Technologies and algorithms of image-making: Berlin based multimedia artist Spiros Hadjidjanos in conversation with Maria Abramenko.
Please describe your practice according to your research and inspirations.
My artistic work is the inquiry into technological processes and their relation to the constant shift of the contemporary condition as I perceive it at any given time, from a personal perspective, that recursively is also getting distorted through this practice. A dry presentation of technological progress is totally uninteresting though if the latter does not come into dialog with materiality, dimensionality, historicity vis-a-vis artistic development and my own biography. My research involves experimentation and can take various forms; from computer simulations, computational design and research of (massive) photographic archives to experiments with chemical substances, minerals and living matter. In the process of making a new work I usually approach it and visualise it as a multilayered entity. Each layer has its own open-ended purpose and it has to be fulfilled—conceptually or materially— in a satisfactory way depending on the nature of the work. I don’t believe much in inspiration in the traditional sense. If there is something that inspires me, it is the work of other artists, researchers or writers who utilise and think about computational methods, combined—almost in equal parts—with materiality. There is also the notion that inspiration comes through the work itself; the more you dig into something the more interesting it becomes and new aspects unfold. I concede to this but I believe more in the mechanism of imagination and its deliberate manipulation as well as approaching the same task from as many different perspectives as possible, always with the goal to surprise yourself.
How do you balance ecology and technology in your installations?
I could give you more than one answer here. Ecology and technology form a dialectical relationship par excellence. The word ecology derives from the Greek word oikos meaning house. In The Three Ecologies book, Felix Guattari argues that oikos is the place where relationships form. Ecology is about relations and no matter how I approach it, I see a technoscientific layer in it. I spend a lot of time with technology but when I observe or look closer to natural processes or living matter I am always astonished at the degree that human-driven innovation borrows from natural processes through biomimetics and nature-inspired algorithms. So many natural processes are visual manifestations of what could be described as algorithmic processes. In my practice I amplify the ecological practice by infusing natural materials with technological ones. This is where dialectic relationships form; these relations being themselves the work. Technology alone in my works is balanced by creating a direct dialog with art historical references, narrative and my personal biography. But I have shown works that have been intentionally presented out of balance on their technological part. Ecology is balanced in my practice by presenting natural materials processed through advanced technological processes and concepts that make sense in the present.
With my upcoming series of works I am addressing the immense resources needed for manufacturing artefacts related to information technology but I also try to keep my studio practice as sustainable as possible in terms of wasted resources.
What is your opinion on the current development of digital art?
There are very interesting technologies that have emerged in the last few years and consequently works of art based on these technologies. Neural networks are one of them. Technologies and algorithms of image-making and computational modelling that have determined image-making for quite some time are now being replaced or operated through neural networks. The latest interesting emerging technology is NFTs or non-fungible tokens, a cryptic term for sure. NFTs are networked sets of data that certify that each of them is unique. From a pragmatic perspective, NFTs do not offer a new aesthetic experience for the viewer. The true value of an NFT with its unique identity and its verifiable ownership via a blockchain ledger is that it applies both to digital and non-digital assets. This will have an impact, I think, on the distribution and sales of artworks (and other unique assets) but it is difficult to fully predict how exactly it will unfold. I am no less interested in a metaverse, dystopian or not, that might emerge from this technology. But at the moment the carbon footprint of blockchain networks seems to be extraordinarily big despite the fact that there are alternative solutions such as the Proof of Stake consensus mechanism.
What are you working on these days?
The last couple of months I have been working on sculptures that are based on photographic motives using aerial photographs and photographs from modernism as input. After modelling and 3D printing these objects, I will try to cast a few of them in metal. Through this process I will be experimenting with a hybrid language that could possibly emerge in the interstice between the complex digital object and the traditional technique of metal casting. Simultaneously, I am exploring NFTs and their potential particularly in relation to physical works. For another series of works I am using neural networks and generative design to extract human figures as three-dimensional objects from photographs. It is not only interesting to see the three-dimensional object coming out from a single photograph, but also the artefacts and imperfection that the neural network impregnates it with. In parallel to these, on an ongoing project I am exploring the mineral origin of materials and technological objects that I have used in previous works, also in relation to living matter.