Luke Robert Mason: The future is always vir­tu­al. And many things that may seem immi­nent or inevitable nev­er actu­al­ly hap­pen. Fortunately, our abil­i­ty to sur­vive the future is not con­tin­gent on our capac­i­ty for pre­dic­tion. Though some­times on those much more rare occa­sions, some­thing remark­able comes of star­ing the future deep in the eyes and chal­leng­ing every­thing that it seems to promise. My name is Luke Robert Mason and you’re lis­ten­ing to the Virtual Futures Podcast.

On this episode I speak to American artist and Assistant Chair of Digital Art at the Pratt Institute, Carla Gannis.

Mixed real­i­ty I think has so much poten­tial but again, how do we deal with it?
Carla Gannis, excerpt from inter­view

Carla shared her insight into the world of emo­ji, using aug­ment­ed real­i­ty for cre­ativ­i­ty, and the cur­rent state of dig­i­tal arts in New York. This episode was record­ed on loca­tion in London, England, where Carla was exhibit­ing her work The Garden of Emoji Delights at the Children of Prometheus exhi­bi­tion at Furtherfield Gallery. It’s time to bury the 20th cen­tu­ry and begin work on the 21st. So, let’s begin.


Luke Robert Mason: So Carla, you’re in town to work with Furtherfield. Could you tell me a lit­tle bit about the pieces that you’re exhibit­ing whilst you’re here in London?

Carla Gannis: Sure. So, I have The Garden of Emoji Delights, both the video ver­sion, which is an ani­mat­ed ver­sion of the orig­i­nal Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, and I also have a print ver­sion of the piece which is thir­teen feet by sev­en feet. So a kind of huge phan­tas­mago­ria of emo­ji.

Mason: So you have this phrase that you use so won­der­ful­ly, the emo­ji­fi­ca­tion.” Could you explain what emo­ji­fi­ca­tion is?

Gannis: Well I don’t think it’s entered the lex­i­con yet. But I describe what I did, which was basi­cal­ly repainting—digitally repainting—this Bosch piece. It took me a year to do this. And I think any­one who thinks you’re kind of just press­ing a but­ton to pro­duce even dig­i­tal print work is mis­tak­en. So I rezzed up all of these emo­ji, and also made some new Bosch emoji/Carla Gannis chimera in the process. And the most apt descrip­tion in terms of cre­at­ing a verb for it was emo­ji­fi­ca­tion,” or to emo­ji­fy, yes.

Mason: So where did this inter­est in adapt­ing this piece of work come about? where did the ini­tial idea come from?

Gannis: Okay so it was an emo­ji light­bulb moment. So, there was a call for an emo­ji art and design show at Eyebeam art and design cen­ter. Or art and tech­nol­o­gy center—Eyebeam art and tech­nol­o­gy cen­ter. And I’d already start­ed to incor­po­rate emo­ji into my work. I’m real­ly inter­est­ed in dig­i­tal semi­otics.

But I was in a quandary. I was in my stu­dio, and I said well, how am I going to apply emo­ji in some way that is real­ly kind of inter­est­ing but also I think could extend the lex­i­con out­side of just, Oh! These are just hap­py lit­tle sym­bols and short­hand emo­tion­al expres­sions.” And Bosch has been a favorite painter for you know, eons, like since I was a kid. And par­tic­u­lar­ly The Garden of Earthly Delights. But it was also some­thing that I’d nev­er seen in per­son. So I only knew it basi­cal­ly through the Internet, and so that seemed like a per­fect col­li­sion.

I also have been doing this Google results project for quite some time. So I’d search the gar­den of earth­ly delights” and it basi­cal­ly returned as many results as emo­ji. And so that was the oth­er thing that was real­ly inter­est­ing to me, that this work of art still res­onates 500 years lat­er, and what about it makes it res­onate like that. And one thing is that it’s so enig­mat­ic. Because he real­ly had or developed—Bosch, the plan­er developed—this very per­son­al kind of iconog­ra­phy.

And so I just got the idea. Like, lit­er­al­ly with­in like ten min­utes. And I decid­ed to just…do it. And so I stayed up all night, which I tend to do. And so I did Hell first, which I have to say is the most fun. It’s a trip­tych, and the Hell pan­el is real­ly the most fun. And so I emo­ji­fied Hell first. And 6:30 a.m. rolls around and I’m like, I can’t believe I did this. I don’t know how peo­ple are going to respond to this. But…here it is.”

Mason: So what have some of the respons­es been to this work?

Gannis: It took on a life of its own, I must say. It’s been shared quite a bit online via Instagram and Twitter, Tumblr, etc. And one thing that’s kind of fas­ci­nat­ing is there is the ani­mat­ed ver­sion and then there’s also the phys­i­cal ver­sion. And both of those have kind of tak­en on lives of their own. There’s one thing about how dynam­ic the ani­mat­ed ver­sion is, and it actu­al­ly gave me lat­i­tude to kind of expand the nar­ra­tives and talk about kind of 21st cen­tu­ry things? The mid­dle pan­el is depop­u­lat­ed of ani­mals and humans, so kind of a nod to the Anthropocene and poten­tial­i­ties and things like that.

So there’s been a lot of pop­u­lar response. And a lot of younger peo­ple par­tic­u­lar­ly have real­ly respond­ed to it and writ­ten me emails and these kind of things. And I’ve appre­ci­at­ed that. Some people—currently the piece is also on view at Sotheby’s in New York, which is a kind of estab­lished fine art insti­tu­tion, and actu­al­ly an auc­tion house. And it was inter­est­ing when they post­ed it on their Instagram to read some of the com­ments. And some peo­ple were real­ly out­raged that I’d done this to a Bosch and felt like I had debauched a Bosch.

So it’s fas­ci­nat­ing that you know, I think if you make a work of art that peo­ple love and hate that means that you’re actu­al­ly doing some­thing. If everybody’s just kind of mid­dle of the road about it maybe it’s not real­ly effec­tive. But if peo­ple have strong emo­tion­al reac­tions, whether it’s pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive, maybe that means some­thing. Because we def­i­nite­ly can’t all agree.

Mason: You said in your pre­sen­ta­tion some­thing with regards to how do you make an art­work ubiq­ui­tous? But at the same time scarce.

Gannis: Yeah! So that’s some­thing fas­ci­nat­ing that I think a lot of new media or dig­i­tal artists have to con­tend with. We real­ly strad­dle two mod­els. I mean, for those of us who choose to still work with­in a more tra­di­tion­al art mar­ket, which is kind of a gallery mar­ket where your work is sold to col­lec­tors. And with dig­i­tal work, which can be repro­duced infi­nite­ly, like past Benjamin’s Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” the work of art in the age of dig­i­tal repro­duc­tion we know if it’s pro­duced dig­i­tal­ly can be repro­duced infi­nite­ly. But when you’re work­ing with a gallery or with muse­ums, or par­tic­u­lar­ly with a gallery, you still are work­ing with scarci­ty. And so you lim­it your edi­tions. Because col­lec­tors want to feel like they’re pur­chas­ing some­thing or they’re invest­ing in some­thing that isn’t just going to be shared like movies or tele­vi­sion or music. It’s a total­ly dif­fer­ent mod­el.

But most artists who like myself are real­ly engaged with social net­works and net­work cul­ture in gen­er­al, and that actu­al­ly plays into a lot of the work that I pro­duce, you know, I want to share my work online. And that ubiq­ui­ty is real­ly impor­tant. And online the val­ue of the work actu­al­ly increas­es the more it’s shared, right? So the more ubiq­ui­tous it becomes, the more times peo­ple share it or repost it, the more valu­able it it becomes. So it’s an inverse rela­tion­ship to the scarci­ty mod­el.

And so I try to kind of nego­ti­ate those. And one thing I men­tioned the oth­er night at a Furtherfield talk was one way that I can do that is through res­o­lu­tion, right. Hito Steyerl has writ­ten a great essay about in defense of the poor image. But post­ing poor images online— And when I said ear­li­er that The Garden of Emoji Delights has tak­en on a life of its own. It’s been shared and shared and shared. It’s been made into dress­es, whether I want­ed that or not—that’s anoth­er sto­ry. But any­way, it has been shared, but it’s a low-resolution image, right. Then, for the scarci­ty mod­el, for the gallery, I have a 13 foot by 7 foot—I’m sor­ry, I’m bad with the met­ric system—but you know, a large piece that the file for that is sev­er­al giga­bytes. I would nev­er release that online. I mean one, who could even down­loaded it; it would take for­ev­er for them to even see it.

But that is kind of some­thing that works with— You know, that’s the authen­tic, orig­i­nal piece, super high-rez. But then I can share these lower-rez ver­sions of it online, with­out in any way chal­leng­ing the scarci­ty of the authen­tic large-scale, large-rez piece.

Mason: But doesn’t the orig­i­nal paint­ing have that chal­lenge any­way? So I know where it’s exhib­it­ed in Madrid you can’t pho­to­graph it. You can’t be seen to hold a phone up to it. And I know that was a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge for the sec­ond part of this work.

Gannis: Right. So I then aug­ment­ed The Garden of Emoji Delights—or I aug­ment­ed The Garden of Earthly Delights. So I went back to the orig­i­nal again and I turned cer­tain details of the orig­i­nal paint­ing— Of course they were repro­duc­tions; didn’t go into the Prado and cut parts of the paint­ing or any­thing like that. So I had repro­duc­tions that I found high-res pho­tos online, of course, of the orig­i­nal. There are high-res pho­tos of The Garden of Earthly Delights online.

So I then turned those into AI mark­ers. So they’re basi­cal­ly the image tags that then can release an aug­ment­ed expe­ri­ence. So then I pro­grammed an aug­ment­ed expe­ri­ence for five dif­fer­ent mark­ers. And so I final­ly got to see the orig­i­nal last year in November. It was actu­al­ly for anoth­er Furtherfield show in Spain. And I go to the Prado and I have this won­der­ful per­son who’s giv­ing me a tour. But then she lets me know that no pho­tog­ra­phy is allowed. And I’m flum­moxed. Because I’d been plan­ning for months, cre­at­ed these aug­ments to go up to the paint­ing to one spe­cif­ic loca­tion, hold up my phone and get my aug­ment.

So I took the tour with her and then I returned to the paint­ing lat­er and sur­rep­ti­tious­ly raised my phone real­ly fast, made sure that I already had the app launched, the AR app, and got my aug­ment. And it was just fan­tas­tic because I final­ly had my 3D ver­sion over­lay­ing the orig­i­nal. And there’s some­thing about that. It is kind of a muse­um hack, I sup­pose.

But also, I’m kind of demor­al­ized by the fact that cer­tain muse­ums haven’t real­ly kept pace with the cul­ture and time that we live, you know. And I think in New York for exam­ple, in New York muse­ums, I did a project at the Metropolitan last year. They allow pho­tog­ra­phy now. There are actu­al­ly some pieces in the Metropolitan muse­um that are aug­ment­ed. A friend of mine, Claudia Hart has done a project with her stu­dents where they aug­ment­ed works of art in the [Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago] muse­um. So some muse­ums are start­ing to get on board with this and under­stand­ing that there’s no way you can real­ly in the dig­i­tal and Internet age… You know, it’s going to be real­ly dif­fi­cult to police that.

Mason: You were already com­ing up against folks who wants to leg­is­late peo­ple from putting a vir­tu­al­ly lay­er onto a phys­i­cal paint­ing or art­work or object.

Gannis: That’s a real­ly good ques­tion. And so far I actu­al­ly was teach­ing AR last semes­ter. And I was work­ing with Blippar, and that’s when I first real­ized. Because I’d been work­ing with them kind of carte blanch because all of the work that I was aug­ment­ing— Until The Garden of Emoji Delights, which is in the pub­lic domain at this point so there is no kind of intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty; it’s a 500-year-old paint­ing.

But before that I’d aug­ment­ed fifty-two draw­ings, the Selfie Drawings project. And all of that was my work and was my intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty and so there was no issue of my kind of sub­vert­ing some­thing else. There are things with­in the draw­ings that I made that could pos­si­bly be sub­ver­sive, and then when I aug­ment­ed them I kind of expand­ed those things. But I wasn’t appro­pri­at­ing from any­thing.

But when I start­ed teach­ing this semes­ter, some of my stu­dents were real­ly inter­est­ed in doing that. And Blippar has an approval process for their blips and there were some that they wouldn’t approve. And I under­stand that. And it made me real­ize, though, why artists tra­di­tion­al­ly have either built their own apps… And I mean, gen­er­al­ly that was kind of the ear­ly net art days, the 90s, ear­ly 2000s, that’s what a lot of artists were doing just because the tech­nol­o­gy wasn’t out there, so build your own thing.

Or there are artists like some­one like Man Bartlett, who’s done all these kind of inter­ven­tions using these pro­pri­etary net­works. But the chal­lenge there is that they will try to leg­is­late that. Or what hap­pens to your art if those net­works go down? I mean, that’s the oth­er thing that tech artists have to deal with all the time, is obso­les­cence.

And so it did give me pause when I real­ized oh wow, some of my stu­dents’ blips can’t get approved. Like one, she used a Barbie as one of her trig­ger images. That’s…you know. I mean… Also, though, you have to under­stand Blippar is a huge cor­po­ra­tion. So this is not a slam on them. I mean, they run a com­pa­ny, you know. And if one of my stu­dents decides to use the Barbie image and then some­one else, some­one who—

Mason: Mattel, or Hasbro, or—

Gannis: Mattel or some­thing, or Hasbro, right? There’s going to be an issue if that exact same image is pro­grammed to release two dif­fer­ent blips with two very dif­fer­ent mes­sages, right? And so I can under­stand that. And so what that means, and what I’ve been think­ing about, is return­ing to some­thing like open source AR toolk­it and work­ing with Unity, and kind of work­ing with a plat­form where I feel like I have more lat­i­tude or my stu­dents have more lat­i­tude in terms of sub­ver­sive­ness, if that’s the intent, right.

Mason: Do you think we’re going to see that extend­ed even fur­ther when cor­po­ra­tions like Apple are releas­ing their AR kits. I mean, the dream for Blippar was always, in my con­ver­sa­tions at least with the founder of Blippar, is to turn AR into some­thing like a tweet. So you tweet, and to do AR you would blip. They want­ed to turn it into a verb, almost. That was the dream for them.

Gannis: Which they have. I mean, again it’s [crosstalk] not in the lex­i­con.

Mason: So it was going to be syn­ony­mous with you know, blip­ping a piece of con­tent. It’s not in the lex­i­con. But I mean, the dream for all of these AR com­pa­nies, espe­cial­ly ear­ly on in about 2012, was to become part of the OS. So you would be on the cam­era app. You wouldn’t have to open mul­ti­ple sep­a­rate, dif­fer­ent apps and do an AR acti­va­tion from a very spe­cif­ic app. I won­der with Apple’s AR kit, where it is going into OS, it is going into the oper­at­ing sys­tem of the phone, we’re going to see almost those cor­po­ra­tions, whether it’s Apple or Samsung, polic­ing the vir­tu­al space. Are you work­ing with ARKit at the moment, or is it slight­ly too ear­ly for your stu­dents?

Gannis: Yeah, it’s too ear­ly for me to talk about AR Toolkit, but I am fas­ci­nat­ed by that in terms of Apple because it’s inter­est­ing, I think back to that 1984 ad where Apple is basi­cal­ly like, defeat­ing Big Brother, right? And now they have this closed-box sys­tem. And you know, it is alarm­ing to me. It’s alarm­ing to me about Adobe and that all of our soft­ware is now cloud-based. And you know, if you don’t pay your month­ly bill, you no longer have access to your intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty.

And those things are alarm­ing to me, par­tic­u­lar­ly as an artist who’s been work­ing with dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies for over twen­ty years. And so what does that mean for us? And we already see this on Twitter and Instagram in terms of nudi­ty. I mean, you go into any muse­um and you’re going to look at a Greek vase paint­ing and there’s— Or you’re going to look at a Bosch, and there’s some kin­da crazy stuff going on, you know. Provocative nudi­ty and…I won’t describe some of the scenes here. Go to the muse­um, you’ll see them.

Mason: Do you know if Instagram’s block­ing those sorts of images, the clas­si­cal art images?

Gannis: Courbet, Origin of the Universe” was blocked on Facebook sev­er­al times. One user—probably more than that, I don’t have the sta­tis­tics or arti­cles here with me, so—his account was delet­ed. Instagram, there’s been this issue about the nip­ple. So lots of women have been post­ing things on—

Mason: Hashtag #freethenip­ple…

Gannis: Yeah, #freethenip­ple and these kind of things. And I mean, it’s just puri­tan­i­cal. I mean, com­ing from America where we’re root­ed in these kind of puri­tan­i­cal extremes, I’m fas­ci­nat­ed that in a tech­no­log­i­cal age we’re so fear­ful of the body. And so that’s some­thing I’ve been see­ing a lot on these pro­pri­etary net­works, and everyone’s like, Well, they’re free so you know, what can you expect?” But like, they are our main method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. And so if they’re going to con­tin­ue to close down like that and cen­sor, and if AR also cen­sors if there’s nudi­ty and you can’t post that aug­ment, that’s real­ly a shame. I think.

Mason: Or it would auto-pixelate cer­tain envi­ron­ments.

Gannis: Yeah…

Mason: I mean, I’m think­ing espe­cial­ly with regards to gal­leries and using AR and your cam­era app inside of gal­leries, I almost won­der if they’re going to buy the vir­tu­al space around that gallery? So they’re going to buy this geolo­ca­tion around that gallery, and any acti­va­tion that’s trig­gered with­in say the Tate Modern’s… You know, the mile that makes up the Tate Modern on bank of the River Thames, they’re going to police what goes and what doesn’t go into that gallery in the same way that One Canada Tower in Canary Wharf has bought all of the air­space around that build­ing so that nobody can build a build­ing high­er than One Canada Tower. I won­der if the Tate Modern is going buy the vir­tu­al geolo­cat­ed space so that they get to con­trol what sort of—

Gannis: Content.

Mason:AR acti­va­tions that— Content con­trol, essen­tial­ly. Driven by some­thing like geolo­ca­tion or RFID tags or some­thing that’s going to allow them to actu­al­ly make deci­sions on what con­tent is allowed and isn’t allowed with­in their gallery space. Because right now it’s the Wild West.

Gannis: I was about to say, right now it’s the Wild Wild West. There’s Manifest​.AR, you know. They have in the past— Now they’re get­ting invit­ed to do legit­i­mate instal­la­tions and exhi­bi­tions at muse­ums and insti­tu­tions. But in the past you know, they have installed their work at the Venice Biennale. They’ve installed their work in the MoMA. They’ve done these things, these inter­ven­tions, right. Because you could place AR tags or geolo­cat­ed tags any­where, right? And it’s the Wild Wild West and if you go to Wikipedia you’ll see like a hun­dred dif­fer­ent appli­ca­tions you can use right now.

And so all these dif­fer­ent AR appli­ca­tions— I’ve used Vuphoria and Blippar so where I have the same tag, but if you use a dif­fer­ent app you get a dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence. And that was fun to just kind of exper­i­ment with. But what hap­pens if they real­ly start polic­ing that?

I remem­ber read­ing recent­ly about at the advent of air­planes, when you owned prop­er­ty it’s like what you were just say­ing. When you owned property—this was in the United States at least—you owned it all the way up to the sky, appar­ent­ly. And so when air­planes start­ed fly­ing over, peo­ple start­ed fil­ing law­suits say­ing, That is my land and that is my sky, and you’re not allowed to fly over it.”

And so are we going to start get­ting law­suits, right, or some­thing like that because peo­ple are try­ing to own geolo­cat­ed space? I mean, I think that that would be real­ly appalling, actu­al­ly. Because I real­ly like the idea of AR as well as the Internet, too, still hav­ing that kind of free rein for per­son­al expres­sion. But I’m sure insti­tu­tions like a major muse­um will want to con­trol what kind of con­tent could be released when peo­ple have a par­tic­u­lar app. I’m sure that could hap­pen in the future.

Mason: Do you think it’s not of imme­di­ate con­cern right now? Because it still requires the need to guide the user to trig­ger an AR expe­ri­ence. So Blippar, on at least a lot of the work that they pro­duce, espe­cial­ly for adver­tis­ing, there needs to be that lit­tle logo blip this con­tent, down­load our app here. This is how you dis­cov­er how to release an AR piece of con­tent.” Do you think that issue with regards user expe­ri­ence is the rea­son why it just isn’t in the pub­lic con­scious­ness yet? It still requires edu­ca­tion to know that this stuff even exists out there.

So for exam­ple, you go and see the paint­ing that you’ve aug­ment­ed, the Earthly Delights paint­ing that you’ve aug­ment­ed. There’s no trig­ger.

Gannis: There’s no trig­ger. It’s a big secret. I’m the only per­son who real­ly knows that right now. I have actu­al­ly done an exhi­bi­tion where I did exhib­it the four dif­fer­ent small pieces from the orig­i­nal that I reprint­ed out as AR trig­gers. And so in that con­text in New York peo­ple know, but yes, it’s not ubiq­ui­tous. (We’ve been using those words scarce” and ubiq­ui­tous.”)

And I real­ly dis­cov­ered that recent­ly. My stu­dents have an exhi­bi­tion on view right now at the Pratt Library in Brooklyn, New York. And we were all real­ly excit­ed because they were aug­ment­ing the entire library. So they cre­at­ed all these dif­fer­ent appli­ca­tions and games. And it takes you, as you start to inter­act with their dif­fer­ent pieces, you are kind of asked to trav­el through­out the library, you find out dif­fer­ent things that you might not have know before, you go into the stacks, you go into these areas, you find out the his­to­ry the library—very excit­ing, you know. This is kind of…

I can just see such future poten­tial for this, you know, that hav­ing this oth­er over­lay for a library. I mean, in 1997 already at Columbia, they’d cre­at­ed an AR app. You had to wear it on your back with a visor, where you have to HUD, basi­cal­ly, and you could find out all this infor­ma­tion at Columbia. I remem­ber going to that talk and I was like, Amazing! I can’t wait to have one,” and it’s tak­en twen­ty years, right. And so that’s the oth­er thing, that it is still nascent, when this tech­nol­o­gy has been in devel­op­ment for decades.

But any­way, get­ting back to the point. So my stu­dents and I install this— And we have a lit­tle bit of sig­nage, we have the thing about the Blippar, and we’re just like oh, peo­ple are just gonna go to town. They don’t.

Mason: Yeah.

Gannis: You have to hand­hold, still. Even with the pop­u­lar­i­ty of some­thing like Pokémon Go, which that’s…anybody who’s a par­ent, they know their their kids are doing it. But they’re still like, Oh, that’s some­thing my kids do,” so they haven’t real­ly tak­en it seri­ous­ly. Kids are still kind of uti­liz­ing it more as a game space. And so when there’s this research-based project at a library, with these dif­fer­ent image tags—and some of them are real­ly fun, and some of them are like spec­u­la­tive fic­tions, so you have time-travel clocks that take you on this AR expe­ri­ence, all these things—people don’t engage.

And that’s still a real hur­dle. So I think you’re cor­rect that it’s not some­thing that’s real­ly immi­nent in terms of insti­tu­tions real­ly kind of polic­ing what space or what kind of aug­ment­ed real­i­ty can kind of exist with­in a par­tic­u­lar phys­i­cal domain. So I don’t think that’s immi­nent.

But you know, even talk­ing to the direc­tor of the library, we used at the front facade of the library as a tag on the poster, and it like, now how do you feel about that in per­pe­tu­ity, right? In per­pe­tu­ity for that par­tic­u­lar image of your library, that will always trig­ger this one thing. Do you want me to deac­ti­vate it at the end of the exhi­bi­tion? Or do you want that to go on in space? Or some of the stu­dents who, in their projects have actu­al­ly aug­ment­ed cer­tain books in the library, that if Blippar for exam­ple is still around ten years from, now some­body might take this book off the shelf and dis­cov­er some­thing. And I said how do you feel about that too, you know, and real­ly think­ing about that.

But we real­ly don’t know, for one, hav­ing been someone—I used to teach flash for exam­ple. I’ve taught obso­lete tech­nolo­gies. Director, Flash, these kind of things. We don’t even know if that con­tent will be acces­si­ble in the future, or what apps will actu­al­ly last, so.

Mason: This is the the con­cern with the larg­er play­ers get­ting involved.

Gannis: Yeah, like Apple, yeah. Tim Cook loves AR! More than VR.

Mason: Yeah. And we’re begin­ning to see some of the play­ful inter­ven­tions that’ve been done with ARKit, and it’s main­ly manip­u­lat­ing the cur­rent envi­ron­ment. So what they can do very well because they bought Metaio was they can take and cap­ture the real world, reprocess that, and then place AR con­tent back onto the world.

Gannis: Yeah.

Mason: The thing that at least I think that Apple is going to launch is RGBD, so they’re going to under­stand depth before any­body else under­stands depth.

Gannis: Right.

Mason: And that’s based on 2013 tech­nol­o­gy? Metaio had that, and it was sur­re­al to wit­ness, but a whole bunch of audi­ence mem­bers in Germany got very very excit­ed over the fact that you could put IKEA fur­ni­ture behind phys­i­cal tables. Because for AR that was an impos­si­bil­i­ty. You’d trig­ger some­thing and it would not under­stand where the ground is, or where oth­er 3D objects in real space were. And I gen­uine­ly believe it’s going to be a case of we’re going to be buy­ing vir­tu­al land. In the same way that [crosstalk] you could buy Second Life space—

Gannis: Second Life. I mean think­ing about you had an econ­o­my and you were buy­ing vir­tu­al land and real estate and those kind of things, and now it’s just going to extend

Mason: But then who’s the real estate agent for that? Is Apple then the real estate agent for say this square mile of Russell Square? I mean, who polices Russell Square? Do we give London the entire vir­tu­al map and go, Alright, you guys can work­out which coun­cil looks after this area and what can be trig­gered with­in this area?” [crosstalk] Here’s the British Library, so the British Library.

Gannis: I know. It’s sim­u­lacra and sim­u­la­tion. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, this is real­ly again… You know, I was say­ing sim­u­lacra and sim­u­la­tion, where the map actu­al­ly takes on the pro­por­tions and dimen­sions of the real city, right. And then the map actu­al­ly cov­ers the city and you don’t know if it’s a map or the city that’s real any­more, right? And I think with AR we could get to that. Or HoloLens. I had some­one come in this semes­ter and demo HoloLens to my stu­dents, and that was real­ly fas­ci­nat­ing to me. Mixed real­i­ty I think has so much poten­tial, but again how do we deal with it?

I mean, when you were talk­ing about sys­tems like the Library of Congress in United States. They’ve had…like, there was the Dewey Decimal System and then there was the Library of Congress— They’ve had these cod­i­fied sys­tems. And right now everyone’s mak­ing lots of dif­fer­ent sys­tems. And none of them real­ly are coa­lesc­ing into one sin­gle thing. And we don’t have that yet and so that can lead to chaos.

And I think that’s what a lot of peo­ple are are los­ing sleep over right now. What are we going to do? How are we going to one, still attract peo­ple to come to phys­i­cal loca­tions like the British Library? Because there are things there in that phys­i­cal space worth actu­al­ly inter­act­ing with, right? And every­thing doesn’t have to just be an inter­face. Or every­thing isn’t just from a vir­tu­al ter­ri­to­ry.

And so yeah, I think peo­ple are try­ing to devel­op these strate­gies. And that’s why in a way AR mixed real­i­ty has more poten­tial, I think, that’s why Tim Cook might be inter­est­ed in it, is that the phys­i­cal space is still a com­po­nent, right. With vir­tu­al real­i­ty, you’re just some­where else alto­geth­er, right? And VR is all the rage right now. But in terms of dis­sem­i­nat­ing infor­ma­tion, in terms of keep­ing us in touch still with phys­i­cal, you know. I mean, it’s all real life now. I don’t even dis­tin­guish IRL/URL now. I mean it’s all real life. But like, how do we main­tain a foot in both simul­ta­ne­ous­ly? Both the vir­tu­al and the phys­i­cal.

Mason: I’m so wor­ried it’s going to become a real estate game.

Gannis: Yeah. No, I mean, I could imag­ine that. I mean, I remem­ber think­ing about Second Life— Do you remem­ber that film Second Skin, where peo­ple got mar­ried in Second Life—

Mason: This cou­ple in Life 2.0 and they had this whole sto­ry…

Gannis: Yeah, quite a few of those films that came out where peo­ple just kind of lost them­selves in Second Life. Which I mean if you think of it now it’s so rudi­men­ta­ry, right, com­pared to what we’re talk­ing about. We’re talk­ing about the Holodeck, right. But some­thing more than the Holodeck, because the Holodeck was kind of still an escape. Which maybe in a VR world that’s some­thing. A place for sto­ry­telling or what­ev­er.

But what hap­pens if we get Vernor Vinge’s Rainbow’s End, that 2006 nov­el he wrote about an AR uni­verse where every­body is wearing—and there is no time where AR is turned off. AR has become—you know, it’s the IoT. And your entire wak­ing expe­ri­ence is aug­ment­ed. And what hap­pens when that becomes real­i­ty? And I can see that as a real pos­si­bil­i­ty. We’ll have you know con­tacts and those kind of things, but how are we going to kind of con­trol these dif­fer­ent domains? And is it going to become some­thing that is con­trolled and dom­i­nat­ed by the one per­cent? Ugh, again?

Mason: There was a futur­ist in the UK who very offhand­ed­ly said it’s going to be won­der­ful when we get ubiq­ui­tous AR because we’ll be able to walk down the street and pix­e­late out all the home­less peo­ple. [crosstalk] And you sit there and go, Oh God no…that’s not what you’re sup­posed to do with this.”

Gannis: Are you kid­ding? That’s so clas­sist. Not at all. And that’s a real dan­ger. Because we’re already talk­ing about— I mean, giv­en the cur­rent polit­i­cal cli­mate… There’s been a lot of talk at least in the States about bub­bles, right. And because of these bub­bles, we cur­rent­ly have an orange-skinned, blonde tyrant as our pres­i­dent. And a lot of lib­er­al, left-leaning intel­lec­tu­als were not in touch. They’d kin­da pix­e­lat­ed out peo­ple in the West or in the Southern parts of the United States. And they weren’t aware of this strong nation­al­ism that was aris­ing. And a lot of that was due to their social net­works and this kind of bub­bled envi­ron­ment where you’re get­ting your news source and you basi­cal­ly are per­pet­u­at­ing your world­view based on the friends that you choose and the things that you read, and you have no idea about the home­less peo­ple. You have no idea about coal min­ers who think that we’re all intel­lec­tu­al elit­ists in New York or California or these kind of things. And en masse, they were able to vote this guy in.

And so that’s a real dan­ger. I’ve actu­al­ly had a stu­dent who made a film about that, where in her film she cre­at­ed this future kind of aug­ment­ed tech­nol­o­gy where yeah, you put on these gog­gles and you know longer see the home­less peo­ple and everything’s Wizard of Oz. And inter­est­ing­ly enough, it was the writer of Wizard of Oz, he imag­ined— L. Frank Baum is his name. In 1901 he wrote anoth­er book The Electrical Fairy Tale—I can’t remem­ber the exact title of it—where he imag­ined aug­ment­ed real­i­ty. But his was rather didac­tic. And so in his aug­ment­ed real­i­ty world, you put on a pair of gog­gles and you basi­cal­ly are able to under­stand or see the per­son­al­i­ty of a per­son based on let­ters that are pro­ject­ed on their fore­head. And so you can intu­it things that you wouldn’t see with your phys­i­cal eyes through these gog­gles. And so they’re just let­ters and so S” is smart and D” is detestable or some­thing like this—I don’t remem­ber what the sys­tem was. So it was real­ly didac­tic, but then we see Black Mirror, for exam­ple, that pop­u­lar British tele­vi­sion series where this is real­ly play­ing out. And it’s no longer sci­ence fic­tion, it’s just a step behind what is quite pos­si­ble and immi­nent.

Mason: So, I won­der how your stu­dents are engag­ing with this tech­nol­o­gy. Do they see it as some­thing very very excit­ing, or are they mak­ing those sorts of chal­leng­ing inter­ven­tions into what this tech­nol­o­gy may give birth to acci­den­tal­ly?

Gannis: Yeah, yeah. Promethean, again, the title of Mark’s show. Children of Prometheus is actu­al­ly the title of his show. But you know, we are at this point, to ref­er­ence myths, Pandora’s box or the Promethean fire. And when we had the HoloLens demo, for exam­ple, that was so excit­ing. I was actu­al­ly the kid in class that day. I was jump­ing up and down. I was like, Since I was a kid I’ve been imag­in­ing this, Princess Leia and the holo­grams and being able to map an entire world that obeys the laws of physics. My God this is amaz­ing.” And some of my stu­dents actu­al­ly, when they were writ­ing their blogs about the expe­ri­ence, some of them actu­al­ly were ques­tion­ing what these impli­ca­tions could be more than me. I was the hap­py hap­py futur­ist that day.

But a lot of them in their work— And I was won­der­ing if this was a prod­uct of using Blippar, which was a fan­tas­tic expe­ri­ence and they were real­ly sup­port­ive. They came to the show the stu­dent show, some peo­ple from Blippar New York. but I won­dered if they also, know­ing that cer­tain blips couldn’t get approved, like cer­tain mark­ers, if that was some­thing that they self-censored, in a way. And also because they were doing a research-based project in a library. And I think a future class­es and where we could actu­al­ly do pub­lic inter­ven­tions and things like that. Or just tak­ing it out of cer­tain insti­tu­tions where you feel like, Oh, well I want to make sure I don’t rock the boat too much.”

But def­i­nite­ly in a lot of the writ­ings that my stu­dents were doing this semes­ter, quite a few of them were ques­tion­ing issues of pri­va­cy, for exam­ple. Which comes up again in Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge’s piece. Privacy when you can start to you know see through walls and these kind of things. Which Ivan Sutherland pre­dict­ed in 1968 when he pro­duced The Sword of Damocles, the first head-mounted display—he’s kind of the father of AR and VR.

And so they were talk­ing about pri­va­cy and also what’s going on with…what is it called? In China… And it played out on a Black Mirror episode, Nosedive,” right, where they have these per­son­al apps, and your cred­it rat­ing actu­al­ly increas­es or decreas­es based on how you behave pub­licly and your inter­ac­tions with peo­ple. And so there’s this one-to-one virtual/physical cor­re­la­tion, and it’s kind of fright­en­ing, right? And it’s an app, and kind of like what we saw in Nosedive,” which is a kind of a rudi­men­ta­ry AR app, you have a HUD again that’s over­lay­ing every­thing, and then you can rate peo­ple and rate things. And what are the impli­ca­tions of that in the future, espe­cial­ly when you can’t turn it off?

And Vernor Vinge, again in Rainbows End, you can’t real­ly turn it off. Or if you do, if you don’t wear,” so to speak, you’re a pari­ah. That’s the oth­er thing, you know. What about the peo­ple who decide to not engage? I mean, we already know we can’t real­ly go off the grid and par­tic­i­pate in cul­ture these days. I mean, I’m say­ing this par­tic­u­lar­ly as a Westerner. There’s still tons of peo­ple around the world who are not net­worked. So I should def­i­nite­ly bal­ance that com­ment. But speak­ing in terms of of you and I and peo­ple who are kind of engaged in this rhetoric and in art and tech­nol­o­gy, we kind of can’t go off the grid now, right, to be engaged.

Mason: Well, I won­der if there is almost an implic­it fil­ter bub­ble of doing a dig­i­tal MA. I mean, you don’t see the oth­er side of the coin. You’re a dig­i­tal arts MA stu­dent. Your life is dig­i­tal arts, you’re sur­round­ed by dig­i­tal arts, dig­i­tal is kind of core of what you do, you don’t actu­al­ly see the oth­er side of the coin. But I know your back­ground isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly dig­i­tal, though.

Gannis: No, no.

Mason: Your back­ground is fine arts oil paint­ing, is that right?

Gannis: Yes. And half of my fam­i­ly— I used to, when I first moved to New York and was try­ing to assim­i­late, I lost my very thick Southern accent because I’m from the south­ern part of the United States and often did not reveal that half of my fam­i­ly is from the moun­tains of North Carolina. So I can now reveal this. But for a UK audi­ence this might not mean any­thing any­way. But the moun­tains of North Carolina, the Appalachian Mountains, grow­ing up there as a child it was like grow­ing up in the 19th cen­tu­ry.

And I vis­it­ed there, I didn’t grow up there. So when I’d vis­it the fam­i­ly home­stead, so to speak, it was still a wood-burning stove, my fam­i­ly mem­bers made these musi­cal instru­ments and sang these clas­si­cal moun­tain bal­lads that were hun­dreds of years old and actu­al­ly dat­ed back to Ireland, and these kind of things. And so it was a very tra­di­tion­al, old cul­ture. So that is some­thing that prob­a­bly still plays into my prac­tice and why I’m so inter­est­ed in his­to­ry and also find­ing col­li­sion points between past, present, and spec­u­la­tive future.

And so that’s part of my child­hood. And then I was also a classically-trained pianist. I was out play­ing piano and teach­ing piano by the time I was 14, and it was all clas­si­cal. I was also clas­si­cal­ly trained as a painter. My dad, though, was real­ly into com­put­ers, tak­ing me to SIGGRAPH con­fer­ences… And I rebelled by being a clas­si­cist. And it wasn’t until after I obtained two degrees—a BFA and MFA, I got them back to back—in oil paint­ing that I moved to New York, and what got me to New York was build­ing a data­base for the John McEnroe Library.

So com­put­ers brought me to New York. And my dad sent me a com­put­er and sent me a data­base and it was all DOS, and I learned that on the fly, real­ized that I had an aptitude—I didn’t real­ize but I inher­it­ed it from my dad. And I got to New York, I start­ed assist­ing artists who were work­ing with dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies, I threw away all my paint­ings and kind of start­ed anew. It was a John Baldessari move. He lit all of his paint­ings and had a funer­al pyre. But I just threw mine away. And it’s fun­ny because my dad still picks on me to this day. The first com­put­er arts grant I got, he said, See, I told you so. I told you the future of art would be in this.”

But, I do think, back to your orig­i­nal ques­tion, the fact that I have that back­ground does give me a dif­fer­ent kind of rela­tion­ship to tech­nol­o­gy. Because I do have— I mean one, I’m not born dig­i­tal, for one. And because I have this rela­tion­ship and this his­to­ry with the ana­log world and actu­al­ly because of my fam­i­ly roots, a very very 19th-century kind of tra­di­tion­al world, it always kind of plays into my phi­los­o­phy or my per­spec­tive on things. So I’m always kind of coun­ter­bal­anc­ing, and I’m weigh­ing things, and I’m look­ing at the dig­i­tal world and I’m get­ting very enthu­si­as­tic about it, but I’m also remem­ber­ing and I have real expe­ri­ences that I can draw from. And remem­ber­ing that there’s this oth­er road, and how do we kind of bal­ance our per­spec­tives? And I think that bal­ance is always real­ly impor­tant.

Mason: How long have you spent in New York? Do you mind me ask­ing?

Gannis: Twenty-two years. I’m a New Yorker.

Mason: You’re a New Yorker now. And have you seen the growth of dig­i­tal art over the course of those twenty-two years, or has dig­i­tal art always been part of the New York scene. It strikes me that it’s—at least dig­i­tal art is allowed on the East Coast, but nev­er felt like it exist­ed on the West Coast. And I remem­ber ask­ing friends, when I first arrived in San Francisco, it was like, Great! Take me to the dig­i­tal art shows.” And they’re like—

Gannis: What dig­i­tal art shows?

Mason: No dude, there’s no dig­i­tal art shows here. You wan­na go see art there’s SFMOMA but they’re clos­ing that down and it’s going to be redone. But if you’re a com­put­er sci­en­tist here, you don’t make art. You go and work for Google.”

Gannis: Yeah, yeah.

Mason: I just won­dered, can dig­i­tal art only exist on the East Coast?

Gannis: There are good dig­i­tal artists on the West Coast and I think a lot of things are chang­ing. But I also can share you with you some anec­dotes about twenty-two years in New York in dig­i­tal arts. I mean, one thing when I first came to New York, a lot of my friends were painters because I had a degree in paint­ing, you know. And I start­ed data­bas­ing this art library at this art school and they were all painters. And then I start­ed to, as I men­tioned, move away from that.

But I remem­ber when I first decid­ed to embark on a new path­way. And first I was doing Xerox art, pho­tog­ra­phy, video, all of these things. And it ulti­mate­ly led me to just pro­duc­ing things with the com­put­er, which is the ubiq­ui­tous post­mod­ern art tool, I think. Or art part­ner, actu­al­ly. It’s your col­lab­o­ra­tor. But any­way, I had friends who total­ly maligned me. They were like, You’re nev­er going to have an art career. Are you stu­pid? Why are you not mak­ing paint­ings? That’s what sells.”

And then in the ear­ly 2000s…or actu­al­ly late 1990s, ear­ly 2000s you know, with Rhizome, there was a lot of ener­gy and excite­ment about dig­i­tal art. I had this dig­i­tal alter ego, Sister Gemini, and there were some gal­leries inter­est­ed in doing some things with her, and she was going to get kind of holo­graph­i­cal­ly pro­ject­ed and all these things, then 911 hap­pened in New York. And there was this con­ser­v­a­tive back­lash, and in the art world it was real­ly real­ly pre­dom­i­nant and there was a return to phys­i­cal objects, paint­ings, things that peo­ple knew would sell. Because also the econ­o­my just kin­da tanked with that.

And again in 2008, that happened—so a lot of this is tied to the econ­o­my, I think. But also I was show­ing with kind of main­stream com­mer­cial gal­leries. I was going to art fairs and these things, and peo­ple were scratch­ing their head. They were— Do you know many pho­tog­ra­phy col­lec­tions I’m in because peo­ple didn’t even— In their muse­ums they didn’t have a label for this hybrid stuff I was doing. They were like is it a video game, is it a—you know, what is it? And it’s a com­pos­ite. It’s like I embrace hybrid­i­ty and most dig­i­tal artists do.

But it took a long time even in New York. There have always been groups, and as long as you could kind of find those peo­ple and shows and things going on. But it was kind of an alter­na­tive art his­to­ry. And still there is kind of this dig­i­tal divide, even in New York. But less­er now, because of gal­leries like Transfer Gallery, and Bitforms, and Postmasters, who have been real­ly pro­mot­ing hybrid work or dig­i­tal work or new media work for quite some time. And Transfer’s kind of young on the scene, four years, but Kelani has just made major inroads to kind of broad­en­ing its appeal. And I think a lot peo­ple have been afraid of it.

So that said, on the West Coast who’s there? I mean, there’s Dorothy Santos I know. I think things are chang­ing there. I was part of a Silicon Valley art fair like two years ago, and Isabel Walcott Draves who leads Leaders in Software and Art orga­nized this. And the one thing that I think you’re still cor­rect about is all of the Silicon Valley peo­ple were just like, Oh, I wan­na buy a Picasso but I don’t wan­na buy dig­i­tal art.”

And I don’t under­stand that. Like, when this is what you do dur­ing the day, you still don’t think of that as art, or art that is col­lectible. And so I’m still a lit­tle baf­fled by that.

Mason: Is that the major dif­fer­ence between… So the UK and the US, your bias in the US is to think of how does this art­work become com­mer­cial or how is it sold? Whereas in the UK we have a lit­tle bit of a buffer thanks the things that the Arts Council of England, or—

Gannis: Yeah.

Mason: —oth­er grants for the arts or grants for dig­i­tal arts, knowl­edge trans­fer net­works. And the ways in which we can get access, or dig­i­tal artists can get access to pub­lic mon­ey, which makes the impe­tus on mak­ing some­thing com­mer­cial or sell­able less impor­tant. And I won­der what your thoughts are on the dif­fer­ence between say Europe and the US, and how it views dig­i­tal art.

Gannis: Yeah, I think that is a real­ly good point. And I think it is an issue in the United States and is becom­ing more of an issue, again, with the peo­ple who are in pow­er cur­rent­ly. They’re actu­al­ly plan­ning to make more and more cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts and sup­port of arts of any kind. And there are not as many grants. And in a place like New York it’s super com­pet­i­tive. And so as a New York-based artist it’s dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate your­self from you know, like it’s kind of the lit­tle fish in a real­ly huge pond. And so there is more of an empha­sis in terms of when you’re work­ing with gal­leries or even peo­ple who…you know, cura­tors, inde­pen­dent cura­tors, to think about these things in terms of com­mod­i­fi­a­bil­i­ty.

And most artists I know, par­tic­u­lar­ly who are work­ing with emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies, they just want to have time to make their stuff. They don’t care about sell­ing it. They don’t care about being rich and famous like I don’t know, Jeff Koons. Who by the way is now embark­ing on a VR project. I don’t know what that’ll be like, but we’ll see. You know, he’s one—I don’t want to malign him. He’s one mod­el, okay. And that’s one mod­el where the artist has kind of worked in the sys­tem, they’re very wealthy, they’ve got a stu­dio full of assis­tants. And they make work that is high­ly com­mod­i­fi­able. Generally it’s also scarce, it’s one of a kind, these kind of things—sculptures, etc.

But a lot of artist I know who are com­ing out of the the 60, the dema­te­ri­al­ized art object, com­ing out of kind of more con­cep­tu­al lin­eages, aren’t think­ing about like, Oh, I wan­na make some­thing that I can sell.” But then there is this pres­sure because how else are you going to pay for your time to pro­duce things? And a lot of us take the aca­d­e­m­ic route. I’m now a full-time assis­tant chair and pro­fes­sor at Pratt Department of Digital Arts. And many of my friends who—many of us had worked in cor­po­rate jobs, too, to kind of pay for our art habit, so to speak.

And you know, after a while you get tired, too. You come in after work, and gen­er­al­ly what I’d do is I’d learn a tech­nol­o­gy if I was work­ing at a game com­pa­ny or doing web design, and then I’d be like oh okay, now I’ve got to apply this to my own art and sub­vert it in some inter­est­ing way, right? And so you have this day­time life and this night­time life. But that gets real­ly dif­fi­cult to main­tain over a peri­od of time, right?

And so then you do start to deal with these pres­sures about okay, I applied for this many grants and there are only a hand­ful, and ten thou­sand oth­er peo­ple applied for them too, and I didn’t get them because there’s just a dearth of grant mon­ey in the United States. And so what am I going to do? Like, how am I going to kind of kow­tow to a mar­ket?

And that’s some­thing we’ve seen with post-Internet, for exam­ple. A younger gen­er­a­tion of artists, par­tic­u­lar even net artists, I mean, because post-Internet you know…yeah, post-digital. But post-Internet artists who actu­al­ly have returned to the gallery, or have gallery rep­re­sen­ta­tion ear­ly on because they are mak­ing objects that are inspired by the Internet? But they’re not network-based. They actu­al­ly exist in a phys­i­cal domain. And so they can then enter the mar­ket.

And that’s been— Maybe post-Internet…I’m not sure what your thoughts are on it, but it has been a kind of polar­iz­ing neol­o­gism. But I think it does kind of indi­cate a new­er generation’s response to want­i­ng to kind of align them­selves more with a main­stream art mar­ket and try­ing to find ways to do that. And not all of them have to mean that you’re sell­ing out, so to speak. But it is a quandary, you know, when you just want to make work. And it would be great if we lived in a coun­try where, like in the UK or Canada, where there was more sup­port for the arts.

Mason: We’ve kind of full cir­cle then, because the oth­er inter­est­ing thing about The Garden of Emoji Delights is it does appeal to the Snapchat gen­er­a­tion.

Gannis: Yeah.

Mason: There’s some­thing very viral, some­thing very play­ful… Although it’s a seri­ous piece of dig­i­tal art, there’s some­thing that very young kids would find very engag­ing, because it is emo­jis and it’s some­thing they’re rec­og­niz­ing with­in that cul­ture. And we brushed over it very briefly, but I won­der what oth­er sorts of inter­ac­tions are you hav­ing with the emails you’re get­ting, or the Instagram com­ments you’re get­ting with some­thing like that.

And I also won­der if that sort of engage­ment rais­es the val­ue of that phys­i­cal, final piece as well. Do dig­i­tal artists need to play both those games, make some­thing that will also get enough kind of earned media inside of PR so that it kind of ele­vates the artist? Do you think it’s because there’s some­thing innate­ly viral and play­ful about this new piece, this cur­rent piece?

Gannis: And per­verse, and strange, and a kind of per­verse appro­pri­a­tion of emo­ji, you know, to kind of rein­stan­ti­ate it as a fine art lan­guage, for exam­ple, and those kind of things. When I was in grad school I wrote an essay on Giotto, and I did a lot of research on this 13th-century painter and this par­tic­u­lar fres­co cycle at the Arena chapel. And it was amaz­ing to find out how he was real­ly inter­est­ed in the ver­nac­u­lar of his day. Likewise, I’ve done research on Bosch. Same thing. It was about the com­mon lan­guage of the day, and that’s what influ­enced their visu­al iconog­ra­phy.

And I have com­pared both of them to pop artists from the 60s, right. And that when you speak that kind of lan­guage— For exam­ple Giotto, he was this hybrid artist, so to speak, because he was still in the Medieval time but like a pre­cur­sor to the Renaissance. So what he did that is so fas­ci­nat­ing to me is he took this Byzantine iconog­ra­phy and took it away or off of the ceil­ing, right, where you’re look­ing up at God and Mary and all these peo­ple and you have to feel like a low­ly human. He brought it down to human scale. So this chapel, this whole fres­co cycle, it’s right eye lev­el with you, right.

So he could speak to the com­mon man, the com­mon woman, the per­son who didn’t speak Latin. But he was also smart enough to encode that work with a kind of intel­li­gence that the peo­ple who spoke Latin, the intel­li­gentsia, could also take some­thing from it. And so it was and has been an impact­ful paint­ing, or fres­co cycle, like the Bosch has been impact­ful for 500 years because it can emanate mul­ti­ple mes­sages and it can speak to peo­ple of many dif­fer­ent demo­graph­ics.

And that’s some­thing that I don’t think is a prob­lem. I think, because I think of my own identity—I’ve done a self­ie project which is all about hybrid iden­ti­ty, too, and elas­tic­i­ty, you know. And so I don’t think that’s a prob­lem. Now, for art crit­ics? some­times that’s a prob­lem, right? Because they’re like, Oh, that’s too pop­u­lar.”

But I’m okay with that. I’m okay with my work actu­al­ly res­onat­ing with a 20 year-old and res­onat­ing with a 65 year-old art crit­ic. Because if you actu­al­ly spend time with the work, or you spend time with the ani­ma­tion, there are all these clues, there’s all these things encod­ed that are like…Walter Benjamin’s text is encod­ed in this piece if you look in the Hell pan­el. So there’s all this kind of philo­soph­i­cal stuff in there if you actu­al­ly spend time. But you know, if you just have one inter­pre­ta­tion and you get that and you’re 18 years old, that’s fine with me too. It doesn’t have to be bina­ry. It doesn’t have to be mutu­al­ly exclu­sive.

Mason: Thank you to Carla Gannis for shar­ing her unique insight into the emo­ji­fi­ca­tion of every­day life. If you like what you’ve heard, you can sub­scribe for our lat­est episode. Or, fol­low us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at vir­tu­al­fu­tures.” You can also sup­port us on Patreon by going to patre​on​.com/​v​i​r​t​u​a​l​f​u​t​u​res. Thank you for lis­ten­ing to the Virtual Futures Podcast.


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