With the New Museum’s Triennial in full swing, we’re attending talks and performances and constantly reseeing and reabsorbing the talent of all the young artists selected by curators Ryan Trecartin and Lauren Cornell. While revisiting the exhibition, three 3D artists – whether it is printing or animation – caught our attention and we had to ask them a few questions about their work and how they think the exhibition, which is evolved around digital art, will change the face of the industry.
Frank Benson’s intrigue with the human form has origins in early young adulthood. His mother, a fashion illustrator, also illustrated medical textbooks, which she would farm out to the teenage Benson. His Human Statue was created in 2009 he found a model on Craigslist who then posed nude imitating a sculpture for the artist. The 30-something-year old artist has also created 3D renditions, which were then photographed and printed onto a real flag, of both the Union Jack and the American flag.
Your sculpture of Juliana Huxtable is incredible: so life like and precise down to each hair strain. What is it about precision that fascinates you and inspires your work?
Frank Benson: I am more interested in achieving a honed perfection of sculptural form, than creating the illusion of life, but the details that make the figure come alive are important for the overall success of the sculpture. Every aspect of the work should seem completely intentional. If any of the details seem questionable it distracts from the impact of the whole. I hope to achieve a kind of photographic objectivity that effectively removes my own hand form the work, so that the viewer can have direct access to the sculpture without first thinking about my role in its creation.
Tell us about the process behind the sculpture!?
FB: The sculpture started with a photo shoot where I locked down the pose, then I had Juliana three dimensionally scanned by a special effects company, which specializes in making highly detailed collectible toys. A rough 3D model was assembled from the scans and then I spent several months with an assistant refining the figure using a program called zBrush. Once that process was complete I had the entire sculpture 3D printed in rigid plastic. The parts were then finished, assembled and painted with a color shifting polyurethane acrylic paint. The piece was then placed on a seamless Corian base.
Does your name brother Frank Weston Benson have anything to do with your choice of art and your decision to get into art?
FB: As far as I know, I am not related to the “Master of American Impressionism”, but my Mom, who owned a frame shop in Norfolk, VA, did have a poster of one of Frank W Benson’s paintings hanging in the house throughout my childhood. I don’t think this early exposure to his work had any bearing on my own artistic development, but I do have a personal goal of overcoming his Google image search presence… I still have a long way to go.
Which medium do you prefer – sculpture, video or photography?
FB: Sculpture is definitely my preferred medium, but I see photography and video as alternate ways to document and assist my work as a sculptor. My early experiments in sculpture, which were ephemeral and transitory, only existed as photographs that called into question the physical nature of the subject. My recent work using 3D scanning, and digital sculpting software is a fulfilling synthesis of all three mediums.
What’s your favorite art work of all time and why?
FB: It is hard to pick a favorite, I have several, but some of the most relevant for my current work are the Etruscan Sarcophagus of Spouses in the Louvre, Michelangelo’s Night in the Medici Tomb and Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne at the Villa Borghese. I have always appreciated the articulation of the braided hair and animated expressions of the Sarcophagus of theSpouses, while simplified in form, the two reclining figures engage the viewer directly – you feel like you are having a conversation with them across time. The subject depicted in Michelangelo’s Night is ostensibly female, but the body, which is twisted into a muscular knot, radically combines aspects of both genders to create an alternative ideal of beauty that is strikingly contemporary. Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne is one of the greatest achievements in the history of art; it is hard to believe that this dynamic, delicate, gravity defying sculpture was created without the assistance of modern technology. It is captivating from every angle, a superb example of sculpture in the round.
Where do you see art being in 5 years? Is it more digital? Or how will it hopefully have evolved?
FB: Sculpture as it exists in the 3d modeling software is a platonic ideal – a completely realized form which does not occupy physical space, it can be output through a variety of more traditional mediums – detailed images taken from any angle, animated videos that allow the viewer to fly through space unfettered by the laws of physics and finally as a solid object in real space. I would like to expand the scope of my work to include projects that exist in all of these mediums, inhabiting both real and virtual space on a larger scale.
Known for his high-definition videos that defy narrative conventions, Ed Atkins works with filmic and text-based forms in technological transition. The artist considers HD technology deathlike because of how it intensifies the visibility of the filmed subject, creating an image that prioritizes its own representation over the language, character, and emotions of the figures it depicts. Often creating installations that include collage, drawing, and other mediums, the artist deploys this bodiless movie format to highlight the conflicting intimacies that today’s mechanisms of cultural production represent and allow us to achieve.
Tell us about your New Museum Triennial piece – how was it conceived? What was your process?
Ed Atkins: It’s a video commissioned and made for the Geneva Biennial of Moving Image last year. It’s initial, more or less tacit citations were and remain various: the drawings and writings of Pierre Klossowski; thinking about a super-specific kind of early-onset dementia being a pretty obvious (by-) product of so-called immaterial labour, of ceding vast swathes of mental life to computers, PHABLETS and the like. For example, memory – how I can’t remember anything short term, including emotional responses, how recent history is something I sort of have to make up in lieu of having access to my phone and the stories it might tell. More broadly, how the digital – numbers, digits – could possibly be understood, might be properly understood, as figurative. Like, that a number would be like the most economical kind of metaphor; how figuration is essential to the way we don’t really understand what the digital is and how it affects us – like The Cloud, and how successful that is as a term to dissimulate a reality. It’s also clearly a very personal piece – but potentially only as personal as your bank account number or your PIN. Etc.
Why have you chosen to 3D animate your films instead of simply filming them? What effect do you accomplish/achieve by doing that?
EA: Trying to get away from the problems of dealing with real stuff as a source – both ethical, as regards filming people, the world – and also a sense of structure becoming paramount, not getting lost behind the real, natural world. I can rebuild from the ground up with CGI, everything is generative, everything is a figuration already. The figures are as if surrogates I can make do things with impunity. It’s a fantasy rendered meticulously. To a point of total insufficiency, nightmarish, purgatorial.
Why did you get into art?
EA: I’m not sure I’m particularly ‘into’ it, nor ever have been. I’m in it, in a way. It affords a home, however temporary.
What’s your background with these technologies?
EA: Interested, conceptually, motivated. Self-taught.
Is there one art piece that particularly influence your work?
EA: Not really.
How does the internet influence you?
EA: I use it all the time; it doesn’t really influence me – more defines and allows and retards my life.
In what way will art have evolved in five years?
EA: It’ll mainly be tapestries woven from platinum hair of the Eloi by Morlocks.
Casey Jane Ellison
With her entirely unique brand of humor, Casey Jane Ellison is commenting on contemporary fashion and art: she has had her own Vfiles show, she’s written columns for Dazed and she’s currently running “Touching the Arts,” an Ovation TV show featuring all female art figures. The 26-year-old Cali-native has turned her comedy into art and is said to currently be the only one with a comedian avatar.
Describe your Triennial piece and your thoughts behind it.
Casey Jane Ellison: It’s a CGI animation of an avatar of me doing stand up comedy. It’s displayed with a 3D-printed USB of the figure in the animation and that goes inside a larger 3D-printed figure case. The animation is on the USB. I use applied technology to visually express my ideas and writing that I develop through my live stand up comedy. It’s always progressing and/or regressing as I do and as technology does. It’s archival too.
How do comedy and art go hand in hand and what differs the two?
CJE: Comedy and art are both about chaos. They use forms but they’re both wild. They’re not life or death, but they’re integral to both life and death. They’re applied and seen in different places, but to me they’re the same shit.
Your Touching Art series helps make art a bit more easy to digest and pokes fun at the industry, do you think the art world is too serious?
CJE: Not too serious, just serious enough. Everything is serious and that’s why it’s funny.
What was your first experience with art? Was there a certain aspect/artist/piece that caught your attention?
CJE: Diane Arbus’ photos were the first art that mattered to me. I was a little kid when I first saw some of the pictures and they scared me, but that was the first time I asked myself why I was scared. I had a primal reaction and then a critical thought right after. That might have been the first time in my life when I didn’t take something for granted.
This year’s Triennial is themed around digital art. What would you define as digital art?
CJE: I think Digital Art as it is being talked about in this context is just art that’s being made right now.
Do you see this exhibition having a bigger effect on art in general?
CJE: It already has. I’ve heard conversations since its announcement and opening that sound like the art worlds of the past talking to the present talking to the future. The conversations get lost and found again in translation I think because the show is exhibiting a new language or vernacular of how and why art is being made.
What is the future of social media released art?
CJE: I hope we can all get what we need and that we can all get paid.
Will the institution of art have changed in 5 years?
CJE: I don’t know, but I have a suggestion for how it could change. In the next 5 years and probably forever after, the art world could focus on the crisis of the earth’s health and suffering.