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Trail: ArtistStatement

ArtistStatement

ProofOfMyExistence

Artist Statement - In all of my work I have a goal to synthesize emotion into art.

No element of my analog artworks made 1989-1993 exist today . What mattered to me was the reason why I did them. My sketchbooks (which are precious to me and have all survived) are filled with reasons. Always I had a drive to achieve a reaction through the work and to see the reaction but remain at a detached distance. At some point in those four years of making “multimedia”, in the analog sense, I had also begun using computers as a tool for making some of the tangental elements of my installations; to make prints, books, photo manipulations, drawings... But in 1995 the computer invaded me completely. I discovered the Internet and with this discovery everything I had done before combined seamlessly into a single expression. I had achieved a convergence. Computers were no longer just tools but destinations.

Very little of what my net-art created 1995-2001 can be viewed with browsers today. I created a website called Entropy8.com starting in 1995. It became quite well known in those early Internet days because of the graphics I created for it. In essence it was a transition from my thinking of the web as a place to put my portfolio of photo-manipulations to thinking of the web as something more and deserving of artworks which could not exist anyplace else.

Computers are not books. Computers are not televisions. A clickable book is a book without suspense. A clickable film is a boring film. There is no point in translating. Hypertext is dead. Hypertext, a poor excuse for mistaken nostalgia or just a toy for nerds. Who reads on a computer screen? If one fights excess with soberness, every simple act seems improbably grotesque. We need to re-invent everything over and over again. No one will know us. There is no defense against the baroque. The human of the future is a playing one. He or she will not be satisfied with bad toys. He or she will not be satisfied with mere information. Information is not a goal, it is a means. Information overload is not a problem, it is a consequence. Information does not want to be free. Information wants to be forgotten. The human of the future wants to be entertained. (Life’s so short. Don’t bore us to death.) Navigation through hyperspace should be as natural as navigation through real space. Only better. Faster. Our senses bloom in hyperspace. Not to exist. Not to exist. The human of the future will travel through data. The faster you travel the more you see. The faster you see the more you travel. The individual is dead. Reality is fiction. Simulation is real. The vehicle of the future is the networked computer. Not hypertext but hyperspace. The metaphor wants to be free. Information will not be read or seen but experienced in simulated environments. The book is not dead. The book is just not a computer. The past is not dead. It is doubled, and doubled again. There are no doors. (Only windows.) The body is a container. The individual is a network. Space is in the mind. A heart breaks and turns into a thousand hearts. Separation. Classification. Fragmentation. Fluidity. There is no universal center. The music of the future is visual, the pictures of the future tangible. The words of the future dance to the rhythm of a thousand heart beats. – Michaël Samyn, Future, 1997

In 1999 I began to collaborate with, Belgian, Michael Samyn on various digital media projects. We formed first Entropy8Zuper! and made net-works. Most of these projects are based on existing narratives. Large mythologies like the Bible or autobiographical extravaganzas. In 2001, we had a shift in thought. We became ambitious with new media. The web was turning into a very loud and ugly shopping mall. We became disenchanted with the way various net technologies were developing and began to see it as a dead end. At the same time we began to wonder at computer games we played on our Playstation. We wondered so much how these 3d games were made that we decided to find out. And we did. In 2002 Michael and I founded Tale of Tales a games development studio. We wanted to shift the focus away from the inward looking narratives of our net projects and instead tell original stories. Our fist project, a game called “8”, was born. This first project ended up being a 2 year initiation, research and development period. We adjusted ourselves to a much bigger world than the sequestered net art scene. We found out what it takes to make a professional video game project and how to speak to the audiences we would like to play with. Now we are in full swing on our second large-scale project, “The Endless Forest” which you will read more about in the Project Narrative document.
What I love to do most is create digital environments and atmospheres. I specialize in graphics. The fact that others can see them and I get to receive their reaction is what I live for. And all of the work I have made via digital means from the photo-manipulations to the net art websites to these new ventures into real-time 3d have been experiments in this type of visual communication. The transition into “Game Designer” and 3d Artist has been significant for me. I believe that game technology, real-time 3d, will prove to be just as significant a medium for digital artists as the web was, if not more-so. More importantly games offer an opportunity to communicate with a larger audience, one which is not so used to thinking about art but is very open minded to artistic experience, whether they are aware of it or not. Indeed, the kinds of fantasy work previously the mainstay of painting in the 18th century is run of the mill in games. It is this place where Art and Entertainment blur and can become something new which I am most interested in now.
The comparison with other formats, such as filmmaking has been made quite a bit with video games. But I go back further, I take it back to Opera. Where symbols and archetypes speak to our collective minds. Where many things can happen at once; Characters form a chorus of action; Stages are set not just for my own self-expression but as vehicles to communicate something more universal about the story; And storytelling is the key. You may be thinking that all this is unlike any game you have ever heard of or perhaps ever played, and I would say you are right. Contemporary video games often lack any artistic direction and the beautiful moments within them are, for the most part, accidents that happened somewhere on the way to the marketing department.
The fact that digital media is so ephemeral is frightening. But all art which touches people has its effect. Each “new” medium offers an opportunity for artists. Games will perhaps take artistic practice back to a more pre-modern perception. Art that does not have to be ironic, cynical or explicitly political but can exist as part of peoples everyday lives. So I can tell you now, the bytes are not what ultimately matters. It is the meaning behind the data that adds sweetness to life. In a world full of conflict, people play games to help them deal with or escape from turmoil. And for the time they play you have hours of their attention unlike in any other medium. For the time that I have their attention I want to give them their escape. I want to make meaningful, emotional works that give people pleasure to experience. We said of our project “8” that it was “Built for Joy” and we meant it...This is something that Art can do.

Autobiography
I was born in Indianapolis Indiana in 1971. After graduating high school, at age 18 I moved to New York City and studied Sculpture in the Fine Arts Department of Parsons School of Design. It is also at Parsons in the early 90s where I discovered and developed my fascination with using computers in art. I made this the focus of my practice and once I found the Internet in 1994 created websites as both an artist and as a professional designer, under the moniker of Entropy8. I got a lot of attention for that that the time, being awarded a fellowship in Experimental Media by the New York Foundation for the Arts and making websites for clients as various as Virgin Records’ rock stars to net art for The Walker Art Center’s “Gallery 9” project. Little-known fun fact: I won the first two Webby awards for Artistic Website in 1997 and 1998, for my homepage http://entropy8.com.
In 1999 I met fellow net artist Michael Samyn and we began our collaboration by combining our domains into Entropy8Zuper.org. For that, we were awarded by the SFMOMA for our project The Godlove Museum and we gave live/online performances using our Wirefire engine to crowds at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City. We made countless websites and small net art curios, we were shown internationally and our work was included in many books and publications at the time.
Tiring of the Internet in 2003 we turned our attention to videogames by founding Tale of Tales. We took 2 years as post-grad design researchers with the Jan Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht and taught ourselves how videogames were made. We created prototypes for our first game ‘8’ and ended up with more questions than answers. We set about calling the game industry to task for how commerce was placed over artistry. We were happy when independent game development became feasible.
Over 13 years we released 8 videogames. Our first release was in 2005, multiplayer game “The Endless Forest” is still playable online and has a thriving community to this day. We wrote the Realtime Art Manifesto in 2006 based on our desire to see more artists using the medium of videogames. We further defined that philosophy with our notgames initiative around 2010, which was a call for all developers to design realtime software beyond known videogame genres and tropes. Along with Cologne Gamelab, in 2011, 2013 and 2015 we curated “notgames fest” which was a bi-annual festival of such games. We are perhaps best known for THe Graveyard which was the purest expression of our game design philosophy, and The Path which is our best-selling videogame and both were also the most controversial: for simplicity of design, the focus on women, and presentation of ideas about living and dying as opposed to mere gaming. We received the IGF Nuovo Award for Luxuria Superbia in 2014 and made our last videogame in 2015 with the release of political drama “SUNSET”.

I must admit around 2011 I was already ready to quit making videogames. I had some rather formative drawing lessons at Sint-Lucas Academy in Gent and at Studio Escalier in Paris which helped me look back at my love of Art History and turned my lifelong love of drawing into a focal point for me to remember why I started making anything at all in the first place. This was the start of whatever it is I am doing now.

After videogames, life is in motion. Rather than games, I look to the synthesis of what I know about artistic collaborations with computers, game engines, and 3d material. I currently focus on VR projects and research. Michael and I have a few things in the works which include VR and physical based installation. I teach. In 2016 at Parsons Paris I taught drawing and digital imaging and 3D experimentation. In 2018 I shall begin the first department of Games at art school, Kunsthochschule Kassel. I am once again involved with physical sculpture as well: Using digital means I’m creating figurative artworks actualized by 3d printing into real-world materials.

To be continued.