Interview: Evan Roth

Daniel Gray
Posted May 16, 2013 in Arts & Culture Features

DDF apr-may-24 – Desktop

Draw a triangle with the co-ordinates hacktivism, interactive art and gif mashups, and the zone created is where Evan Roth calls home. Having recently coloured Dublin’s streets with the Science Gallery’s Propulsion Paintings workshop, Roth returns for a collaborative show with found material artist Constant Dullaart for GLITCH.

The mission statement in the GLITCH program reads: “increasingly informed by offline factors that affect how the Internet, as a creative platform, is being developed.” What offline factors inform your work?

One easy one is public space, and work that happens outside. A lot of the work I make, that I’m inspired by stem from hacking philosophies, I think those philosophies aren’t just relegated to existing online. I think graffiti and street art movements are ultimate extensions of that, even if graffiti artists don’t self-identify as hackers. I take a lot of inspiration from those communities – people who are looking at physical systems the way hackers are looking at digital systems, ways they can turn those structures that seem really rigid to their own use.

Are you more interested in producing object or non-object work?

I do both, I kind of go wherever the work calls for. Whether I’m working in a gallery, on the internet, or outside I try to make sure that I’m working on something honest or true to that medium. I think in a way a lot of the best internet art is like the best street art, it’s art that can only happen in that format. Work that is really natively tailored to the environment, rather than falsely produced to show in a gallery. Where my work shows up is really based on where the ideas come from, rather than where the piece lives.

Some of the work I do that shows up in a gallery, it has a reason to be there. A lot of the time, the reason for me exhibiting in a gallery is to do with archiving. Works that exist within that world exist for a longer time than works in the street or online, and therefore it’s work that changes over time, that’s going to mean something different in 10, 20 or 50 years. Some pieces I do involving the internet exist only online, other pieces have to do with looking at where we are, our relationship with society and technology. Some pieces that exist as prints are more archival, they won’t change when screen resolutions change, when browser standards change, so we can still have a view of what the internet looks like now that won’t fluctuate with technology.

You’re going to be working with Constant Dullaart for your GLITCH show. What attracts you to Constant’s work? And what kind of middle ground will you be operating in?

Constant is one of my favourite artists that’s engaging with the internet now. He had this one idea where he talks about media that has an alibi, specifically video. There’s content out there that’s not just about making decisions whether for aesthetic or conceptual reasons, but just because it really needs to do something, like a video of a car moving down a street that just needs to exist so somebody can sell it on eBay. That idea of media really having a reason for existing frames a lot of the work he does. I don’t know what we’re going to make yet, but I’m expecting good things from it. He’s thinking in this mode that is related to the way hackers are thinking.


As an advocate of open-source, have you ever worked in hacking more closed ecosystems, like social networks or tablets and smartphones?

I have a series of “Multi-Touch” paintings, it’s a very low-tech hack which just involves me putting a piece of tracing paper over my mobile phone and then just inking my fingers and going about really routine tasks. There’s another series where I play the whole of Angry Birds in one sitting. You can still manipulate the phone with tracing paper so you’re still performing all the tasks normally, but now the ink is archiving all that motion. It’s a hack that involves no code, and uses this very old school printing technique, there’s direct contact, and kind of harking back to your question from earlier the work then has a sense of power, it has more of a reason to be there. It’s about archiving these awkward first moments we have going through touchscreen mobile computing. We’re really just in the beginning phases of touching pixels and manipulating data directly. Some of those gestures that we take for granted, though we’re doing them countless times a day, This weird swipe with our thumb that human beings haven’t done forever that just suddenly seems so normal, but it’s a trained gesture we’ve just started using. I’m interested in archiving that gesture. It has two functions: that piece exists online as documentation that you can see and relate to because they’re going through it right now and it tells them something about the moment, but I think when you see it in a gallery and it exists in print it’ll be around, hopefully dozens of years from now – then it’ll speak instead of this interaction of the moment to this interaction with time, and how this slide to unlock that seemed so new and quickly faded to be everyday transitioned into something else completely.

There’s actually this ebook, Curious Rituals which explores the way our interactions with digital interfaces is trickling down into our social interactions.

It makes total sense right? You hear these stories about little kids going up to the TV and trying to slide the image to the left. The other thing about this piece we’re talking about, there’s parts of it about this very specific and unique identity we have about our thumbprint and this computer we have in our pocket every day is very personal, but all these gestures that we’re learning and these interface mechanisms are in fact very generic, so we’re all being trained to do the same things now.

Set your browsers to our series of interviews around the Run, Computer Run digital arts festival, with curator Nora O’Murchú and generative artist David Szauder ahead of the forthcoming GLITCH festival at RUA Red, which launches on May 24th.


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