From the moment that we launched Ms. Machina, we had our hearts set on interviewing Julia Kaganskiy. Julia is founder of #ArtsTech Meetup, Global Editor of the Creators Project and In 2011, was named one of Fast Company’s Most Influential Women in Technology.
Erika: You have done an incredible job in creating a true community within art & technology, do you feel like as technology and social media develops, it effects the group?
Julia: The group has definitely changed over the years, and I’m sure social media has played some kind of role in that. Instagram comes to mind in particular because the platform didn’t exist when the ArtsTech group first started. It definitely affects the way I interact with the art & tech community — I never thought I could have as much art envy as I do! I love seeing all the people in my feed gallivanting at various galleries and museums. It inspires me to go out and see more art, which is always a good thing. Tumblr is also another platform that’s really come into its own in the arts space over the past 2-3 years. When I started ArtsTech, the majority of the community was really connected via Twitter, and Twitter continues to be a core part of where the conversation takes place, but Tumblr has really emerged as a major space for discussions, ideas, and inspiration can be exchanged, and it’s been awesome to see the museum, gallery and artist community on Tumblr grow.
Erika: With social media and the web, especially with sites like Tumblr, some could argue that artists are turning into “one hit wonders.” Do you believe that social media has opened doors for artists or has it added another struggle?
Julia: This is actually the topic of our recent ArtsTech meet up where we spoke about Social Media, Art, and The “Like” Economy.
But to answer your question, I think it’s definitely a bit of both. You see a lot of really talented artists that sort of rose to prominence on the strength of social media — Jayson Musson (aka Hennessy Youngman) comes to mind, Rafael Rozendaal, even someone like William Powhida (though I’m sure he’d argue otherwise) — and I think these artists have also gone on to transcend the one-hit wonder death trap. Others haven’t been so lucky, but I think that also speaks to the staying power of their work. If you’re going for the thing that’s trendy, if you’re trying to game the system and make something with the intention of getting noticed and going viral, there’s a good chance that your success will be a flash in the pan.
Erika: As someone that is so immersed in new media art, what has your experience been in discovering women artists working within this field?
Julia: Admittedly, there aren’t a ton of women working in this space, especially as artists. There simply aren’t very many women coders to begin with, and so you also get fewer women artists working with technology. But I feel like that’s changing. There’s some great role models for them to look up to — Camille Utterback, Cao Fei, Olia Lialina — and the next wave of women artists working with tech is making some of the most interesting and sophisticated work out there. Lately I’ve been loving the work of Lauren McCarthy — she just did a great project called SocialTurkers where she was recording and streaming first dates with strangers she met on OkCupid and crowdsourcing recommendations of how to behave on these dates from the workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Mary Huang is also doing amazing work with her fashion label Constrvct. I’m so inspired by the way she and her partner Jenna Fizel are inspiring the public to create their own designs and make fashion on demand.
Erika: What art-making processes have really stuck with you in the past year?
Julia: Hmm… I guess the projects that have stuck with me over the course of the past year have been predominantly projects utilizing the process of 3D printing, the Kinect, and other game technology like the game engine Unity. What do all three of them have in common? An interest in volumetric, three dimensional representation (and the manipulation of that 3D image). To me, this work is indicative of an exploration taking place at the intersection of the virtual and the physical — what sort of structures and images might exist in this in-between landscape?
Erika: With New Media Art, do you believe that technology is informing the art-making process, or do you believe that art leads to the development of tech?
Julia: I think it’s definitely a bit of both. Often times, the commercial availability of a new piece of technology introduces new creative capabilities that were previously impossible, cost prohibitive or extremely complicated. I think that’s part of the reason we’re seeing so many artists take to the Kinect or 3D printing — because these technologies are really only recently accessible to the average person. But artists are also incredibly ingenius, intuitive and often prescient. I’m sure there have been countless examples of art inspiring or informing technological development — especially if you think of art in the broadest sense and include something like science fiction.