Read the conversation between Luiz Camillo Osorio, PIPA Institute’s curator, and Vitória Cribb, one of the Awarded artists of PIPA Prize 2022:
1 – You studied design at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. Your work is always at this intersection of the artistic and the functional. How did this come about and how do you think it will develop as you gain a stronger footing in the art circuit?
I think my degree in industrial design and my personal interest in so-called “new media” connected organically when I was an undergraduate. When I was studying, the design course at the State University of Rio de Janeiro prepared students to work in both product design and visual communication, and during my studies I decided to combine what I was learning theoretically and technically at the university with my personal interests and activities in art. I think that’s why one of the central points of my digital narratives is a reflection on online communication in cyberspace, which directly affects the way we interact socially outside the digital space. In a way, my short films come from this desire to communicate subjectively the feelings that spring from this mass socialization in cyberspace to an audience who are mostly immersed in the digital world and conditioned by social media algorithms, who often compulsively consume repetitive content in this space.
2 – The technological sophistication of your work is really impressive. Have you done any training in programming? Do you work with partners to develop your language?
I don’t have any direct training in programming, but in the last five years I’ve worked directly with programmers in my paid work. I should stress here that at the moment, the art scene in Brazil doesn’t allow artists to live off their own artistic output, so we have to work in other related or unrelated areas to gain a fair wage, which in my case is work as a designer and creator of XR experiences for the tech and entertainment industries. So in this I had to learn the fundamentals of the language to be able to communicate in the projects with the developers and also to develop simpler projects for different customers. Today, as well as my personal work in art, I also work as a creator of augmented reality experiences/filters for tech, fashion and entertainment companies, and I belong to the Snap Lens Network, a network of creators and developers certified by Snap Inc. In the projects I develop for clients, I have to be not only the creative director, but also develop specific interactions and implementations. I work 100% on my own from conception, through scriptwriting, character creation, CGI animation of the film and rendering. I occasionally team up with sound artists who have a similar artistic perspective to me. I collaborated with sound artists for the short films @Ilusão (2020), whose soundtrack was by OLHO, and VIGILANTE_EXTENDED (2022), whose soundtrack was by Anelena Toku and OLHO. In my first videos, like Command Prompt (2019), and in the series of mini loop videos like _vigilante 00, I produce the soundtracks by capturing and editing sound in a more experimental way.
3 – The world of art is always resistant to the world of games and prolific, unfettered circulation on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. How do you see these platforms? As communication channels or as poetic devices?
I see these social media platforms as helping me publicise my work, just as lots of other artists from different media, like painting, design and sound, use it. Work created using digital media doesn’t have to begin and end in cyberspace; actually, it can meld with other structures and interact with works using other media. As I see it, the biggest resistance in Brazil is against embracing these media as forms of expression and allowing artists who experiment with this technique into the circuit. There’s a lot of experimentation and opportunity in independent spaces, but there’s still limited understanding and recognition. As I see it, there’s one important question, which has to do with audiences who aren’t familiar with digital art or art that uses electronic media in a contemporary way, and often people who keep up with the work only superficially confuse the publicising of the work with the work itself. It’s a problem that stems not just from the contemporary art circuit, but also from the contemporary habit of turning everything into consumption and identity in social media. For my part, I see these platforms as poetic media too, because I get inspiration for my narratives and reflections that I propose in my short films from observing the interpersonal relationships played out on these platforms.
4 – You recently created an avatar/virtual model called Ôti, a black 3D top model who won an award from a London-based virtual model agency. How did this project come about and how does this fascinating connection in your work (and your life) with the race issue and technology play out?
I created this model for the agency, not for an award, so it’s an avatar that could be used for future projects related to fashion and digital entertainment. Ôti is still being hired by this virtual model agency and I’m still working with Mutantboard (the agency) on other projects and creating other avatars for different editorials. This project has more to do with my commercial work than my personal creations, because at the same time that I work as an artist, I also work in other segments, like the tech and entertainment industries, developing a whole range of different conceptual and artistic projects. A good example of these more commercial projects was in 2021, when I had the honour and pleasure of creating a digital 3D avatar of the British Jamaican singer Mahalia for a digital and print fashion editorial. The process of recreating a celebrity was really challenging, because creating the avatar meant creating the singer’s public image and being responsible for dealing with the body of another person who actually exists.
5 – How do you stop yourself getting caught up by technological development? Where is the line between appropriating new technologies and serving them? Do issues like this make you stop and think?
I think the fascination with technological development is often stronger among people who have nothing to do with app and programme development or are in the early stages of learning the language. When you deal with the language on a daily basis, you naturally observe and question the processes, and every image enhanced by technology, the future and automation ends up looking banal and problematic. Talking to other tech creators and developers is also crucial for you to understand the context, applications and ideologies behind each tool that’s brought out every month. Perhaps not being fascinated by technology is part of my generation’s mindset too, because when you grow up so permeated by a digitally connected society, you tend to see technology development as part of the social fabric, not something new, and for lots of young people it’s actually tedious, boring and repetitive. For sure, the line between appropriating technologies to develop a language and propagating them is fuzzy. In a way, there’s some mutual feedback when you question these digital media and at the same time help improve their implementation online, but I think that experimenting and questioning your own technical and digital art choices could contribute to a subjective reflection on automated behaviours in an ecosystem based on algorithms, fame and the digitalization of the non-human. In my work I always try to extrapolate the use of these digital visual techniques – associated with automation, speed and superficiality – and insert them in slower contexts, illustrating texts that exist in the reflection and criticism of an increasingly interconnected, fake, pasteurised world.
6 – Does the emergence of NFTs seem to you to be a viable route for trade in virtual artworks, or is it just a commercial strategy to give investors liquidity for their cryptocurrency?
I think that the emergence of NFTs in the early days – before the boom of the traditional art world – was important, particularly for artists who were already experimenting in digital media and were being somewhat ignored by the traditional art market to begin to monetise and find collectors interested in their work, forming support networks and communities. But then in recent years the same technologies that could help independent artists and creators were taken over for big projects and brands, some that were very interesting as I see it, who exist digitally as products and have extensive marketing, or even artists who gain a name in a given community. Also, it’s worth mentioning that like the contemporary traditional art market, the NFT market has the same problems when it comes to sales vs. gender vs. ethnicity vs. access, for example.
7 – Your generation breathes oxygen and virtuality in the same breath. You live in a world whose technological extensions are getting bigger and bigger: artificial intelligence, machine learning, algorithms both helpful and harmful, semantic bubbles, political noise, empty rhetoric, barriers to dialogue and so on. How can we maintain a minimum of critical awareness in this context without becoming completely technophobic?
I think that I and my generation in general are really critical of the technological and social movements that come up, but that doesn’t stop us experimenting and understanding what new communication technologies can be used for. And like any media, for you to understand what’s bad, what’s harmful and even what’s not compatible with your personal taste, you have to be open to understanding at least the minimum of what there is on the other side. Among my work as an artist, I could cite the film @ilusão (2020), which makes a critical reflection on existence in social media, repetitive content and algorithms that reinforce racist, sexist and classist behaviours. To make the film in 2020 (at the height of lockdown in Brazil) I had to be present on social media, observe, post and experience the digital saturation to be able to create the screenplay for the film. Even the residency where I made the film was online, with all the decisions and exchanges happening through the internet. This leads directly to your question about social media as poetic media. In my case, I think it activates the narrative poetics of my works but doesn’t necessarily work as a platform for showing them, for example. I think that for us to avoid technophobia in Brazilian contemporary art, we must ask ourselves why a society so faithful to the internet – which enables online dating, allows politics to be directly impacted by true and false opinions spread through likes, and which naturalizes digital intimate relationships – is so resistant to artistic poetics and experimentations that are spread digitally or are creatively connected to the digitality prevailing in contemporary society.