘seven orbits’ and ‘Paraadiso’ which were released on Shanghai-based record label SVBKVLT. Through these projects I wanted to develop a tool that seamlessly connected Film, CGI and Audio into a real-time, audio-reactive and interactive environment, where logic systems connect and bridge communication between multiple softwares, informing one another. The project Paraadiso, created in collaboration with TSVI marks the first goal towards the realization of such a tool. This system is autonomous yet can function alongside user input, in this sense, it combines light and sound together using an ecosystem of softwares that enables seamless communication and interaction between the 3D/2D environment and the soundscapes. This approach opens up a sea of possibilities in the creation of real-time video and 3D-based content fully synchronized and triggered via sound, resulting in highly dynamic, ever-changing works. Moreover I can see a lot of potential in creating highly stimulating works which could lead the viewer into deeper states of consciousness.

In the near future, I’m hoping to expand this body of work into a 1-hour long CGI film combining my music production as seven orbits together with CGI shots created inside a game engine.

Matteo Zamagni, Unison – 02, 2022.

As the title suggests, your audiovisual collaborative project Unison, aims to create a communal energy as a collective physical experience. What is it that you would like your viewers to gain from this experience?

While we were making the album we were fascinated by how the combination of light and sound in a space would influence the people inside of it; heightening the senses and sometimes, given the right circumstances, conveying a sense of relatedness and care for one another. Human interaction is profoundly social, our everyday life does not take place in isolation but constantly requires our engagement with other people. This feeling of relatedness, reciprocal care and collectivity, is rare and not normally experienced on a day-to day basis especially among strangers and in big cities; The Project Unison references sacred functions and rituals by indigenous populations globally. In ceremonies, it is common to find elements of sound, light, dance and singing which would sometimes throw people into a heightened state of consciousness, sometimes even transcendental. There’s also a strong sense of community and interrelatedness felt within those groups, not only between humans but across the living kingdom, including other animals, plants, biomes and the cosmos.

Many of your artworks are created through a combination of different imaging tools and techniques such as AR, generative imaging, CGI techniques, analytical geoscientific tools and many more? Could you walk us through this complex working process of bringing these elements together into one final piece?

Since I have been quite fluid from an early age I naturally developed a diverse toolset which I reflected in my approach to navigating my diverse interests. Working with technology has deepened my knowledge and skillset by granting me access to accessible tools and resources that could be applied to a wide range of outputs spanning across augmented, virtual and mixed reality to projection mapping, live visuals, virtual production, Interactive Installations, and traditional screen-based work. The creation of a work in my case, is usually aided, informed and mediated by technology; As initial ideas start to materialize they morph and shift based on the environment they’re being developed in.

Matteo Zamagni, Unison – 06, 2022.

You have stated that you would like your works to contribute meaningfully to the broader field of environmental activism. In your opinion, what is it about the use of digital tools that can assist us in critically exploring complex planetary issues?

I am incredibly fascinated by the crossover of tools from computer graphics with forensic investigation or geoscientific surveys. Nowadays thanks to the accessibility of software for physics simulations of fluids, sounds, rigid bodies coupled with photogrammetry 3D reconstructions, and publicly available databases online the tools that are commonly used in a VFX pipeline can be ported into a forensic investigative studio. To critically and methodically reconstruct events of various types: from climate-related disasters to cases of social injustice. Inversely you could use geoscientific tools normally used in scientific surveys as a base to develop creative ideas.

Further along this line lies the combination of the ever-increasing power of GPUs (hardware initially designed for CGI) coupled with AI and machine learning, bringing unimaginable leaps forwards in virtually every existing industry but especially crucial in tackling the ecological crisis. What  used to take years to simulate now takes minutes.

Matteo Zamagni, Unison – 01, 2022.

Many of the sound elements in your works resemble alterations of microscopic sounds which would be heard out in nature such as a caterpillar cracking out of its cocoon. How are these sounds accumulated?

It’s funny that you mention this, it probably came out completely unconsciously. This reminds me of foley recording, a technique used in cinema to recreate the sound of things as well as SFX by recording the sounds of seemingly unrelated objects which allude to the original sound. I can see some similarities between foley and the creation of sounds in our album; Even though we mostly created the sounds digitally rather than physically. Our sample library consists of various techniques spanning digital synthesizers, granular synthesis, and distorted samples.

Disrupting flows: Museum of Glitch Aesthetics

Pau Waelder

Mark Amerika’s Museum of Glitch Aesthetics (MOGA), commissioned in 2012 by Abandon Normal Devices for the London Olympics, brings together a series of artworks created between 2005 and 2012 that explore the creative and aesthetic possibilities of glitch through various media. Amerika, with a group of collaborators that included Aaron Angello, Saoirse Crean, Mary Fé, Will Luers, Ruth McCullogh, Chad Mossholder, Julie Rooney, Rick Silva, Joel Swanson, and Steve Wade, among others, set up this fictional institution devoted to the work of The Artist 2.0, an equally fictional character whose oeuvre is profusely described and analyzed in a 73-page catalog that not only elaborates a complete profile of the artist, but also suggests critical reflections on digital culture, the IT industry, and the art world.

Ten years after its creation, MOGA comes to Niio in the form of a selection of six key artworks from the museum, and the following review of the work of The Artist 2.0, which participates in the fiction created by Mark Amerika and his collaborators.

Still from Lake Como Remix (2012)

Image compression

In 2005, The Artist 2.0 presented in an exhibition titled Pixelmash, in the Northwest of England, a series of animated GIFs, a (now lost) internet art work, and a digital video projection, all of which referred to the practice of appropriation and remix, so dear to early net art practitioners. The GIFs, part of the .gif(t) economy series (2005-2006), featured pixelated excerpts of early works of video art, photographs of pop stars, and paintings by Goya in dizzying loops that some would now identify as the work of a post-Internet artist or a cryptoart OG. These works already spoke of The Artist 2.0’s interest in the condition of the digital image in its online distribution: the image as a file that is constantly reused and re-contextualized, and more importantly, compressed. 

Image compression formats were initially developed for the first digital cameras, but became crucial to the development of online content in the 1990s and have been popular ever since. Even recently, in 2021, Beeple’s infamous artwork Everydays: the first 5,000 days, which was sold at auction for $69.3 million, has been criticized for using the lossy compression format JPEG instead of the lossless PNG. While file formats can be said to have become part of our digital culture, they were particularly important for artists putting their work online in the 1990s, as they had to deal with the limitations of a 56kbps dial-up modem and create highly compressed images and 256-color animated GIFs. Pixelated images and fast-paced loops of grainy photographs or video sequences became an integral part of the aesthetics of early Internet art. 

“I was one of the first artists of my generation who self-consciously bought a shitty mobile phone with first generation video recording technology embedded in it and just went, «Wow, that looks totally fucked up and I love it. This is better than painting.»”

The Artist 2.0

Before the dot-com bubble and the fascination for the new millennium brought a fleeting attention to Internet art that had major art institutions such as the Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, or TATE Modern acquiring web-based artworks, net art was identified with a renegade attitude towards the art world. It proclaimed the possibility of bypassing the gatekeepers and hierarchies of the art world 1.0 by using the web as an uncharted territory in which everything was possible and the roles of the actors could be reimagined. However, its proponents knew of the utopian nature of this proposition, as they knew that the art world 2.0 would still be ruled by institutions, corporations, and institutional corporations, and dominated by ever more sophisticated technologies and systems of data transmission. The pixelated image, in this sense, was also a form of rebellion, as well as a nostalgic reminder of a time when the resources were limited and the web was free, as in free speech and free beer.

Mobile Beach, 2007

Better than painting

It is believed that The Artist 2.0 studied art in the Northwest of England, probably at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of the University of Lancaster. There he created his first mobile phone videos, taking images from his surroundings in industrial zones and the Morecambe bay, and posting photos in a primitive blog. Both the photos and videos presented glitches, consciously created by recording while performing violent movements or riding a vehicle, in order to overwhelm the device with too much data to process. The result, as can be seen in Mobile Beach (2007), presents interesting similarities with color field painting, which The Artist 2.0 surely noticed as they titled some of the photographs obtained with this technique “A Painting that Speaks for Itself.” The Artist 2.0 was also interested in linking these glitched images to street art, as can be seen in several photographs of walls, addressing a reiterated connection between digital art and street art as those rogue practices that do not have a place in mainstream contemporary art. “I was attracted to much lower tech versions of glitch before anyone was really paying attention to it,” states The Artist 2.0, asserting their pioneering role. “I was one of the first artists of my generation who self-consciously bought a shitty mobile phone with first generation video recording technology embedded in it and just went, «Wow, that looks totally fucked up and I love it. This is better than painting.»”

While The Artist 2.0 refers in this quote to the radical and controversial proposition of presenting a glitched image as equal or even superior to a color field painting, there is actually something more interesting taking place in the creation of glitch art. As philosopher Boris Groys once stated, a digital image does not exist by itself, but needs to be performed, to be seen, just as a musical score must be played to be heard. The image file contains information that the device interprets to display it as a visual output, and here Groys points out that “every performance is an interpretation and every interpretation is a betrayal, a misuse.” Therefore, the way we perceive digital images, as the equivalent of printed photographs, celluloid negatives, or paintings, is misleading. The digital image is always the result of an interpretation, and glitched images reveal this hidden truth. Ironically, in this manner the glitched photos taken by The Artist 2.0 do have a lot in common with color field painting, as both types of artworks deny the image its role as an illusory reality.  

Lake District Walks: Code Mosh, 2007-2008

Walk the walk

The Lake District Walk series represents a later phase in The Artist 2.0’s work that stems from their early experiments with a shitty mobile phone. Here the mere recording of a video while walking in the countryside becomes an act of artistic creation as the device is once again overwhelmed by the amount of data to be processed, given the combination of movement and the varied and complex shapes that a natural environment has to offer. Several other elements come into play: the egocentric nature of recording an uneventful moment in one’s life, so much in line with the self-centered attitude that was starting to become the norm in early web 2.0 society; the first-person perspective, made popular by FPS video games; and finally the antagonistic relationship between nature and technology that has lead a growing segment of the world’s population to abandon the countryside and live in cities, where there is abundant wifi and plugs to charge their mobile devices, only to return during weekends to record boring videos and share them on social media. 

“The flow of data, the water of information, is continuous, and I am a multilayered part of the mix. The flow does not ever really need me, but I totally need it. It roots me. It channels my creativity in ways I have no control over.”

The Artist 2.0

Videos like Lake District Walks: Code Mosh (2007-2008) illustrate this phase with a combination of the “color field painting” effect of previous works and a new and more interesting “dragging” effect which takes place when a camera movement forces the device to quickly refresh the image, resulting in a delay that has portions of it frozen and awkwardly dragged to a new position. This effect, crudely achieved in this manner, will inspire future generations of artists, such as Davide Quayola, who has achieved it in a controlled manner through sophisticated image recognition techniques. As will be discussed further, the Lake District walks are by no means a simple method to generate glitches through camera movements and a highly textured environment: the act of walking and the exploration of a non-urban space have a particular meaning that will be made apparent in The Artist 2.0’s later work.

It is worth mentioning in this phase a rara avis, a mysterious undated video whose authorship might be questioned, were it not for its undoubtable similarities with Mobile Beach and its clear influence in the following phases of The Artist 2.0’s oeuvre. Glitch Lake is a separate work that does not consist of recording a walk, but staying put while pointing the camera at a mass of water bathed in the afternoon sun. The gentle ripples caused by the waves and the scintillating reflection of the sun are enough to cause a wide variety of glitches in the otherwise static image. This is a smart move by The Artist 2.0, who finds out that it is not necessary to move the camera around. It is enough to choose a subject that is in constant motion, yet not changing its position: water becomes an ideal generator of glitched videos.

Glitch Lake

Dérives

Before we get to the title of this article, let’s take a detour, or better a dérive. The Artist 2.0 took a turn in his artistic research, caught by the unavoidable appeal that Google products have had on digital artists over the last two decades. Interested in the creative possibilities of Google Earth, he created several artworks, among which the popular Lake Como Remix (2012), a recording of a live VJ session in which The Artist 2.0 explored a road that runs along Lake Como in Italy, exploiting the glitches produced by their erratic navigation. In this virtual dérive, The Artist 2.0 enacts a “walk” in a virtual space composed of a 3D model mapped with photographs and drawn in real time by a software collecting data from the Internet. An obvious, and endless, source of glitches, it becomes an ideal tool for visual experimentation while suggesting a critique of the way our perception of the world is now mediated by the products of a large corporation. Unlike other artworks that address similar glitches, such as Clement Valla’s also widely popular Postcards from Google Earth (2010), the Lake Como video can be logically connected to the Situationists’ practice of dérive, which can be described as aimlessly walking through the city in order to understand its structure and “be drawn by the attractions of the terrain,” as Guy Debord would put it. The Artist 2.0 consciously goes in circles, explores the tunnels and abruptly turns the camera towards the lake to reveal the visual tricks created by the software and the fragile scaffolding on which the whole virtual environment depends. 

Lake Como Remix, 2012

The importance of this dérive, or the act of moving, particularly when comparing this work to those of Valla and others, will be even more relevant in later works by The Artist 2.0. At this point, it is important to mention that Google Earth brings in an even more effective way of using the glitch to question the validity of the image as an illusion of reality. The landscape of Lake Como never succeeds in fooling the viewer: unlike previous videos in which a real image is glitched, here there is no reality to start with. “[T]he image never really has time to become an image in this environment,” states The Artist 2.0, “It’s more like what I call image information or visual codework. It’s something that’s always in process and always being processed by the receiver.” The Artist 2.0 forces Google Earth to veer off its path and participate in a dérive that will never take it to its intended destination. Lost in a cul-de-sac, the software reveals the process behind a simulation that has become powerless.

Disrupting flows

Glitch Lake had shown how water created glitches, but there was more to extract from the idea of flows. The HD Streaming series plays with the requirements of a high definition video, so common in our daily consumption of news and entertainment, which has in turn created the need for higher bandwidth connectivity, wherever we are. The videos are again captured in natural environments and in some cases streamed over the Internet from the mobile phone, conceptually connecting the water streams with the flows of data that enable reproducing the video somewhere else. The Water of Information (Data Flow Capture #36) is an outstanding example of this series: the camera is fixed on a small stream, water flowing down between ferns and bushes. The scene reminds of the view from a public webcam or the fake flowing river photographs one might encounter in certain restaurants. As a video, it is only interesting because the glitches caused by the water disrupt the whole image: it trembles and stretches, and at times it becomes a cascade of pixels, an abstract composition of vertical green lines. As The Artist 2.0 themselves put it, the concept of flow is central to their work: “The flow of data, the water of information, is continuous, and I am a multilayered part of the mix. The flow does not ever really need me, but I totally need it. It roots me. It channels my creativity in ways I have no control over.”

The Water of Information

Adrift in this flow, The Artist 2.0 escapes our gaze and his brief but seminal contribution to the History of Art in one last dérive. Circling back to their origins, The Artist 2.0 remixes a previous artwork, one of the Lake District Walks, which now appears in a split screen next to a virtual recreation of the same video, rendered in a 3D game engine. Titled Getting Lost (The Long Dérive) (2012) this last artwork is an obvious reference to the work of artist Richard Long and the Situationists, in what can be considered typical of a phase of maturity in an artist’s work, when one looks back at the old masters not to kill them, but to acknowledge them. Notably, in this artwork the video is not glitched: technology has now achieved a stable and reasonably well-defined moving image. It is, however, the 3D rendered space that is still glitchy, the camera movements causing a “dragging” effect of certain background elements and simulated objects. It seems, then, that The Artist 2.0 is suggesting that just as digital video has achieved the means to remain an illusion, so will virtual environments, which are currently suffering from a limitation of resources similar to that of online imagery in the 1990s. 

Getting Lost (The Long Dérive), 2012

Getting Lost ends with the camera pointing towards a cloudy sky, as if searching for an answer or a way to continue wandering about. It may also hint at the metaverse, that ill-defined space or accumulation of spaces that seem to reside in the clouds, or nowhere. Notably, online virtual environments are also prone to glitches, as Gazira Babeli, the rogue Second Life performance artist, can attest. The Artist 2.0 has shown that our devices are shaping how we see the world, even before virtual and augmented reality turn real spaces into mere point clouds meant to be covered with perfectly rendered 3D illusions from which we cannot escape. But even then, there will be glitches, and the glitches will reveal the truth. 

Depicting the impossible: Eric Lerner’s Virtual Worlds

By Roxanne Vardi

This interview is part of a series of three editorial articles that dive deeper into the different software, technicalities, and processes that go into creating digital artworks, in order to offer our readers a deeper understanding of digital art as a medium.

We speak to Eric Lerner as part of a collaboration with Render Studio, a collective creative experimentation for a digital reality. Render Studio is inspired by art, design, nature and technology and aims to explore dimensions of virtuality, interactivity and motion. Eric Lerner’s series Tokonoma is featured on Niio this month.

Eric Lerner is a new media artist, animation director and professor at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design where he teaches art and animation for video games.

Part of your artistic practice deals with 3D animation. Could you give us an in-depth analysis of this digital art technique? Where do you see 3D animation going in the next five years?

3D animation or CGI animation refers to many different techniques and values but often will have similarity within the use of virtual “polygons” to calculate and produce an image. This constantly evolving technical practice has seen use in practically every modern art form; from film to games, graphic design to art. It is an extremely wide and flexible field of techniques that can produce a limitless variety of different styles, therefore It is difficult to lay clear borders or boundaries to 3D as an art form.

For me, the ability to create realistic looking imagery of physically impossible scenarios is where the true power and interest lays. This has of course been in use for cinema and VFX for many years but the types of narrative popular cinema usually portrays very often lacks the type of deep meaning and context that art makes possible; through more complex forms of expression, new fantastical realities can be created and used to invoke and provoke thought and experience, and with the democratization and  wide availability of 3D tools, artists anywhere are free to explore their style and visual expression in new and exciting ways. However, as the benchmark for quality rises, the entry level for artists to find their initial steps within these techniques rapidly becomes less achievable, requiring extensive study and practice; this might distance newcomers to the media. I would suggest to them that exploration of unique, even unconventional style, would be more important than technical prowess.

Eric Lerner, RedBrickWall1, 2022.

We are currently seeing a huge advancement in real time 3D rendering which allows for interactive media. To achieve the visual fidelity of what recently was only available to highly resourceful creation agents through pre-rendered processes only. This is already providing the gaming industry with hollywood style visuals for video games, but also has huge potential for art installations and exhibitions to create extremely immersive experiences that engulf viewers in an alternative reality.

Looking even further, I believe we’ll see these tools become available in more mobile setups such as smartphones and small headgear combinations. Furthermore, the interactive possibilities and AI generated content will be able to provide real time creation of completely unique experiences; entire detailed worlds created by direction of artists and then explored by viewers and users, possibly even as a one of a kind, single use experience – quite similar to our own reality.

Eric Lerner, Tokonoma I, 2022.

“For me, the ability to create realistic looking imagery of physically impossible scenarios is where the true power and interest lays.

Towards the creation of many of your artworks you create 3D animations which you then turn into live action videos? Could you elaborate on some of the complexities of this practice and your use of a handheld camera technique?

A process I’ve been researching and expanding on involves first shooting a live action clip, usually of empty (of people) urban or forest areas. Later I will “track” the footage (this is a process that follows hundreds of points of movement in a video in order to mimic the original movement of the camera, through a mathematical process of figuring out the parallax strength in the scene, thus producing a sort of “depth map” of the film scene). With a digital copy of the original camera movement, I can “film” 3D objects within CGI creation environments using the same exact movement of the original, often handheld footage. This eventually produces the illusion of the 3D object being present during the original shoot, even if the object itself doesn’t appear realistic in its own nature.

While this technique has been long used in film VFX, I find that it can bring to life many different types of narrative (with my favorite being surreal imagery) and its magic is quite captivating. While a relatively high end technique, it can still be produced by a single artist, and its creative possibilities are extremely interesting; it brings to life impossible objects and affects the mind very effectively, producing a magical realism that can turn everyday scenes into dreamscapes.

Eric Lerner, Pools of Reflection I, 2022.

Could you share some of your early experiences working in the NFT space, and provide us with your anticipations of NFTs as an accepted traditional art medium?

When NFT first started getting attention in the art world, I was very excited by the prospect that it promised a new form of livelihood for artists, specifically for more left-field, alternative arenas of art (alternative to fine arts, mostly). Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that a lot of people were entering the field as a quick cash grab and a lot of artists were being exploited, had their work stolen or just became obsessed with the financial aspect of this new “business” as a “get rich quick” scheme. While the technology itself was interesting, it was being used in poor taste and the original promise was mostly lost.

I feel the technology can eventually be used in decent (morally) ways but i’m not sure we are there yet. As more and more companies jump on the NFT bandwagon to use in their services, products and promotions, it’s unclear where the public’s view of NFTs will end up, but for art, either fine arts or more broad, alternative fields of art, there is still a hopeful promise for creators and collectors but more importantly, experiences of art that are yet to come to be.

Eric Lerner, Pools of Reflection II, 2022.

In Modernist Painting, Clement Greenberg suggests that the role of the Modern Artist is to bring attention to the flatness of the surface because the essence of visual arts is the optical experience. Today, through advanced technologies and softwares artists are able to create three dimensional pictorial spaces. Is it your opinion that contemporary artists working in the digital space should create experiences of visual worlds within themselves pushing our everyday reality into new realms introduced by web3 and the metaverse?

Yes, as I previously stated, the advancement of technology and its ability to create believable and emotional 3D experiences, for example, might be the starting point for a new breed of artwork where the experience is far from a single image or even a single interactive experience but rather a unique and personal experience each time it is activated, with a much broader scope than previously imagined.

That said, and pardon the controversial statement, but I find currently web3 promises to be extremely familiar, reminding me of grandiose promises made when web 2.0 was “introduced”. The main difference being the actual possibility of these ideas to come to life with technology reaching a point where they become possible. But to be truly interesting, I find these ideas need to go deeper into realms of data that might not be completely acceptable by the masses meant to enjoy them – either because they are built upon personal data or because they expose hidden truths; either way i believe these experiences have got to be personalize to be effective, otherwise they remain very 2.0 or just end up as good storytelling, which isn’t new but always very, very effective.

“I will often learn a new technique, and my immediate thought would be: How can I use this in a surprising way?.”

Eric Lerner, Gabriel in the Dreamscape, 2022.

You have stated that in the creation of your artworks you wish to explore the craft of art making in itself, and that through this investigation you are able to push the boundaries of what is possible. Could you elaborate further on this process in which your subject matter comes from technical ideas and your aims when creating new artworks?

When looking at this process in its truthful form, it is mostly a process of using the technical boundaries as limitations in order to create a “fenced” playground, which counterintuitively very often brings creative freedom. I will often learn a new technique, and my immediate thought would be: “How can I use this in a surprising way?”. For me, this usually directs into areas of magical realism where impossible events are plainly portrayed; So I will often use a technique to create unexpected yet [hopefully] intriguing moments, a tiny bit of awe for the viewer.

Unfortunately, this will often not do much in terms of context or narrative, areas which I find only inspiration derived from other narrative sources or life experiences can bring any meaningful context. This is where having your head stuck in a technical realm does little to help, or maybe even bring damage to the process. I aim to grow in these areas and I push my students to emphasize their efforts on these areas as I find them the most meaningful in a visual experience.

Andreas Nicolas Fischer’s Ambient Art

Roxanne Vardi

Andreas Nicolas Fischer is a multidisciplinary artist from Berlin. Fischer started his artistic career as a traditional artist working mainly with painting and drawing, but became interested in generative art upon his visit to artist Casey ReasProcess/Drawing exhibition in 2005 at DAM Gallery in Berlin. 

At the time he discovered Reas’ work, Fischer was interning at ART+COM, founded by Joachim Sauter, who also later became a professor at the Berlin University of the Arts. Fischer learnt Processing from the very first people who worked on the creative coding environment conceived and developed by Casey Reas and Ben Fry in 2001. While he did not have a background in computing, Fischer was motivated to teach himself code and started creating animations with Processing. He also worked briefly with fabrication and sculpture to adapt to the demands of the market at a time when the interest in digital art was not yet mainstream. However, he considers himself a purist and likes to create systems that operate autonomously, something that he can achieve by working with generative algorithms. 

In the following interview, that took place on the occasion of the artist’s solo artcast The Art of Hypnosis on Niio, Andreas Nicolas Fischer unfolds the motivations and techniques behind his work.

How would you describe your art practice today?

My practice is mostly generative pure abstraction. I do some narrative 3D animation philosophizing about the end of the world, but my main focus is generative systems and aesthetics and abstractions; developing these systems over time and translating them into different means. My personal preference is to create art that is self-contained, and doesn’t take data from the outside. I used to work as an art director to make a living, making 3D animation as this was a bigger market, but I didn’t want to be part of that career where artists need to receive grants. I always wanted to have a hard skill, with a foot in the industry, but I like my work to be more dynamic where I learn something and then apply it. This is what I did for ten years, but then I started to receive commissions, until at some point my art practice and commercial practice merged. Today I don’t work for agencies and I don’t work as a freelance artist. I do my own work. My main focus is generative systems and aesthetics and abstractions, developing these systems over time and translating them into different means.

My main focus is generative systems and aesthetics and abstractions, developing these systems over time and translating them into different means

Andreas Nicolas Fischer, Nethervoid 07 L 2180, 2022

You have described some of your latest works as ‘Ambient Art’. Could you please elaborate on this concept?

I have been doing more real-time work in the past few years, I like to call it ambient art, it’s not narrative and it’s not super intrusive. You don’t need to pay attention to the work all day, but it’s a small intricate development with its own pace. I really like when you get drawn into the work. In this way I like to see my work as hypnosis, I hypnotize people through the work in a sense. I do this for myself, because I like the process of viewing my own work, but I have also observed that in my audience, some people tell me that they get lost in the work. And that’s what I like, changing people’s state, changing their psychological state. We all have a perceptual system, but you can influence that. I like changing someone’s state of mind with my art overtime. It’s an introspective process, there are no demands, it’s more subtle. In a sense I am not saying anything. I make my work for myself but also for other people.

Many of your latest series such as Nethervoid and Infinite Void also contain a sound element that feels crucial to the works. Is this another way for you to influence your audience’s perceptual system?

There are sound frequencies that you can use to influence one’s perceptual state, which I started looking into. I create some of the sounds with other artists, while others I find and modify myself using generative code. Composers hear so much more than we do, that’s the beauty, to be able to collaborate with sound designers because it enriches the artwork and we learn from each other.

On one of my works, I worked with a friend of mine, David Kamp, a composer and sound designer. I had sent him a rough cut for this work and I literally almost cried when I got it back from him. There are not many things that move me, but when I got that [sound design] back it was very powerful, it was so subtle. It was like listening to 70’s progressive rock on a good sound system, there is just so much there. 

Andreas Nicolas Fischer, Feeder-01-2160p, 2022

I like changing someone’s state of mind with my art overtime. It’s an introspective process, there are no demands, it’s more subtle.

Can you tell us more about your involvement with creating video sound installations which make the work immersive and create a dialogue with an environment such as The Origin of Quantum Dot, established in collaboration with Samsung?

That was a unique and special project. I co art directed it and created the content for those screens, but the sculpture was made by Christopher M. Bauder and Schnelle Bunte Bilder, a studio of visual art in Berlin. But this is not something that you can do every day.

In 2021 we were commissioned to create an installation in Washington DC.  It was such a powerful experience as the end result resembled an animated James Turrell, playing with light, where the sensation of the room completely changed according to the light.

What is it that draws you into creating digital art or software-born art created with code?

What I like a lot about the process is creating something from nothing, just from text and code. Of course the whole programming environment and the libraries were created by someone so it’s not nothing-nothing, but what I like is that you have something that is a pure instruction and you can create something new from it that has so much depth and richness . This  is so powerful. I love 3D animation and coloring and shading, but 3D animation is an insane amount of work. What I like about software is the leverage that you have, making systems autonomously while you are running the code, it’s also a flexible medium. With AI and generative systems you have a lot of leverage and you can control these machines to do something, I appreciate that on a conceptual level.

You start with pure instruction and you can create something new from it that has so much depth and richness. This is so powerful!

When you use found data in your generative artworks, how important is it for you that people know the origin of the source material? 

It depends, in the past I would use found images to create some of my works, but now I generate my own procedural compositions. I like both but I am not interested in where it came from, and visually it’s far enough removed from the original image that I don’t feel guilty about it. The machines give you power to create some things that you cannot create by hand.

Andreas Nicolas Fischer, Infinite Void 13A L 2098, 2022

You have also experimented with AI. What is your take on working with generative adversarial networks?

I had a brief and romantic relationship with AI. People talk about the end times of machines and the domination of AI. There are reasons to be concerned about that. I received a few DALL·E invites which I intentionally gave out to people who are not versed visually, but what I found is that if you don’t have good taste or that trained eye, what you produce with the AI is not going to be that interesting. This is what I concluded from my sample experiment. These tools on the one hand are very helpful for certain things, but also very biased because as soon as you get specific about things, what it hasn’t seen, then it gets harder. In the beginning when I got it I was completely sucked in, I sat there for a couple of days and hit the ‘dopamine button’. 

As an artist everything you do is a dopamine loop, that warm fuzzy feeling is something I am trying to reproduce. But the thing is once you have an image prompting machine to create things that are visually pleasing, things one can do without a huge effort, your receptors shut down, and the satisfaction is that you don’t feel good or accomplished with yourself. It’s like TikTok, after half an hour of scrolling if I would ask you what you remember about it, it wouldn’t be very much. I see AI going where you can turn yourself and other people into dopamine junkies, it’s visual stimulation on steroids. The thing with all of technology is that it’s only going to get stronger, sowe need to find a way to deal with it.’. Today I mostly use AI tools to up-res all of my older videos by adding more detail to them. To me, this is the beauty about it, to increase the fidelity of the content.

I see AI going where you can turn yourself and other people into dopamine junkies, it’s visual stimulation on steroids.

Can you dive deeper into your use of the term ‘void’ in describing or naming your works?

Using the term void is intentional, coming back to wanting to hypnotize or affect people’s mental state through the works. The void is more of a meditative void, a mental void. Of course it’s visually very full, but for me meditation is hard, I don’t have a solid practice but sometimes my work can help me with it by producing that mental void.

The Office Renaissance: The Art of Designing Inspiring Workspaces [Webinar]

By Amira Hashish

The hotel bar at NeueHouse Bradbury utilizes space and art to create a pleasing setting to work or relax.
NeueHouse Bradbury

The definition of the office will never be the same as the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic. This time has made us appreciate the significance of our surroundings and the importance of good interior design in our work environments.

After more than a decade of working in a newsroom, I decided it was time to set up my own business and ‘work from anywhere’ with a client base that spans Europe and America. Mine is just one of millions of similar stories.

Whether the pandemic has resulted in a career change or simply an introduction to flexible working, employers are recognising that their staff do not want to return to office life as they once knew it. A survey conducted by research and advisory company Gartner revealed thatmore than two-thirds (74%) of CFOs plan to permanently shift employees to remote work after the Covid-19 crisis ends. Offices are undergoing major redesigns to adhere to the new hybrid way of working that companies, including tech giants Google, Spotify and Twitter, are adopting.

But do we want to continue spending the majority of our ‘work from anywhere’ time at home? It can be isolating and lacks a sense of community. Hence why design-conscious coworking spaces that blend the different facets of our lifestyles are set to thrive.

I recently moderated a webinar with industry leaders from Niio, NeueHouse, Birch, Yon, and Design Stories where they discussed the new definition and purpose of the office, the impact of design as we go to work from home to work from anywhere, and the role of art in shaping these multipurpose spaces. Watch the full webinar here.

Why It’s Beneficial to Add Digital Art for Workspaces


Josh Wyatt, CEO of NeueHouse which has private work and social spaces in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, says: “People, now more than ever, are acutely aware of the value of time, choice and the various forks in the road of their personal and professional lives. The pandemic has awoken all of us with a sense of the finite. As such, people should expect special moments when working – spaces and communities that empower their creativity and most importantly allow them to flourish. 

“At NeueHouse, even pre pandemic, this sense of providing spaces and moments to flourish has always driven us. As we emerge into this new way to work, we have doubled down on ensuring our services, design, programming and community all provide moments where people creatively excel and find happiness. This rebirth of expecting more, opening one’s eyes to surroundings and seeking a supportive community is how the working environment will look in the future.”

He believes every workspace should approach their mission with a dedication to design and the delicate details that impact our ability to concentrate, create and ideate.

“High performance moments, that feeling of being in the flow or flourishing, is often driven by design that both inspires but also provides ease of work.” he adds. “Elevated, calm, warm and inviting moments wrapped within a diverse set of spaces where a worker can plug in and out of communal and private moments should be the north star design brief. At NeueHouse, we call ourselves a ‘cultural speakeasy’ which we feel captures our design and programming ethos where culture and commerce collide.”

Craig Knight, who heads up a research group called Identity Realisation (IDR) as part of the University of Exeter, is a firm believer in art being connected to workplace productivity. He summed up his thoughts for The Guardian: “There is a real tendency to opt for lean workspaces, designed to encourage staff to just get on with their work and avoid distraction. But there isn’t a branch of science in the world which believes this approach boosts productivity or makes for happier workers…If you enrich a space people feel much happier and work better; a very good way of doing this is by using art.”

Design studio Morgan Lovell, whose mission is to “transform offices into captivating workplaces” has released a thought-provoking essay on art and its effect on productivity in offices. “When we discuss the use of art in a client’s office design, we talk about its ability to stimulate creativity or inspire thought processes. We talk about its ability to reduce stress and improve wellbeing through its relaxing, contemplative nature. And of course, art can take so many different forms – from wall graphics and photographs through to sculptures and living walls – you can find a decorative effect to meet whatever mood you are trying to create,” it explains.

How Do You Add Digital Art for Workspaces?


A good starting point for incorporating art into our working day would be via the blank screens that are prominent throughout so many physical spaces. How many times have you walked into office lobby areas, meeting rooms or open plan work zones to see empty, switched-off screens hanging from the walls? u>Niio Art sees these screens as digital canvases with the potential to bring meaningful art into their environments and inspire an audience that spans way beyond the traditional ‘art scene’.

As the leading platform enabling digital art, Niio is utilising a growing network of 5,000 artists from 82 countries to help interior designers transform existing screens in the office, and any space for that matter, from a black void into an endless rotating digital canvas. 

Co-founder and CEO Rob Anders is passionate about the role digital art plays in design. He believes it should be easily accessible and affordable: “We need art now more than ever. And by art I’m talking about the opportunity for people to stop and have a moment, to ponder and think, perhaps start a conversation,” he says. “Our platform is replacing the screen void with vitality by giving people access to the largest community of media artists and a seamless way to display premium art to any screen in any location.”

Artwork: Camouflage by Quayola

Utilising a recurring series of digital art can also provide a way of connecting offices that exist in various parts of the world. It reinforces the notion of a common style between those spaces and makes employees feel a sense of familiarity. “We have built an extremely robust platform which enables us to deliver this content to any screen in any place according to different types of business models,” adds Rob. “It can move and adapt to different times of the day as well.”

Create Fluid Workspaces With Art


Creating fluidity between spaces using art and design is a core part of the concept behind Birch, which opened its first hotel and coworking members club around 30-minutes north of London during the pandemic. London based interiors studio Red Deer has styled the estate, which includes a 15th century mansion, a lido and sprawling grounds, to coexist with its flexible nature. There isn’t an obvious transition between the coworking area, the restaurants or the hotel rooms. That is very deliberate. 

“I guess it’s like wearing a suit,” Birch co-founder Chris Penn ponders. “It used to be the norm to wear formal attire to work. But the uniform was taking personality and individuality out of people in a work environment and I think offices did the same, right? They created these structured grey, neutralised environments. For the modern day personality, individuality and creativity is what differentiates the best businesses, brands and companies from those that are just existing within that marketplace. 

Birch

“You can’t expect those people to be able to perform as individuals in an environment which is teaching them to be robots, confined by their uniform or the uniformity of the place in which they perform their task. People realise that if you dress someone in a suit, they are going to act like they are in a suit. If you allow people to dress how they like, suddenly their personality will come out, they will think differently and they will probably remove barriers to their thought process. It’s the same for the workspace design.”

He is passionate about creating spaces where you can rest, explore, connect, work, taste, move, or dance – all in one place. He says: “Our lives have become blended. If you don’t provide facilities for people to enjoy themselves then you’re creating a barrier to them being able to engage. The kind of people that we are trying to attract love their work. They are not defined by it but they absolutely love it. It’s a big part of their lives. They also love going to festivals, listening to music and learning new things. So why would you prevent them from doing any of those things? We want Birch to be a place where people can escape. But we’re accepting that in order to escape you need to do the things that you want to do. One of which is work.” 

CoworkingResources, which publishes guides for the sector, estimates that almost 5 million people will be working from coworking spaces by 2024, an increase of 158% compared to 2020.

These projections reflect not only the growth that the industry has experienced over the past few years but also the dramatic increase in flexible and remote work practices adopted by businesses worldwide.

Experience-led hotel and hospitality collective Yon was born during the pandemic with the realisation by founders Tom Brooks and Ant Steele that working, travelling or generally making the most of your time shouldn’t exist as standalone concepts. 

Yon Essaouira

What started as a series of pop-up spaces around the world where guests could work and sleep in beautiful surroundings has turned into a permanent hotel, opening this summer in the coastal city of Essaouira, Morocco. 

The concept is a direct response to the needs and desires of the ‘work from anywhere’ generation that is keen to discover new destinations. “So many people no longer need to go into an office every day and companies know their employees are just as productive, or more productive, when working from places they love. But they yearn for social interaction and to be a part of a community,” says Brooks. 

Yon

“The freedom to log in from wherever you like suddenly means you don’t need to distinguish between travel and work. You could work from home or our vibrant coastal haven in Morocco. This has opened up the potential for a massive shift in the way we can live and want to live. At Yon, we want to help facilitate this and to introduce our guests to amazing destinations, collaborating with local insiders to deliver a special experience.”

Design Hotel Spaces with Form and Function


The hotel’s spaces are designed for productivity as well as fun. An option for privacy when needed is offered alongside communal areas. There is an events and wellness programme too. Whether you are closing deals poolside or in a dedicated work zone, every corner is being carefully styled to create a warm and welcoming ambience where you would be just as happy tapping away on your laptop or socialising over a long supper. 

Murude Katipoglu, founder of design studio Design Stories, has created workspaces around the world; some with their own restaurants, gyms, and coffee bars. Her team approaches the design process just as they would for a family home: “People want the comfort of a home but also the social aspect of coworking spaces. Workspaces can be stressful for many people so a calm, welcoming environment with multiple-purpose areas and well-thought lighting is key”

She emphasises that creating different zones in one space is important to allow people to transition and find what best works for them and thinks food or drink offerings alongside comfortable breakout areas help open up new conversations: “Good design improves the way people feel and live. A well-designed and considered space would make people want to spend more time in that environment.”

Interior designer Rod Moreno Masey has chosen to embrace the coworking culture for the return to office life of his own practice MorenoMasey and is moving into the Hoxton Hotel’s coworking space WorkingFrom in London’s Southwark. He says: “Adopting a more hybrid and creative approach to designing offices and spaces for work is more relevant than ever, as well as creating a sense of identity in an office and making it more personal with some of the comforts we get from home.”

He is a firm advocate that the familiarity we experience while working at home is strongly linked to our productivity. He thinks investing in objects for the office with which people connect physically and more intimately such as handles, floor finishes and chairs are essential to helping maintain this home feel. 

Morgan Lovell also believes that art is increasingly being seen as a way of incorporating an organisation’s own branding into their office design: “It can help tell the story of who they are, what they do and what they value.”

NeueHouse Hollywood

Let’s take Deutsche Bank, for example. Art is an integral part of its brand offering. In its own words: “Art spawns new ideas for shaping our future. It questions, inspires people, opens up new perspectives, and thus enables them to embrace unusual and innovative solutions.” Hence why its US and UK offices alone have more than 11,000 artworks on display. 

Whether your post pandemic office is a multipurpose space, a coastal escape or living room there is a renewed sense of how our environments make us feel. Considered design, with art in its varying guises at the heart of it, will be the foundation for helping us stay productive and passionate about our vocations. Book a free consultation with Niio’s expert curators today.

About the author: Amira Hashish is the director of Rapport (www.clubrapport.com), a creative, content and events consultancy & storytelling platform for the new dawn of travel, design and lifestyle. You can follow her @thedesigneditor


The Office: Revisited” – The Webinar
In 2021 a webinar discussion was held following the article, with the participation of industry leaders from Niio, NeueHouse, Birch, Yon and Design Stories, moderated by Amira Hashish.

Webinar highlights:


Click here to get access to the full webinar.

 

 

 

Niio & Genesis Technologies >> VIP Lounge (France & Spain)

Art, Design & Technology in France & Spain 

Together with our partner Genesis Technologies, one of Europe’s premiere technology integrators for luxury homes and yachts, we participated in their VIP Lounge on the Cote d’Azur and again in Marbella, Spain.

In France, participants included art collectors and prestige design professionals (architects + interior designers)  while in Spain we spent an afternoon with hardware partners and technology integrators.

We are on a mission to expose people to original, high-quality, immersive digital art experiences. With a collection of thousands of works from top artists and galleries, state-of-the-art technology, a global hardware infrastructure and white glove installation and support, Niio makes it easy to incorporate captivating digital art into any environment.

Interested in premium digital art for your home or next project? Please contact us.

 

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