HIGH VELOCITY NEO-FUTURISM
AN INTERVIEW WITH ECHNICO
This week, we discuss the future of art with ECHNICO, digital futurist and abstract artist creating masterpieces without a studio using just his finger over a tablet. The artist's intuitive way of working is the future of sustainable art with a focused direction on creating art that speaks to the world of today and tomorrow. This series of propulsive artworks by ECHICO are previously unrevealed by the creator and we are proud to present them here first.
"Tell us a little bit about yourself."
I've always been creative, drawing since as long as I can remember. I never went to art school. I didn't apply because I wasn't confident enough at the time. I'd had a deeper feeling of skepticism towards art school that I now realize perhaps saved me. Had I gone to art school I think I may never have made the works I do now. By keeping creating as a side focus and not applying the pressure of needing that skill to financially support me I believe spared my creativity and let it develop more freely.
But when I was at school I did take some art classes. I had one very good professor who encouraged us, in her words, to "play with the mud" and not be afraid to use paint more thickly. We were introduced to oil paints but oil paint is toxic and also very costly as many artists would agree. Rather unattractive qualities, right? Oil painting, by virtue of its ancient history, made me produce art that wasn't me, it was dated.
After I left school I worked for several years in an office with very little creative output. Then I moved to New York City and spent 6 months trying to make a living there by day and exploring at night. But I was still not producing. That is until one humid night on the underground subway platform I decided, in keeping with the non-stop, synchronized metropolis around me, that I could be doing more during those waits for the train. Not taking in media, but producing it. Around the same time I had purchased a cheap, small stylus pen and liked the idea of using it with my matching silver phone. I downloaded two apps: one car racing, the other drawing. Both free. You can guess which one I kept. It turned out that I could use just my fingers to do all the drawing, but the stylus is still occasionally useful.
"What draws you to digital? What does digital art that more physical practice is missing."
I remember having some difficulty at first with the digital program. I didn't quite know what to do and what I wanted from because I didn't know its limits. My first few attempts were illustration. One night I sat outside across the street from my day job and proceeded to draw the building, as it looked. I disliked the results, and worse, I disliked the experience. Then on tumblr and instagram I began seeing remarkable images. What was so striking was the feeling that it was purely digital yet also referential but no trace of illustration. This new aesthetic represented a clear break from the past. It was both present and futuristic, strange yet somewhat familiar. There's a great saying, I think from William Gibson, that "earth is the alien planet" and I like that a lot because it addresses the weirdness we have here and also makes it a bit alluring. Maybe one doesn't have to go all the way to outer space after all to truly escape.
"The idea of escapism feels very important to your work, you seem to be referencing technology but your work isn't of any time or location, it's free."
Moving to experimental abstraction is like diving headfirst into a vortex because I didn't know where I would end. I started making things that looked like what digital art might be to me. What does digital and net art look like? Nobody knew then and nobody really knows today and that is partly what is so exciting.
My work could be a hyperrealistic landscape or it could be a bunch of flat cut-and-pasted shapes arranged in seconds.Regardless of what it ends up looking like it's important that I make a full and total embrace of technology. The same way that my favorite musical artists who embrace synthesizers and software intentionally decide to make striking electronic sounds instead of just replicating organic instruments. My style developed by letting the technology seduce me, swirl around me and take me on a ride with it. But because I was ultimately still in control, I achieved results I wanted.
"What does digital art have that more physical practice is missing"
Digital has so many advantages. The most obvious is that it's "green", it uses no raw materials and take up zero physical space. It costs me, the environment, and others, zero. I consider the jump from oil and acrylic to digital similar to moving from fossil fuels to electric powered cars. And not only is digital art green externally, but internally it can follow the logic of efficiency and recycling by re-purposing within its own ecosystem to a potentially infinite degree. I consider Echnico a destination that arrives by combining photography, industrial design, graphic design, textiles, abstraction, futurism, cultural theory, technology and speculation.
"The idea of art within the digital sphere and only in the digital sphere is fascinating. How does working with technology/programs impact your workflow?"
When I found a rhythm with the programs, I noticed that time was beginning to compress and and reorder. I could reach a certain point, use the cutting tool to extract a smaller portion I really liked, and use the reverse tool to bring me to a previous point where I would then paste that item. The programs I use aren't too sophisticated, so it doesn't store the "future" progress once I've gone back and re-edited from a past point. The timeline has been altered to a new path. So I was bringing small slices from the future back so that I could then race forward to the larger future of a finished piece. I also bring items from points in the past that were lost from either being buried or erased to the present again. This altering of chronology adds to my experience and is sometimes key to completing a piece successfully.
Tell us a little bit about the themes of your work, what do you wish to convey?
I am inspired by the tools available in the programs I use, but I also find motivation and ideas from theory and music. A provocative futurism can be found in theoretical literature that emerged in the last few decades and continues through today. And I will listen to techno even from say 2002 or even 1992 that still sounds fresh. Social media has been helpful in putting me into direct communication with obscure electronic musicians. I asked them what were they thinking when they made music and they often answered that inspiration came from the technology they were using, essentially the tools. They were caught up in the same ecstasy of using the gear. I think in some ways, techno musicians and now the current generation of abstract digitalnet artists are like a subgroup of proto-cyborgs, fusing human and machine not to complete routine tasks but to express themselves. The process is not fully automatic, but not random either. It's what I like to call 'technosessed', where a degree is accounted for by the technological, and the rest is mysterious, unpredictable human impulse, as if guided by possession. The union of the two is both harmonious and disruptive.
The reason for my visual melding of industry with abstraction is that capital and technology are seemingly the only revolutionary forces remaining. How does creativity, which has revolutionary potential, compete with other forces that have been allowed far greater momentum? Creativity has to not only be freed but also adopt some of the means (the way Jenny Holzer used electronic billboards in the middle of Times Square to broadcast messages), and go beyond it and maintain a lead. Because how else does one stand a chance against the power of consumer products when the products, like BMW design under Chris Bangle in the late 2000s, started to adopt the sculptural techniques of fine art, and even human physiology, with concept cars sheathed in a synthetic fabric that wrinkles like skin when a door is opened? I think art has to now adopt the industrial techniques and beyond and while we've seen this already in certain pop artists, their baroque kitsch is condescending, so something else, maybe a sharp ambiguous urgency, will take the forefront next. This can most recently be seen in the works of Maxime Guyon, Frédéric Plateus and Anna Uddenberg. If the code of today is becoming indecipherable, we need a new language to respond. And that language can become a dialect.
"You consider yourself post-studio, tell us more about this?"
To me, being creative means to adapt quickly and innovate. I think of digitalnet art as a necessity to survive. I think of it as a product of this time and what is around the corner. It is no longer sustainable for most creative people to rent spaces, to purchase and use up finite materials and spend what little extra non-worked related time they have to produce. It is however very possible to be able to produce on a mobile smart phone that already does many other things, and do it on-the-go. I call this "art-in-transit". Waiting in line, on the bus, during meals, in between conversations. Mid-sentence, mid-thought, mid-microchip processing. Because the creativity that comes from this compressive impulsion is new and unexplored and saying something. This is what it means to be post-studio. Setting has evaporated, but that has also liberated and rejuvenated us.
"Where is art heading?
"Digital creativity will continue to grow rapidly because it is the fastest, most efficient and accessible medium in history. To say it opens the field up is an understatement. The transparent immediacy of digitalnet bypasses so many obstacles of resources, time and place. Previewing the incoming era of instant delivery, new art now comes right to you every single day, possibly multiple times in one day. Such as my rate of works, it far surpasses if I had to do it analog. People are pushing what speed and volume mean in this dimension, with virtual shows of potentially infinite works experienced via headsets. And as I write this, there are people working on platforms that combine blockchain with digital art. A merging of blockchain and VR will be next.
Beyond that, similar to how automation is replacing humans in work and labor, artists will face competition from artificial intelligence. An AI generated work sold for $432k last year, but it was in a style from the 18th century. But then there's another program by someone else that was specifically told to make works different than a catalogue it had analyzed of hundreds of years worth of historical works. Echnico and peers are generating visuals a step ahead of the AI curve. But the programs will catch up, and when they do I hope to work alongside the technology all over again. Like those chess matches between a human and computer, except I work with the program, not against it, and each side makes moves towards something never before seen.
Discover more on ECHNICO here.