As we reach the end of 2022, we look back at a very busy year, and forward to an even more intense 2023. In this series of posts, we have selected some of our favorite artcasts, artists, artworks, articles, and interviews. They outline an overview of what has happened in Niio over the last months and highlight the work of artists and galleries with whom we are proud to collaborate. However, there is much more than what fits in this page! We invite you to browse our app and discover our curated art program, as well as our editorial section.
Five interviews from 2022
Interviews are an important part of our Editorial content, because we believe that artists, gallerists, and curators have important things to say, and we want their words to reach our readers. We are privileged to live in a time when it is possible to connect with people around the world and have a conversation with them, learn from their experience and get a first person account of their creative process. This year we have spoken to wonderful and generous art professionals who have spent time with us explaining their work and their views on digital art, sometimes at a distance, and other times visiting their studios. These conversations are certainly worth reading for anyone who wishes to understand how art is created nowadays.
We have chosen five interviews from almost 40 conversations published in our Editorial section this year. Click on the titles to read each article.
Steve Sacks founded bitforms in New York in November 2001, at a time when digital art was getting attention among the contemporary art institutions in the USA as well as Europe. Major exhibitions held that same year, such as Bitstreams and Data Dynamics at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and 010101: Art in Technological Times at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art were particularly inspirational for him.
Photo: Joanna Holloway
Over two decades, bitforms has achieved an influential position in the contemporary art market as a gallery devoted to digital art, participating in major art fairs and representing some of the most recognized artists in this field, such as Manfred Mohr, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Casey Reas, Quayola, Auriea Harvey, Refik Anadol, Gary Hill, Claudia Hart, Beryl Korot, Marina Zurkow, Daniel Canogar, Daniel Rozin, Siebren Versteeg and many others. On the occasion of the third series of Niio Commissions, which was curated by Sacks, we sat down with the gallerist to discuss his views on the development of the contemporary art market and the role that digital art is now playing in it.
Marina Zurkow’s work explores the relationship between nature, culture, and society, focusing on what she describes as “wicked problems,” those issues that reveal our abusive interactions with the natural environment and our difficulty to understand it beyond our human-centric, capitalist-driven views of the world around us.
A transdisciplinary artist, she works with experts from different fields to create a wide range of artistic practices that includes video art, installations, and public participatory projects. Currently, she is working on the tensions between maritime ecology and the ocean’s primary human use as a capitalist Pangea.
The leading artist in the Spanish media art scene, Daniel Canogar‘s influential work spans almost four decades and a wide range of media from video art installations to generative software art. On the occasion of his solo artcast Liquid Data, our Senior Curator Pau Waelder interviewed him in his studio in Madrid.
Tamiko Thiel is a pioneering visual artist exploring the interplay of place, space, the body and cultural identity in works encompassing an artificial intelligence (AI) supercomputer, objects, installations, digital prints in 2D and 3D, videos, interactive 3d virtual worlds (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence art.
We had a conversation with the artist on the occasion of the launch of her solo artcast Invisible Naturecurated by DAM Projects, in which she discusses the evolution of technology over the last three decades, her early AR artworks and her commitment to create art that invites reflection.
Patrick Tresset is an artist who explores a form of mediated creation in which his drawing style is transferred to a set of robotic drawing machines or applied to video footage to create artworks that are curiously algorithmic and spontaneous at the same time. He is also the co-founder of alterHEN, an eco-friendly NFT platform and artist community whose artists have participated in a previousartcast on Niio. Tresset has also presented his series Human Studyin a solo artcast launched recently.
Our Senior Curator Pau Waelder interviewed him in his studio in Brussels on the occasion of his visit to the Art Brussels art fair. They discussed his work and the series that originated from an exhibition in Hong Kong that he had to remotely orchestrate during lockdown.
Tamiko Thiel is a pioneering visual artist exploring the interplay of place, space, the body and cultural identity in works encompassing an artificial intelligence (AI) supercomputer, objects, installations, digital prints in 2D and 3D, videos, interactive 3d virtual worlds (VR), augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence art. In this conversation, that took place on the occasion of the launch of her solo artcast Invisible Naturecurated by DAM Projects, she discusses the evolution of technology over the last three decades, her early AR artworks and her commitment to create art that invites reflection.
Your work is characterized by the use of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality technologies, with pioneering artistic projects. Which technical challenges have you met over the last decades in the creation of these projects?
My first exposure to real time computer graphics was at MIT when I was a graduate student in 1982. At that point, writing everything from scratch, you had to program for a semester in order to get a cube that would rotate in three dimensions. Coming from an artistic and design background, I felt that this is not really where I want to create art right now, I’ll have to wait. And then about 10 years later, in 1992, Silicon Graphics came out with OpenGL, an open standard that made it possible to do real time interactive computer graphics on PCs. Then in 1994, I started to work with a company called Worlds Incorporated, which was taking this new potential for doing interactive 3D computer graphics on PCs connected to the Internet. At that time I worked with Steven Spielberg on theStarbright World Project, the first 3d online Metaverse for ill children, a virtual world where they could momentarily escape the space of the hospital. This first Metaverse was running on high end PCs, with fast connections provided by various high tech companies, but it was still unaffordable for people at home. The project ran from 1994 to 1997, and at that time the technology was still unstable.
So you must jump from that to 10 years later, when Second Life came about and this time people had more powerful graphic cards and ADSL connections at home. Second Life was able to create a much more developed virtual world, which seemed like the next phase of the Internet and all the corporations wanted to move there. Then around 2007-2008, probably due to the financial crisis, but also the rise of Facebook, which allowed people to share photographs on a common platform, the excitement around Second Life fizzled. And then if we jump another 15 years more, we find ourselves with still bigger processing power and faster connections. Now it is much easier to create virtual worlds than it was 25 years ago, partly because it is easier to create 3D objects, or you can buy them online, and also because of the advancements in hardware and software.
So, as you can see, big steps come on later than you think. It takes maybe 10 to 15 or 20 years to get there instead of the five years that all the evangelists predict. People talked about virtual reality at that time in the 90s as being a failure, just as they talked about AI being a failure in the 80s and 90s. And what they don’t realize is that technological change takes longer than you’d want it to. So it’s wrong to call it a failure. It’s more like: “Okay, we have to keep on working on this.” And if you wait long enough, 20 years or so, then you’ll get it.
Video by Tamiko Thiel, Rewilding the Smithsonian, 2021. Created with the ReWildAR AR app (2021, with /p). Commissioned by curator Ashley Molese for the 175th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution, in the Arts and Industries Building.
Interactive 3D and VR artworks such as Beyond Manzanar and Virtuelle Mauer have a strong narrative component as they explore historic and political issues. What is the role of the user in constructing these narratives?
Basically, what I tend to do is look for key moments that I think can be expressed and experienced and communicated better in virtual reality than in other media. In Beyond Manzanar, for me that was the moment where you’re sitting in a beautiful Paradise Garden, and you see the mountains covered in snow around you. This is an image from the book Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston: the author tells that when she was an eight-year-old and she was imprisoned in the camp, she would pick a viewpoint where she couldn’t see any guard towers, any barracks, nor barbed wire fence. And she tried not to move for the longest time, because as long as she didn’t move, she could preserve the illusion she was in paradise of her own free will. As soon as she moved, she saw that she was indeed in prison, she fell out of paradise back into prison. And so this moment occurs in Beyond Manzanar, where you enter a garden which is framed by the beautiful mountains. But if you go too deeply into the garden, then boom! – the garden disappears, and you’re back in the prison camp.
My second piece,The Travels of Mariko Horo, has a much more complicated structure with several heavens imagined by a time traveling 12th century Japanese female artist inventing the West in her imagination. In this work there is this moment when you enter the different churches, which are in fact liminal spaces between the prosaic everyday life and the world of the supernatural. When you cross that threshold, Mariko Horo takes you to heaven or takes you to hell. But it is always by your own free will, you’re always making the decision and making the motions that all of a sudden present you with the consequences of your decisions.
Finally, in Virtuelle Mauer/ReConstructing the Wall, I introduced some characters that take you in a time travel through the history of the Berlin Wall. But if you cross over the invisible boundaries of the former Death Strip,, then you fall back into the 80s, the wall appears behind you. So in all three pieces, it’s really about letting you feel like you have the freedom to go anywhere you want and do anything you want to do. But then you must face the consequences of these actions, which might take you to Paradise or they might take you to prison. But you always feel like it was your decision to go there, or to examine this, and therefore you’re sort of complicit with whatever happens to you.
Video by Tamiko Thiel, Atmos Sphaerae, 2022. Created with the Atmos Sphaerae VR artwork, 2021.
Creating artworks in Augmented Reality offers the possibility of intervening in institutional art spaces uninvited, as you did at MoMA, the Venice Biennale, or TATE Modern, or within a curated exhibition, as is the case with Unexpected Growth, which was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Can you tell us about the creative process in both cases and your experience with “guerrilla” interventions versus curated exhibitions using the same technology?
Let’s start with We AR in MoMA, an augmented reality project created by Sander Veenhof and Mark Skwarek that took place at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on October 9th, 2010. The iPhone had been around since 2007, as well as other smartphone models, and in the course of 2009 both Mark and Sander had been playing around with the technology and developing AR artworks on mobiles in public spaces. And then they realized they could also geolocate the artworks to have them appear in certain spaces, so they came up with this idea of doing the spectacular intervention at MoMA. I knew Mark from the art circles before we had both shown in the 2009 Boston CyberArts Festival, so he dropped me and many of his artist friends an email saying: “Hey, we’re able to do this now. Send me some content and I’ll put it up and we’ll do a flashmob at MoMA.” They were not asking permission from MoMA. They didn’t know about it, and they couldn’t stop us. At that time, people didn’t realize that location based AR could be used anywhere. But then it turned out that they did find out about it beforehand, because Mark and Sander were doing the intervention as part of a citywide public art festival of psychogeography, so it was publicly announced by the festival all on Twitter. MoMA actually posted a link to the festival and said: “Hey, looks like we’re going to be invaded by AR,” which was very forward thinking and embracing this new development in technology. So, that was incredibly good publicity. It was a really exciting moment, when we realized that there were these possibilities that the new technology was bringing about. I would say this was a path breaking exhibit in the history of media.
After this intervention at MoMA, the artists who took part in it created the group Manifest.AR. We were thinking about where to do the next incursion, and since I live in Munich, which is a six and a half hour beautiful train ride to Venice, I suggested we go to the Venice Biennale in 2011. It was a group of about eight of us. We created virtual pavilions that were located inside the Giardini and at Piazza San Marco, so that people who didn’t want to spend money to enter the Giardini could also experience the artworks in a public space, because the Giardini, with its walls around it is a classically closed curatorial space. The point was that having your work shown at the MoMA or the Biennale is a sign of achievement, of having been able to enter these closed curatorial spaces, but now with AR interventions that was not true anymore, anybody can place their artwork wherever they want. But then people’s reaction was: “Oh, wow, you’re showing in the Venice Bienniale, you’ve made it!” Then we told them we hadn’t been curated and that we were doing this of our own accord, but people would respond: “Oh, that’s even better.” So we thought we were doing this sort of Duchampian breakdown of all sorts of structures that define prominence in the art world. Duchamp exhibited his famous urinal not to say that an artwork becomes an artwork when an artist says it’s an artwork and places it in an art context, but to state that this whole thing is ridiculous.
These interventions gave us a feeling of exhilaration that we could hold our own exhibits anywhere, even though no one in the art world was interested in media art at that moment. And we could also play off site. Because AR is a site-specific medium, you’re always dealing with the site. And that opened up whole new possibilities. Interestingly, shortly after that, George Fifield, the Boston Cyberarts director, arranged our first invitational show at the ICA Boston. This was in April of 2011. The ICA curators didn’t understand how the technology works. They said: “Okay, you can do it on the first floor, but not on the second floor. You can do it in the lobby and outside, but you can’t do it inside of the galleries.” And we had to tell them it doesn’t work that way. The artworks are triggered by a GPS location which has a radius of a mile or so.
As for showing Unexpected Growth at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, it was thanks to Christiane Paul, the adjunct curator of media art at the museum. I have known her for quite a while, I think since about 2002, and she has curated me into many of her shows over the years in different venues, but this was the first time at the Whitney. She had of course done the visionary work of creating Artport, a space for net art supported by the museum, but she still hadn’t placed an AR artwork inside the museum. Then in 2014 she commissioned an AR intervention by Will Pappenheimer, Proxy, 5-WM2A, at the Whitney’s final closing gala for the old Breuer Building. So when she contacted me in 2018 to create an artwork to show at the Whitney, she had already gone through the process of introducing this technology in the museum. She invited me to create an artwork for the terrace, which is 20 by 10 meters in size. Since this was a big show, I needed to make sure that the piece would work properly, so I contacted the people at Layar, the AR app we had used in all our previous interventions, but by then they told me they would shut down their servers, so I had to find a solution. My husband Peter Graf, who is a software developer, told me he could write an app for me. We worked side by side on this project, so I realized he should co-author it with me and he came up with the artist name /p, so now the artwork is in the Whitney collection credited to myself and /p in collaboration. Now the artwork is not officially on view at the museum, but if you download our app and go to the terrace you can still experience it.
Video by Tamiko Thiel, Unexpected Growth (Whitney Museum Walk1), 2018. Created with the Unexpected Growth AR app (2018, with /p), commissioned by and in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
There is also the fact that the artworks are invisible, so how did you communicate their existence and solve the technical problems associated with having the proper device, software, and connectivity?
At the Venice Biennale intervention, Sander got in touch with Simona Lodi, director of the Share Festival Turin, and the artist group Les Liens Invisibles, who were together mounting another AR intervention The Invisible Pavilion. We created a common postcard with QR codes to download the app. We also invited people to come to Piazza San Marco and the Giardini on certain days and times and help them experience the artworks. Collaborating with the team from the Share Festival was a huge help, because those of us from outside of Italy had terrible connection issues, and also it was the first Venice Biennale when hordes of people were walking around with their cellphones, overloading the networks. The Vodafone network actually broke down in the Venice area. Gionatan Quintini of Les Liens Invisible loaned me his smartphone to show my work, and this is an example of the kind of collaborative atmosphere that you get in the media art world and that is not that easy to find in the contemporary art world.By connecting our networks with those of Share, we got a lot of publicity for both the interventions in MoMA and in the Venice Biennial, and that put AR in this early time into the media art history books, and therefore into the art canon.
Video by Tamiko Thiel, Sponge Space Trash Takeover (Walk1), 2020. Created with the VR space “Sponge Space Trash Takeover” courtesy of Cyan Planet and xR Hub Bavaria.
The artworks in your latest artcast titled Tamiko Thiel: Invisible Nature all deal with different aspects of our intervention of the natural environment. What has been your experience addressing this subject in terms of the balance between the artistic expression and the message you want to convey?
Perhaps because I started out as a product designer, with the Connection Machine being what I consider my first artwork, I am always thinking of my audience and how to communicate with them. When I approach political or social issues, such as climate related problems, I know that the really shocking photographs (for instance, a dead bird whose stomach is full of plastic) give you an immediate emotional jolt, and make you realize that this is a serious problem. But I personally cannot look at those images day after day, time and time again. So, balancing my work as an artist with my desire to communicate, sometimes I think that I should be a journalist, so I could write articles that can go into the details in much more depth. But how often do you reread the same article? So I think that what is truly the value of an artist making work about a subject such as these is that the art work can be exhibited time and time again, in different places around the world. And people might see it again, they may be willing to look at it time and time again, but not if it is something horrible and shocking. I’m traumatized enough by what’s happening in the world, so I’d rather create something that is not traumatizing for people, but at the same time it makes you think.
For instance, Unexpected Growth shows a very colorful, bright coral reef on the terrace of the Whitney. And when you look at it more closely, you realize this beautiful coral reef is made out of virtual plastic garbage. So people are confronted with something that is really beautiful, but after a while they realize that they are surrounded by garbage. So my strategy is to seduce people with a strong visual composition that is captivating. And then, when I’ve got their attention, I let them figure out that there is actually something else going on here, if you actually spend the time to look at it.
Video by Tamiko Thiel, Evolution of Fish – Anthropocene Daze #1, 2019. Created with the AR app Evolution of Fish (2019, with /p).
Inspiring creativity at work through New Media Art
Written by Natalie Stone
The seismic shift in the way we work has made the last decade feel as though many businesses are finally focussed on their most important asset – their people. Allowing the workforce to play a role in dictating how, where and when we work demonstrates the true value that leaders are placing on their staff. Endless research has shown that a happy workforce breeds increased productivity and companies worldwide are taking note. Businesses are constantly striving to enhance working environments with unique experiences – a telling and effective tribute to this trend. Many companies have turned to art and design to connect their people and customers to their story or brand and to inspire creativity.
A study conducted by The Harvard Journal of Workplace Learning shows that employees believe art promotes social interactions, elicits emotional responses, facilitates personal connection-making, generally enhances the workplace environment and fosters learning. It also tells us that art which directly relates to the organization’s mission, and diverse art collections generate deeper engagement for employees and customers.
Digital art is a key component in this shift and Niio is at its cusp. As art advances beyond the white walls of galleries and museums into commercial, private and public spaces, Niio is harnessing this trend through collaborations with cutting-edge designers, venues and artists.
Galvanized by the idea that moving images can change in real-time and are often influenced by current events or incoming data, Niio has collaborated with artist Refik Anadol to power his groundbreaking work. Anadol’s coded piece of art changes based on real-time wind patterns in Linz, turning a screen into an ever-changing living artwork, lauded by critics and art-lovers.
Anadol and Niio’s partnership demonstrates the potential of digital art to incorporate interactive works and kinetic and rotating exhibitions, creating engaging spaces throughout time. The possibilities are endless.
Meet in Place, another of Niio’s partners, is a meeting room focused start-up, bringing curated rotating collections of fine digital art to high-end meeting space locations in New York, London and Tel Aviv, powered by Niio.
The digital age is well and truly here. Screens are everywhere – on office walls, building facades and in open public spaces. With all this digital noise comes a unique opportunity for artists to take their work beyond its traditional realms by turning screens into a memorable and magical experience – at home, in places of leisure and at work. Niio is helping artists make the magic happen.
Committed to enabling seamless access to the world’s finest gallery quality video and interactive media art, screened on digital canvases across the world, Niio transforms and enhances workplaces to create engaging and inspiring environments.
The team at Niio collaborates with designers, bringing them together with the best fine digital art in the world and helping them deliver and display their work. With a network of over 1,500 artists, curators and galleries and a portfolio of over 9,000 premium artworks on our platform, Niio is a game-changer in an evolving realm.
This November we were invited by our partner Marriott, one of the world’s leading hotel companies, to demonstrate a selection of interactive artworks at BDNY: Boutique Design New York, the leading trade fair and conference for the hospitality design industry.
BDNY brings interior designers, architects, hotel owners and developers together, introducing them to the most innovative and high-caliber design elements for hospitality interiors around the world. Over the course of two days, we were able to demonstrate how the Niio platform enables art advisors, curators, architects and designers to implement digital art installations within their projects.
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.