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This week in Texas, South by Southwest (SXSW) welcomes visitors and locals alike back to Austin for another week of music, art, food, and fun. This year, for the festival’s second-ever art program, Meural acts as its presenting sponsor. For the occasion, the Meural is debuting “The History of Art in 8 Hours”—a gallery wall of digital canvases that change throughout the day to reflect the passing of time (on view through March 15, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.).
Each day, the sequence ends with a commissioned work by digital artist Eric Corriel. To connect the past and the present, Corriel has created an audio and visual experience, featuring an algorithm from a Beethoven concerto shown in dynamic visuals that is complemented by the musical scores.
“In everything we do, our goal is supporting artists—through both revenue and increased visibility. That’s why we pay for licensing for every work in our collection, and give living artists 60% of the profits we make on the art,” said Vladimir Vukicevic, CEO and Co-Founder. “SXSW has selected a program of immersive installations that demonstrate how technology can be used as an artist’s tool. This is a mission we believe in strongly, and we are proud to be able to help make this program possible, and draw attention to these artists working at the intersection of art and tech.”
Whitewall spoke with Vukicevic and Poppy Simpson, Head of Content and Curation, to learn more.
WHITEWALL: Tell us a bit about your role as the presenting sponsor of the SXSW Art Program.
VLADIMIR VUKICEVIC: SXSW is beloved as a global celebration of the places where technology and creativity converge. As a company that lives at the intersection of tech and art, we choose to align ourselves with entities pushing the envelope of what that intersection can be—whether it be artists using emerging technology as the artists’ tools of the future, or companies that believe tech can be a powerful force of good for creative disciplines. When we learned that SXSW would be giving visual artists a home at SXSW for the second year, we jumped at the chance to lend our support, and saw the Art Program as perfect place for Meural to join the SXSW universe.
WW: What can we expect to see in “The History of Art in 8 Hours”?
VV: While we have titled it “‘The’ History of Art,” it is really “a” history of art. Who can say that they know “the” history of something truly? What we have done is compile a history that spans from the gilded Renaissance to emerging contemporary artists.
What’s interesting to note is that we are limited to works that have been digitized, so you will notice that there are certain gaps—which of course reveal the bias implicit in the archiving process.
POPPY SIMPSON: Beyond that, you’ll be seeing nearly 1,000 works culled from the Gilded Age, Baroque and Rococo, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, Cubism—the list goes on. We’ll be pausing on certain interesting moments, like the Russian Avant-Garde, and FSA (Farm Security Administration) photography. We’ve worked hard to step outside the Western Canon, and profile milestones like the emergence of Japanese woodblocks.
WW: Each day, the wall of canvases ends with a new commission by digital artist Eric Corriel. Why did you decide to showcase this artist’s work?
PS: Using technology to make art accessible to all people is a chief goal of Eric’s work. Because his artist’s statement aligns so closely with our mission, he was the first artist that we ever commissioned, and an early believer in what Meural is doing. There are not many people who are both artist and developer, and Eric’s work merges these two discrete (but highly creative) disciplines in unprecedented ways.
WW: The piece by Corriel is an algorithmic work that visually translates a Beethoven concerto. What about this is important for the audience to recognize?
PS: This commission acts as a symbolic finale to our installation because it represents a convergence of past and present. Eric propels a piece of music held in the public domain into the future by treating it with a thoroughly modern art form—the art of coding. It is an apt way of illustrating our two goals. One, to bring art from the archives into the modern world. And two, to provide a place for new media art to live.
WW: What do you hope the people at SXSW take away from seeing art in a space seemingly atypical for art?
VV: Art and technology have often been considered enemies. In the few years, we’ve seen cultural institutions begrudgingly adopting new forms of technology, and I think we’re finally at a moment where that opposition is softening. For instance, in the past few year, Sotheby’s has acquired an AR startup, and Paddle8 has merged with a Blockchain company—moves that have would have been unthinkable until recently. I think that SXSW’s decision to bring visual art into the fold is evidence that the mutually beneficial intersection of art and technology is being taken more seriously, by parties on both sides of the coin. I hope that our installation shows visitors how art and tech can, and should, exist in harmony.
WW: What is your favorite playlist at the moment? Are there any seasonal ones, or ones that you’ve create for the event?
PS: My favorite playlist that is tied to this particular moment is our recreation of the very first Armory Show in 1913. To create this playlist, we hunted down the original catalogue, and built it back up by acquiring the rights piece by piece. This was of course the moment when the American public met European modernism for the very first time. I love that we can bring that history to the Meural community and form a bridge between the very first Armory Show—considered so radical at the time—and the Armory show that is happening right now in 2018. This playlist will be featured as its own special moment in “The History of Art in 8 Hours,” as a nod to the fair this week.