INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Zach Lieberman is a true pioneer in the field of art + tech, creating digital poetry through code, technology and theory. We are thrilled to have Future Sketches, a compilation of engaging, extraordinary installations, be our first exhibition of 2020 at Artechouse D.C., on view January 17th - March 1st (tickets on sale now).
Zach’s work combines creativity, artistic vision and cutting edge R&D (he writes his own software to create his artwork, and is a co-creator of openFrameworks, an open source C++ toolkit for creative coding), putting creativity and awe at the forefront of interactive media.
We sat down with Zach to offer some more insight into his process, and what you, the visitor, can expect from Future Sketches. We can’t wait for you to experience it:
Zach, you are often called a computation poet. Can computation be poetic? Why? How?
Yes -- computation can be poetic when it is used to express what it means to be human and alive. It can be poetic when it's not just about consumption, monetization and advertising but it's a force for understanding ourselves and our world. Less demo more poetry.
Which brings us to Future Sketches. Tell us about this exhibition's purpose/goals in just a few sentences?
I want people to see the expressive power of their body, of their movement, of animation and of code. I want them to feel what poetic computation feels like.
Why this show, why now?
As computation becomes increasingly invisible and part of our every day lives it's important to create scenarios which explore the expressive potential and which make computation more visible and playful. There are large companies / monopolies which are pushing things like Machine Learning and Augmented Reality -- they have a commercial interest in shaping the conversation, it's important for artists to add to the conversation and suggest different, more humane futures.
Future Sketches - where does the show get its name?
I really love the work of Muriel Cooper, an important designer who helped create the MIT Media Lab, where I now teach. She wrote this cover letter when submitting a visual essay to a magazine, where she said, "this will stand as a sketch for the future." I love this sentence so much because I think it explains most of media art, that it's a sketch for what the future might look like. I do daily sketches and I love the idea of small pieces, small ideas, building on each other to make a larger form. In a way this installation is like my sketchbook and I'm inviting people to come inside.
What are some of the key themes you are hoping to explore in Future Sketches?
There are 4 themes: sketches, which focuses on my daily sketches -- short poems that I create daily with software. Here I want people to get a little lost in my mind and see some of the connections I see with the graphical forms and movement. Second is code lab, which is about understanding what code "feels" like -- I want the audience to get a sense of how variables and numbers can change a graphical form. Then there is the interaction lab which is about exploring different modes of interaction, using your body, your voice, your gestures and shapes. Finally face lab is specifically about the face, masks and how the computer senses us. What does the face of the future look like?
Why do this show at ARTECHOUSE?
Artechouse is a unique venue for media art where you have the opportunity to create a wide range of experiences -- interactive, immersive, and monumental in scale. I have been following Artechouse for some time now and many of my heroes have exhibited here, so it's really an honor to be next.
What goes into planning / executing an exhibition like this? Give us a glimpse behind the scenes?
First you start with a site visit -- it's important to walk around and get a sense of what will work in the space and how. Then you start curating pieces and in this case, we decided on specific zones -- here's where we'll have interactive work, here's where code related work will go. Since this installation involves older projects (some as old as 2005) and brand new work, there's a lot of planning and almost archaeological work to make sure you have all the right code and equipment. I'm doing many things at once, programming, designing interfaces, soldering, cutting video, and it's always pretty hectic until the final movements.
Why do it all in C++?
C++ is this crazy language in that it's very low level -- software and operating systems are written in it -- but it's still understandable, and it's been around forever. It's fast, and since I do a lot of real time visuals and interactive forms it works well for me. it's old school but I try to bring some new school flavor with it.
Your art is interactive - how do you consider the audience journey through the creative process? How does the audience play into it?
I want participants to become performers -- when you put on a mask or a costume your movements and gestures change and you start to see yourself in a new way. That's the potential of interactive work. I also love artwork that's the opposite of "do not touch"
How do you hope the audience will react?
I like exhibits where you go visit and then you get excited to make your own art -- some art makes you inspired, so you grab a sketchbook in the gift shop and start thinking of new ideas. Conversely some art is overwhelming and you feel like I can't do anything like that. I want people to be inspired to make their own sketches.
What are some of the things in the show you are most excited about? We heard exciting things about FaceLab?
I am always excited for new work and to see projects exhibited in different ways. I love facelab because it's given me a chance to curate in some of my students and a design historian / critic whose work I really admire.
What are some of the most energizing things happening in the art+technology space now? What artists are you personally excited for/interested in?
I am excited about augmented reality, specifically because it is about movement and the poetics of space. I think AR is a really interesting vehicle for ambiguity. Also new types of cameras and sensors really intrigue me. How can we see in new ways?
What's next for you?
I keep doing what I love, sketching, teaching and making artwork. I am at the point in my career where I feel really good about the balance of all the things I do so hopefully I keep doing all these things with the same intensity for a while.
What do you see as the future of art+technology?
As computer devices get more locked down, less hackable, more constrained and more siloed I think art+tech needs to be on the vanguard for exposing what's possible. We need artists at the table when important decisions are being made. We need more humane technology for a more humane world.
JANUARY 17 - MARCH 1, 2020
Daily - 10AM - 5PM**
**Jan 1-3rd & 5th offer extended hours until 7PM for All Ages
AFTER HOURS (21+)
Sun-Thurs - 5PM - 10PM
Fri & Sat - 5PM - 11PM
AR Bar operates starting
5PM Tues-Thurs and 11AM Fri - Sat.
Hours are subject to change.
To purchase alcoholic drinks or attend After Hours Sessions visitors must be 21+ and provide a valid government ID.
**These are Admission & Hours for
Future Sketches on view Jan 17- Mar 1, 2020**