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.
We sat down with Lightbox Lab artist, Jillian Barkley to discuss her upcoming show and more.
Lightbox: Give us the breakdown. What does it mean to be a visual artist and experiential designer? How do you approach your work?
Jillian Barkley: I think being a visual artist is different for everyone. A lot of artists approach their work with a specific message or meaning in mind, but my work is more about creating things I wish existed. Most of my 2D work is creating these kind of weird abstract scenes that maybe couldn’t exist in this dimension but something you could experience in a dream. I try to apply the same philosophy when creating environmental work. For me, allowing people to have that moment of transcendence as if they’ve peeked into another world is the ultimate measure of a successful installation.
LB: Does your freelance work influence your artwork? If so, how?
JB: I don’t think my freelance work directly influences my art, but I do think it makes me a better artist. I tend to work primarily with tech companies, so having the opportunity to take a brand that exists only in the digital ether and bring them to life in a physical way is a really special thing but also comes with its own set of challenges. I’m grateful for the learning opportunities those jobs have afforded me and I think ultimately has made me a stronger creative.
LB: If not an artist, then what would you be?
JB: When I was a kid I really wanted to be a dancer. I would watch MTV for hours and memorize dance moves and by the time I was in high school I was taking lessons every day after school. I still take classes recreationally, and will dance in my art studio often.
LB: What comes first, the art or the technology?
JB: Always the art. If an idea can be made stronger through technology then I’m happy to incorporate it, but I think a lot of people get swept up in what’s cutting edge because it’s new and not necessarily because it’s interesting.
LB: Why Lightbox?
JB: Lightbox isn’t a traditional gallery, but more of a community hub. The residency has been very collaborative throughout, and it’s nice to build something site-specific in such a versatile and adaptive space.
We sat down with Lightbox Lab artist, Barak Chamo to discuss his upcoming show and more.
Lightbox: So you’re a creative technologist and interactive designer? Tell us more.
Barak Chamo: “Creative technologist” means different things to different people as it became sort of a catch-all title for everyone who’s doing cool and weird things with media tech, but I actually think it described my practice perfectly. I explore emerging technologies, from machine learning to virtual reality, projection mapping and whatever comes next, and try to incorporate them into my practice in a creative and artistic way.
Learning a new technology or technique is just like learning how to play a new instrument, it becomes another tool in the palette ad the real fun and satisfaction comes from bringing these tools together to make something new. At my Lightbox residency, for example, I’m combining depth-cameras for crowd motion tracking with reactive visuals that respond to the audience. I’m also combining projection mapping with laser mapping to create an installation that exists both in front of and beyond the screen, fully immersing the audience in it.
LB: When did you realize you were an artist?
BC: It’s funny to be asked this question now, as I’ve been asking my professors the same one just last year. I dont’ know if I’d call myself an artist (yet, at least) but I realized that I want to pursue an artistic practice when I left the startup world and dedicated by time and effort to using technology as a creative tool and a platform for self-expression and critique. It’s an exciting journey and I feel fortunate to have been given the opportunity to showcase my work in a place like Lightbox.
LB: What comes first, the art or the technology?
BC: I think there’s a critical and delicate balance between art and technology, particularly in new media or media art. I’ve seen many examples of work where the balance is off in either direction. Sometimes technology comes first and the piece is informed more by an ambitious technical goal rather than a coherent artistic statement, the outcome tends to look more like a technical demo and less like a work of art. Other times, a piece is pretty much complete and a technological component is added for some added “wow”.
I found that at least for me it’s very easy to jump the gun and over-do the tech part of a tech+art project so when developing my own work I try to consider the art / message / impact of a piece first, whether in a performance or an installation, and apply the technologies and choose the mediums that will elevate the work and bring it to the next level.
LB: Who has inspired your craft most?
BC: Such a hard question! I’m constantly inspired by the colleagues I work and collaborate with, artists who’s work explore new means of creative expression and people I meet in my travels. It’s a constant stream of stimulation and inspiration that turns into new work and project ideas and avenues to explore. The field of new media and creative technology is evolving at an incredible pace and it’s important to me to keep an open mind and learn from the works and achievements of others.
Most recently I’ve been exploring light and color interaction and have been inspired by the works of Robert Irwin and James Turrell. I’m excited to learn from their masterful manipulation of light and space and apply what I find to my practice. I’m also very much inspired by the TeamLab, a Japanese new media studio and the work done at the Ishikawa Watanabe Lab at the University of Tokyo, both pushing projection mapping in new and exciting ways.
LB: Why Lightbox?
BC: Lightbox is a really incredible space and its mapped surrounding allows me to design an installation that is both truly immersive and collaborative. The reason I’m still more excited about full-room projection mapping than VR or AR is that it allows the audience to experience an installation together, share reactions and moments and be immersed in it from all directions, something that I find quite wondrous.
It’s been a pleasure working with the Lightbox team so far (shout out to Hayden the projection Wizard!). They’ve been really accommodating and gave me complete creative freedom in choosing a direction for the upcoming installation and building up both the tech and the art aspects of it.