Anthroposcenes: life in the Age of Humans

Pau Waelder

Centre d’Art Lo Pati in Amposta opens a new season of screenings in the art center’s building façade. Following an art program curated by Irma Vilà, I have been invited by the director of Lo Pati, Aida Boix, to curate a new selection of artworks for 2024. Titled Anthroposcenes: narratives about life in the Anthropocene, it features the work of Diane Drubay, Claudia Larcher, Kelly Richardson, Theresa Schubert, Yuge Zhou, and Marina Zurkow. In the following text, I introduce the concept behind this curatorial project and the work of the artists.

Artwork by Marina Zurkow displayed on the screen at the façade of Lo Pati.

The term “Anthropocene” was proposed in 2000 by the ecologist Eugene Stoermer and the Nobel laureate in chemistry Paul Crutzen to indicate the decisive influence of human activity on our planet. It carries the danger of accepting that our actions are irreparable, but at the same time it gives us a sense of responsibility in our relationship with the environment. Understanding the consequences of our consumption habits and our daily activities in an ecosystem pushed to the limit by the abuse of natural resources, the production of waste and pollution is both a necessity and a duty.

The notion of the Anthropocene can lead us to think that the effects of human activity on the planet are just a consequence of the evolution of our species.

Philosopher and biologist Donna Haraway indicates that the danger of talking about the Anthropocene is that it leads us to consider that the effects of human activity on the planet are inevitable, and that this is just a consequence of the evolution of our species. For this reason, she proposes the term “Capitalocene,” pointing out that it is the capitalist exploitation of the Earth’s resources, including human beings, that leads to the destruction of the environment. The philosopher and anthropologist Bruno Latour also indicates that it is practically impossible to study a phenomenon such as the Anthropocene from a purely scientific, distant and objective perspective, because we find ourselves embedded in the very phenomena we are trying to study .

We therefore find that the notion of the Anthropocene is both very obvious but also in a certain way invisible, as it points to something as commonplace as our daily activity. As humans, we need to exploit natural resources to obtain food, warmth, and shelter, but we also extract resources to fulfill the numerous needs created by a consumer society taken to the greatest excesses by the very functioning of a globalized capitalist system. The Anthropocene is often linked to climate change and the danger of mass extinction, but even if we manage to avoid a planetary disaster, our way of life leads us to create an environment in which it will be increasingly difficult to live.

In this aspect, we must also remember, as the geographer Erle C. Ellis points out, that there are “better and worse lower case «anthropocenes»” depending on how the changes that occur in the environment affect us. In the most industrialized countries, we still do not suffer many effects from the extraction of minerals, the massive use of plastics, the production of waste from the fashion or technology industries, among others, because we divert them to poor countries. That is why it is essential to understand this phenomenon as something in which we participate daily, and to become aware of it we not only need a big poster telling us to recycle more and consume less, but also a narrative, or a series of narratives that make us think about life in the Anthropocene and can lead us to adopt a different mentality, born of conviction and not of guilt or a regulation.

We need narratives that make us think about life in the Anthropocene and can lead us to adopt a different mentality, born of conviction and not of guilt or a regulation.

The facade of Centre d’Art Lo Pati incorporates a screen that brings art to the street and is therefore an ideal space to show these narratives: six audiovisual works created by artists from the international scene that offer us, from different perspectives, narratives about life in the Anthropocene, particularly in those environments and systems that we ignore but that play a determining role in life on Earth. From the ocean floor to the mines from which we extract the materials that facilitate our digital life, from glaciers to atmospheric phenomena, from forest fires to crowded cities, these works invite us to reflect on our planet, the world in which we want to live and what we will leave to the next generations.

Marina Zurkow. OOzy #3: Just because you can’t swim in it doesn’t mean it isn’t there, 2022.

The ocean, a “capitalist Pangea”

The artist Marina Zurkow (New York, USA, 1962) opens this cycle with a work that takes us to the bottom of the ocean. A good part of her work focuses on this natural environment of which she points out that it is “a surface and a volume. The surface, which is what we humans mainly experience, is a space in which we play and a surface through which we transport goods, this is what turns the ocean into a capitalist Pangea.” Zurkow points out that, while we look to the sea or the ocean as a space in which to relax and dream, we use it as a dumping ground and exploit its resources without considering its sustainability. In the artwork OOzy #3: Just because you can’t swim in it doesn’t mean it isn’t there (2022), she imagines life 6,000 meters under the sea, in an environment where humans could not live. She represents this underwater landscape in vivid colors, in a playful way, because she believes that it is through humor and apparent innocence that a message can be communicated in a way that is not paternalistic or authoritarian. The work invites us to enjoy a fanciful vision that can entertain us, but over time it will also lead us to think about how the elements that appear in it (underwater probes and other devices created by humans) are alien and invasive.

Claudia Larcher. Noise above our heads, 2016.

What lies beneath the iceberg

Zurkow refers to the “iceberg model” proposed by researcher Donella Meadows to point out that we often focus on the effects (the visible part of the iceberg) and not on the structures, systems and mental models that lead to these effects, and which are usually hidden or ignored. In Noise above our heads (2016) the artist Claudia Larcher (Bregenz, Austria, 1979) takes us deep into the earth’s surface to explore a different landscape, the crust of rock that supports the weight of humanity and provides the resources that have shaped our consumer society, dependent on fossil fuels and dominated by information technologies. Deeply interested in the way in which architecture conditions our environment, Larcher introduces between the rocks fragments of architectural constructions, masses of cement that refer to the physical infrastructure of cities, and also data processing centers, hidden in cavernous spaces. “As for architecture,” says the artist, “I am drawn to its power to create, change and destroy our environment.”

The Earth’s crust supports the weight of humanity and provides the resources that have shaped our consumer society, dependent on fossil fuels and dominated by information technologies. 

Diane Drubay. Ignis II, 2021.

Stories of possible futures

While Larcher’s video takes us underground, the work of artist Diane Drubay (Paris, France) invites us to look up to the sky. We see a captivating landscape with brightly colored clouds, which slowly turn reddish and increasingly dark. Ignis II (2021) is an animation of only 14 seconds, representing the fourteen years that, in 2021, remained until the so-called “point of no return” in climate change: the year 2035. According to the most recent reports, already in 2029 it will be impossible to limit the global rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees. Instead of showing a countdown or a graph with an upward curve, Drubay creates an alluring, almost abstract landscape that tells a story solely by transforming the colors in the image. The effect is hypnotic, and if we think about what it represents, quite terrifying. The artist emphasizes the cyclical nature of the work and its leisurely rhythm: “my art requires slowness, but above all, sustainability. The notion of time and cycle is present in my work to position it in an infinite space of time that can be easily assimilated to that of nature.” Drubay’s piece, under its ephemeral beauty, leads us to reflect on slow but inexorable processes, and our ability to react to them.

Kelly Richardson. HALO I, 2021.

Memories of a lost past

In the work HALO I (2021), the artist Kelly Richardson (Ontario, Canada, 1972) takes up the theme of Camp, a video filmed in 1998. The vision of the moon during a summer night under a campfire evokes in the artist fond memories of childhood and adolescence. In this work, it acquires a new meaning as we see our satellite subjected to increasing heat. Today, bonfires have been banned in British Columbia (where the artist lives) due to the risk of forest fires. Richardson consciously evokes a scene that has emotional connotations (the tranquility of a summer night, leisure time with friends and family) and adds to it a situation of imminent danger. She wants to establish a connection that leads the viewer to react. “Beauty invites viewers to pay attention to a subject that may be difficult for them. The tragedy lies in showing the truth about what we have created, the conditions we find ourselves in, and the call we collectively face.” Unlike Drubay, who presents us with a possible future, Richardson evokes a lost past to incite us to reflection and action.

“Beauty invites viewers to pay attention to a subject that may be difficult for them. The tragedy lies in showing the truth about what we have created”

Yuge Zhou. Interlinked II, 2022

Sisyphus routines

Paradoxically, our society is very active, but it is mostly immersed in an incessant activity marked by capitalist production and consumption systems. This is made obvious in the artwork Interlinked II (2022) by Yuge Zhou (Beijing, China, 1985), an artist who resides in Chicago and in her work often observes interpersonal dynamics in American society. Zhou works with video collage to break the singularity of the moving image and tell multiple stories at the same time, turning a scene into a narrative space rich in different scenes. These scenes are often protagonized by people going about their daily or recreational activities. In this piece we see a multiplicity of sequences filmed in the New York subway in which travelers walk along platforms and corridors without a specific destination. The composition leads to thinking about what the artist calls “Sisyphus routines,” which ultimately lead nowhere and expose the absurdity of everyday life in big cities. Referring to the flâneur, or the flâneuse in this case, Zhou describes how she stands outside the flow of activity she wants to portray, indicating that this is the way to observe and reflect on what we take for granted and consider permanent.

Theresa Schubert. A synthetic archive (AI glaciers), 2023.

Nothing is permanent

The last work in the series, created by the artist Theresa Schubert (Berlin, Germany, 1983) using artificial intelligence systems, explores the gradual disappearance of glaciers, a powerful image of climate change that reminds us that nothing is permanent. A synthetic archive (AI glaciers) (2023) creates a visual poem using images generated by machine learning algorithms and a sound composition that combines music, choral singing, and the voices of various narrators. The artist studied the fluvial systems in the Piemont region in Italy and collected data that was then fed to three generative adversarial networks. The fluid way in which the mountain landscapes generated by these computer programs are transformed speaks to us of a nature that, far from being static, is subject to constant transformations, which are now accelerating due to human action. Artificial intelligence, a profoundly human creation that also brings with it a particular threat of extinction, is the most appropriate tool to visualize the idea that the world is slipping under our feet.

Hadar Mitz: on the fluidity of time

Roxanne Vardi

Hadar Mitz is deeply engaged with the philosophical underpinnings of perception, time, and the ephemeral nature of existence. Her practice is located at the intersection of photography, video, and installation, employing these diverse media not merely as tools but as integral components of her conceptual framework. Her goal is ambitious: in her own words, “to gain hold onto unholdable things, and to communicate an intimate time perception by works that deal with our experience of impermanence and infinity, encompassed in our sense of now.”

Through her explorations, Mitz invites viewers to reconsider their relationship with time and the natural world. Her installations are immersive experiences that juxtapose the order we impose on nature with the chaos inherent in the natural order itself. Her videos and photographs are not mere representations but are imbued with the essence of time, challenging viewers to perceive beyond the immediate, to sense the imperceptible flow of existence.

On the occasion of her recent solo artcast on Niio, Duration, we had a brief conversation in which the artist elaborated on the concepts behind her work and her creative process.

Experience a different perception of time in Hadar Mitz’s artcast Duration

Hadar Mitz. Adolescence, 2018

When did you start focusing your work on the concept of time, was there a turning point in your artistic career which led to this?

Since I can remember, I have been interested in paradoxes and different perceptions of time 🙂

As a child I watched a movie that really shook me, “Flight of the Navigator”, in which a young boy is kidnapped into space. When he returns to earth he finds out that all of his relatives aged significantly whereas the boy remained the same age. A few years after I watched the movie I found out that this is an actual fact: time slows down the farther away one distances oneself from the Earth.

Hadar Mitz. Butterfly Pond, 2018

How do photography and video art as new media assist you in your goal of creating alternative perceptions of time?

The camera, whose action challenges the tangibility of the present moment, is the starting point of the majority of my works. In my creations I attempt to establish a dialogue with the concept of time. In some of them I try to re-experience the present, for instance by breaking down a video into single still frames or by bringing to life stuffed animals and inanimate stones. I do so due to my belief that time isn’t a linear movement from the past into the future but rather a continuous present that begins over and over again. This is a notion I borrow from the writings of French philosopher Henri Bergson, who coined the term “La durée” to express the idea that time is made up of fragments that give birth to one another, with each event giving rise to the creation of a new moment, a new mode of being.

“I believe that time isn’t a linear movement from the past into the future but rather a continuous present that begins over and over again.”

Your work on one hand leans on and deals with the natural world while on the other, by making use of new media technology, focuses on fabricated and mass produced elements. How do you bridge between these two seemingly opposite realms?

I am interested in the meeting point between the ever-changing natural world and the human attempt to comprehend it and provide it with meaning. Humans have fabricated a complete world of categories and perceptions that are seemingly equivalent to the natural world, but in fact they always narrow down and miss it because the natural world refuses to become fixated. In some of my video works, the representations of nature become manipulated, meaning that they don’t represent the things themselves. These are thus representations which have the goal to be exhibited, similar to infinite cabinets of curiosities or natural art museums. By these means we are asked to contemplate what exists outside of our existence, but in this process we are doomed to fail. Through my artworks I try to create spaces in which accepted global definitions become blurred. This lack of comprehension in turn gives space to the beauty and mystery of the world.

Hadar Mitz. Two Moons, 2020

In works such as Jetty (2018) you rearrange the picture frame to create a different scene from reality, which reinforces the potential of different perceptions and perspectives of a picture plane. What is it in this process and outcome that interests you most?

In my opinion, in the act of creation, the artist is his own sole authority: it is she who creates and gives birth to reality. Thus, the artist has the opportunity to change accepted rules –for example the way time flows, gravity, or the resurrection of dead objects. In this work as well as others, I took ruins of things that were at once filled with life, like feathers that I gathered, and recreated them as wings to provide them with a new life form, a new creation. One of the motivations in my work is the encounter with this new force of creation, which I identify with the potential of substances that I find around me and their never-ending potential to transform. Therefore, this force does not need a reason or external validation in order to reorganize the conditions of this new reality.

‫Hadar Mitz. Jetty, 2018

“Through my artworks I try to create spaces in which accepted global definitions become blurred. This lack of comprehension in turn gives space to the beauty and mystery of the world.”

You have referred to your work Gradient, 2019 as representing “a single space where different planes of reality intersect” which is interesting to think of vis a vis the internet-era and AI in creating new human experiences. Can you share your thoughts on this and your opinion on the future of the art world in an AI dominated space?

Lately, I have been working with desecrated AI imagery. I am enchanted by the endless possibilities that this collaboration gives space to. I see AI as a gate into the space of the collective unconscious of the Internet. In my opinion, this is the present realization of Carl Jung’s theory where we found an infinite treasure of encrypted-idiosyncratic images. AI mixes and processes these images through the networks that it creates between them and reconstructs them according to our requests. 

It is hard for me to define how AI will change the future of the art world. I am especially curious to find out how the new conditions that AI supplies to the act of artmaking will allow us to reveal our human qualities either through conflict or through collaboration.

Thomas C. Chung: a departure from childhood innocence

Pau Waelder

Chinese-Australian artist Thomas C. Chung has embarked on a lifelong artistic research that he is developing in well-structured phases, each one characterized by an exploration of different techniques and approaches to human experience. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of New South Wales’ College of Fine Arts in 2004 and has had a noteworthy international artistic presence in recent years. Chung has been a representative for Australia in several prominent international exhibitions, such as the 2nd Land Art Biennial in Mongolia, the 4th Ghetto Biennale in Haiti, and the 9th Shiryaevo Biennale in Russia. Currently, he is exploring the realms of psychotherapy as a means to deepen his artistic inquiry. 

The artist presents on Niio three pivotal works from his ongoing second phase, in which he leaves behind a narrative focused on childhood innocence and enters the adult world with a series of more sober, meditative artworks. The landscapes that form the collection “As Far As I Could See…” introduce a deeper reflection on the human condition, not without a hint to the magic and surreal aspects of children’s imagination. 

Experience Thomas C. Chung’s dreamlike landscapes

Thomas C. Chung. “As Far As I Could See…” (I), 2023

In the following interview for Niio, Chung discusses the motivations behind his work and dives into his second-phase artworks, which have recently been exhibited at the Chinese European Art Center (Xiamen, China) in a solo show titled The Sea That Stands Before Me…

Your work has evolved over the last decades following a “lifelong narrative” determined by different phases. The first phase was characterized by crochet sculptures, installations, and an overall playful aesthetic, while the second-phase works present a very different approach. It may even be hard to recognize the work of the same artist in these two phases. How have you dealt with this transition, and what has been the response to it?

I’ll be the first to say I was nervous about the different phases I had conceived – I figured it might be too hard for others to accept, especially with the small but loyal following I had built. Over time, I understood that as long as the work was fascinating to myself & others, it didn’t matter what shape or form it took as long as the creativity was there. I clarified this by using new techniques each decade, approaching the chapters within my Art by splitting them into various methods that correlated with the story I wanted to tell. The 1st phase was all handmade, tactile, labor-intensive & filled with food motifs as avenues for expressing a child’s obsessions & dreams. This 2nd phase speaks of the departure from childhood & the realization that life has to progress beyond our comfort zones so that we can understand the totality of our world. 

I had a lot of interests as a child & wanted to grow up to be so many things, one of which was as a children’s illustrator & author. But Art chose me instead, so here I am, creating a different type of story, saving that option for later. 

Thomas C. Chung’s solo exhibition at the Chinese European Art Center extends to Sedition and Niio with the presentation of a selection of artworks.

You have expressed that, in your work, you aim to see the world through the eyes of a child. How do you convey this idea without being perceived as childlike or superficial? Which is the underlying concept that grounds these artworks?

It aligns with how I interact with people these days in a direct yet open & gentle manner without overthinking the consequences. If others don’t appreciate it, I try not to let it matter. Everyone has their view or way of life. My artwork may have previously been seen as naive, which at times bothered me. I knew as a conceptual artist, my practice would be a lifetime’s work that would encompass the narratives of my inner child. The artwork titles are a hint to what it is they see & are presented to the audience as an observation of their journeys while exploring the world. To produce this lifelong story, it was always my vision to create a giant storybook-like body of work split into chapters, set within a contemporary art context, emphasizing the importance of patience, empathy & curiosity, where human beings have the ability to control what it is they feel or see.  

Thomas C. Chung. “It Was Like Seeing A Fallen Rainbow…” Exhibition view at Galerie pompom

Your video artworks are characterized by a slow tempo that suggests a relaxed observation. In our times of limited attention span and an overflow of media content, would you say that we need to take more time to observe our surroundings? In your opinion, does art create this space for observation or is it also caught in the spirit of fast-paced consumption?

That’s quite a complex one to answer. And that is a great question. I value the time I take to see the world unfiltered from electronic devices & media. Much of that is due to my not being attached to technology as early as others may have been. For example, the very first mobile phone I got was when I was 34 years old; I remember even thinking what a selfie of myself looks like. 

Until then, I spent a significant portion of my life turning up early to meet friends or acquaintances (if they were over an hour late, I would leave), keeping promises that I had kept & looking at the sky to tell the time. 

Art has always been a good reflection of our times, like a visual newspaper that begins & starts intriguing conversations before leaving it to others to visit, fulfill, react, or enjoy. The fast-paced consumption of our current world is an accurate indication of that, with the growth of digital art increasing among the masses.

Thomas C. Chung. “As Far As I Could See…” (II), 2023

You are studying to become a psychotherapist and draw inspiration from this knowledge to create your artworks. Do you intend your artworks to visualize or reflect upon states of mind, or do you wish them to become therapeutic objects, sparking certain emotions or thoughts that might have a healing quality?

This one made me think – thank you for that. My intention as an artist is to engage with everyone, but whether or not it connects with others is something I can’t control. Delving into the mental health field as a future psychotherapist, the purpose of whatever I create – however the audience receives it – there’s no right or wrong answer, just an open story. Food & landscapes have always intrigued me in this particular way. Some people love certain aspects or locations, while others dread it. Some people love a specific type of food but not others. No one person has the same reaction to different things & that’s what is so fascinating to me, to see life through the eyes of another human being.   

When I create, I have a particular concept & narrative for it, but ultimately, if the audience would like to enjoy it without any background or story, that is also up to them. Viewing Art, like watching any movie, reading a book, or tasting a special menu, is very subjective. 

“I’ve purposefully given artworks a title that invites an audience in…much like an open door to a gathering or party.”

You have mentioned your role as storyteller. How do you guide the narrative, from the title of the artwork to its description and the story that unfolds in it?

I’ve purposefully given artworks – particularly new bodies of work – a title that invites an audience in…much like an open door to a gathering or party. I grew up in an environment where Art was rarely seen as a necessity, so I knew the task for an artist was to be as engaging as possible – if not with their personality, then at the least with their artworks. Often, the title reveals a lot to the viewer & this should always be considered. 

Once the artwork has been created & the title carefully selected (I have a list of names for potential artworks), it unfolds as an individual experience. Once invited, I leave the guests to wander around to enjoy the ambiance of it. 

Thomas C. Chung. “As Far As I Could See…” (III), 2023

You are exploring “emotional landscapes.” Coincidentally, this is a term used by the singer Björk in her song Jóga, in which she refers to being puzzled by emotions and undergoing a healing process. Is this how you understand your exploration? Or is it more of a distanced observation? 

Oh – how wonderful. Thank you for this observation. I’ve been a big fan of Björk for many years, especially when I was younger…yet I never put the terms together like you did. I love this connection. I know the words ’emotional landscapes’ popped into my artistic practice at a time when I noticed how viewing one place or space brought out differing reactions & sensations in others. A lot of this stems from my studying in psychotherapy, where no one situation is identical, although similar when answered by participants or clients. For some, this exploration could be seen as somewhat distanced yet intimate. The space in front of us isn’t necessarily a gauge for how close one feels towards something. 

“These artworks point to a departure from childhood innocence, but also to longing for the past in a way that color cannot achieve.”

The series of artworks you present on Niio address the ability to find hope during times of hardship, which is something that everyone can relate to. The aesthetics and elements in them point to a more sombre, even melancholic atmosphere. Would you say that these artworks represent a coming of age, leaving aside the innocence of childhood and confronting the hard truths of adult life?

This series with Niio is particular in its aesthetics & I chose a black-and-white palette to illustrate this story. I’ve always found the limiting of colors to be very intriguing. I love to watch vintage movies because they have a very special quality. Sometimes, it can feel melancholic, while at other times, it can feel deeply romantic. These artworks pointed to a departure from childhood innocence, that’s for sure, but it also alludes to the longing for the past in a way that color cannot achieve. I wanted to insert an intangible without stating something obvious so people could have their journey & time to think for themselves.

Fabula, tales of possible futures by Diane Drubay

Pau Waelder

In her latest series Fabula. Micro Stories from Tomorrow’s World, artist Diane Drubay continues her exploration of a narrative that raises awareness about the effects of climate change, while keeping with the clean, balanced visual composition that has become a defining element of her work. Consisting of six 1-minute videos (at the time of this writing) distributed as NFTs on the Tezos blockchain, Fabula plays with our imagination by suggesting possible futures in which the environment would be radically altered due to the effects of human activity on the planet, particularly the violent and massive pollution produced by a handful of powerful companies. 

Diane Drubay, Fabula 4 – Micro Stories From Tomorrow’s World, 2023

Each story starts with a question that the artist aptly depicts as a query in a search engine, evoking how nowadays we seek immediate answers online, when we fail to understand what is happening around us. The imagined future appears in a circle at the center of the image, initially as an anomaly, its hues sharply contrasting the real image of the sky, a desert, a lake, or the sea. Slowly, the whole image changes its color to match the tones inside the circle, which finally blends into it and disappears. The circle becomes a metaphor for the possible futures described by scientific research: while they might seem outlandish at first, they can become real, at a slow but relentless pace that makes denial so much easier. 

A selection of works from Fabula is now available as an artcast on Niio. On the occasion of its launch, I asked Diane three questions about her current practice and the NFT scene, as a follow-up on a previous interview published in Niio Editorial.

Explore a selection of works from Fabula on Niio

Diane Drubay, Fabula 6 – Micro Stories From Tomorrow’s World, 2023

After the protests in different art museums, it seems that climate change has been out of the news cycle. How do you see creating art about climate change in the current situation?

Changing the discourse and actions around climate change and the future of our planet must be done in depth. The change must be individual as well as systemic. Of course, news has its cycles, but climate change is always a hot topic. Activist groups or unions of museum professionals have been active for years, and will be for some time to come (unfortunately) considering the current state of our societies. I particularly remember 2018 / 2019 when the COP21 had raised the crowds and inspired the creation of activist communities that demand climate action. 

Just as these activists continue to gather and denounce unsustainable behaviors, the creation of art with an activist vocation for the environment must continue. It is by maintaining the same clear, coherent and strong message for years, that it can begin to be heard, understood and shared. My art calls for slowness, but above all, for sustainability. The notion of time and cycles always comes back in my works in order to position them within an infinite space of time that can easily be assimilated to that of nature. 

Just as environmental activists continue to gather and denounce unsustainable behaviors, the creation of art with an activist vocation for the environment must continue.

How was your experience at the recent NFT Paris event? How do you see the NFT scene evolving at present?

I traveled to NFT Paris to meet my friends, those people I have evolved with, and I felt shaken and fulfilled since March 2021. Artists, collectors, developers, curators, galleries, and many others have come together (almost) exactly two years after the birth of our beloved community around hic et nunc. What is enchanting about this group is their desire to focus on what makes sense, their desire to do things together and to make things happen, in a global and collective way. 

This aside, NFT Paris has become a major event of the NFT scene with 18K visitors in two days in the most iconic venue in Paris: Le Grand Palais Éphémère. In the aisles, one could feel the growing entrepreneurship of this new generation of founders and creatives.

“In the NFT scene, I see a lot of respect and exchange, knowledge being shared and collaborations being born.” 

To be honest, I’m in a bubble within this community of Tezos artists and it’s very difficult to have an objective look at the rest of the NFT scene. On our side, we see players consolidating, new platforms, curators, and galleries trying out new things while trying to understand and respect the culture already established. I see a lot of respect and exchange, knowledge being shared and collaborations being born. 

Diane Drubay, Fabula 6 – Micro Stories From Tomorrow’s World, 2023

You are donating the sales of one of the artworks from Fabula to support the victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria in February 2023. The NFT scene has been quite active in supporting humanitarian and environmental causes, do you think this will be a permanent aspect of this sector of the digital art market?

The act of creating and donating art for social and environmental charities is part of the DNA of the creative community using the Tezos blockchain. It started early on, back in March 2021, when DiverseNFT launched the OBJKT4OBJKT weekend to call for more diversity within the NFT art market. Then, this habit took hold and it became part of the culture: call for community support via NFT art donations and support the NGOs who need it most. 

In February 2023, the Tezos art community joined forces to support the victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria under the initiative #TezQuakeAid. Since then, more than 110K xtz (around $109,000) have been raised through the donation of +720 artworks. 

“The Tezos art community has raised around $109,000 to support the victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria under the initiative #TezQuakeAid.”

Find out more about Diane Drubay’s work in a longer interview published in 2022.

Daniel Belton: dance, music, and digital art

Roxanne Vardi

Daniel Belton is an artist, filmmaker, choreographer, and dancer from New Zealand. In 1997, Daniel Belton and creative producer Donnine Harrison founded Good Company Arts, an entity devoted to creating live events, exhibitions, and installations through the fusion of multiple art forms, and is internationally recognized as arts innovators that combines dance, choreography, fine arts, music, and digital cinema. Belton acts as the artistic director of Good Company Arts, and together their project based art programs are internationally recognized as innovating the arts and design sectors.

On the occasion of his solo show artcast Unification of Dance, we had a conversation with Daniel Belton about his work and artistic practice of combining different mediums and art forms into a unifying whole. Belton has choreographed a number of acclaimed dance works, created a number of experimental film dance works, and has created a number of short films. The artist holds a number of renowned rewards and honours.

Daniel Belton, Astrolabe – whakaterenga (Portals), 2020.

In your digital artworks you combine contemporary dance, music, animation, and AV technologies. Can you walk us through the different complexities combining these disparate media into a coherent whole?

In my work the role of digitally augmented dance is really determining how the narratives or story threads are shared to the viewer. As well as this, the relationship between the choreographed work and music, is a central driving force. When you watch the works in motion, for me it is the relationship between the dance and sound, that is the heart beat, the emotional arc if you like. From this centre all the other elements are derived – the couture, the motion graphics and generative atmospherics, the virtual worlding of spaces in which the human figures project themselves, traverse, journey, or inhabit. 

I’m a self taught filmmaker – I studied photography and painting before heading into an international career in dance. After a decade working in Europe for various theatre and dance luminaries, I returned home to Aotearoa NZ to begin raising a family, and this was is also a significant turning point, when we founded Good Company Arts (1998). I began working closely with film artists to initially document our live performances. 

My curiosity for film and dance as shared mediums, really grew through the next decade, and continues to this day. More recently I have focused on outputs from the digital to print, and installations.

When I edit film, it is not in a conventional way. I use FCP, After Effects, predominantly for my workflows which often have 10 or more layers of visual material in a scene. I usually start by testing out the compositional space, with various visual components. This means playing with masks, scale, proportion, colour, and tone to establish a design language for the specific work. If you see all my works in a space together, you will recognise the “eye” and aesthetic, which is my signature. I’m grateful to the small team of collaborators who I bring in to support the overall vision – these artists work with software such as Cinema4D, After Effects, Premiere, Lightwave and more. I commission and guide their contributions, and we have a long rapport of collaboration. Their work becomes part of the total vision for the design feel of my work with GCA.

Collaboration with the performing artists is key. I work closely with Donnine Harrison (my life partner and Creative Producer for GCA), to choose dance artists who are also makers in their own right. These young artists bring their choreographic voices to the work, which is carefully guided. Usually we work shop and film in a choreolab style process. The filmed material is then reflected on in post, and this is where the relationship to music, and the visual design and narrative structure is developed – the total work is usually anchored this way. Sometimes later on, and it can be years later, a work is recommissioned to be performed as a hybrid piece. Then we bring the team together again to realise a performance activation of the digital work, for example with large outdoor projection, live music and live dance bridging to the digital world and expanding on it.

It is a fluid relationship. Works arrive and carry in a specific quality or message. They have their own energy and wairua (spirit). So the relationship becomes overtime, even more attentive because it is like communicating with a child of ours, and this is reciprocal. We listen, watch and respond.

“Works arrive and carry in a specific quality or message. They have their own energy and wairua (spirit).

Daniel Belton and Good Company Arts, AD PARNASSUM – Purapurawhetū Solstice, 2022.

There is something very theatrical and cinematic about your compositions. Do you find inspiration in these two areas of artistic expression?

Yes, I come from a background as a professional dancer, choreographer and visual artist, with many years of working in theatres. It has become a deep fascination to explore how we can expand our storytelling practices out and away from traditional blackbox and proscenium theatres. This gradual shift in my own work, has developed skills with digital mediums to grow my practice for dance art-film, and 2D screens, projection mapping etc. More recently I’ve started the deep dive into XR which has migrated my projects with GCA from 2D to 3D formats with full dome and CVR.

To me, the theatre and the cinema are inherently connected. They are powerful amplifiers and channels for broadcasting our stories. Human beings are story telling beings. From the cave painters of the paleolithic, through to cutting edge VR, we have always pursued the liminal, pushed ourselves and our communities towards a greater understanding of our place in the cosmos. This search is a beautiful, ongoing quest for identity and belonging.

“Human beings are story telling beings. From the cave painters of the paleolithic, through to cutting edge VR, we have always pursued the liminal, pushed ourselves and our communities towards a greater understanding of our place in the cosmos.

Daniel Belton and Good Company Arts, soma_songs_(aarhus_festival_promo) (Original), 2022.

Your artworks have been exhibited at art galleries, museums, public spaces, and architectural facades. Can you elaborate on the differences, at least from your personal perspective, working in the public sphere as opposed to the private gallery sphere?

This is about space, the human relationship to environment, our sense of belonging, and well-being. It is about discovery and returning to something to engage with it in a new way. What do we see? Our perception of an artwork is altered greatly when we augment through scale, light, surface. The ephemeral digital nature of film, especially projected, means that it is a membrane of datum, a digital cloak of light rippling with stories.

When we can identify ourselves in these stories because they are populated by the human in motion, then our awareness also moves to new places. So my works are not didactic, they do not attempt to tell a story in the traditional sense, rather to create an invitation for the audience to connect. This is a personal experience, and each individual will have their own response to an artwork. 

I find that when filmed dance appears in unusual sites such as mapped onto building facades – people really engage with it. Perhaps part of this immediate connect is that dance is a universal language.

In this way we can bring a new kind of illumination to a site, and invigorate, catalyse. For my work Line Dances at the Bauhaus University in Weimar, this was a direct link up to Paul Klee’s lithographs inspired by the theatre such as his delicate and humorous “Realm of the Curtain” and “Equilibrist”. It was 2013 with the Genius Loci Weimar Festival, and my first go at projection mapping. Since then we have learnt much, and I have been fortunate with GCA to be invited to many cities to show our work in more unconventional ways, with mapping. 

I do love the clarity and purity of a fine gallery or museum space. Artwork can breathe, and when curated well, bodies of work offer incredible insight to public, around an artists practice and oeuvre.

Many of your artworks, including Astrolabe – whakaterenga (Portails), are rendered in black and white and display celestial, astrological compositions. Could you elaborate on the intended reception of these representations?

The monochromatic space is powerful. I find it a natural optical realm in which to create compositions, and to cultivate spatial relationships that are coherent. Integrating the human figure here is also a natural progression for me. Don’t get me wrong, I adore colour! But it must be introduced carefully and deliberately. Human beings are travellers, and our ancestors were largely nomadic. Since we can remember our species have navigated using the stars, and the natural elements which we embrace as part of the vast family of sentient life on Mother Earth. In our shared histories, Indigenous peoples from all around the globe have created maps and charts, and systems to move safely and efficiently from place to place, over land and water. Everywhere we look, there is evidence of knowledge founded in the wisdom of the stars, and the wisdom of living in rhythm with Gaia (Papatūānuku). Certain GCA projects I have directed, such as Astrolabe – Whakaterenga, are about celebrating this. Whakaterenga in te reo translates as “to launch”. In this work, there is a merger of Asian and Pacific Island wisdom, that binds such systems as astronomical charts and stick charts (used in canoes to navigate with the stars). This work as with OneOne is about honouring diversity, and acknowledging the many links that bind us. These pieces are affirmations of the human spirit, of diversity and unity. They speak of the interconnectedness of being.

Daniel Belton, NGURU, 2022.

In many of your works, including NGURU, you reference Māori arts which are an important part of Māori culture. Could you dive deeper into this compelling subject matter and how it facilitates in representing more contemporary media?

In some of my works, those that carry and promote nga taonga pūoro, I have with GCA engaged Māori artists who are practicing musicians, composers, dancers and weavers. Specifically the works are OneOne, Taiao, Astrolabe, Nguru and Ad Parnassum. Although I am not Māori, I have Maori and Samoan cousins. I greatly respect and admire Māori language, arts and culture. When GCA brings in Māori artists to collaborate, they lead in their specific field of expertise, and their mahi (work) is carefully combined into the total artwork and process. We are attentive to protocols (tikanga) and this is reciprocal. For Ad Parnassum -Purapurawhetū there is a focus visually on weaving and the horizontal. The music score created by Dame Gillian Karawe Whitehead (of Ngai Terangi and Tuhoe descent), is a fusion of classical (string quartet) and taonga pūoro (traditional Maori instruments). Of the nine female dance cast, 2 are tangata whenua (which means they are Inidgenous Māori, or have a Māori bloodline). The other 7 dancers make up this multi-cultural team which combines ancestry from Japan, India, the Phillipines, Eastern and Central Europe, Scandinavia, and Fiji. Their dance is contemporary, not traditional, but I do see influences in their work that offer glimpses of each artists cultural ties.

Niio in 2022: the artworks

Niio Editorial

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 artworks from 2022

Screens have become the canvas of the 21st century. Artists display their creativity in digital artworks that are meant to exist on a screen, sometimes inside a web browser or even a mobile app. We believe that artworks are better experienced and appreciated in a dedicated screen, and therefore our whole system enables setting up a screen at home or anywhere that becomes a space for art. Within this space, many things can happen: the images that appear on the screen can be painstakingly created through 3D modeling, or drawn using a generative algorithm. They can also consist of video footage mixed with hyper-realistic CGI elements. They can be abstract or build a precise narrative, and they can be crafted from scratch or appropriated from an external source. It is quite impossible to describe everything that an artist can create digitally and that fits on a screen, as it is defining everything that a painting on canvas can be.

We have chosen five artworks from more than 230 moving image artworks and 185 photographs featured in our curated art program this year. Click on the artists’ names to find out more about their work.

Yoshi Sodeoka. Synthetic Liquid 8, 2022

Supported by a hybrid creative process that is both analog and digital, Sodeoka deploys an unconventional artistic approach that challenges the video medium. While questioning the major issues of visual media, its perception, and the interpretation of the world in the digital age, the work navigates narrative universes with singularly ultra-guided aesthetics. “Synthetic Liquid” depicts organic forms and blatant colors that open a portal to psychedelic and illusory world far from reality.

A multifaceted artist, Yoshi Sodeoka creates a wide range of audiovisual artistic works that include video art, animated gifs, music videos, and editorial illustrations. Influenced from an early stage in his career in noise music and glitch art, as well as avant garde movements such as Op Art, his work is characterized by breaking down the structure of the musical score and visual integrity of the image to find new forms of artistic expression.

Driessens & Verstappen. Kennemerduinen 2010, scene H, 2011

Kennemerduinen 2010, is a project for which the artists documented six locations around the Kennemer dunes (near the North Sea). Each film has a duration of almost nine minutes and covers exactly one year, from one January to the next. On a weekly basis, each scene was repeatedly photographed from the same position and at the same time of day, around noon. With custom developed software each series of shots was edited into fluid transitions. Slow transformations and changes in season, that are never directly perceptible in daily life, are perceptible on a sensory level. By systematically computerising and formalising observation, the Kennemer dunes films became studies of the spontaneous course of nature, of the emergent and entropic processes underlying it.

In the past years Driessens & Verstappen have documented three different types of Dutch landscapes: a historic landscape park (Frankendael 2001), a dike landscape (Diemerzeedijk 2007) and a dune landscape (Kennemerduinen 2010). From each landscape type several films are made.

Katie Torn. Dream Flower I, 2022

“Dream Flower I” is a 3D animation that depicts a snoozing biomorphic female arrangement made out of flowers, leaves and pipes. As the creature sleeps, a plastic like liquid flows from the pipes creating a relaxing fountain. The work is inspired by Victorian botanical illustrations.

Katie Torn’s work explores the female figure in a world shaped by digital technology and obsession with self-image boosted by social media and consumer culture. She uses 3D graphics and video to build assemblages of natural and artificial elements that question the boundaries between beauty and decay, body and prosthesis, organic and synthetic, and between a person’s own self and the image she creates of herself. 

Julian Brangold. Observation Machine (Iteration), 2022

A sculpture depicting a seating man is multiplied six times, the copies rotating in a choreographed fashion. Colored in a pink hue, the sculptures resemble consumer products, souvenirs lined up on a shelf waiting to be purchased. At the same time, the artist applies an effect that makes the sculptures come to pieces, as if an invisible hand were trying to touch them but destroyed them in the process.

Julian Brangold (Buenos Aires, 1986) is one of the leading names in the growing digital art community in Argentina. Through painting, computer programming, 3D modeling, video installations, collage, and a myriad of digital mediums, he addresses how technologies such as artificial intelligence and data processing are shaping our culture and memory, as well as our notion of self. An active participant in the cryptoart scene and NFT market in Argentina he has been exploring art on the blockchain since 2020 and is currently the Director of Programming at  Museum of Crypto Art, a web3 native cultural institution.

Julie Blackmon. New Neighbors, 2020

Courtesy the artist and Fahey-Klein gallery

Julie Blackmon (b. 1966) is an American photographer who lives and works in Missouri. As an art student at Missouri State University, Blackmon became interested in photography, especially the work of Diane Arbus and Sally Mann. Blackmon’s oeuvre also shows influences from Masters of the Dutch Renaissance such as Jan Steen.

Niio Art in collaboration with Fahey/Klein Gallery recently published an Artcast of Julie Blackmon’s photography works in digital format. The artist focuses on the complexities and contradictions of modern life, exploring, among other subjects, the overwhelming, often conflicting expectations and obligations of contemporary parenthood. Blackmon has stated that her works deal with “modern parenting, and the contradictions and expectations and the overwhelmed feeling that go with parenting today as compared to the past” furthermore the artist has stated “with the little ones it’s more metaphorical than about parenting, and speaks of the anxieties of everyday modern life”.