对话 | 迈克尔·科纳 Artist Interview | Michael Koerner

独立映像:你好,迈克尔。我们看到,你的作品经过精心安排,把单词隐藏在线条之间。观看你的作品,就好像在玩找单词的游戏,而作品题目就是线索。这个过程就像在仔细寻找我们丢失的物品,让人想起这个系列的名称《我们终将失去或已失去的东西》。你期待从观众那里得到这种反应吗?
迈克尔·科纳:是的,充满乐趣和反思的参与正是我有意为之。

独立映像:整个系列由30幅作品组成,“重看”展览展示了其中的4幅。你说,“每一层叠加的数字绘画最初都是用钢笔在纸上手工绘制的”。之后你还做了哪些工作,最终呈现出这些收藏级的彩色印刷作品?
迈克尔·科纳:是这样,一开始我用Kuretache ZIG笔和老旧的工厂灯箱手工绘制。之后,通过高清扫描,把图像带入Mac上的Adobe Illustrator程序,将栅格基底的图像进行矢量处理。矢量图像可以无限缩放,不会降低图像分辨率和延展性,就输出而言,可能性是无限的。但是,我无法通过数字平板电脑获得相同的真实感和手工触感,因此我不可避免地要使用我最初使用的工具,那就是我的双手。扫描后,Illustrator可以自动转换矢量、自动清理,但是我故意介入这个过程,调整自动化的预设,获得我想要的效果。除此之外,我没有把扫描捕获的所有空白全部清除,而是将用数字手段添加到背景中的底层颜色突显出来,选择性地在合成中保留某些痕迹,这样和观看者可以建立某种更为动态的关系。另外,我喜欢将成品外观的某些控制权交给程序本身,它总能给我带来惊喜,又让我参与其中。

《耐心》属于《我们终将失去或已失去的东西》系列 墨水笔&数码绘画 收藏级彩色打印 50.8×50.8cm 2016 版数 11/50
Patience, Series: Things We Will or Have Already Lost, ink pen & digital drawings, archival pigment prints, 50.8×50.8cm, 2016, ed.11/50

独立映像:我们很明显地感到,“重看”上的作品与平面设计关系密切。你其他的作品也有这种特点吗?你关注的主题有哪些?
迈克尔·科纳:当然。在作品中,我会对一般性和特殊性加以平衡,我所有的作品都有各自的特点。那么我希望给观看者提供怎样的入口?作为一位艺术家,我是否希望向他们传递特定的信息,或者提供特殊的体验?或者恰恰相反,我希望观看者能有更多的空间,把个人经历或解读带入作品中?我认为,在这两个看似矛盾的方向上取得平衡,让我的创作得以用图像的方式、直接地面对某些问题,与此同时,我可以进行自我表达、表现抽象,也为各种解读方式提供空间。我花费很多时间,几个月甚至几年,整理理念、设计路径,直到创作出一件作品。
比如说,《我们终将失去或已失去的东西》系列作品的创作灵感最初来源于一段个人经历。那是4年前,我的大儿子本杰明那时只有3岁,他向我提了一个问题。那时我们正在后院浇水,准备种草,阳光在我的眼前形成了小小的彩虹。几分钟后,我们干完活儿,回到屋里,他问我,“爸爸,你能让彩虹回来吗?”那个问题刺痛了我,让我意识到,去考察哪些对个体和文化而言已经失去或终将失去的事物。每幅作品右上角的小弧形正是这段记忆的印记,就是那一抹彩虹。另外,这个系列以艺术书的形式发表,总共30幅。在书中,我选择的光谱,对应着黎明时分青草的颜色,直到日落时分青草的颜色。每一幅的色调都经过精心设计,让人们在翻看的过程中感受到自然的变化。
每一个系列会有不同的特点,美学上、媒介上、传递的信息上都会有所不同。
我的作品(公开地或隐晦地)涉及某些社会问题,并对某些太过偏激、荒谬的看法作出回应。除了在《重看》展出的作品,我的其他作品还常常涉及这些主题:日本的捕鲸业;美国的电池鸡舍;自然、乡村和城市景观的融合;环境问题;对枪支管控的阐释。我真心希望我没有太多的创作素材。但是,考虑到当前世界的动荡,比如美国政府表现出的缺乏同情心、不诚实、种族主义和贪婪等等,我看不到尽头。

《工作》属于《我们终将失去或已失去的东西》系列 墨水笔&数码绘画 收藏级彩色打印 50.8×50.8cm 2016 版数 11/50
Job, Series: Things We Will or Have Already Lost, ink pen & digital drawings, archival pigment prints, 50.8×50.8cm, 2016, ed.11/50

独立映像:从个人的艺术创作和教学经历看,你认为艺术与科技的关系是怎样的?你认为在短时间内科技将如何影响艺术的发展?你会在艺术创作中更多地融入科技吗?
迈克尔·科纳:我目前是美国印第安纳大学新媒体与科技系的副教授。谈到我们这个系的建立要回到几年前,那时我们的教师在艺术系和新媒体系两个泾渭分明的学科内教学。出于一种反思,以真诚和着眼于方法的态度我们成立了这个跨学科的学院。摧毁不合时宜的体系,鼓励观点、媒介(传统的与数字的)以及方法上的交流与碰撞对学生和教师有什么好处?
就我个人而言,科技不过是工具箱里可以挑选的另一个工具,或者一个值得探索的方向/用户体验。我不认为科技或者数字媒介可以取代传统的艺术。相反,我在寻求一些方式能够凸显它们各自的长处,并同时加以使用。
我想,在一代人或者某种文化的形成过程中,从可用性、便捷性、影响力和流行度来说,某种创意工具/媒介通常都会经历一番起起伏伏。但这也是相对而言,比如说,2020年5月31日的最新数据显示,40%(超过30亿)人口还没有互联网可用。对我而言,互联网技术我从上世纪90年代中期就开始持续使用了。
某些艺术家会坚持他们的阵地,使用久经时间考验的传统艺术媒介继续工作,他们将自己定义为画家、雕塑家、版画家等等。其他的一些则会毫不犹豫地跨越各种媒介和技术,一旦时机成熟,他们将把技术融入到创作中,比如我在70年代使用Crayola蜡笔画画,又比如我8岁的儿子在iPad上制作视频,为机器人编写代码。在这些例子当中,我亲眼看到了科技的普及,新科技的不断出现为新形式的创意带来了可能性。最后,还有一部分人,仅仅是追逐科技的流行热潮,直到热潮退去,或者迎来新的潮流。
坦率地讲,我对此所持的态度是多重的,就像很多人那样。但对我个人的艺术创作而言,我相对来说更倾向于完整性。选择某种特定媒介的决定性因素应该是,它与特定作品的深层理念或创作动因之间的关联和关系,能够对特定语境做出回应,并且保持客观。媒介的选择根据每一件作品的不同而不同,不仅仅停留在已经取得的成就,要敢于花时间钻研新的媒介/技术/方法,勇于接受失败,从头来过。
毫无疑问(会在艺术创作中更多地融入科技)。

《视听》属于《我们终将失去或已失去的东西》系列 墨水笔&数码绘画 收藏级彩色打印 50.8×50.8cm 2016 版数 11/50
Sight and Sound, Series: Things We Will or Have Already Lost, ink pen & digital drawings, archival pigment prints, 50.8×50.8cm, 2016, ed.11/50
《脉动》属于《我们终将失去或已失去的东西》系列 墨水笔&数码绘画 收藏级彩色打印 50.8×50.8cm 2016 版数 11/50
Pulse, Series: Things We Will or Have Already Lost, ink pen & digital drawings, archival pigment prints, 50.8×50.8cm, 2016, ed.11/50

独立映像:你如何保持自己的创造力?最近有什么新的想法吗?
迈克尔·科纳:我的座右铭是,把艺术当游戏,尽管我面对的话题在思想上是沉重的。
三月份我完成了一件作品《旅途就是终点》,这是一件融入了行李和房屋油漆的大型雕塑装置。同时,我还创作了一组壁纸设计(数码插画),即将开始制造。《一滴鲸鱼血》和《早上好》就来自这组作品。

Artist Interview: Michael Koerner

Independent& Image Art Space: Hi Michael. We can find your works are carefully arranged, with words hidden behind the lines. Looking at your works is like a game finding out these words and the work titles give us ahint. It is a process similar to carefully find things we have lost, which reminds us of your series title “Things We Will or Have Already Lost”. Is it a reaction you expect from your audiences?
Michael Koerner: Yes, the playful and reflective engagement is certainly intentional.

Independent& Image Art Space: The series has 30 drawings and online exhibition RE-SEE features four of them. You say “each overlying digital drawing is initially created by hand with an ink pen on paper”.And then what have you done to get finished works as archival pigment prints?
Michael Koerner: That’s correct, I initially develop the drawings using Kuretache ZIG ink pens and an old industrial lightbox. I then make high-res scans, bring them into Adobe Illustrator on my Mac and begin the process of vectorizing the raster-based image. Vector images are infinitely scalable without resolution loss and malleable so the possibilities are limitless in terms of output. I am unable however to get the same inherent fidelity and human touch with a digital tablet so I inevitably start the process with the first tool I used, my hands. Once scanned, Illustrator has an automated process for this vector conversion and cleaning up, however I intentionally go in and tweak the presets of the automation to get the desired effect. Additionally, instead of cleanly removing all the trapped white space captured by the scan and exposing the underlying color that I’ve added digitally to the background, I selectively leave some of these artifacts in the composition to push and pull the relationship with the viewer more dynamically. Plus, I like this idea of relinquishing some of the control of the finished look to the process itself as it never fails to surprise me and keeps me engaged.

Independent& Image Art Space: We can easily find that these works at RE-SEE have a close relationship with the graphic design. How about your other works? Do they have the same characteristics? What are the themes you often focus on?
Michael Koerner: Sure. Well, there’s the ever-present issue of balancing generality/ambiguity and specificity which permeates all of my work. Meaning, what type of entrance do I want to provide the viewer? As the artist, am I intending for them to receive a specific message or have a specific experience? Conversely, do I want the audience to have ample room to bring in their own unique experiences, baggage, and interpretations? I believe that striking the right balance between these two seemingly opposing directions allows my work to operate graphically and directly tackle topical issues as well as being self-expressive, abstract and accommodating to interpretation. I spend a great deal of time, – months and in some cases several years – conceptualizing, calculating the approach and delivery of a particular piece before production.
For example, the series Things We Will or Have Already Lost, was originally inspired by an experience I had four years earlier when my oldest son Benjamin, who was then only three years old, approached me with a question. I had been watering the backyard to sow grass and the sunshine had made a small rainbow in front of his eyes. A few minutes after we had cleaned up and come back indoors, he turns to me and asks “Daddy, can you turn the rainbow back on?” The poignancy of that question stuck with me and the series was born from this notion of investigating what we have or will personally or culturally lose. The curved shape at the top right of each image is a symbolic remnant of this source material, the rainbow. Additionally, this series was produced as an artist book with a total of 30 images. In the book, I chose a color spectrum that initiated with the color of grass at dawn and then cycled through the rainbow until it arrived at the color of grass at dusk. Each increment of hue and value change was carefully crafted so that the steps felt natural as one explored the book.
The aesthetics, mediums and delivery characteristics change from series to series as I am developing each artwork on a case by case basis.
My work revolves (either overtly or covertly depending on the aforementioned approach) around topical issues and making social commentary that often highlights the absurdity of taking a particular side or opinion too far. In addition to the works showcased here, subjects I have or am currently responding too in my art practice include: Japan’s whaling industry; battery farming of chickens in the US; integration of natural, rural and urban landscapes; environmental plight; gun control interpretation. I genuinely wish that I didn’t have as much material to work from. However, given the current unrest in the world – the lack of empathy, dishonesty, racism and greed spewing down from my own administration in the US, etc., – there is no end in sight.

Independent& Image Art Space: From your own experience of art creation and teaching, how do you think the relation between art and technology? To what degree do you think technology will influence the development of art shortly? Will you have more technology involved in your art?
Michael Koerner: I am currently an Associate Professor of New Media Art & Technology (NMAT) at Indiana University. Our program’s development a few years back was the result of an introspective, honest and methodical look at who we were as individual interdisciplinary faculty working at that time within the confines of two separate programs labeled Fine Arts and New Media respectively. How does destroying antiquated silos that no longer fit us and encouraging a natural cross-pollination of ideas, mediums (traditional & digital) and methodologies benefit students and faculty alike?
For myself, technology can be simply another tool in the box to selectively use or a direction/user experience to move towards. I don’t view technology or digital mediums as replacements for traditional ones. Rather, I seek to find ways in which to bring out their respective strengths and use them together.
Well, I think there is always an ebb and flow in terms of the accessibility, prevalence, influence and popularity of a particular creative vehicle/medium within a generation or culture of making. It’s also relative. For example –according to the latest stats posted on May 31, 2020 – 40% (over 3 billion)people still don’t even have internet access. This particular technology is something I have been using and I suppose, been taking for granted since the early to mid-90s.
Some artists, will stick to their guns, work in proverbial time-tested silos and continue to use traditional mediums because they’ve solely identified themselves as a painter, sculptor, or printmaker…respectively. Others will inevitably find traction creatively within mediums and technology that presently don’t exist but will be on their doorstep when they eventually take their creative first steps, kinda like drawing with Crayola was for me in the ’70s, or making videos on an iPad and using code to program a robot currently is for my 8-year old son. In these last examples, I am seeing first-hand how the prevalence and continued emergence of new technology inherently brings the possibilities of new forms of creativity. Then finally, there are those that will simply surf the technological wave of popularity until the particular craze has died down or there’s been an upgrade.
Honestly, I have a pluralistic response to this – to each his or her own. However for my own practice to develop in a trajectory that I can be relatively confident in having integrity, I think the determinant factor for using a particular medium should be its relevance and relationship to the underlying concept or impetus to make a particular work. This requires being responsive and objective to the context you’re in, being willing to look at the development of each piece you make on a case by case basis and not simply rest on one’s laurels, being willing to take the time and invest in yourself to proficiently learn a new medium/technology/methodology, being willing to fail and get back into the ring time and time again.
Undoubtedly.

Independent& Image Art Space: How do you stay creative? Do you have any new ideas recently?
Michael Koerner: Remembering to treat art as play, even when the topics I’m addressing are mentally heavy.
The piece I just wrapped up this March – The journey is the destination – is a large-scale sculptural installation involving luggage and poured house paint. Concurrently, I am also developing a series of wallpaper designs (digitally illustrated) to send into production. A drop of Whale Blood and Good Morning are from that series.