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Interview: Aussie artist, Stephen Danzig

Renowned Aussie digital artist, Stephen Danzig, tells indesignlive.com what he thinks about the state of the Australian art industry – including his thoughts on Bill Henson.



BY jesse

June 10th, 2008


Tell me a little about your background?
Humble beginnings attending university, fronting a punk band and causing general havoc. I believe I am also the first Western man to do a nudee run along the Great Wall of China during Winter 2006 – twas -12C. My father is Jewish, my mother is Catholic so I suffer from double guilt amongst other neurosis.

How did you become an artist?
Goodness what a question… I’d like to think it’s a genetic thing (I was born this way) however I should declare that, I am an Australian artist working in photography, moving image and new media art currently living in London.
I also work as the director for IDAprojects a new media exhibition called the Vernacular Terrain which tours Australia, China and Japan.

The digital thing started in 1999 in New York where I was researching graphical interface protocol for online networks. During this time, I met Laurence Gartel who had worked at the Experimental Television Centre (E.T.C.) in New York with Nam June Paik. I discussed the idea of digital art and how we could create and merge virtual and physical exhibition environments whilst building an online portal and resource for digital art. So I set about designing a framework for new connections in the fields of academia, emerging technologies and professional art practice via the World Wide Web. Laurence and I continue to work on projects.

Hardest thing about being an artist?
Rejection? Paying attention to an opening speech? I have no idea really.

Best thing about being an artist?
Travelling the world having exhibitions and meeting interesting people.

Tell me a little about your current Art exhibition?
The Vernacular Terrain exhibition looks at how artists engage with culture, language and environment through technology as a visual language. The exhibition intends to ask questions about the vernacular. Is it possible to speak of local dialects of the terrain? Are the artists presenting specific viewpoints of the landscape within a contextual framework? What are the influences of hyper-techno landscapes around the vernacular in virtual worlds, interactive design, gaming, locative/mobile technologies and web culture? Hopefully participants experience a profound sense of cross-cultural association.

My latest series opens in Italy and Japan later this year and at Metro 5 Gallery Melbourne next year. This work explores ideas around the landscape and it’s intersection between hybrid and hyper-real models – they are construct constructed landscapes. These constructions are metaphorical and allusive rather than literal. As such it represents places and things we can identify with but remain ambiguous and uncertain.

This work explores the assumption that photography’s role to record the facts is questioned. In this sense the work undermines any clear concepts of reality and truthfulness. It questions traditional histories of photography, mapping and rendering of the landscape.

Sorry for the clichéd question, but what inspires your work?
Carbon matter including Sharon Green!

Can you comment on the state of the art industry in Australia?
It’s a small yet highly competitive local and international environment. There are limited funds from government agencies to support so many amazing projects – a near impossible task to make everyone happy but dfat/OZCO in my humble opinion do a good job. Public programming is quite good but seems to be limited to institutions presenting "big block buster" shows – Im really tired of seeing yet another Warhol or Picasso exhibition – yes it gets large numbers through the doors but it does nothing to educate the public into exploring more interesting contemporary spaces… however QUT Creative Industries do an amazing job.

I should take this opportunity to mention my concern about the Bill Henson issue – as it really opens a discussion about censorship. Bill has been making his art for some 30 years. His history and contribution as an important Australian and international artist really says enough. His work has been written about and de-constructed over the years by respected historians and academics. What does concern me is when our Prime Minister says that the work is revolting. Respectively his comments were very insensitive and demeaning towards the young model in question. Can you imagine how she must feel after hearing these comments made by our nations leader? Bill is one of Australia’s most important contemporary artist who provided an opportunity for this young model (with consent from her family no doubt) and then to be told she’s revolting is quite unnecessary. My question is who’s protecting this young girl from public comments like that? Commonsense surely has to prevail. Ok better zip it up now!

What makes you smile about your job?
The art world is a club of sorts – sometimes people can be a bit precious – I mean it’s only art right? As a director of a large touring exhibition, artists can be a nightmare to deal with but then again Lubi Thomas, my senior curator would say the same thing about working with me.

What is your most favourite work to date?

Well I suppose it’s my current series Unnatural Landscapes and the film project I just completed with Peter Greenaway and Istvan Horkay, The Scheherazade Commandant… Here is a secret link to the video – www.idaprojects.org/Danzig/BolzanoDanzig.html – if you’re interested.

How do you keep stimulated in such a challenging career?
I get to work with some amazing people like Li Xian Ting in China – that was really an amazing experience to work with someone so important, influential and so generous with his time.

Most inspiring city in the world?
Life is for living… every city I have visited has been inspiring – London is pretty good at the moment.

www.idaprojects.org

 

 A piece from the VT2 exhibition

 


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