'Making Worlds' - talking Art and Technology with Marpi

Photo 23-07-2017, 13 34 08

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Polish born San Francisco based Digital Artist Mateusz Marpi Marcinowski, aka Marpi, is a top international talent. His work truly excites us and we are working to bring him to #TRIBEFest. Hi is on a quest to build tools that let people be creative by enabling them to create digital art that they can claim as their own. His art is interactive, scalable, and multiplatform. By creating windows into the same universe Marpi provides an empty canvas where the art does not exist until the people interact.

He travels a lot, so we couldn’t meet in person when we visited the extraordinary Obscura headquarters in San Francisco in April to check his work in the flesh, as he was at Resonate festival in Belgrade. It was a fascinating experience interacting with the installations and being part of Marpi’s unique cosmos. We were also really impressed by the friendliness, and tremendous skill and creativity of the Obscura team who kindly opened their doors for us. The spirit of collaboration and sharing is so palpable between their creatives, developers and designers no wonder there are extremely successful.

Marpi’s career started in the commercial world for clients including Google, Microsoft, and Adobe. Currently he is working with Obscura as Director of Web and Experiential Design. The skills gathered from his industry experience transfer to his personal practice. His work has exhibited internationally including ArtFutura Roma, Resonate, and Currents Festival.

His work has been publicly and professionally recognised, receiving nominations and winning several awards including Golden Lions, SXSW Interactive and .NET Magazine site of the year.

At which point in your life did you realise you were an artist? 
To be honest with you, it’s all still really new to me, but I think I’m finally accepting it ?

Could you tell us about your creative process from start to finish? 
I don’t think I’ve got an actual process in place, but looking back I can notice some similarities in how my past project were made. The most common pattern I see is that I usually end up in a completely different place than I intended to go. But it’s ok.
I think we all have great ideas and plenty of potential, we just need to let go, start playing with things until something good emerges. And if it’s something different than you expected, maybe it’s even better this way. It’s probably more you, too.

How much does your work require collaboration with other artists and people in the technology side? what are the challenges and highlights?
I collaborate with a good number of artists from all over (hi Can, Jeff, Archan, An ?), people work I’m into but also personality I can really vibe with. That way it just works – we get excited about something and make it happen. And now, with internet and all those new things, there are less challenges than ever. It’s just all up to us.

“I guess I just really like making worlds. They’re all a bit skewed, systematic, sometimes cold – only after years passed I see the subconscious influence of the grey brutalist places I grew up in. Now I’m just trying to figure out why.” – Marpi

You work relates to ecosystems, nature… what are your sources of inspiration? Is there a message in your art?
I didn’t really plan it, everything evolved naturally and I think that’s what it is – natural. I’ve generated insects, plants, creatures, landscapes, planets, all in different shapes and sizes. I guess I just really like making worlds. They’re all a bit skewed, systematic, sometimes cold – only after years passed I see the subconscious influence of the grey brutalist places I grew up in. Now I’m just trying to figure out why.


‘BINARY GARDEN’ is a multi-user, remote-controlled realtime interactive digital artwork. Anybody with a smartphone can connect to the system via a web browser to interact with the display, without using an app, Bluetooth or WiFi. While the implementation shown here happens to be a multi-touch screen interface, the system is display-independent, and can be run on LED, LCD, translucent LCD or projected on any surface.

Your work is featured at the some of the most exciting art events in the international landscape. Which cities in the world are more receptive to the intersection of art and technology?
All of them. I try to make things that are inclusive – and I think they should be. Interaction should be as natural as possible, the digital experience as real as any other – you’re being transported to a new environment, and you’re free – there’s no wrong move.
With that in mind, my audience is everyone – age, language, previous experience shouldn’t matter, with things I make I try to ignore borders.
And that said, I miss Brazil so much ??

What does the future hold in terms of interactive art?
I feel that my generation doesn’t want to be passive. The mediums shifted – we’re not just observers anymore – that is kind of boring, and rightly so. Art galleries, festivals, music venues started changing, finally you can participate, change things and make them. There’s a new type of movement growing and it doesn’t have a name yet. And #TRIBEFest is a perfect example of it.

We visited your work at Obscura and were blown away by the creativity and passion of the team. How important is for your practice to belong to such projects?
It gives me energy on multiple levels, and it’s always through people I work with. I touched on it a bit before, but having a team can balance out greatly, your project and you. Makes you stay humble for longer.
And in the bigger picture, it’s great to surround yourself with people better than yourself. That’s how you’re going to grow.

How do you balance commercial commissions vs. your own book of work. How much creative input is allowed vs. brand awareness?
They’re both separate and intertwined, at the same time. My own art is generally more stylised, more expressive, probably more weird, while the commercial work is more transparent. Different purpose I suppose. Although I get clients now that let me run wild, which is still new to me, but really appreciated, for sure. I’ll have some fun things to share soon ?

What would be your dream project/collaboration? What ideas rest in your head that you haven’t had the opportunity to bring them to life yet?
I’ve already worked on a few projects that were my somewhat dreams since I was young, met a few of my childhood idols, soon my projects go on tour with them too – it’s all so positively surreal. I never thought any of this would be possible, so at that point I’m out of ideas. Just excited for what’s next.

The traditional gallery-object-collector model does not quite uphold for digital art. How do you think the art market is changing to accommodate for new technologies, artists and ways to ‘own’ art?
Re: New gallery systems – There’s been a few interesting examples – I’m personally a fan of FRAMED, Electric Objects (RIP), they’re clearing a way to actual digital art ownership/platform. I feel like Steam will step in this space as well after the success of VR and the new genre of art/non-games/experiences. I’ve been in talks with multiple VR art gallery projects, same with digital exhibitions, art app stores.
Part of the reason I keep everything online is to skip all of the above. Anyone, from any device can come play with what I made – in the gallery, outside, on the phone, in VR, they all meet in one place I generated (or generated itself).

What are you doing when you are not making art?
Hah. I used to travel a lot, had a small motorcycle garage, worked on events, did stuff outside. In a way my practice swallowed all my free time, but I found ways to incorporate all these elements. So yep, it’s all grey area.
I think through merging what I do and who I am I found a way to also gamify my life. It’s all made of tiny steps forward, but everyday something happens, everyday it’s a bit better, so I’m constantly looking forward to tomorrow. Hopefully it’ll stay like this for a while.

For more information about Marpi’s work, visit www.marpi.pl

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