Interview by sCessions
Meet TanjaV, a new media artist who has been working internationally since 1997.
She has exhibited sculptures, drawings, VR worlds, and generative and AI art at numerous galleries and museums around the world. Simulations, cyberspace, gaming culture and human-machine interaction are at the centre of her art practice of the last twenty years. Her works examine lived experience and meaning-making in the metaverse through the worlds she is creating. Her avatars and proto-machines are an exploration of the evolution of the synthetic Other – tanjav.art/info
TanjaV has been developing and making art to push and blur the lines and boundaries of what is considered normal. From the outside perspective you are merely a spectator but once you step into Tanja’s world she can show you imagery and imagination beyond any scope of comprehension with an extensive network of friends, fellow artists, and locations. She is hailed as the queen of VR CHAT and stepped into Somnium Space where she opened Flower Shop (an Ultramono production); an installation, a club and a gallery space simultaneously. She is here to give us a little more insight in her works and her vision!
Can you tell us about yourself?
Hello hello! My user name in Somnium Space is TanjaV and my full name is Tanja Vujinovic. I have been present in the contemporary art scene for many years in a discipline officially called (new) media art or (inter) media art. I have exhibited interactive and non-interactive digital and physical artworks at numerous galleries and museums internationally. Through my art practice, I research our Ultranatural world: relations between us, the technology we use, and nature. At the same time, it is a search for the poetic hybrids forming in-between. Early on I got influenced by avantgarde art, experimental sound art, Yves Klein, Kurt Schwitters, László Moholy-Nagy, and also popular culture of the past like Space Age aesthetics of the 60s and of course, my all time favorite, movies of the genius Jacques Tati, especially his seminal comedy Playtime. You can see some of my documentation on my website: https://www.tanjav.art/
How did you get into 3D/VR work initially?
I started to develop 3D elements for my interactive digital works in 3D at the beginning of the 2000s. This progressed with the technology that was available at the time, and it was related to my interest in using game engines as environments for my installations. Since some of my physical sculptures turned out to be very costly to produce, ship and exhibit, especially when that work was influenced or produced with the help of scientists, I found out that game engines might be better suited to contemporary times, especially considering the social aspect and ability of meeting people in the actual environments online.
What made you transition from other platforms like VRChat to Somnium Space?
After developing a few VR works that were built for one user at the time, I found that it would be way better to share that with others simultaneously and that’s when I got interested in platforms like VRChat, where I still have multiple worlds published and people visiting that public space daily. Since as a researcher I always look into new platforms and tools, Somnium Space appeared on a horizon about a year ago, but it took some time for me to seriously start working on possibilities here. Community is still growing, and it has some incredibly strong features that cannot be found anywhere else. Wonderful, dynamic but peaceful atmosphere of this persistent world is what I find most captivating. Besides joining community events, lots of times I also log into the world I am working on just to spend time there and think. In Somnium Space I am still somewhat limited in terms of what I can publish, majority of my objects and digital sculptures are highly detailed and they cannot be translated into such environment just yet so I am forced to find workarounds or giving some hints of the atmosphere, but that is also good as an exercise in flexibility.
Can you tell me briefly about some projects you’re working on now?
I have just finished a few major sub-projects of the ongoing MetaGarden series I have been working on since 2016. It all culminates within this humble yet highly complex idea of a garden – our physical environment is increasingly shaped by the capital, technology, and geopolitics, and these processes are being reflected in the so-called nature that we ingest or reproduce as lawns, gardens, and land or theme parks. It unifies some of my previous interests in so called technological, synthetic “Other”, our relationship with technology that we are developing, Proto-machines that inhabit the MetaGarden, with some of the ecological and social issues that I keep returning to. Each series takes a lot of work. It usually involves at least six months of reading, taking notes, developing sketches, consultations…We are just about to show for the first time two series of works, FLOWr and Bios6 developed presented within the scope of my Flower Shop, the latest world I made, that is an installation, a club and a gallery space simultaneously.
Bios6 is developed along the narrative of an AI environment that talks to its human companions, inviting us to “Step into the Bios!” and asking questions like “what would happen if we all met in a meta-garden?” On the other hand, FLOWr artifacts are a conceptual thought experiment and visual philosophy of sorts where we are thinking about proto shapes of flowers, and their importance for the development of civilization. I got even more interested in biomimicry and proto-shapes of plants since I ran into a few scientific articles about the first flower on Earth. So within these works biomimetic shapes intermingle with mythologically potent shapes from historical sculptures that both protect and are sublime in a philosophical sense.
What motivates you to go in this digital direction when developing ideas compared to other forms of art?
For years I worked with physical sculptures that were very elaborate in terms of production, expansive to produce, ship, maintain, so I have been working very hard to translate the whole practice towards being solely digital. Throughout my work, I have collaborated with scientists to build parts for installations such as plasma generators, which affect water, or reactors with nano-tubes, which treat the air. I have also used computer-reconstructed models of Carboniferous plants to address pollution in our living environments. At this point I would love to continue to use exclusively digital media, but you never know. Some projects just call for special material and than you just have to follow through. While the physical presence of an artwork definitely has its advantages, so does the immaterial constant reconstitution of the work in the digital form. Social aspect of so-called reality is something very close to my heart, and this is definitely the direction I am continuing.
What are the biggest challenges of working on this aspect of creating? Organizing Shows? Designing? Follow-up Work?
Biggest challenges are constant updates, glitches, bugs but we need to work around those. Although digital art has been present in the new media art scene for a long time, adaptation of for example social VR has been very slow. I myself have had a legally registered organization for production of my works for two decades, and so far it turned out to be the most convenient way to work that gives me the biggest amount of freedom. There are a number of people that work with me on projects for years in different aspects of production and so called post production (when you show already made installations on festivals and reiterations of individual shows), and we also collaborate with some bigger institutions in production. Working in this field has its advantages since you are always developing new work, researching the frontiers so to speak. The disadvantage is that you are always in an uncharted territory and have to learn along the way how to handle challenges.
In your opinion what do you think will be the future of Art in real life and web3?
Things will definitely continue to develop into more immersive experiences, along with the latest tools. Just as the landscape painting developed with the invention of oil colors in tubes that were portable, as soon as something becomes available, people jump to test that out and try making temporary playgrounds. Although I can’t predict the future, I can say what I would like to see – more free digital tools available to everyone to play with, experiments into universal basic income being implemented so more people will be able to devote themselves to things they like and appreciate, and that we dont forget about ecology and healthy environments that we all need in order to thrive, so I appreciate any artwork that also raises some of these issues.
- Ultramono on Discord: https://discord.gg/xEkfnEF3