Julian Brangold Sits Down with the Argentine Artist Tandem
The following is a continuing transcription and translation of a conversation between The Internet Office (Ignacio [Iñaki] Claisse and Francisca Tambasco) and artist Julian Brangold recorded live in May 2022. This is part 2 of 2. You can read Part 1 here.
Julian Brangold: Who is the one actually sitting at the computer?
Francisca Tambasco: Iña (Ignacio).
Julian: And what tools do you use specifically to create your works?
Ignacio Claisse: We started with Cinema 4D. I have a programming background, from university, not so much design. I relate Cinema 4D to Photoshop, Illustrator, it’s a more layered program. And at some point, after watching a lot of tutorials, I came across some Side Effects Houdini tutorials, which did something totally different, things I wanted to do in Cinema 4D and I couldn’t. I quickly realized that it was a very different kind of thing. The program was a mess, so I had to start from scratch and learn another tool, even with all the knowledge I had from my academic background. Side Effects allows for programming by nodes, and I had seen a lot of that, I felt familiar with it. And it’s also a program that lends itself to our style because, as we don’t plan the works beforehand or draw, we don’t know what we’re doing before we start doing it. Side Effects, being procedural, allows for the possibility of catching things on the fly and seeing where the program takes you, a more randomized relationship. You guide the program and the program guides you. Although it condenses a lot, it is also a very robust program since it has a lot, and it frees you up a lot. We added Redshift, which would be the renderer which works very nicely with colors. It has a different expressiveness to the other render engines. It seems to me that it is a tool that already has an imprint. I see a render and I see the render engine, like this not the same to paint with oil than with acrylics. I feel that there is an expressive gesture that emerges from the render engine. And we are using some others peripherally like Substance Designer, Marvelous Designer, some things in Illustrator if we do some drawing.
Julian: Do you use post-production on the image, or do you try to do everything in the same render program?
IC: Redshift has a post production suite, a relatively basic one, contrast, brightness and some effects. We get pretty nice results there and that’s it.
FT: But we don’t do postproduction in Photoshop. They come out the way they come out.
Julian: Would you say that what you do with The Internet Office has an intention? I mean in the sense of, for example, generating a digital experience, to talk about the tool you are using, or to tell some kind of story or aesthetic imprint? If it exists, what would be that general intention, do you see that your production looks to transcend the formal process of generating images?
FT: Yes, we are interested in reflecting upon this middle ground between the organic and perhaps the more rational or rigid, the mix between technology, which is sometimes a bit separate, and organic processes; we are interested in working on the common ground they have.
IC: There is a term that we like, that of Wetware. There is Hardware and Software, and there is a third possibility called Wetware. It’s applied to biological life, for example the brain and our nervous system could be considered Wetware in how it chemically transmits electrical signals, because it has a “machine-like” thing going on but it’s also very biological. Suddenly Cyborg is not so new, and we are machines. That’s very much part of our work. And going back to the formal aspect, perhaps this is where this comes from, we are working with a computer, modeling organic figures and textures. Already there is something of a starting point that in a formal way feeds the conceptual, in the sense that imminently there are issues that arise related to science and technology as it pertains to biology. It’s a reflection that can be found within us. Then we started to think about how we are building digital life with digital tools that could be simulations or computational processes. How we build life that we imagine as native to the digital world. We don’t view it as life that could exist in one part of the world or in another country.
FT: It’s not a representation of a thing that happens outside the computer.
IC: It kind of inhabits its internal processes. There’s a funny branch of fiction called Speculative Biology. The first book that kind of gestated this branch imagined what happened after 50 million years of the human race becoming extinct, so there were a bunch of different animals similar to what you see today, but with different adaptations. It seems to us that it has something of that, of what biological nature would be like evolving within the digital space.
Julian: I understand it as subverting the definition of technology, or taking it to the extreme. I understand what you say about the human body, that as biological as it is, it is also technological. It has its own technology, which can make an interesting parallel with the technologies we are using, when in general the tendency is to generate a very clear barrier (this is technological and this is not, this is biological and therefore unnatural). I think what you are doing is taking the definition of what is defined as natural to the extreme. At the end of the day, there is not such a clear division, but there is a gradient between one and the other that can be taken one way or the other, and the definition changes.
FT: And we also have fun taking these figures to a grotesque place, sometimes even ridiculing them, taking this drive to the maximum.
IC: But conciliating as well. We find the point of contact between these two things very beautiful. And maybe, going back to intuition and why we are attracted to that, I feel like because we are both from the same generation (’98 and ‘97), and since we grew up, every year we hear they cloned a sheep, or they transplanted a heart or now we can print organs, this kind of constant development affects us. Suddenly science and our body are things we are very aware of, it is very easy to imagine that if they can already print an organ, suddenly they are going to be able to print a whole bug, a creature. It is not so crazy… even imminent in some way. So, we thought a little bit about this idea of starting to imagine what those computational but biological bugs would be like. That’s part of our research.
Julian: Let’s talk a little bit about crypto art. How did the crypto artistic career of The Internet Office begin?
IC: After the first video we made together was submitted to the contest, a friend of ours who was very indirectly connected to VXN, told us she was, together with her boyfriend Frenetik Void, combining digital art with cryptocurrencies. She couldn’t tell us much more because she didn’t know much about the subject.
FT: She didn’t really understand what she was telling us either. But all of a sudden it sounded like there was a way to market digital works, on the internet, using cryptocurrencies.
IC: She also mentioned some platform or marketplace. This was approximately in April or May, 2020. I think she mentioned SuperRare. That was the name she remembered. Neither of us was employed at that time, because we didn’t have the record store anymore. I was a DJ and I couldn’t perform, we couldn’t throw our parties either. We had nothing… and suddenly it was another way of relating what we were doing with an income or the possibility of an income.
FT: At that time, we didn’t think of it as a job either, because it felt like something very new. We had started to make these works but we didn’t think of it in a commercial way. Then we started investigating it, we had the time for it, and we applied and got accepted to Superrare.
IC: No, I think we started in Makersplace, but we sent works to all of them.
FT: We investigated, we saw what Superrare was about, and we sent an application to Makersplace too. We also applied to Knoworigin.
IC: At that time there was no information anywhere. The only thing you could do was go on Discord to see if you could get some info by talking to others. We had never used cryptocurrencies, we were not the type of people who invested money in that sort of thing, and I think that if this had not happened we would never have gotten into cryptocurrencies. Now it’s part of our life, but it wasn’t, and maybe it wouldn’t have been, if it weren’t for NFTs.
FT: I don’t know… It’s very hard to say what would have happened. But yeah, we started tokenizing work on Makersplace. We tokenized one afternoon, and I remember the next day we woke up and there was a bid. It was like “Wow, this is real, this is happening.” It was really fun. At the beginning, the whole process was very much about discovering little things,and it was really nice. And then we started to sell some works. There was a very accelerated rhythm, we would upload works and would have bids a few moments later, and then the work would be sold. Things that now have a very different pace. At one point we were talking to a collector, and we came across some things that we still didn’t understand how to handle. And that’s when our friend told us to talk to “Vic” (VXN), who was her friend’s friend, so we wrote her, and she told us that they were setting up this community called Cryptoarg, and they were going to have the first meeting on Discord. And that’s how we got involved.
IC: We got involved, in part, to ask specifically about this situation, and I think that was a crucial moment where we learned a lot. It had already been two weeks since the Discord server was created, and in those two weeks there was already a lot of information. And rereading all that meant suddenly not feeling so alone, all these people, Argentinians who are close to each other, going through the same things, and we realized we were not isolated.
IC: It was all quite crazy because we started just before it all exploded and became mainstream, so we lived through all the exponential growth. I remember there were some months when every week had a higher record sale, it was kind of the theme. I remember when SuperRare reached one-million in sales. These historic milestones were happening every week, so we were living through them. I think now everything is more stable, it’s a more or less stable ecosystem in which things change more gradually.
FT: It is good to be able to reflect upon these things. At that time, we were producing a lot of works, everything was very intuitive, and now the rhythm has slowed down a bit, so we can also reflect more on what we are doing. Going through other rhythms has been good for us.
IC: Now we can think of a project on a more medium and long-term timeline. The frenzy was eating us up a bit.
Julian: There is one thing in common amongst many artists that entered around that time, which is that that frenzy made it so the medium began to determine the work’s process. You felt you had to produce in a certain way or at a certain pace because you had to tokenize and be present. And it was only for a few months because everything changed very quickly afterwards. I feel that the same thing happened to many people. For a while, at the beginning, there was a kind of maxim that came from the medium and sort of dictated a lot of the dynamics. This rhythm of publishing and selling generates an instantaneous feedback pertaining to what works and what doesn’t. And it generates a kind of “confusing cloud” where it is very easy to get lost and forget why you were doing what you were doing or why it was fun.
IC: The value of the work has never been representative of the artistic value. It seems to me that our works today have much more substance than before. But back then we were selling them in a day, and now it takes us months… It’s interesting. It exhausted us too, but I think we are now in a stronger place in terms of our work.
FT: Our production is not exclusively determined by the medium in which it is being sold. We now want to start other processes that complement our work, without thinking of them in terms of sales. There are a lot of works that we do which we don’t make public.
Julian: What things are you thinking about now that interest you? Those things that don’t have so much to do with tokenizing but more with exhibitions, experiences and presence? How are you thinking about the project from that point of view and where is it going?
FT: Our digital works have something very sculptural about them, so we are now interested in making a passage to physical mediums that can complement and work together with the digital work. Last year we took ceramics classes, and we started to develop this idea to work with our hands. For the first time, because we don’t do sketches, we don’t draw, we don’t have any blueprints, it’s all digital. A bit like an inverse process to what maybe some people do, we start from a digital work, and then we do the passage to something physical. We are very interested in textures and materiality, so it is a challenge to see how that can be transferred to materialities that are not generated on the computer. It is a nice challenge. We are interested in starting to work with ceramics, with glass, to generate sculptures that have a direct dialogue with the digital pieces.
IC: In a way it’s like going backwards because Francisca] studied architecture, so you have a more spatial kind of approach, more of a play with reality. And I have more of an installation-oriented background. What I find crazy about crypto art is that a lot of times a PNG is enough. The more academic or traditional “electronic arts” couldn’t get away with that, they couldn’t deliver a PNG (Portable Network Graphics image file format) and say “This is the artwork.” Perhaps generative art can, but not quite because it also sells the process of becoming the work of art. It seems to me that it is quite different: You can sell a PNG and that is the work. In the past, you probably had to do something more related to installation or “justify” the work from another point of view. We have a little bit of all that too, and it seems that now it is not enough with the PNG, so the question arises: “What else can we do?”
FT: We are interested in physically constructing these universes which these digital objects inhabit. It could also be considered a more scenographic or installation-oriented process.
IC: But it’s a long process, so we are still taking it a little bit at a time.
Julian: Are you interested in showing physically now?
FT: Yes, completely. I think that’s what we are most interested in now.
Julian: What is your experience traversing the crypto ecosystem today?
IC: I think we are very calm and way more patient. We are also doing other types of work, we are not fully dedicated to cryptoart. I feel like that helps us to feel ok about our work and not have the need to sell. There is a balance there, and it also helps us to learn new things. So we are patient and eager to make richer works, to work with clearer ideas. Maybe the ideas come before the work and it makes for a more complete process.
FT: We are quite calm, happy with what we are producing and being patient and respecting our own time. We felt more pressure before, today we don’t feel it so much.
Julian: What would you like to see in the future of The Internet Office? We’re talking about in-person sampling or larger projects taken to the physical space. What else would you like to see happen?
FT: Well this relates to our name, which at the beginning was The Internet Office of Random Activities. That was the initial idea. This is also like a game to be able to have hands in different spaces, generating digital works, objects, installations. As if it were an office where different things of different kinds are being produced. And slowly moving towards other disciplines.
IC: Yes, we are also interested in fashion and design, so we envision a kind of video game experience, or web-based art. I think we have a lot of different interests. Maybe right now we are very focused on 3D because that’s where we were born and where our strength lies, but I think we are also ready to expand and cover more ground, because we are interested and everything grows and gives a more complete vision of our world.
Julian: What is your relationship with the traditional art world in dialogue with the cryptoart world? Are you interested in it, are you not interested in it?
FT: We are. We don’t see it as something opposite, we don’t look at it that way.
IC: It seems to me that it is much more separate than it should be, as if the perspectives were from two totally different places. It shouldn’t be that way, we don’t see it that way.
FT: They have many things in common, for example, the processes of generating and creating something, and also our references, the things that challenge us and interest us, these come from a more traditional art background.
IC: Contemporary sculpture is a big part of what inspires us. Nature, technology and sculpture are our three strong pillars in terms of what challenges us.
FT: In the crypto world, we perhaps feel more freedom, in terms of how exposed our work is. We feel it is more playful.
IC: It is a bit more typical of our generation. We have always consumed social networks, internet, video games, and all these things are part of us since we were kids. It’s like we have a more natural relationship with that than with the dynamics of more traditional art. There is something more in common with the crypto-native art form. But we would also like to think of NFTs not as something isolated that can only exist in the NFT market, but that a traditional artwork can be an NFT as well. That it is more like a tool or a method, rather than something that defines what the work is.
However, it would also be good to try… because it also raises certain questions. We can’t be totally gratuitous in doing work within the blockchain and at no time talk about that, because it has a lot of properties like decentralization, and there are a lot of policies that I think we have to take into account, not ignore them. Maybe we’re at an early stage of starting to think about the medium, so we are calm.
FT: We see it not as a before and after, but as a continuation. A process that perhaps had to happen, an adaptation to contemporary life. I think they will coexist.
It’s not as if traditional art is going to die.