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Trail: ArtistStatement old

ArtistStatement old

AboutAn engagement with images of things/people/stories which don’t exist but are believed to

Or which cannot exist but people wish they did. Relics and representations. Strong stories or myths which resonate. Re-tellable form -a story repeated orally, then written down. Different versions of the same song.

When a sculpture is venerated it is seen as a focus for the prayer of intercession. One does not pray to worship the object but it is seen as a conduit to the saint who will pass it on to god.

There is an impossibility to creating an object like this on purpose, in the course of the life it lives it must see events which imbue it with a meaning that cannot be foreseen at its genesis. A cross is just wood unless it is carried by Christ, carried by a saint through the streets during plague, blessed by the pope, venerated by an entire city.

In this context the authenticity of the object is secondary to the history of its presence. Any skull can become the skull of Mary Madelene. Multiple copies of a ‘true relic’ can exist. What is believed is not the reality of the object but the reality of its story and history. That it gets passed on, that it is believed.

The power of symbols. The power of a story.

Currently there is a blurring of what is truth. One can live through an event, like this 2019-2020 plague, and all one can really cling to is one’s own perception of events. There is consensus but never is there true “truth”. But what are the factors that influence ones perception? Ones preconceptions, propaganda, popular opinions, a trusted persons hot takes. So it is also with 3d models. Always the truth, always a lie.

A sculpture exists as: The object as it is created in 3d, its photorealistic rendering, its physical manifestation, its photograph, its digitization and its re-presentation. All of these are the original and the copy. The alpha and omega of form. in the end, the meaning is the image of a story which is present and past, an interpretation of an eternal idea. The digital materiality and physical materiality of that idea forever.
Data, more ephemeral than bronze or marble or clay, and yet more versatile. The data of a 3d model is numeric and can be opened in any text editor. It is an interpreted language of the computer. Formats come and go.

The properties of one, ascii and binary. The same form, the same substance.

Variable size. An illusion created inside a computer screen. A 3d model has no true size. On screen it can be as small as a sugar cube or large as a house. It can be printed to fit inside a matchbox or grand as a monument. This variability continues in it’s photograph which relative to whatever it is presented with, the vagaries of perspective. Most artwork is not seen in reality anymore but through photographs. It is very easy to fake a photograph. There is no true object. We live in the age of the multiple. An image search brings up a thousand copies with variations of cropping and color. The same image taken from slightly different perspectives over and over again. One can only suppose that a physical object such as a painting or sculpture exists in physical reality. But does it have to in order to be real?
There is no true location. Transmitted through the wires from servers from Luxembourg to Singapore, without borders, through proxies, underwater, over ground. Are we living in a simulation? Traveling without moving is reality. I sit at my kitchen table but my mind is in California, on a boat up the Nile, in Beijing, with people I have never smelled but who to me, feel real. In oddly familiar locations I’ve seen a hundred times, in a movie, in a magazine when i was a child, on instagram. And yet i still want to go there, to stand in that spot and take that same photograph and post it to the same people.

what i am proposing is art for this context. A way of working with and not against. Of choosing not to believe in a fixed reality, while not losing the capacity for wonder.

Turning my experience with character and world design into something else.

At age 18 I moved to New York City and studied Sculpture at Parsons School of Design. I also developed a fascination with using computers in art. My early works were a mixture of installed environments, performance art, sculptural objects and computer printouts. In making “multimedia” in the analog sense, computers were used as a tool for tangential elements; 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. Eventually, there was a transition from thinking of the web as a place to put my portfolio to thinking of the web as Cyberspace and deserving of artworks which could not exist anyplace else. Computers were no longer just tools but destinations. I made this the focus of my practice. The World Wide Web was super important to me. A lost universe. A utopia that existed in the imaginations and hands and lives of a few for a brief time.

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, in Cypberspace, on a server at a domain called, I met fellow net artist Michaël Samyn ( We fell in love and began our collaboration by combining our personal domains into I moved to Europe. We made countless websites and net art curios. Some of the works we made in those first years together can still be seen online. When the web turned into a loud and ugly shopping mall, we became disenchanted and saw it as a dead end. We had become ambitious with interactive media. And 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 2003 we founded Tale of Tales. Our fist project, an epic free-roaming videogame, based on the fairytale Sleeping Beauty, called “8”, was born and grew up with more questions than answers. This first project ended in failure, but was a 2 year initiation to game development. I found what I loved to do most was create digital environments and atmospheres. The transition into “Game Designer” and 3D Artist was significant for me. I believed that videogame technology, Realtime 3D, would prove to be just as significant a medium for digital artists as the web was, if not more-so. More importantly, videogames offered an opportunity to communicate with a very large audience, one which is not so used to thinking about Art but was attentive and open minded to artistic experience, whether they were aware of it or not.
Videogames are the place where Art and Interaction and Entertainment blur and can become something new. The comparison with filmmaking has been made quite a bit with videogames. But I take it back to Opera. Where symbols and archetypes can speak to our collective minds. Where many things can happen at once: Characters form a chorus of action; Stages are set to communicate something human; Storytelling is the key. You may be thinking that this description is unlike any game you have ever heard of, and I would say you are right. Often the beautiful moments within contemporary vidogames are accidents that happened somewhere on the way to the marketing department. With Tale of Tales we tried to change that. And over the time we were heavily involved, we had an impact which can still be felt in the games industry today. At first, we just wanted to make a space where our strange videogames would be accepted. But we ended up creating a context where like-minded developers could think about, talk about, and release works which expanded the audience of people who can appreciate them, including people who normally wouldn’t think of themselves as “gamers”. 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.
Currently all of Tale of Tales videogames can still be downloaded and played, from our website and from major online game portals. Over 13 years we released 8 videogames. We are perhaps best known for “The Graveyard” (2008) which was the purest expression of our game design philosophy, and “The Path” (2009), both were highly controversial when released: for simplicity of design, the focus on women, and presentation of ideas about growing up, living and dying as opposed to mere gaming. Our games “Fatale” (2009), based on Oscar Wilde’s play Salome, and “Bientôt l’été” (2011) a holodeck simulation tribute to french novelist Marguerite Duras, were passion projects in the sense that we made them because we felt they needed to exist. 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”. After that I felt I had nothing else to say with the format of commercial videogames.

The fact that digital media is ephemeral is frightening. One day the videogames will disappear. But all art which touches people has its lasting effects. Each “new” medium offers an opportunity for artists. Independent videogame production takes artistic practice back to a more pre-modern conception. They are made by artisan teams, and can be custom experiences, private, intimate. They do not have to be ironic or cynical or violent or even have goals but can exist as part of peoples everyday lives, like a poem, like a song. 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 at the time of our project “8” that it was “Built for Joy” and we meant it...This is something that Art can do.

As I move forward in time, I think back on Cyberspace while engaging with the tech in front of me. I am making VR, thinking about its physical installation, thinking about how to make works which will bring up a complex array of emotions for the immersant. The only subjects I feel are worthwhile to make art about are the big ones: the afterlife, death and the joy and complexity of being alive. The virtual and material narrative, the struggle to synthesize it all with my identity, is my conceptual concern. Slowly I am becoming comfortable with Mystery. I am bringing virtual characters into the physical world via 3D printing. I relate this to sculpture but really I feel it is something else. I hope one day to have the words for this. Bringing an object out of Cyberspace and holding it still feels like magic to me. And bringing bodies into virtual worlds is what I feel I have always done, it has simply shifted from a space in the mind to a world of the senses.