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.
Here are the Lightbox Lab artists to look out for this spring 2018.
Barak ChamoBarak is an aspiring media artist, creative technologist and interaction designer. He explores the use of emerging technology as a medium for performance, storytelling and critical thought. His Lightbox Lab installation “is and exploration of dynamic audio and video, collaborative interactive musical systems and merging [of] video and laser…”
Jillian Barkley Jillian Lea Barkley is a visual artist and experiential designer living in Brooklyn, NY. She has led projects for brands like Facebook, Google, Instagram, Shutterstock, and Sony, providing creative solutions from brief to execution. Her Lightbox Lab installation will merge technology and self-care “in a meditative light and sound scape.”