How digital is bringing down barriers in art

A screen capture of interactive artist Marpi's website, featuring his installation melting room in which pink colours swirl across the walls of a gallery space.

We catch up with interactive artist Marpi to find out what goes into his popular digital installations and hear a preview his forthcoming talk at Generate London.

How did you become an interactive digital artist?

It has been a really long journey through a variety of media, roles and countries. And what I’ve finally found with interactive art, installations and the whole event space is that it’s about forging a direct connection with people. It’s about seeing people interacting with something I made, their reactions, the way they discover it or how they find ways to use it to create something themselves. I like that art finally not only cares about the viewers but it responds to user testing.

Who are your typical clients?

I don’t have clients any more, not in the typical sense. That’s been the biggest shift and what’s really set me free. Nowadays, I create everything myself. I don’t get paid for it but I own it. That means I can exhibit, travel, keep changing and evolving forever and also that everything I do gets better over time. Since there’s virtually no barrier to entry for any of those experiences, I can show them at festivals, art galleries, museums, music shows, raves… anywhere really.

What are the biggest challenges?

There are multiple challenges, at both a technical and personal level. Obviously, most of my work relies heavily on expensive hardware: projectors, LED screens, touchscreens. The good thing is that all of it generally is provided by the venues and, as this type of art evolves, a whole new type of space is going to appear everywhere. Through this evolution, artists like me will easily be able to tour, either in person or just digitally.

At a more human level, there’s a lot of empathy involved in the whole process. You’re building a new virtual language. You’re creating an environment that must be easy for people to understand and adapt to but which will also be interesting and varied enough to encourage them to stay. I spend endless hours watching people playing, getting confused, discovering and walking away changed. And the more I learn about what people actually want to do, where they actually want to be, the more my work changes.

Why did you describe 2017 as a "crazy year"?

Last year I did a show, on average, once every two weeks. And things haven’t calmed down in 2018 either: this year it looks like I’m going to be doing even more. The good thing, though, is that because of the digital nature of my work, I can run multiple events simultaneously. They also run on the same interaction systems, which means people in different locations can see each other. So instead of trying to limit my work with editions or custom prints, I’m able to use the benefits of web to make all of it infinitely scalable and adaptable to any hardware.

What digital technologies are you excited about?

All of them. It’s like a wonderful buffet I wouldn’t have dreamed of as a kid. There’s so much awesome software and hardware that I already know I won’t be able to try everything. That’s a great problem to have.

What can we expect from your talk at Generate London?

I’ll be sharing the story of how, especially nowadays, anyone from any background can become a fully independent digital artist, become visible globally and actually make a change in the direction the future is going. All the software is free, all the hardware can be shared. There are no real borders left: all the tools are already out there. And no one knows where any of those journeys end.

This article was originally published in issue 308 of net, the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers. Buy issue 308 or subscribe to net.

Want to hear more from Marpi on creating generative worlds?

Marpi is giving his talk Building Worlds at Generate London from 19-21 September 2018.

Marpi is giving his talk Building Worlds at Generate London from 19-21 September 2018

If you're interested in learning more about creating interactive and generative art, make sure you've picked up your ticket for Generate London from 19-21 September 2018

Currently working with Obscura as director of web and experiential design, digital artist Marpi will be delivering his talk – Building Worlds – at Generate. In his talk, he will explore the creation of large scale art installations, new media events, touch screens, interactive LED walls connected to mobile devices, AR and VR, and how anyone can create their own generative worlds and interact with one another.

Generate London takes place from 19-21 September 2018. Get your ticket now.

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