Leamington Spa-based digital artist Rosa Francesca talks about her practice and those that inspire her – via Voice Magazine.

Edie Jo Murray, Perpetuation (2019), CGI Animation, Image © the artist

Opening at the Herbert Art Gallery this evening, Wonder features new commissions and existing work by artists based predominantly in the West Midlands. The exhibition is rooted in a sense of play and interactivity by way of site-specific painting, animation, light installation and collections-inspired augmented reality works. We speak to invited curator Dr Rachel Marsden about the development of the exhibition.

 

Ben Javens, Helping Hand (2019), Ink on Paper, Image © the artist

 

Can you tell me more about the premise of Wonder?

I was bought in to curate the exhibition in January this year. The exhibition was originally developed from the idea of fairy tales and the fact that the Herbert usually has a family-friendly summer exhibition targeted at early years. This was the first consideration as part of the project’s development.

One of the reasons I wanted to speak to you about Wonder is the regional interest in the artists that have been selected. Could you tell me more about these selections?

Julia Snowdin had already been commissioned to make an installation called Light Pavilion which is a sensory light canopy largely for early years. Thinking about those who might have additional sensory needs and disabilities was a part of the show. The gallery had also had conversations with Ben Javens who is a local illustrator and a lot of his work looks at the idea of storytelling and folktales. Because both Julia and Ben are local, regional artists, for me that became another trigger to frame the exhibition in a way that honoured and supported emerging regional artists. Serendipitously, as it worked out, when I was thinking about the theme in a multi-age range context, translating to adults too, the artists I started to think about were already networked to each other without me realising. Antonio Roberts, who I’ve worked with previously, had worked with Edie Jo Murray who is very much an emerging digital practitioner. She’d been working with an organisation called Ludic Rooms in Coventry, who are also supporting the professional development of Julia.

We wanted a balance of analogue and digital – a sense of the physical/material in some works versus the digital/alternative realities in others. I bought in Lucy McLaughlan who creates large-scale public murals. These are quite abstract but always informed by the site and space she’s in. She’s taking imprints of Coventry for this project and both her and Ben knew each other too. The networked relationships have made this quite holistic in a sense – it feels a supportive environment. And also having the budget through which to support their practice appropriately is really key.

There are also more female than male artists represented here. This is important to me. Going beyond gender equity links to the recent Freelands Foundation report looking at that balance. It’s important to have that, and the breadth of the artists, at the back of your mind. Edie sees herself as neurodiverse and she is really happy to speak about her experiences through her practice with audiences. Another important point to highlight is the individuality of each artist but also that collective voice of what they can share together through the network which is the West Midlands itself.

Lucy McLauchlan, Marrakesh (2016), Photo © Ian Cox

Are all the works new commissions?

The only artist who is not local is Davy & Kristin McGuire – Studio McGuire – who were originally included in Hull as part of City of Culture 2017. We wanted to bring them in as a link to Coventry’s City of Culture in 2021. They are pre-existing works which speak more to the adult audience in their diorama work using projection and shadow play. The rest of the works are actually all new commissions and it’s been brilliant to have the opportunity to do that and also to trust them with the ideas and themes we’ve provided to act as a starting point for new works.

I’m also interested to see where this process takes them beyond this exhibition, as part of a longer journey within their practice. For instance, for Edie, this opportunity has allowed her to collaborate with Secret Knock Zine – a free low-fi print zine specific to arts and culture across Coventry distributed across venues. Through this experience, she has also been taken on by Instagram beta testing, creating new face filters for trial. She’s created one for the exhibition which uses butterflies from the natural sciences collection. That future focus is important. Additionally, there are brilliant technicians at the gallery that have been able to honour the ambition of what the artists want to do, especially with Ben’s large installation.

Edie Jo Murray, Perpetuation (2019), CGI Animation, Image © the artist

Will there be a programme of events that will draw out some the concerns of the exhibition?

One of the key aspects has been the collaboration with Secret Knock Zine. For the third issue, they have been working with Edie quite closely, are showcasing all the artists’ works, I’ve written a text and they are also working with us for the launch party, running zine making workshops, thinking about how we share this content digitally, making limited edition prints – all activating the work in a different way. There’s a huge early years programme throughout the summer, a curator’s talk in July and we have Ludic Rooms coming to do a project called Wonder and Web which is looking at how we physically network space and how that happens online. Julia is doing a number of events because she really wants feedback on audience interaction with her Light Pavilion, to see how all age ranges respond. For her, this has been a pivotal opportunity to create something so large for public play/use.

What do you think you have learned from the experience of working on this project?

It’s been a fun opportunity to get involved in the West Midlands again and to see what everybody’s been doing and to be able to give that support to create new work. But also it highlights some of the socio-cultural priorities of the artists right now – what they’re interested in and what matters to them.

I was saying to somebody yesterday, it’s been 10 years since I curated my first proper exhibition. So to think about the artists’ priorities and the organisational priorities in that period – how the voice of the digital is so normal now – is considered in every part of the show, from the interpretation and marketing to the artists’ works themselves. It’s a language that you need to know and that we will need to know more and more. The show will be live streamed at the opening and half way through, there are a lot of pre-recorded interviews and further online content, social media of course and then there are Edie’s augmented reality works that explore the gallery’s collection. There are many layers of digital content that just didn’t exist 10 years ago. That’s been a real point of clarity for me – to see that shift.

Wonder is open to the public until 15 September 2019. A programme of events accompanies the exhibition. 

 

 

Wonder, an exhibition designed around play and interaction featuring new commissions from a number of West Midlands-based artists, opens this evening in Coventry. We catch up with its curator Dr Rachel Marsden to find out more.

Nick Briz, Diamonds (Green Screen Version)

We speak to Chicago-based artist Nick Briz, one of 10 artists showing in No Copyright Infringement Intended, a group exhibition, curated by Antonio Roberts. Taking place at Vivid Projects until 23 September, the exhibition explores the collision of digital art and copyright issues.

Nick Briz, Diamonds (Green Screen Version)

ok, i’ll try to answer as many of ur questions at once as i can (^__^) >> not sure how much u know about the story behind the Rihanna SNL performance, but in Nov of 2012 Rihanna performed live on Saturday Night Live (SNL) in front of a green screen (so that the audience @home would see her superimposed over other backgrounds), not xactly groundbreaking, but tbh i don’t think i had ever seen someone do that on SNL. the images/scenes she was superimposed over seemed weird/trippy to most, but more than familiar to a small group of net artists which also overlapped w/a small online-subculture which was being referred to as ‘seapunk’ at the time. that community got pissed, feeling their aesthetic/scene/culture had been co-opted && online publications were quick to write about the backlash (the knowyourmeme entry for seapunk has a good list of articles re: the Rihanna “controversy”). as someone in the net art community i was seeing a lot of my friends making upset posts on social media re:the situation && it reminded me of something i had gone through a few years earlier.

i think it was sometime in 2008 when Kanye West had released a music video for his track “Welcome to Heartbreak”, this video featured a glitch aesthetic (specifically a technique known as datamosh). glitch art is another community i’ve been heavily involved in for years && before the Kanye video this community was relatively small, few people (including artists) had heard of glitch art. so when the Kanye video dropped folks in the community were pissed, i had friends claiming that glitch had been co-opted && it was the beginning of the end. the reality however was that glitch art had now been introduced to a much larger community, after that Kanye video glitch became much more popular, so much so that my glitch friends && i were able to organise a glitch conference (called GLI.TC/H) 3 years in a row (which Antonio also helped out on) as a result of the increased popularity we’ve now got A LOT of shi//y glitch art online, but at the same time, most of my fav glitch artists are folks who didn’t discover glitch until after the Kanye xplosion. the story behind the Kanye video is interesting, but i don’t want to digress too much… the reason i bring it up is b/c it was a big eye opening moment for me as an artist, at the time i felt glitch had been co-opted but i realised that was too simplistic a view of how culture worx. Kanye hadn’t “co-opted” glitch, he simply joined the conversation && of course (given his status) had a big impact on it, the results of which where both good && bad (but in my opinion, mostly good. .. even though the video itself might had been a little lame (>_O)).

so bax to Rihanna, when this happened i couldn’t help but feel like my fellow net artists weren’t seeing the bigger picture on social media, this is part of how culture worx, no one owns the conversation (it wouldn’t be a conversation if u were the only one allowed to have it). a few years b4 some of the artists in this community had made an xtremely influential glitch art piece using a Rihanna music video … && though i’m not trying to equate an underground artist’s appropriation of a large pop star w/her appropriation of an underground artist (there’s a clear power-imbalance there) it’s important to remember that in a way we (net artists) had already started this cultural remix “conversation” w/her.

i wanted to make something in re: to the way my community was reacting to the Rihanna performance in a way that was both sympathetic (like i said, i had already xperienced that feeling of co-option) but also helped them realise that this is how the cultural convo worx. i wanted to make something that would take the energy they were spending on making angry social media posts about Rihanna ‘copying’ their work && redirect it towards making new work ‘copying Rihanna copying their work’ >> ie. get them bax in the cultural remix discourse. the whole green screen aspect of it reminded me of this Oliver Laric piece i absolutely love called ‘Touch My Body (Green Screen Version)‘ (which came out around the same time as that Kanye glitch video), where Laric took that Mariah Carey music video && went through frame by frame replacing all the backgrounds w/green so that it could be remixed online (very “Internet”, much “remix”). && so i figured it made the most sense to remix his idea into another remix project which would invite these internet remix artists to remix Rihanna’s remix of their work.

i called my younger brother (who’s great w/after effects) && asked him if he could quickly do what Laric did to this Rihanna performance. so he did that to as much of the performance as he could in one night && then we put it up online, && naturally the community started remixing && the cultural convo continued in the productive way i was hoping it would (^__^) (w/more remixing, rather than sh*t posting). && the conversation literally did continue, i started collecting the remixes on my website && then the agency which had produced that performance for Rihanna on SNL reached out to me to see if there was some way she could collaborate w/this community of artist directly (unfortunately that never worked out, interesting story though, but again, i’ll try not to digress).

u asked what i’d hope an audience would take away from the work, tbh i never intended to show this work in galleries or anything like that, the audience was always supposed to be my community of net artists who had felt co-opted. like i said, i know && sympathise w/that feeling, but i’ve also come to realise that culture is a complicated conversation && feeling co-opted in a situation like this means ur missing the bigger picture. i wanted to help my community see this as an opportunity, as part of the convo && so that’s why i posted the green screen version, so they would remix it && get their feelz out that way. i think it’s great that folks have wanted to share the piece in different contexts (like this show for xample) but i never really intended it for larger audiences (so i’ve never really thought about what they’d get out of it).

We speak to Chicago-based artist Nick Briz, one of 10 artists showing in No Copyright Infringement Intended at Vivid Projects.

Emilie Gervais, an artist based in Marseille, is one of 10 UK and international artists showing in No Copyright Infringement Intended, a group exhibition, curated by Antonio Roberts. Taking place at Vivid Projects, following its first outing at Phoenix Leicester, the exhibition explores the ways in which artists are grappling with issues of copyright in the digital age.

Screenshot from Andres Manniste’s Instagram

 

Can you tell me more about the work you are showing and its title?

I’m showing a painting of Princess Peach titled Still not Sure if Art or Copyright Infringement. The title is related to my first version of the work, an A3 limited edition print of another painting of Princess Peach titled Not Sure if Art or Copyright Infringement. It’s a digital painting made with Gimp based on an image of Princess Peach. It’s a caricature slightly highlighting some of her character traits. The limits between what’s art and what is copyright infringement is questionably often blurred.  

Where are its sources or starting points drawn from? 

The work is inspired by the Not Sure if Art or Copyright Infringement Fry meme. I was browsing art related memes on different websites and it’s the one that ended up being the most appealing to me. I saved it on my computer and it stayed there for a couple of months, lost in a folder. Whenever I save an image to my computer, I try to eventually make something out of it – images I save are usually ones that inspire me somehow. The Fry meme and Princess Peach images were both in the same folder. I was about to delete them when I felt they should be combined. So I replaced Fry’s portrait by painting Princess Peach very roughly – which led to a doubtful portrait of Princess Peach.

How is the work being displayed in Birmingham? Is this different from other display sites? 

In Birmingham and elsewhere, the work is always displayed as a tiled background image that repeats itself endlessly until the zone it has to cover is covered entirely. It’s always site-specific. Sometimes, other works are displayed within or above it (using the background zone as a frame for example).

In addition to issues of copyright and distribution, is there something at play with regard to the representation of women within this piece of work? 

Every woman has a bit of Princess Peach inside. Princess Peach is a political mastermind within Mushroom Kingdom. Isn’t she?

No Copyright Infringement Intended runs from 1 – 23 September 2017 at Vivid Projects.

 

 

Emilie Gervais, based in Marseille, is one of 10 artists showing in No Copyright Infringement Intended, curated by Antonio Roberts at Vivid Projects. We find out more.

Artist, curator and New Art West Midlands Advisory Group member Antonio Roberts was invited to speak at The Arts in a Digital World Summit in Montreal, Canada in March. Here he reflects on the possibilities and limitations of digital platforms for the arts, particularly in terms of the diversity of our creative communities.

The Arts in a Digital World Summit. Photograph Antonio Roberts

From 15-17 March The Arts in a Digital World Summit took place in Montreal, Canada. The event invited over 200 artists and institutions to the Arsenal gallery to address the many ways in which digital technologies are impacting the arts and to scope out strategies for the future.

I was invited to take part in the summit and provide my insight into how I have worked with – and against – digital technology in my artistic and curatorial practice. To date I’ve curated a number of projects and exhibitions that have addressed this including co-founding the FizzPOP makerspace, and curating exhibitions including µChip 3, GLIT.TC/H and No Copyright Infringement Intended. In addition to this I am Curator at Vivid Projects, which has a long history of showcasing experimental artworks, videos and performances that integrate new technologies.

Although the name might suggest the summit was about digital art the Canada Council were very clear in stating that digital art is only one area of interest for the summit. The wider aim of the summit was “to be a discussion about the transition and transformation of the Canadian arts sector to thrive in the digital era”.

Although it lasted only three days the summit was intensive but not overwhelming. It provided great insight into how the creative culture works in Canada and the ambitions of the Canada Council for the Arts moving forward.

To launch the first two days keynote speeches from the likes of Jackson 2bears and Astra Taylor encouraged us to think about how technology and the apps that influence how we socialise need to reflect the diversity of its users.

I was especially drawn Taylor’s keynote presentation about the internet as a democratic platform. As the internet came to be more a part of our everyday lives it was looked to as a borderless, free, democratic world that would make our culture more open and let us express ourselves more freely. It would disrupt existing models of cultural and commercial creation and consumption by doing away with gatekeepers and treating everyone as equals. What has happened instead, Taylor argues, is that the existing broken social and economic models have transferred to the internet, with all of their inequalities, biases, and negative stereotypes amplified by the speed and global reach of the internet.

Gatekeepers, which in the physical world, will have existed as bricks and mortar institutions are now global private organisations such as Google and Facebook. Their algorithms, which dictate how we consume culture, mimic and amplify existing gender, racial, class, geographical and cultural inequalities instead breaking of them down.

This encouraged me to think about how these issues affect the creative communities. Are the ways in which platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter operate ultimately negatively affecting our experience of culture both on and offline? In a digital world without borders why do we rely on a handful of sites to control our culture? Why not create our own? This draws parallels to offline institutions and galleries.

Taylor ends her presentation by encouraging us all to think about what if the internet wasn’t led by a California ideology. That is, what if the internet wasn’t controlled by mostly American Silicon Valley companies? Would there be the same focus on profits? Would every communication platform be an opportunity for advertising? I found myself asking what if the internet was governed by artists. How would it differ from how it operates now?

The Arts In a Digital World Summit. Photograph Antonio Roberts

Outside of the keynote presentations were the Human Library sessions. These were 30 minute presentations in which invited facilitators – myself included – talked about a topic and invited questions from participants. One session, led by Harmen van Sprang, focused on shareNL, a company that advises companies on the sharing economy. The sharing economy is an ecosystem built around the sharing of resources. It encompasses a lot of things, but generally organisations like Uber and Airbnb, where our personal resources are hired out for commercial gain, come to mind.

After explaining how it works we were asked to consider, could this way of working, fuelled by technology, be beneficial to the arts? One participant argued that such a model had existed in libraries that made musical instruments available for hire by the public and institutions.

There was consensus amongst attendees of the session that turning every exchange into a financial one could potentially be harmful as it could see things like the lending and borrowing of common resources and equipment e.g. projectors, chairs, something which happens amongst all artists and organisations, happen less as we place financial price on these exchanges.

There were far more presentations and workshops than these two and no way I could have attended them all.

The summit drew to a close with the announcement of a $85 million Fund for the Arts in a Digital World. Canada Council could have easily just launched this fund without much fanfare and a simple e-mail but by holding this summit everyone involved and invited – which included artists and organisations from across Canada – helped shape how the fund is used. One way to think about the summit was that it was a large survey from a diverse range of people about what their needs are. It is often that artists lower in the hierarchy feel that their needs are overlooked in favour of the large galleries.

What I took away from this experience was that digital technology can have a profound effect on our community but that we must shape it and not let it dictate us. There’s no doubt that the summit was put on at great expense but I would definitely like to see something happen in the UK, even if not focused purely on digital and art, which puts diverse artists and organisations at all levels in one physical location at the same time to discuss the issues that are important to them.

Live stream of the summit here.

 

Artist, curator and New Art West Midlands Advisory Group member Antonio Roberts was invited to speak at The Arts in a Digital World Summit in Montreal, Canada in March. Here he reflects on the possibilities and limitations of digital platforms for the arts, particularly in terms of the diversity of our creative communities.