Decode: Digital Design Sensations

As the V&A opened its groundbreaking digital art show, V&A Channel spoke to some of the leading exhibitors

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Video Transcript

Andy Cameron, Fabrica

In a sense, for me, the most important thing about these works isn’t the fact that they’re digital, it’s something else. They’re contemporary in a different way and they’re contemporary in the way they involve the audience.


Jason Bruges

Digital technology these days gives us a lot of opportunities to do what I call kind of ‘digital narcissism’.


Golan Levin

Many of these pieces are not completed until they’re being experienced, and the work is a collaboration between a systems designer and a systems user.


Hannes Koch, rAndom International

I think making technology responsive, or technological concepts responsive and playful, is quite important at the moment.


Sabastien Noel, Troika

All the pieces here are trying to engage in the debate of the validity beyond the materiality, beyond the technology itself.


Louise Shannon, Curator V&A

The V&A has the national collection for digital art and design and has been collecting digital art since the 1960’s.


Shane Walter, Curator onedotzero

We settled on a kind of way to demystify the area and take people through a natural progression from the very microcosm, the small detail of the ones and zeros of code, and then how you become part of the work in the interactive section, right through to this kind of global network and how you can have this collective experience, this collective act of creation if you like.


Fabrica, Venetian Mirror (2009)

This is Venetian Mirror. It’s an interactive and design piece, collaborative piece done by several artists working together at Fabrica.  The protagonist is the audience so it’s an image of you, but its what I call the ‘long now’. ‘Now’ is redefined as a long period of time, so you have to keep very still otherwise you don’t appear. It’s a piece about time, and it’s a piece about interactivity, and it’s a piece about mirrors, and it’s a piece about photography. It’s a photograph which is permanently in development. Involving the audience in the representation and the communication isn’t just something that is happening in this gallery, its happening across all of our art, communication and media experiences, whether it’s the way that we watch television now, whether it’s the way that we use the internet. This is a much broader cultural change and this show is part of that in that respect.


Jason Bruges, Mirror Mirror (2009)

As soon as you come out here, there is a conversation between the piece and the people viewing it that takes place, and all of the pieces are about this sort of innate human curiosity. This piece would not be complete without people actually engaging with it. As we walk up to the pond we see a pseudo-random arrangement of these led matrix screens, and as you approach you see your reflection appear in each and every single unit. We are getting to the point now where the technology used by a lot of the pieces in the show is becoming accessible to your art students, design students, people that enjoy making things. All have access to all sorts of micro-processing, computers…


Shane Walter

There is this idea of hard technology is not natural and you can’t have something that is technology-driven that is not organic or alive. I think this show really shows that that is not true, actually you can infuse code with a sense of being alive, with a sense of organicness.


Golan Levin, Opto-Isolator II (2007)

The project is really about what it would be like if the artworks were aware of how we were looking at them and what if they could look back at us, trying to reduce eye contact down to its absolute minimum. I think that one can look at this and sort of begin to give it a personality, assign a personality to it in your mind, and to turn spectatorship on its head and say, well,  who is really the spectator here? I do believe that its an important imperative for artists to use the medium of their day. This medium has really shaped everything about out lives and I don’t think it should always be dictated by what we get at the store or what we’re told to buy on the television.


rAndom International, Audience (2008/9)

I think for us the threshold – where do you start recognising something having a personality, where does it start, where does it end, to be on that fine line – that is really, really interesting for us. It came from the idea of bringing that into a much more three-dimensional space, so we came up with 64 head-sized little mirrors which when they’re left to their own devices just talk among themselves, but when they detect someone in the audience they collectively react to that person. I think the idea that something is kinetically behaving rather than just doing 2D representations of the viewer – that’s something that is really important to us.


Troika, Digital Zoetrope (2008)

You can quite easily interact with a canvas and a pencil, but I hope that this shows you that you can interact as much with a microchip or a projector. The piece we are exhibiting here at Decode is called Digital Zoetrope. Essentially it’s a take on a very old animation device.  We live in a world where technology is only developed by very big corporations. The level of participation or interference you can have with the medium is very limited and I hope that this exhibition shows people that are engaging with the medium and see where we can go. People want more and more technology all the time without questioning it at all.

Most of our experiences on the computer are not beautiful, an appreciation we really should have. We expect beautiful things in our lives, or we should. And I think that we don’t always get them.


Twenty five years after the arrival of the laptop, digital art is casting off its novlety reputation and emerging as an art form that is both serious and seductive. This film meets leading artists and designers who feature in the Decode show which was co-curated by the V&A's Louise Shannon and Shane Walter of Onedotzero.

Alongside the curators, interviewees include Sebastian Noel of Troika, Andy Cameron, Golan Levin and rAndom International. The film reveals the engaging, interactive and seductive nature of work at digital art's cutting edge.