Patrick Tresset: “I thought that I could put back emotions using computers”

Pau Waelder

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 previous artcast on Niio. Tresset has also presented his series Human Study in a solo artcast launched recently.

I had the chance to interview him in his studio in Brussels on the occasion of my visit to the Art Brussels to discuss his work and the series that originated from an exhibition in Hong Kong that he had to remotely orchestrate during lockdown.

After working as a painter for fifteen years, you decided to study arts and computational technologies. What drove you to become interested in computer science and programming?

Well, actually, I was already interested in computing, because my dad gave me a computer when I was nine years old, and as a kid, I managed to do some little things, and I got fascinated by it. I particularly remember this possibility of creating little worlds that would be autonomous. I studied computing, but back then it was business computing. And after that, I decided to become a painter, move to London… I think I was a painter for thirteen years. And in the meantime, computing evolved a lot. So I always kept my eye on it, and after some time I got back into computing. So it was not new, computing. And I had this intuition that I could do something with it, because I knew I could program. I could imagine things. 

As a painter, I had a creative block. It just didn’t make sense to continue painting. And also I had lost my spontaneity, everything I did in painting looked stiff, and unemotional. I couldn’t do emotion. Strangely enough, I thought that I could put back emotions using computers. I was always into doing those very spontaneous drawings, and so as soon as I got back into programming, I worked on drawing faces, from the beginning, and then there was the internet. Thanks what I found online, I kept learning and I came across the Algorists: Roman Verotsko, Cohen… well, Cohen is not part of the Algorists, so Verotsko, essentially. And I saw they were using pen plotters. So I bought myself old pen plotters on eBay. And I started to do drawings like that. I wrote those out on my own for two or three years, using scientific libraries and other resources. But I felt that I was stuck, and I knew that I needed to go further to achieve what I was looking for.

You have mentioned that you transfer your drawing style to the robots. Can you elaborate on this mediated process?

When I was doing my Masters studies, I was working on simulated drawings, and it’s only during the doctoral studies (I started a PhD that I never finished) that I did proper research. It’s a risky thing in computing, but mainly, we’re learning drawing, psychology, perception and things like that… motor control, and all those things. I really researched a lot. And all that influenced the program. But also at this time, I understood that a drawing system needed to be embodied, particularly since I was interested in gestural drawing. So the way I did it was that I simulated different processes that interact, with parts dedicated to low level perception, then higher level motor control, and strategy. 

The style of the drawing has never been forced. The style is a consequence of the characteristics of the robot. If you just change little parameter on in, or on the camera, or the speed of the app, that will be enough to give the resulting drawing a different style. So it’s really an interaction between the body, the character and the characteristics of the robot. My input is in there in that the technique that they have is a technique I used when I was trying to draw. There is detachment in a certain way, but it’s not so detached, because I am in the system –I programmed everything myself. 

So there is this weird thing with control, because in the beginning I have control, but then when the robots start, I don’t have any control. And that leads to an interesting form of spontaneity. For me it’s always fresh, but the problem is, because it is using humans, not everybody’s a performer. A lot of people do it for the portrait, and then during the process, they notice that it is not just a machine that makes their portrait. Here I feel that there is the usual problem of entertainment and art. That does not happen with the still life drawings, because the whole system is encapsulated in itself. It’s a different type of storytelling.

For about a year, you have created a new type of artwork by applying the drawing program to video footage. What led you to use this technique? Particularly since you were just mentioned the embodied creation of the drawings.

It all came about because of NFTs. I needed something digital to sell, to mint. And it started like that. I did some experiments a few years back with video, so I already had some ideas but it really came to be through NFTs. I wrote a program to extract a big interface over the program I use for the robots, that enables me to play with and create these animations. It was by necessity. But in the end, I explore the same themes, only that now I know better what I’m exploring.

Let’s talk about the exhibition Human Study you had in Hong Kong, back in 2020. I find it interesting how it was developed under lockdown, and how the animations that you have now presented on Niio reflect that particular atmosphere.

Yes, it was a very interesting process. The exhibition was planned normally during Art Basel Hong Kong, but obviously it didn’t happen because of COVID. They moved it to November, but still they didn’t get the authorization to open the theater. So, it was decided to carry out the exhibition without an audience, using actors or anyone who was around, so sometimes it was the technical staff and not actors. To me it was particularly interesting because I helped select the actresses and the actors, so it became something like a piece of theater. I had created a generative system to edit the video feed from the cameras, so while I was doing everything from thousands of kilometers away, I became the director of a performance.

Exploring The Impact Of Digital Art In The “Travel Is Back” Era

By Natalie Stone

Artwork: Flower by Guilhem Moreau.
Location: The Mondrian Seoul Itaewon

As we celebrate the return of travel, the hospitality sector is working hard to create amazing guest experiences to entice guests back and accommodate their changing needs.

The evolving digital landscape is offering up original, exciting, and engaging opportunities, including new types of art installations from augmented reality to immersive art and AI, all contributing to the explosion of digital art, being adopted in workspaces, public places, homes, and hotels across the world. 

In a special webinar by commercial interior design publication Hospitality Design, executives from Accor, Marriott, Samsung, ICRAVE and Niio joined to discuss the new trends, changing guests’ needs, and emerging technologies that pose a reality of continuous evolution for hospitality experience. Together they explored the transformational power of digital art, how accessible it has become, and its effectiveness in realizing the ambitious visions of hotel owners and designers globally.

Artwork: Flower by Guilhem Moreau.
Location: The Mondrian Seoul Itaewon

What Are the Types of Installation Art in Hospitality?

Digital art is a major player in a changing landscape. With a flood of new, cutting-edge tools on the market, public and private hospitality spaces are an exciting platform for the world’s leading talent to display their work. The rising and intensified conversation around NFTs is cementing that digital art is here to stay and showcased in locations it has never been before.

“Video art is about the storytelling, the community that you can build, and the opportunity for people to have a platform, whether they’re professional artists or not, to tell their stories individually,” said Lionel Ohayon, Founder and CEO of ICRAVE, on how digital art is a new and exciting platform for artists.

The powerful impact of art in hospitality spaces has been felt in recent years and now, post-pandemic, these experiences are embodying the storytelling from public spaces into private rooms, ensuring continuity throughout the hotel and creating a meaningful connection with guests and brand affinity.

“We’re reimagining the way that art is experienced in a digital age,” said Rob Anders, co-founder and CEO of Niio. “Usually, screen means noise and information and advertising. We’re looking at how these black screens that are all around us become canvases of inspiration. And this can be any type of screen.”

Elevating Black Screen Void with Art

Niio partnered with The Mondrian Hotel in Seoul to transform its lobby with a collection of digital works which subtly switch the ambiance seasonally, creating a strong connection between the local culture and international visitors.

“When you have this massive (art) element, you can see guests talking to each other about this,” explained Damien Perrot, Global Senior Vice President, Design & Innovation, Accor. “And it creates connectivity, a connection between people. And it is also a very good way to interact between employees and guests.”

For Mondrian, integrating digital art is not just for the enticing guest experience, but also to solve a design pain point. “Most of the time we try to hide TV today, but when you put digital arts, you don’t need to hide it because they’re on the TV, it’s not a screen anymore. It’s not a TV anymore. It’s a live art. It’s really a big change.”

An Instagram-Worthy Destination in a Click: A Digital Art Installation Example

Marriott’s Aloft offers a fresh kind of hotel experience across 225 global Aloft hotels, which brings people together through immersive design and technology. With Niio’s curatorial team, they have created a bespoke curated art program using Niio’s tools for displaying and managing carefully selected artworks with the central management tool to rotate artworks in their hotels anywhere in the world at any time. 

Marriott’s Brian Jaymont, Senior Director & Global Brand Leader at Aloft Hotels & Moxy Hotels, shared why guest engagement was the driving force behind this project.

“Feedback from guests has been great,” he said. “I see it on our social media more than I’ve ever seen a framed piece of art. Somebody standing in front of it, really excited to see it. It’s really cool that we’re able to just click and give them something new in the blink of an eye.”

Creating the buzz-worthy experience isn’t necessarily tied with high costs, and is more aligned with the growing need of innovation-on-a-dime.

“From an approachability standpoint, the cost is extremely satisfactory. I think one of the biggest feedback pieces that we get is that it’s literally plug-and-play. And now that we’ve really scaled this, we’re getting further ahead in development. So we’re getting these in actually earlier in project designs and getting them installed before our openings of hotels.” said Jaymont.

Anders added another advantage: “One of the key things for the hospitality industry is the commercial rights. No one needs to worry anymore about the rights. It’s all one integrated environment and ecosystem (inside Niio), which deals with all of licensing.”

With seamless, low maintenance technology and endless creative potential, utilizing existing screens and infrastructure and adopting digital art is an achievable strategy for hotels looking to stay at the hub of travel trends.

Where Creativity Meets Tech

Samsung is seizing on the digital art potential through a strategic global partnership with Niio to display high-quality moving image art and to transform displays with inspiring and unique experiences.

This partnership celebrates the combination of Samsung’s best-in-class displays, Niio’s innovation and the surge of interest in digital art. With the right technology in place, it’s easier to access leading or emerging artists from around the world, who relish the opportunity to display their work, from video to interactive art.

Shawn O’Connell, Head of Hospitality at Samsung Electronics, described his point of view when building the tech solution for hotels. “(hotel) owners and brands are trying to digitally transform their guest experience from day to night. And I don’t want to say they’re turning their lobby into a nightclub, but they want something a little bit different on the walls at night versus day.”

The flexibility of digital art has the advantage of easily catering to diverse needs. “The consistency of what the guest experience is, from starting point to the endpoint, is also relevant. Whether you’re a large casino or cruise line that has a massive outdoor LED wall, or you’ve got something, a smaller display behind the front desk, or something in the elevator, or all the way to the guest room, you want to harmonize what that guest experience looks like and what it is, so that the brand is maintained and it’s on message,” said O’Connell.

As a vision for the future of digital art in hospitality spaces, Anders painted his own view: “We have to remember the technology’s the enabler. Ultimately, the technology has now got to a place that makes it very seamless. (..) Digital canvas can be as creative as you want. It can be a monitor, it can be a projection, it can be a triangle. It doesn’t really matter. We can turn anything into a canvas, especially when we’re seamlessly working with people like Samsung.”

Curious about how to incorporate digital art into your interior design projects?

NYC TRANSFER Gallery + Niio @ Minnesota Street Project (SF)

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Summer in the City

We are big fans of Brooklyn based TRANSFER. Gallery founder/director Kelani Nichole, started the exhibition space nearly four years ago in order to support and and cultivate artists with computer-based practices through solo exhibitions, events and international art fairs.

This summer, Kelani and TRANSFER have migrated west, installing an outpost inside San Francisco’s brand new, highly anticipated, Minnesota Street Project.

TRANSFER DOWNLOAD @ Minnesota Street Outpost

The TRANSFER Download

Installed as a series of hyperlinked solo exhibitions,  ‘TRANSFER Download’ invites artists to present custom three-channel solo presentations of moving image. Each work is accessible via a playlist, creating a layered salon-style exhibition format first tested during Art Basel Miami in 2014. Selecting an artwork from the control screen changes over the entire installation space to feature a single work – formats include time-based narrative, generative 3D video, and looped moving images. 


We’re thrilled to be collaborating with Kelani and TRANSFER during their debut at Minnesota Street. Niio, via its cloud platform + video player (4K/60fps) + remote control app,  will power a dedicated 4K 65″ single-channel screen featuring a collection of artworks from the gallery’s inventory which will give collectors an opportunity to take the Niio technology for a test drive while discovering new works of art.

Garden of Emoji Delights by Carla Gannis
Photo Credit: Kelani Nichole Instagram: “New toy from @niioart – upload on website, watch in 4K ??? @carlagannis ‘The Garden of Emoji Delights’ looks stunning ?”.

 Featured Artists Include:

Claudia Hart – ‘Empire’
Mary Ann Strandell – ‘Tromploi’
Rosa Menkman – ‘DCT’: Syphoning’
Phillip David Sterns – ‘Polar Visions 002’
Rick Silva – ‘Vibes Accelerationist’
Rollin Leonard – ‘Spinning Pinwheel of Death’
Laturbo Avedon – ‘Pardon Our Dust’

Check Out the Show:

July 30th – September 8th, 2016 in San Francisco

Minnesota Street Project
1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, CA
Open Tuesday – Saturday from 11am-6PM and by Invitation

Learn more about the Minnesota Street Project.