A conversation with artist Paul Vanouse and Dr. Tina Rivers Ryan.
"You cannot talk about contemporary life without talking about technology." - Dr. Tina Rivers Ryan
I'm so pleased to be able to share this conversation with Dr. Tina Rivers Ryan and Paul Vanouse, recorded in part onsite at their co-curated exhibition Difference Machines at Albright-Knox, Buffalo. There is so much to chew on in this groundbreaking, co-curated exhibition and much brilliance in their approach to highlighting emerging and established work that has been burrowing into the realities we all face in our relationships to technology and identity. I'm especially appreciative of a veteran artist combining forces with an art historian and curator: the results were ambitious, profound, and timely.
transcript (may have inconsistencies or errors)
Roddy Schrock: Hello, this is Informer, a show that reveals the latest ideas from artists, thinkers and technologists. Informer invites you behind the screen to meet the people sketching, hacking, and imagining next versions of our world. I'm Roddy Schrock, your host. And in each episode, I spotlight creative minds grappling with a changing world through art, technology, or often both. And I hope you'll subscribe to this podcast at informerpodcast.com, where you can also find show notes, links, and more information on all of the artists and projects that we discuss. I'm so pleased I was able to visit Buffalo in December. It may not be the first place one thinks of visiting in the winter, but there was a great reason to do so. Artist Paul Vanouse and curator and art historian, Dr. Tina Rivers Ryan, brought together the fantastic exhibition Difference Machines at the Albright-Knox. It's a show highlighting artists working in and around technology that focuses on its role in creating difference or identity. This was surprisingly the first time I have seen a museum exhibition dedicated solely to bringing together artists exploring myriad roles of technology in shaping our social realities over the last 30 years. I begin today's episode with an on-site visit to the exhibition itself and speak to Paul and Tina about the show. I held a follow-up call with Dr. Tina Rivers Ryan to ask her a few more questions about some of the artists featured in the second part of today's episode. I hope you enjoy learning more about this unique exhibition and getting to know Paul and Tina. I began by asking Paul what the role of art is in our understanding of technologies and their impacts on our lives.
Paul Vanouse: One of the ways I think that art deals with things is by never taking sort of the technologies as they're handed to them, but always having a notion of intervening, whether it seems just for creative reasons or whether it's for truly interventionist reasons. So I think one way that artists successfully can take this on is by basically kind of reverse engineering or always thinking about how to reverse or do something backwards the wrong way, how to sort of use these things. I think once things have been kind of deconstructed in this way, when you start to re-put them back together, they sometimes show things that aren't even intended, right? They sometimes reveal their kind of hidden affordances but also the way they are entrapping. Right? They are sort of presuppositions and they're sort of underlying kind of belief systems. And so yeah, I think this is how artists get in and can do things for the conversation that others can't.
Dr. Tina Rivers Ryan: So Paul highlights the answer from the artist's perspective, right? Like that it's about this material engagement with technology, how you're intervening in sort of the materials and the process of technology. I'll answer that question from the perspective of the audience, right? Which is that artists also can make visceral, can make concrete, can make tangible technologies that frankly are often "invisible." Right? Or at least that operate in ways that are sort of either beyond the scale of the human sensorium, beyond the capacity of any individual to see and understand and process and register that might be deliberately hidden or obscured if you think about terms and conditions, the history of these technologies, how they're put together. So for example, for Hasan Elahi's work, this work is very much about digital databases and about the scale of digital databases. Paul mentioned this is over 32,000 of those photos from tracking transients. And it's like, how do we imagine, how do we visually imagine or conceptually imagine the scale of these databases? And it's something that is very hard for people to wrap their heads around. And the fact that this is... I talk a lot on my tours with audiences about the scale of this work. Like, why is it 26 feet tall? Why does it have to be so big? Why are there so many photos that are included and they're so small? A lot of people don't even realize that it is a collage of photos until they get up close to it. And it's precisely about sort of blowing your mind and making you confront the fact that we're talking about databases that exist at a scale that is sort of beyond comprehension. Right? And trying to make that concrete for people is part of the work. Paul actually was really great at articulating in our early conversations that this show is not just about race. It's not just about gender, orientation, disability. It's about the production of difference. That was the language that you gave me, that framework. You had that phrase, "It's about the production of difference," right? In a sort of meta level, how is difference produced socially? And so that one of our essays for the book is about that.
Paul: One of the things that stuck with me was a comment that Maria Fernandez made in the '90s when we were both at Carnegie Mellon, she as a professor and me as a student. And I remember her saying that everybody's so fascinated with the kind of dichotomy of technology in the body that all this kind of great work and post-colonial theory has just been left to the wayside. She was including me and other artists who were incorporating it. It was always kind of downplayed. And Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, who's here, was one of the people she was also really interested in, in this context. Yeah. What she saw and I think what I realized was correct was that there were all these other kind of tools that came along with deconstruction were on display in a way that new media, really progressive new media was talked about and shown, except for the post-colonial dimension that somehow seemed to be, again, somehow even when artists were thinking it through, somehow was not emphasized in the digital shows, the festivals.
Dr. Ryan: Yeah. That they just kept falling back on this idea of subjectivity that once again was universal. It was like, how do we... It's in this moment of postcolonial theory and yet in the circuit of art and technology, we're reverting back to this default universal subject, which of course is not neutral, but is default cisgendered male, white, heterosexual, North American, European. And so, yeah, she wrote this postcolonial media theory article that was in our journal that we cite in our catalog essay as being an important early example of imagining another history or another sort of... another history, another theory or another canon of media art that understands how technology actually is bound up in the production of subject formations. Right? And that technology itself is not neutral, right?
Dr. Ryan: And that how artists can actually, and have since the 1990s and even earlier, have been, if you think about like Keith Piper's work from the '80s or Lynn Hershman Leeson, understanding that we shouldn't think of technology as just this neutral tool. And we shouldn't think of the subjects of technology as this default tabula rasa, universal subject. Right? And so, yeah, that's been an important part of the conversation around media art. But as Paul said and as Maria points out, it's like somehow that perspective hasn't been centered, or that insight hasn't been centered in a way. And so we really wanted to center that here by centering the artists who have been having that conversation for so long.
Roddy: I wanted to continue on this thread. So I spoke to Tina further and she began by providing more context about the state of art and technology at this time and elaborated further the role institutions play in providing specificity and historicizing the work of digital artists who are digging in deep on issues of identity and difference. I also managed a few minutes into our conversation to ask one of the most convoluted questions ever in an attempt to avoid using the dreaded acronym NFT. It didn't work. We ended up talking about NFTs a lot.
Dr. Ryan:: Paul has been making art for 30 years that is about the sort of social context of technology and the social consequences of technology, thinking in particular about the way that digital technologies intersect with the way that we construct notions of race, for example. And I have been thinking about these same issues about digital technology and how it relates to society not quite as long as Paul has, but almost as long, and not as an artist, but as an art historian and then as a critic and now as a curator. We both felt that, while we're very excited that there has been renewed interest in digital art in institutional context, so as you well know, there had been multiple phases of institutional support for artists working with emerging practices, a big one in the mid to late '90s that ended with the dotcom bubble, then a kind of revival about 10 years later with the whole post-internet movement. Then you have the VR craze of 2016, the AR craze of 2017. It's like, there's been all of these moments of the institutional embrace of artists working with technology. All of those shows are really important laying the groundwork, establishing that artists are using new technologies, establishing that those new technologies are a viable and valid part of the practice of contemporary art, the discourse of contemporary art, establishing the who, what, where, when, how and why. But at a certain point, and this is something that the critic Brian Droitcour wrote back in 20 whatever it was in his review of what he called the internet show, that now we need to start drilling down a little bit and talk with greater specificity and not just attempt to have these large-scale surveys. You will have exhibitions that will include an artist like Stephanie Dinkins or like Morehshin Allahyari, but they're usually presented within the context of these much broader shows that might be about art and technology, which is such a huge topic that it's very difficult to say anything with any sort of real degree of specificity or nuance. And so that work is very important, but I think we're ready to sort of push into a new round where we are talking with greater specificity about certain topics and also historicizing. That's another thing that's been lacking. And I know that you also appreciated that about our show, about the intergenerational dialogues to understand that, okay, this might be a theme that is being dealt with now, but in fact, there is a history to this because we have had digital art for 50 years. And so especially since the '90s, a lot of the artists working today, they're dealing with topics that have been engaged with particularly since the 1990s. And it's not to say that shows like this haven't been done before. In our catalog essay for the show, we cite some early examples of exhibitions in the '90s that were dealing with, for example, post-colonialism or what we now might call critical race theory and the intersection with digital tools. In a way it's kind of calling for a return to those kinds of thematic group shows that we saw 30 years ago that have been a little bit off the radar. Our motive was really to present a show that looked at digital technology specifically through the lens of identity, and identity not understood as something that's sort of personal and subjective but understood as a social construct, understood as something that is tied to systemic forms of inequity and oppression. And then within that, we knew we had certain objectives, like the fact that we wanted to have an intergenerational show that really teased out some of these antecedents, people like Keith Piper. So the earliest work in the show is from 1992 by Keith Piper, groups like Mongrel, people like Mendi + Keith Obadike, just to say that artists have been dealing with this issue which is so thorny and so political and so conceptually rich for a really long time. As a curator, I also had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. I really wanted to show people the richness of artists working with digital technologies that, I mean, I don't even want to call it digital art. Like it's such an awkward... I keep on trying to use all these euphemisms.
Roddy: I know. Yeah, I know.
Dr. Ryan: Because like, what is even digital art? And obviously a lot of artists don't want to identify as digital artists. They just want to be contemporary artists without qualification, right? Which is a whole nother topic of conversation. That artists working with digital tools now, they can make works that look like a lot of different things, that look like paintings, that look like sculptures, that look like photographs, that look like websites, that look like interactive games, that look like software programs, that look like social media performances. And that they can have sort of the full richness of contemporary art in terms of the effective responses that they elicit, in terms of the way they engage you conceptually, emotionally, phenomenologically. That was another sort of big motive for the show is to really think about the diversity of contemporary art and contemporary digital practices in every single sense of that term.
Roddy: As you were saying that, I was just thinking to myself that there's a lot of energy spent almost justifying the work's existence as art. And I sometimes worry that that energy that's taken around that ends up not being spent in actually exploring the work itself. I wonder going to that next level, what were some of the highlights for you in the work itself as art practice?
Dr. Ryan: Yeah, no. I mean, that's a really good point. I mean, I think that's precisely why we've wound up with the kinds of shows we've wound up with recently is because so much energy had to be expended. I agree with you, and I understand why, on defending these practices as artistic practices. I think that in the case of this show, I think that when we were putting it together, we really foregrounded the argument and the way that that argument emerged out of our engaging with these works. And then arguing whether or not these things are art was sort of not... It was a secondary point, not the primary one. And so I think that that's maybe one of the reasons why the show is so compelling for people actually is that we're not trying to rehash that same debate, but I do think that it comes through, that that case is made. It's just not the thesis of the show. So some moments for me seeing works of variable media in person, I always try to impress upon people the importance of seeing all works of art in person, including digitally native, born digital, variable media works. And just thinking about scale and texture and interfaces and hardware systems and how all of that necessarily impacts our experience of a work. So you can know about the work. You can see reproductions of it. You can even look at the files on your laptop screen, but then when you actually see the works in person, there's always going to be some surprises, right, especially because so many of the projects were imagined as installation projects. I think for me, one of the surprises was Hasan Elahi's work Thousand Little Brothers, which we installed hanging on the brick wall of the north end of the space. The space that the show is presented in is this former industrial space that's been retrofit as a temporary art exhibition space while we expand our main campus. And the space was left quite raw with these concrete floors and really tall ceilings. We knew we wanted to use this giant banner by Hasan to activate the height of the building. And Hasan was very excited because he doesn't often get to show the work because it is so tall. It was originally designed for a multi-story stairwell. So it would hang sort of in 26 feet or something like that. And when we hung it up, I mean, I had seen reproductions of it, but seeing a work in person that's like 15 feet wide and 26 feet tall or something is just very different. And in particular, seeing it in front of the brick pattern, Paul and I both immediately stood back and we're like, "Wow." Because the work comprises like 32,000 photos that Hassan took over the course of his daily activities as part of an internet-based project called Tracking Transience that he started in 2002. It's just this huge grid of all of these little photos. When it went up in front of the brick wall, there was this beautiful echoing, this beautiful relationship that was established between the grid of the photos and the grid of the brick. And as I quipped the other day on social media, I was just writing a post about this work, like if you wanted to be really smart about it, considering that Hasan's work is all about digital surveillance and the role of photography in digital surveillance, you could make a quip about like, the transition from the industrial to the post-industrial economy and the evolution of ideas of subjectivity. Whereas once we had the Fordist subject, and now we have the post-Fordist subject, and you could do all sorts of fun things. But at the end of the day, I think it was just a really beautiful installation, actually, in terms of being artworks. Another moment would be, I think, Stephanie Dinkin's installation, which I didn't expect to surprise me because it's a pretty straightforward work. It's a four-channel video piece. It's been shown on screens of varying sizes. Usually, it's shown in a kind of grid formation. And we took advantage of a particular opportunity where we had two walls that met at an oblique angle. And we decided to situate the four flat-screen monitors for that work right over, to center that grid right over that angle so that there would be two monitors on the left side of where the two walls met and then two monitors on the right. Just introducing that angle in that grid allowed the monitors on the left and on the right to speak to each other in a way that they don't normally when they're just shown on a flat wall. Normally, there's no relationship between the monitors, except they're just sort of face out towards the viewer, but now they're slightly angled in towards each other. So now they seem to reflect each other, which very nicely mirrors, if you will, the reflection happening in the video itself where you see Stephanie in each video on each monitor speaking to a black woman robot and mirroring her movements and even copying her dress, trying to sort of look like her as she has this conversation with this artificially intelligent robot. So again, there is something so sort of pleasing, for lack of a better word, something kind of elegant, visually beautiful but also conceptually elegant, right? That sort of brought out something in the work. It underscored this idea of mirroring and reflection in a way that you don't get when you're just looking at the four videos on your screen.
Roddy: I guess it's just so interesting to see how suddenly there's so much interest in non-tangible forms of digital art, for lack of a better description. While at the same time, it's like we've sort of alighted all of the work that's happened, as you said, over the last 40 years in some ways in the larger kind of art canon that is highly tangible and deeply engaged with emerging relationships to technology. I just wondered how you feel, perhaps, about the kind of digital turn that we've seen happen in the arts, for lack of a better holder for what's happening, or if you agree that there is a digital turn? And what do we do with the kind of interest both monetarily and otherwise around emerging forms of digital art that do not have the same kind of tangible component while realizing that there's a wealth of history and work that in some ways still hasn't gotten its share of the spotlight, even though it's been in creation for many, many decades now? Does that make sense?
Dr. Ryan: Roddy, I can't believe you asked that entire question. You went on that whole monologue and didn't use the words NFT.
Roddy: I'm trying to avoid it.
Dr. Ryan: You did such a great... That was like watching an Olympic-level gymnastic routine that you just went through all of those hoops. I've been banging my drum a little bit about this. I actually don't believe in "intangible art" except... I mean, I was about to say, except in certain instances of conceptual art, but even then probably not actually. As I always say, "Until we have a means of directly beaming content into our brains, you always have to interface with it through your sensory apparatus." Right? There is always media, this famous line from Friedrich Kittler, German media theorist, right? And still there are media, right? No matter how sophisticated our technology gets, we still have to use our sensory organs to get that information into our body, which means we are still dealing with scale, luminosity, tactility. All of these things still matter. Again, Brian Droitcour made that point that we talk about, "Oh, well, installing crypto art, NFT, tokenized art, whatever you want to call it, in physical space." And he was like, "Well, you looking at it on your laptop screen is also a kind of installation, right?" Let's not forget about the fact that even our personal computing devices are sites of engagement, are sites of interface. And we can talk about the specificity of how we interact with these systems. I mean, interactivity or interface in the broadest possible sense, right? So not only what are the physical apparatuses, but also, what are the cultural apparatuses, the cultural codes, the cultural habits. Right? I'm really interested in artists who actually think about this. So for example, a long time ago I curated a show that included a work by Eva & Franco Mattes called No Fun, which is a great work of theirs, highly controversial, where they used a media platform called Chatroulette that allowed people to sort of randomly, like Russian roulette style, be paired with somebody to video chat with. And they staged a scene so that when somebody came into the Chatroulette, what they saw was what appeared to be a man's lifeless body hanging from a noose in a room. They recorded the response of these unsuspecting bystanders, basically, who were conscripted into this media art performance. And it's kind of amazing because some people laugh. Some people look really nervous or awkward, and only one person tried calling the cops if I remember correctly. So the work is very much about intimacy and distance, responsibility, especially as it relates to the public sphere as imagined through social media networks, et cetera, et cetera. When I presented this show, this show was actually, it was one of the salons for the current museum and these salons were presented in a condo in SoHo. And so it was actually domestic space. I talked to Eva and Franco about how to show this work basically, which is video documentation. And their preferred installation is that it's actually shown on a laptop on a bed. And I was like, "Well, that's perfect because I literally have a bedroom." I happened to have a bed and a bedroom at my disposal. So we sort of sprung it on people unsuspecting. This work was installed on a laptop on a bed that you would pass by on your way to go into the bathroom. And if I remember correctly, I think I installed another work in the bathroom too. I just mentioned this work to point out that they were very much thinking about, well, what was the sort of original context for this work? Like, how did people interact with it? And it was through their personal laptops in the private space of their homes. The installation of the work is supposed to sort of amplify that in some way. That there are certain codes about how we use our personal computing devices in private space and how that relates to ideas of privacy and publicity and what social media has done to all of that. And anyways, really interesting questions. And so this is my very long-winded way of saying that I think for me, I get really upset when people talk about or imagine that there is a kind of digital art that exists outside of the physical and particular contingent kinds of encounters for two reasons. One is that on an aesthetic level, it denies the fact that how... Even just what scale the image is will impact your experience of it. As I like to point out to people, something that's larger than your body, like if you think of Refik Anadol's enormous screens or something, necessarily requires you to sort of step back and to watch it with other people in congregate. And it makes it a very public kind of experience where you are witnessing something akin to a history painting from the 19th century, right? It's a bold public statement that's being made. Whereas something that's very intimate and small, like the kind of work that you would watch on your cellphone, it just invites a completely different, I already used the word intimate, just a completely different kind of engagement, right? It's more personal, more private. It makes a different kind of statement. I object to it on aesthetic reasons, right? Because I do think that things like scale, et cetera, matter. The second reason I object to it is because to deny the sort of physical specificity of your encounter with the digital work of art is to deny the politics of that encounter. That to deny the sight, to suggest that digital artworks don't exist in networks that are both technological and cultural is highly problematic for me. And so that was another sort of point in a way of Difference Machines is to say that technologies are not outside of culture. In a sense, we could say that this entire exhibition that Paul and I co-curated is our answer to the idea that technologies are neutral.
Roddy: Yeah. I love the way that you're describing that. And it reminds me a little bit of when there was a kind of movement in the music world around laptop music and digital performance using laptops and so forth. But I remember there was a theorist, a music theorist named Kim Cascone, and he had this theory of the micro gesture as a type of performance on laptops, as though somehow it would be interesting to see someone moving their fingers on a mouse pad. I remember thinking at the time, I was like, "Oh, I love digital music. I love computer music. I love laptop music." I even performed myself in a music group for a long time that used that technology. But at the same time, I don't expect anyone to think that the kind of micro-theater of me moving a mouse on stage is necessarily interesting.
Dr. Ryan: I mean, in a lot of ways I think of myself as kind of an unreconstructed formalist in the sense that I truly think that the meaning of a work of art derives very much from how an artist uses their materials. And materials can be literally material substrate, or it can be apparatuses, technologies, ideas in order to express whatever it is they're trying to express. So it's funny because I know I've just been banging my drum about like, the context of technology and politics and ideological circuits and all of these things. But for me, the important thing is that all of that emerges from the form, right? It's not just a matter of bringing that context. Being a social art historian means that basically you bring the social context to the work and you explain that this work emerged in this particular social context. And you can sort of make connections, but the best social art history actually grounds all of that analysis in the work itself, right?
Dr. Ryan: Like, understands how that is all manifest in the way that the artist approaches their tools or uses their tools or manipulates their medium. And so I think just to try to loop things together here, that it is very important to think about... You're talking about these micro gestures and are they meaningful or not? Understanding, asking those questions is how you're supposed to get to these larger cultural analyses. Right?
Dr. Ryan: I think that's what we were trying to do in Difference Machines was to really not just say, "Oh, here's art and technology. And oh, by the way, technology has a politics." But rather, here is how artists explore the technology or explore the politics of the technology through the technology, through the art. How politics is sort of emergent from the tools themselves and artist's manipulation of them, rather than just having a sort of paragraph on the wall making some claims about some politics.
Roddy: Do you have a sense of, I guess, going back to this statement that I made earlier that I feel like there's a digital turn in the art world, however one might define that, is that something that you would agree with?
Dr. Ryan: I actually was just thinking not even an hour ago, what I would give to just fast forward five years and find out whatever happened to NFTs. I really wish I knew how the story ends. I was just seeing earlier today, Kevin [Wust 00:31:46] was tweeting something about how, and he's such a great cultural commentator, but tweeting something about how it's either going to wind up, as the acolytes of Web3 would prognosticate, it's going to be something that's completely endemic. It's going to go to widespread adoption. Everyone and your mother is going to have NFTs, which is funny because I was just re-watching this video that I tweeted out about the Guggenheim's virtual reality show in '93 where they were... Thomas Dolby is talking about how great it's going to be that your grandmother's going to get into virtual reality because we're not just going to have dinosaur triceratops games. We're going to have Bach concertos in VR. And so even your grandmother... I'm like, "Well, this is such a classist thing to assume that my grandmother's interested in Bach concertos or whatever. But it's like, okay. Yeah, okay. Maybe my grandmother will get into NFTs, sure. But it's either that, or it's going to become this very niche thing where there's just a small group of people who are obsessed with these. I don't know. I mean, I really, honestly and truly don't know. And in a way I'm trying to, I don't want to say hedge, but I'm very interested in this space because it's my business to be interested in digital art and to follow digital artists. I think that there is good art made in any market. I think there's good art made in any medium and it's my business to know where that good art is coming from and to make sure that I'm not being prejudicial and that I'm being open-minded. And that I'm, I don't want to say like, I mean, a lot of people think the job of a curator, a critic is to be a gatekeeper or a taste maker, but I actually see it as being sort of receptive enough to keep the gates open, to try to make sure that the story that we're telling... For example, my mandate at work, what do I do for a living? What do I actually do? I help conserve culture for posterity, right? I am charged with making sure that the institution at which I work is collecting and preserving the most important art of our times that reflects contemporary life so that generations from now people can look back and learn about the culture that gave rise to theirs. It's my job to always be looking for what are going to be the most influential ideas and what are the artists who are really pushing the boundaries or changing the conversation, let's say, because I don't like pushing the boundaries just for pushing the boundaries' sake. It's like, you have to have a point. What are you trying to say? What are the conversations we're trying to have? There are good conversations everywhere. And so I'm keeping my mind open, but in terms of like... And I definitely think there are interesting conversations happening right now in the crypto space as well as in the contemporary art space. There are also bad conversations happening in the crypto space as well as in the contemporary art space. Not to say that they're completely reducible. I mean, I really take issue with a lot of the what about-ism that's happening right now in these debates. So they are not equivalent in many ways, but I don't know. I don't know whether the mainstream contemporary art world, for example, will be regularly buying, selling, exhibiting NFTs in five years or 10 years or 15 years. From where I'm standing, it seems highly unlikely, but I don't really care about NFTs. I care about digital art, which I see as related but distinct, right? I hope that the contemporary art world, by which I mean there are many art worlds, but I mean a certain art world in which I sort of operate in, right? The one of institutions, the one of institutions, including museums, but also magazines, et cetera, major galleries. That this will be a kind of clarion call that in fact born digital works of art are extremely culturally relevant. I don't think that NFTs have improved that because NFTs are still such a niche thing. All NFTs prove is that digital art is relevant to the 400,000 people who've collected NFTs, right? Frankly, I think Difference Machines does a better job of proving that digital art is culturally relevant because it shows how artists working with digital technologies are speaking to things that transcend the small subset of people who belong to the "digital art world." And the "NFT art world" is still so small that frankly, it's not really like the art of our times, let's say. Right? But I do think that institutions, in fact, have been thinking more and more about digital art. There are more and more exhibitions of digital art. There are more and more... I mean, for a while Art in America had a whole newsletter. There are people who have been advancing this conversation. And there are institutions that have been advancing this conversation for a long time. And I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I'm always a little hesitant to be like, "Oh yeah, it's going to be so great because now we're going to pay attention to digital art." It's like, no, we have been. There have been a group of people who have been doing really important work to promote digital art for a long time. The work Eyebeam's been doing, the work The Kitchen's been doing since it's founding in what, '73?
Dr. Ryan: The work that Barbara London was doing back in the day at MoMA, the work that Christiane Paul has been doing at The Whitney since the '90s. The work that Johnny Polito was doing at the Guggenheim in the '90s. It's like, and, and, and, and. And the work that Sarah Cook was doing up at Banff and now over in... It's not like there haven't been curators who have been paying attention. It's not like there haven't been institutions that have been paying attention. It's not to say that it's ever been enough, but anyway, I just don't want to erase that history. But I do hope that there will be more engagement, but I think that it always comes down to a question of values, I guess. And the art world has its own values. I know cynical people from the NFT world would be like, "Oh, it's just about crass commercialism and keeping your blue chip art in free ports and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." But that's not the art world. That's the art market. And that's a very small... That's just the highest end of the art market, right? The art market is even much bigger than that. And the art world is even bigger than that. So for the bigger art world outside of people storing art in freeports, art is a conversation about things that matter very much, right? It's about beauty. It's about meaning. It's about how we know ourselves. It's about culture. It's about history. It's about politics. And so that conversation, folding in digital technologies more and more I think is really important. That's what we were trying to do with Difference Machines is to bring these things together. If NFTs are going to become relevant to the art world, I guess what I'm trying to say is that they have to become relevant to those conversations. They have to become relevant to the values that the mainstream contemporary art world holds. And again, I'm not talking about the freeport high-end market stuff. I'm talking about the art world at large. So, yeah. And basically, somebody has to make a case, right? Either somebody has to start making more art that is relevant to those conversations, and there are some. There are definitely some artists who are very much... like people like Mitchell Chan or Rita Myers who are very much making work that's engaged with conceptual art and its legacy. You know, artists like Harm van den Dorpel engaged with the legacy of abstraction in some way. So there are artists who are making work that's relevant, but either more people in the NFT space are going to have to start making art like that, or their NFTs are going to need their knights in shining armor. They're going to need their critics. They're going to need their curators. They're going to need people to make the argument that it is relevant in ways that people like me maybe just haven't seen yet.
Roddy: Thank you. It's just always such a pleasure to talk to you, so I really appreciate you joining the show today.
Dr. Ryan: Thank you again so much for having me on. I'm such a huge fan of Eyebeam. As you said, there's a lot of artists who are in this show who I know Eyebeam has supported. Actually, I met Morehshin Allahyari, one of the artists in the show, when she was a resident at Eyebeam.
Roddy: Oh, wow. That's amazing.
Dr. Ryan: I was friends with Nora Khan and I went to... It was when Nora was also a resident and I went to hang out with Nora. And she introduced me to Morehshin. I'm really just so indebted to the work that you guys have been doing.
Roddy: Well, thank you.
Dr. Ryan: Literally, I wouldn't have had one of my favorite artists in the show if it wasn't for being introduced to Eyebeam, you guys supporting Morehshin's work. So, yeah. Thank you for everything that you do.
Roddy: While I was in Buffalo, Tina hosted a lovely dinner party at her home. There I had the opportunity to meet probably a dozen optimistic curators, artists and arts entrepreneurs who shared their enthusiasm for the potential of Buffalo as a home for culture. And of course, the city already has an incredible history of being the proving grounds for many important artists, particularly those working in media arts. Despite the gray, cold weather when I visited, the city's future for the arts seems brighter than ever. Until next time, thanks for joining me at Informer, and I hope that you'll join us again.