Last night I was introduced to Michael Zeltner, a new media artists from Vienna who currently resides in London. He works with Graffiti Research Lab and is best known for his Ear Cinema project. We had a long conversation about his work, new media art, my work and general tips on how to make it as a new media artist.
Most of my art network is composed of people who consider themselves secondarily as artists and/or approach their work from tech or design perspectives. So it was refreshing and stimulating to engage with someone who is passionately involved in the new media and makes complex, conceptually driven work, working only as an artist.
When Audrey Penven introduced us, Michael was working on Shifts, his current project. Shifts is an installation centered on a photo of the back of Michael's legs, which have symmetrical waveform tattoos. A horizontal thread will scroll over the photo as the sound of the waveforms plays, referencing an audio player, while his blood spurts from a hole in the photo. Comfortably hanging out at Noisebridge, he was debugging his beagleboard (a Linux system with audio and video out, a little larger than an Arduino) to playback the sound and control the motors.
As for making it as an artist, he encouraged me to submit my work widely, answer as many calls for art as possible, network with artists, and collaborate with people who are more well known than I am. "It's like social engineering." He recommended not showing for free: "Be arrogant." He also emphasized the importance of including patrons in the process and keeping them abreast of one's work. He seemed to like my work, but pointed out that my projects don't all come through clearly and vividly on my website.
He ranted a little about new media art in the US, criticizing the all-too-common technical emphasis at the expense of articulated conceptual discourse. Certainly, there is a distinction to be made between artists and technologists. Borrowing largely from Bourriaud, I consider that distinction to be the creation of meaning, a goal I strive for in my own work. I, too, am sometimes annoyed by what I perceive to be an over emphasis of what is novel at the expense of what is poignant.
Michael is certainly making work that is both technically cutting edge and visceral.