An interview with Erik Winkowski

"Eric, please introduce yourself and your fantastic work."

I was born and raised in New York City. I live in New Orleans now, a block from the Mississippi River with my wife and my cat, Jack. My work combines photography, drawing, and animation – video collage is the probably the best way to describe it. About six months ago I started a project called the Video Sketchbook and each day I create a new video experiment and post it on Instagram. 

"Video Collage is like taking an age old craft and digitalising it. What brought you to pioneering this form?"

It’s a little embarrassing to admit but Michael Jackson’s “Leave Me Alone” music video probably has a lot to do with it. I remember watching it obsessively as a kid and literally crying I thought it was so cool. I wanted to make something like that so badly. In art school I signed up for every animation class I could take – it was like this sorcery that brought your drawings to life. It also seemed like the most difficult thing in the world which was part of its appeal. 

"That is such a fantastic and exciting stating point. Where did you go from there?"

After I graduated, my motion graphics professor hired me at his studio and I learned a ton about animation on the job. On the weekends I taught myself traditional animation techniques from 1940s books on cartooning. After a while I got frustrated with hand-drawn animation, I was spending weeks on just a few seconds of animation, so I started developing techniques that allowed me to make animations more quickly. By using green screen, puppets, live action drawing I’ve been able to create a new way of working with video that allows me to be spontaneous like in a sketchbook.

 "And what themes does your work draw upon now?"

I think most of my work is about taking delight in something utterly ordinary. There’s a passage by William Blake where he talks about a tree and how it moves some to tears of joy while others just see it as a green thing that stands in their way. I fall into the first category and I’d like to share that feeling with others and be playful about it.    

"There is beauty in reinventing the ordinary. Do you consider your work political?"

I think politics, at its best, is about not being evil to one another and I think there’s a spirit of that in my work, but I wouldn’t say that my work is political. It’s actually probably closer to a sanctuary from politics.

"Your video collages always have literal and figurative depictions of nature, why use this reference?"

My mom edited biology and botany textbooks when I was a kid and we had a whole bookcase dedicated to science books. I used to spend hours paging through her books looking at the illustrations: diagrams of cells, charts of birds, the human nervous system... Of course I didn’t understand any of it but I was fascinated by the pictures and the mystery of it heightened my fascination. 

These days when I’m feeling creatively stuck I go for a walk. When you consider all the plants, animals, insects, and bacteria in a single square block it feels like an entire universe and it reminds me that the world is bigger than my little slice of consciousness.

"Finally, what is the future of art making?"

I think the urge to make art is timeless. The only thing that changes with time are the tools for making art and the technology for sending it out into the world. Video is still a baby compared to painting or sculpture but it’s growing quickly. I’m intrigued by the possibilities of augmented and virtual reality. I can just imagine a citywide art project where artists are commissioned to make site-specific augmented reality pieces – like gigantic morphing sculptures under a bridge or a cloud of birds hovering over a park. Virtual reality will also allow artists to create entirely new worlds that can be experienced by people anywhere. As exciting as it all is I think we’re still just scratching the surface – it will be interesting to see how artists use the technology 20 years from now.

"Thank you."

Discover more on Erik Winkowski here.

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