Banz & Bowinkel: A visionary world of the (virtual) mind
Ideally by using these technologies, art should see through them and unveil this imperative role in our society. When it is aesthetically pleasing, the truth doesn’t hurt so much.
Banz&Bowinkel’s artworks were exhibited in galleries, museums and festivals around the world (HeK Basel, KM-Halle für Kunst und Medien, Graz, Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen), and they received residencies at Tong Xian Art Center, Beijing, and Artist Residency Herzliya, Israel among others. In 2017, they received the Digital Sculpture Award from the Institute of digital art, HfK+G Ulm.
Since 2017, the artist duo lives in Berlin as free-lancing artists.
There is a deep ambivalence in the work of Banz&Bowinkel. The commonalities/differences of real and virtual spaces lie at the heart of their artworks, and the opportunities/challenges of human societies in the digital age are questioned.
The German artist duo investigates the unknown parameters of digital technologies that define our lives through communication, consumerism, and simulated realities. They analyse the performativity in digital imagery, and the human traces in the mathematical logic of the digital realm. In their work, the virtual world is not understood as a simulated reality, but as a computational counterpart to our perception thereof. The computer re-structures seemingly hidden the order of physical reality. Their artworks represent semi-virtual environments in which almost everything is pre-calculated and executed by computers. Physical reality and virtual space merge unconsciously: How does this change our understanding of embodiment, nature and our social surroundings?
In their VR work “Palo Alto” (2017), the very own virtual landscape and avatars represent their computational origin. The fear of the unknown meets the fascination of a 3D-environment waiting to be explored.
MEDIAARTHISTORIES: Virtual Reality, Avantgarde, and the perception of reality
Banz&Bowinkel studied painting at the fine-arts academy in Düsseldorf, a renowned art school where artists such as Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys and Sigmar Polke graduated. They re-conceptualize ideas and issues in modern art for contemporary digital art, such as self-reflection, materiality, and media. The clean, geographic aesthetics of their work responds to its virtuality, and is reminiscent of Minimal Art as well as the photographic realism in surrealist paintings. In their first digital art series "body paintings" (2016-2019), the tradition of gestural abstraction was connected to action painting. Recordings of body movements in space are coupled with fluid simulations. With an Augmented Reality App, viewers can scan the paintings in the exhibition to detect the virtual layers behind it.
Reminiscent of the geographic and sculptural shapes in the (pre)surrealist paintings of Chirico, Banz&Bowinkel’s imagery is as disquieting as visionary when it portrays the virtual worlds behind our physical reality. In their work ”Mercury”(2016), elements of nature, culture or technology intertwine into a surreal terrain in which known physical laws are overridden. The animation follows the parameters of its material, its software and hardware. The virtual landscapes confront us with the strangeness of known objects in new, virtual environments.
In their work, the artists focus on the human fascination with development, permeation and visualization of so-called reality.
Curatorial statement, House of electronic Arts, Basel
Giulia Bowinkel & Friedemann Banz continuously suggest declinations of virtual and real spaces. Dimensions, consistency and matter are transformative in their artistic works, they overlap and flow into their pictures, videos and installation, coming together as autonomous parameters.
What are your current projects?
A VR piece with an interactive performance of avatars.
What path led you to digital art, and what interested/fascinated you
about it initially?
The aesthetics of the renderings, 3D animations, Second Life, Myspace, Google image search, Computer games and early music videos with 3D elements.
We listened to techno and electronic music and searched for an appropriate visual language.
We found the medium computer, which became more present and influential in all areas of our society, incredibly exciting.
How do you judge the interest in digital art in your surroundings, in
The interest in computer generated art has grown. Interestingly, museums in particular are relatively open to digital art, including the uncertainties that technology brings with it.
Most digital artworks are created collaboratively. How many people are involved in your artworks (on average), and how would you describe the artistic development of your works as a collective/individual process?
Most of our work is created by both of us. We taught ourselves many software programs after our studies. At that time, the two of us fought our way through the digital world with enthusiasm and sometimes even full of despair. We experiment individually and then conceive new projects together based on our initial sketches, which we then implement together. We find the constant exchange very enriching and important. There are also collaborations with other artists, e.g. with musicians and recently also programmers. For our latest series "Bots" we participated in the AR program Aurora at the HTW Berlin and elaborated our first bots together with the programmers. We appreciate the collaboration a lot, it enables a change of perspective and often leads to new ideas.
How do you archive your own works? How do you think your works should be preserved?
That depends a little bit on the respective work. For the CGI prints we archive the print file, the 3D file and the raw rendering. This is still relatively simple. With the AR and VR work it gets a bit more complex. These works are rarely finished like the prints. Especially the AR work has to be updated regularly, if e.g. the technology or the company philosophy around the mobile devices changes. Both the apps and the projects are stored incrementally. In addition, we also archive our software programs as far as possible in addition to the works and projects.
The most important thing for the preservation of the work will be to make the source files accessible for the newer hardware and software. This will probably require, among the general expertise of the work, a lot of computer and programming knowledge and this will probably only be done by museums in a professional context.