Meet Sam Oh, an artist and entrepreneur who founded AXEL.NYC – a collective of multi-media artists who aspire to create unique experiences at the intersection of music, art, and technology. Having been part of the Lightbox fam for quite some time now, we invited her on over to interview David Hannon, an artist on our radar who explores the idea of absurdity in portraiture using video, 3-D animation and sculpture – definitely one to watch in an arts meets technology space.
Sam Oh: We like what you do. Tell us a little bit about your work and how you create it…
David Hannon: First of all thank you to Lightbox for this great opportunity! In terms of my art, it revolves around moments that happen to me, or objects that I find. For example, one of my more recent works, Mantle, was based on this dilapidated dollhouse I bought at a thrift store. A few months later, my mom had passed away and I began to look at this dollhouse a different way, as a symbol of childhood even though I didn’t grow up with this specific object. I decided to use it as a basis of a large scale interactive installation where I blew portions of it to human-size and performed in it, interacting with the audience in order to move a giant necklace I created. The idea of moving this giant necklace was based on the undertaking of going through all of my mom’s objects, she had so much jewelry! You can see the installation here.
SO: What inspires your artistry?
DH: Growing up, I felt like I didn’t really fit in with my surroundings so I kind of try to recreate that visually though these large-scale installations. I try to find a gay or queer identity outside of more mainstream movements through performances in these very same spaces. I am inspired by set design work from theater and film to more experimental work.
I source images and symbols from pop culture that I repurpose such as dollhouses, as I talked about earlier, or castles or even Brooke Shields! One time I was in a youtube hole watching tribute videos of celebrities and I got sad. Then I realized that some of the videos were of celebrities that were still alive, and that moment made me question why I was sad but that sort of performed nostalgia made me create a 33 minute Brooke Shields, a gay icon not of my generation, a tribute video.
SO: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
It is not that I wanted to be an artist, I had no choice in the matter. I am kidding, sort of, but as I grew up it provided a source of escape, Wizard of Oz-esque. I started drawing in high school but I always had a hard time knowing when pieces were “finished.” When I started working more 3-dimensionally, the very fact of tangibility helped me realize my ideas easier.
DH: What comes first? Art or technology?
Ah, I think it depends in what context. I know sometimes when I am playing around in programs like Maya or Unity, it helps me realize what I want to create physically, other times the reverse is true! One time I made this silly sculpture out of spray foam and straws of a castle but before I threw it away I scanned it into a 3-D model and brought it into Maya, so that process between digital to physical is inherent to the work.
SO: So what is next?
DH: I want to transform the physical performance using motion capturing and use that resulting data to animate something unexpected. Through the use of technology, and going from digital to physical, I aim to create new meaning.
SO: Name three artists to watch and tell us why you chose them?
DH: A few artists that achieve the process of bringing the digital to physical in an interesting ways are Morehshin Allahyari, especially her project Material Speculation: ISIS where she reconstructs artifacts digitally that have been destroyed by Isis, a very pressing project. Jacolby Satterwhite is also one of my favorite artists because of how he portrays the queer body in a digital world and also Shana Moulton’s work uses camp and sources from pop culture turning what could be considered low brow into something more revelatory through video and live performance.
Thanks again, Lightbox!
We caught up with the leader behind Lightbox, Daphné Jouanneteau, to discuss our mission, what to look out for next, and more…
Lightbox: Tell us the story behind the creation of Lightbox:
Daphné Jouanneteau: Lightbox started about 6 years ago when we converted an old garage in Midtown. At that time, the term ‘experiential’ marketing barely existed, and it wasn’t necessarily a hot topic like it is today. When we started out, we simply had an idea that having a space equipped to deliver art and technology experiences was a very cool way to inspire and create intriguing new approaches to engage people. And we were right! Little did we know we were embarking on a journey that would take off in such a big way or lead to bigger opportunities from a business perspective…
LB: What does your average day look like at Lightbox?
DJ: I would say there is no average day at Lightbox 😉 In the events world, there are always new and exciting things on the horizon in building a really unique and creative experience for our clients. So every day can be drastically different based on what client events we are building out in our pipeline.
But, with the opening of our new space in September, my focus lately has been on improving our processes to ensure the most turnkey planning between my team and our clients, which is crucial for our intention to grow and scale. I also spend a lot of my time meeting with clients, showing the space and attending conferences relevant to the digital, creative and experiential world. We’ve also been doing a big push on our marketing strategy, which I’m super excited about!
LB: What is the most promising aspect about pushing forward the Lightbox mission?
DJ: I think the fact that technology is constantly evolving and we have a platform to be able to support that is truly incredible. The world isn’t short of talent, and if we continue to focus on showcasing that talent and bringing the most unique experiences to strong influencers such as brands, then our mission is going to continue to be impactful.
Now that we have a proof of concept and a repeatable process, we are in a strong position to bring this concept to other markets, which we have begun to do with select clients that wish to create a multi-city, turnkey experience, and we are working on building that offering in the near term.
LB: What is the selection process behind the Lab Artists?
DJ: Currently, my Tech Wizard (as we like to call him) and I select the Lab Artists for the residence program. We receive a significant amount of applications for a variety of types of works. As we grow, I imagine building a reputable, curatorial panel (consisting of artists, technologists, influencers) to help select future Lab Artists. This past season, we really enjoyed having very two different worlds showcased in the space. In this previous Lab experience, the main space was activated by Barak Chamo, which was very futuristic and space-age inspired. In contrast, Jillian Barkley’s interactive installation of nature play and technology, I found to be very captivating and powerful. Both of the artists really complemented each other nicely.
LB: What is your favorite Lightbox achievement to date?
DJ: Man oh man! There are quite a few. If I were to go down memory lane, I think our very first client event we hosted 5 years ago was a big achievement. It was the launch of ‘Draw Something 2’ with Zynga, who was really big at the time. To have such a high profile brand as our first client was a really big deal and a huge accomplishment.
Fast forward, I would say opening the doors of our second space on 37th Street has been even more of an accomplishment I’m proud of. Construction and build outs can be so painful and long at times, but the final result is always worth it. It really made me realize how much we had achieved so far and what happens when amazing, talented people work together on something they believe in.
Our friends at BET came over to Lightbox NYC to announce this year’s nominees for their 2018 BET Awards! This year, nominees include Bruno Mars, Drake, Cardi B, Jay-Z, and Beyonce. We were pleased to welcome guests, joined by DJ B-Hen, while projecting the walls with footage from previous BET awards and artist performances. Stay tuned for winners, who will be announced by Jamie Foxx this Sunday, June 24th!
We caught up with former Lightbox Lab artist and recent Indigo Award winner to discuss his architectural influences and more.
LB: You experiment with both physical and digital experiences. What is your philosophy behind these interactions?
CJG: I come from a family of architects and my mother is also a photographer. I have been engaged by architecture and cities all my life through this upbringing and by studying architecture in college.
At the same time, I was raised with the early computers and video games from the 80s and and logged into the wild internet of the 90s. To me these two worlds first collided when I started doing video art installations and VJ sets at raves in my hometown of Caracas, Venezuela. It all started as artistic exploration for me as I saw the potential of juxtaposing media with architecture in these early experiments.
When I came to study Interactive Telecommunications in 2000 at NYU’s ITP program, I took on the challenge of exploring this field further. I borrowed the term “Media Architecture” to explain what I envision since then: the design of hybrid spaces that combine built environments with digital technologies to create new spatial experiences which change our social relationships.
LB: What comes first? The art or the technology?
CJG: It’s not so simple, it depends on the case. I’ve started works from either side of this question. Sometimes I discover an interesting technology or hack that gives me an idea for a project, like the 1D Shadow (it was actually a bad setting on a software which looked great and made me pursue this in an installation).
Some other times I have an inspiration from looking at a space, an artwork or a situation that I am impressed with and which makes me want to communicate a new experience. An example of this is Freshkills Park+, an Augmented reality wayfinding app for New York City’s biggest new park and former landfill.
LB: You’re also a professor at Parsons School of Design. How does teaching influence your work? How do your students influence your work?
CJG: I started to teach four years ago to my students about the ways in which cities, architecture, technology and interaction design can be connected to solve challenges in public urban spaces. This is something I find intellectually rewarding as it keeps me engaged with research and critical thinking on a constant basis.
I learn much from my students because they come from many different cities all over the world and they are able to multiply the research efforts that I lead with them. I have also learned new technologies focused on mapping, data visualization, VR/AR and 3D printing from this practice, which I have incorporated into some of my own projects and R&D efforts at my studio.
LB: If not an artist or professor, then what would you be?
CJG: Probably an architect since that’s what I graduated in, and my family is also well know for that work in Venezuela.
LB: What is it about Lightbox that helps you deliver your vision? Why Lightbox?
CJG: When I first read about Lightbox I was blown away by the possibilities of this unique media space. Having a tall, spacious gallery fully covered in video mapping like this is simply an ideal canvas for any new media artist. I would like to do another project there in fact, they’re a great partner to work with.
We sat down with artist collective studioSPACEnyc to discuss their recent Lightbox Lab show, artists to watch, and more.
LB: How do you define what it means to be an experiential artist?
Any artist, by nature, creates art by having a conversation with the world. Whether that’s a response to a personal experience or global event, making art is about interpreting something out there in an individual way, through the artist’s eyes. Experiential artists deepen that conversation with the world. They create work in a setting and for an audience, not just as a response to something out there. Experiential art sets the scene for individual experiences, without dictating those experiences. Experiential art tends to be both immersive and interactive, involving multiple senses in multiple dimensions. In a way, experiential art tells a partial story. But it’s the responsibility of the viewer to fill in the rest of that story.
LB: As a collective, what does your creation process look like?
The “collective” aspect of studioSPACEnyc is more about support than it is about a collaborative creative process. Each artist has their own process, and my role, as team manager, is to encourage that creative process and explore each artist’s short term goals and career milestones. As Creative Director, Jake’s there to maintain a high-level aesthetic and offer feedback whenever necessary.
LB: If not an artist, then what you be?
I’m a writer at heart, and writer was my sole occupation for a few years. So if I hadn’t been involved with studioSPACEnyc, I’d be writing more often. Although, we live in a world where it’s possible to do more than one thing at a time. So I still write, edit, and publish when I get a chance. It’s just not my main gig. I think artists have a need to create things and do something physical. So if not art, I think we’d all be doing something else hands-on.
LB: Name 3 artists to watch in your space and why?
Look out for Jacob M Fisher (@jacobmfisher.studio), Katelyn Liepins (@liepinsk), and James Moore (@jamesmooreHQ). Jacob is an installation artist with a playful style, transforming environments by modifying light and space and creating immersive experiences. Katelyn is a master of color and shape, who uses tape art to create large-scale, vibrant geometric forms. James is a pioneer of what we’ll call “cyber art”. He combines the worlds of lighting, murals, and sculpture to expose themes of futurism in our emerging digital world.
LB: Why Lightbox?
Besides being one of the coolest boutique event spaces in NYC, we appreciate people who appreciate the work we make. On top of that, everyone we’ve ever met at Lightbox has been amazing, with each person bringing a valuable skillset to the table and enabling us to do what we do best: create unforgettable art experiences.
This is what you missed from the ‘Breaking The Code: Why Tech Needs Women’ event that took place in our space, Spring 2016.
The tech industry needs women and Cosmopolitan, along with Intel and Rebecca Minkoff, were here to tell you why. This talk was centered around creating diverse teams in the workplace and how such diversity will set up companies for large scale future success.
In a male dominated industry, this event was meant to highlight the importance of women and remind us that creativity thrives in inclusive environments.
We sat down with Lightbox Lab artist, Julia Sinelnikova, who’s recognized for her unique hand-cut light sculptures, to discuss her creative process and more.
So you work with holograms, performance and digital culture. Where do your ideas come from, how do you create?
My work explores intersections between nature, technology and spirituality. I was influenced by occult folklore as a child in Russia, and today use archetypes pulled from this to engage with my immersive environmental works, as with my character, “The Oracle.” Visual imagery which leads my mind includes foliage and the cell structures of plants, mandalas and shapes found through meditation. Building my sculptures, and the performances which activate them, is a spiritual ritual aimed at drawing audiences into a state of self-awareness.
When I begin a project, I make drawings of how I want it to appear from numerous angles, and write about it in my notebook for several weeks. Sometimes the image of the final work hits me right away, whereas other times I am inspired by a material, and the work grows more organically – a modular form. My installations are site specific, so when I see a space, my mind does math to determine the objects and light beams to be arranged.
What comes first the art or the technology?
All the technology you need lies in your mind and hands.
If not an artist, then what would you be?
I was enrolled in extracurricular art classes as early as the second grade, and friends say they could not imagine me doing anything else. I agree. However, it took me years of working in the art world to realize I needed to focus on producing my vision full time. I considered going to college for sociology, english or computer science early on, and worked on an environmental campaign for a year in Texas after graduating high school a year early. In NYC I worked at various organizations such as Christie’s, Brooklyn Museum and output until I finally went freelance, and put the production skills I had learned to use by running my own studio.
If you could have dinner with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
That’s a tough question, but it would be M.I.A. She has done incredible work using the global pop culture platform to speak articulately about humanitarian issues, which is so rare in the mainstream creative landscape. I remember seeing her photo and a brief write up introducing her on the last page of The New Yorker way back when, and next thing she was touring worldwide. I just admire her and think we would get along.
Lightbox was a great space to collaborate for producing my new-media based work. The work requires a hanging sculptural installation, and the space was ready for rigging, complete with ladders and adjustable lighting. I also needed several projectors to map, which the space has many of. We planned a one night opening event this past fall with two other participating artist groups, and the location was great for our guests because it is right next to Times Square, NYC.