Read the interview below:
Sofia Gkinko: In your statement we read that your career in art history and in Art and Communication have conditioned your artistic evolution towards what we could call conceptual technological art. Are these three words describing the very essence of your practice?
Solimán López: I am more comfortable with these words; I already assume that technology is changing very fast, and if I name myself as a technologist, or a new technology artist, I think that I will be out of the frame very quickly. I feel myself more as a conceptual artist using new technologies to express the challenges of today, from which, the most important are mediated by technology. At the same time, as an art historian, when I understood that contemporary art is a question of style evolution, I was reflecting on terms and names to describe my practice, and the ones that finally made me feel at ease are: conceptual artists, using technologies as a way of expression.
SG: Do you refer to your artistic creations, as works or as projects? How do you perceive them?
SL: I prefer projects, or even better ecosystems. For example, OLEA is like a system of thinking itself; connecting not only the contemporary art world with agriculture or with technologies, but also including the possibilities of having a new futuristic economy connected with the product of mother earth and the technology and the new media biotechnology in a way. So I prefer to mention it as a project. The contemporary art world is organised by collections: on one hand artists finding their language, their visual style, and on the other hand, the gallery, asks them to produce more content with the same visual aspect, and then they are blocked into the spirit. I'm more into the conception of different projects, different approaches and techniques.
SG: From the conception to the production it's a long way; while at the same time you refer to conceptual and production studios. Could you guide us a bit through the process? How is it organised?
SL: I am very obsessed with all the processes related to art production; my research is my life so I think that my art is 100% involved and present in my day by day. Everything begins with the inspiration coming from the incidents that are surrounding me and affecting me in many different ways. I'm trying to reply to the challenges of today.
For example, OLEA is about tokens and value. Three years ago with the pandemic and with the Web3 emergence, everyone tried to move the body of things from the physical world to the digital, while my concern was about the real problems connected to Mother Earth, and that's the beginning of OLEA. Same with my project INTRONS: it was the boom of the metaverse and the immersive spaces. We were not thinking about who we are or what kind of entity we are representing into the metaverse, so once that's done, I analyse the way of presenting it from a minimalistic point of view. This is a big challenge so I connected with professionals, bio technologists, bioinformatics, and companies that are already working in the field of DNA profiling. Afterwards, the proposal of collaboration comes, and then I go ahead with the production of INTRONS as a new alternative to represent nature identities from their DNA into the Web3 from an artistic approach.
Sometimes I feel like an architect, but also as a worker of the product chain. From the very beginning, everything is coming from an outer point of view, to have the whole picture really clear, and then I just remove the gloves, and work with the team to produce it in all the aspects.
Image below: Visual code INTRONS
SG: What is the role of biology and biotechnology in your artistic practice?
SL: Biology was always connected with technology. I think that's the way that we are understanding what's the matter that is composing everything. In the current situation of humanity, the connection between the digital technologies with biotechnology or with biology is going to be crucial. We have to think about the fact that we are not anymore humans, as we were. In this context, we have only the option of adapting ourselves to the current world, and this is going to happen thanks to biotechnology. This is why my approach to this kind of technology is so close, because I think that is going to be the future, actually is the present. Because of technology, we were able to see things in a macroscale; and now we can see things in microscale; everything is much more powerful in terms of observation. It goes actually both ways: now we can see far away in the universe, but also much closer in the matter. The boundaries of technology are now endless. Biotechnology is the real future of humanity, and that's why I use it.
Image below: Cells OLEA
SG: Are there any shifts during the evolution of your career? SL: I think we always have key-works in our production. For me, one is HARDDISKMUSEUM; a real approach to the ecosystem of new media and the artists behind. OLEA, as well, has also become a super crucial project, and also INTRONS. Finally, it's a question of finding yourself in this way, in this path of experimentation.
When I was a student, there were a lot of teachers and professors who said: “artists need to find their style”. And then it was something that was extremely stressful, because from one hand it is a question of building and at the same time is not the style that we have to build but the concept. I think that it's the moment to say that I am really comfortable with my proposals; I really find my way to express myself or my ideas. My concept and contribution to art history.
SG: Does this mean that, now having found your voice, you can focus more on the production stage, or does this mean that the ground is more fertile for research and further development of your concepts?
SL: Production sometimes becomes a question of demand. I don't really think artists produce all the time because they need to express something, so we have to really find the proper metaphor of really passing to the physical production even in a world of oversaturation of objects and massive consumption.
Today we have a lot of different possibilities of expression and we can let almost everything in the virtual world but other ones should be mandatory produced in atoms. Obviously we are artists, and we have to continue having support and resources in order to continue our research. About production and the concepts, everything is together, we can not think about art production without taking into account the materiality of those ideas, so all the time things go in parallel.
SG: Apart from biotechnology, as a way that you try to find your responses on the current times, do you have main research questions that traverse your practice? SL: That's the main trigger of my work, for sure. But also, obviously, there is a lot of personal involvement in that, it's how I'm feeling myself in front of a topic and the compromise with this personal component. I mean, I'm not like this kind of person who is only analysing things from the outside. I am really involved in my projects, the point I work. I really suffer in a way. For example, the project with olive oil was based on how my family is from Spain and my memories working with my grandparents, extracting olives from trees, waking up at five in the morning, while it was cold, trying to extract the value from the earth. Now I have the opportunity to connect this ecosystem with Web3 and blockchain technologies from an intellectual perspective and a probe of concepts about new speculative futures to avoid this kind of situation.
So the future of my work, I don't know what is going to be but I can say that for sure is going to be related to my own experience in a way.
SG: You already mentioned blockchain and NFTs. Do they affect your practice? Do you see them as a tool or as a medium of expression and transfer? SL: NFTs and blockchain technology, for me as an artist, have two directions: one side is like the technical one where blockchain is some kind of witness of digital activities or about certification, timestamp or tracing all these kinds of activities that are related to digital assets, but, at the same time, it's a medium itself, as you said. It becomes a medium itself when you are really conceptualising the action related to the NFT and blockchain technology. I'm using this technology, as a service, or I'm using this technology to be a real medium to express myself or to connect things.
New media artists are like some kind of okupas, the people who go inside a house, without it being their house. In art history we have some remarkable precedents like Street art based in occupying a public space as a medium of expression. This was a reply to the restrictions in the white cube proposed by the museum. So they said, okay, we have the whole world to express ourselves and now the walls are not inside the architecture, they are outside. And it was the beginning of an art movement that is street art today. And it was the same with net art; the website was creating a new ecosystem of communication; digital white canvases as a website so the artists said: we could occupy those white canvases on the website, and that was the origins of net art. And then with the blockchain it is the same; we have this technology which is based on tokens. So let's fill the blockchain with our tokens. With the expansion of biotechnology, I think that things are more clear in this direction. It's a real medium that fits perfectly with the notion of fractals that are present in nature. So yes indeed, for me it's a medium.
Image below: CELESTE Immersive experience
SG: When was the first time that you used blockchain as a medium? SL: Actually, without knowing in 2016, with my project CELESTE, we were already creating tokens, the name of the file was token one to two, because I was obsessed about the idea of having a very specific moment of the piece like when you take a picture of the sky with your phone or your camera, but in the digital world as I was creating digital skies pixel of real ones in real time.
The same concept arises in HARDDISKMUSEUM: Assuming that the hard drive saves unique digital art files, it was like some kind of proto NFT in a way, and that was already the first presentation of the Harddiskmuseum in 2013; it was later on patented in 2015. I was already using the concept of blockchain a few years ago. But with the full technical side of the blockchain, my first NFT was sold in 2019, at the very beginning of the pandemic, and I was the first artist who has sold an NFT in an official contemporary art fair, in ARCO, at the end of 2019.
Those two historical moments are very important to mention: The HARDDISKMUSEUM working as a proto NFT, and CELESTE was also treated as a token creation.
SG: elementum, as part of the Crypto Oasis ecosystem, will be presenting your project INTRONS at Art Dubai Digital next week. How would you briefly describe this project? Is identity or entity – to use your words – and the inner world at the center of INTRONS? You are also participating in Art Dubai with your project OLEA; could you tell us a few words about it? SL: INTRONS represents an alternative of representing people into the web3 ecosystem attending to the inner information of humans, not on the outer. Normally we were obsessed about photography and video, everything is like the outer side of ourselves, it is strictly there. Historically, there's a lot of photographers and even 3D modellers that tried to find the soul of people in their images, like some kind of psychological portrait, that was the technical name. And those psychological portraits were also passing through some visual inputs, but finally, it's a superficial image if we talk about purely light representation.
I think today, with the current technologies, as I said, we can go inside the matter, we can analyse what's happening from the inside, we can connect with the inner world and that is the purpose of INTRONS, to create a Proto bioportrait. For me INTRONS is like a camera obscura in the very beginning of its existence. So, basically the collectors bring me a sample of saliva (provided by our partner ADNTro, a leadership in DNA profiling worldwide) and myself, in collaboration with the lab, we create a new file with 19 different features from personality to consciousness and body performance to create a new 3D model that works as a portrait and Web3 identity. In addition to the proposal in elementum, OLEA has been commissioned to be installed in the main entrance of Art Dubai Digital section containing a new installation with a hologram and a robotic arm.
SG: When did the conception of INTRONS happen and what was the source of your inspiration? SL: The first attempt to work with real DNA production, it was the Hardiskmuseum DNA storage, where we already encapsulated all the metadata of the hard drive containing the artworks of more than 150 artists in molecules of DNA and we encapsulated into silica. For me, that was the very beginning of what we can mention as the DNA of things in my practice.
I was already working in identities a few years ago, actually, my first digital work, it was a panel of 8800 pictures, in portrait pictures in a big panel to analyse how data identities are becoming, like crucial to analyse. So in a way, I was already thinking about INTRONS, since maybe more than 15 years ago. Now with the technology and blockchain, I think that it was a really easy way to connect the pieces with a quite interesting result.
SG: You already highlighted some parts of the HARDDISKMUSEUM. Could you tell us a bit more about it? Is it still an open project, has it evolved through the years?
SL: HARDDISKMUSEUM is this kind of project that is with you all your life. As I already mentioned, it was invented in 2013, and it is still super active. We are now participating in the NFT Biennal, and we are about to launch our space in a Metaverse in Digital Village Metaverse, a company in France. Also, we are planning a show in October in a physical museum in Bogotá, and we are working in another service related to the museum that’s like some kind of backup of NFTs. The idea is to use the museum as some kind of proof of artists' repository. Where all the artists that are concerned about the preservation and conservation of their NFTs they could pass through the Hardiskmuseum and we go back out, you know, with structure to have clear and ensure that as this object is not going to be like market purposes is going to be safe, because we are not going to deal with that because of market.
We are planning the METADISKMUSEUM, which is going to be an endless museum, in a hybrid space: rings of content reproducing to the infinite, and once they are full of content, the system will create another disk, and another disk, and another, like some kind of elevator. And the idea is to visualise the artworks in augmented reality: you can navigate to the disk, and then when you choose a booth, this booth is going to be downloaded, you will actually see the augmented reality of your physical space. We are working on that now.
SG: Can you always find the right technology to make your concepts come true? SL: That's a good question. I think that technology now is more a question of putting things together: how we can mix things together for creating something new. We, as final users, are not on the cutting edge of technology, we are just using technology that was created 10 years ago, because the industry is super selfish and everything is very complicated in terms of patents. Open source is the solution towards new things under control, not for companies, but for real people, for real humans, and real communities. SG: Your practice is multidisciplinary and it expands to a range of different fields. Does this aspect affect, change, or expand your initial concept and starting point? SL: Before I begin the project I have a really clear idea about what I would like to use. I don't want to be disappointed by technology so in a way I try to move myself in the things that are in my mind, that I know that are complicated but I know that are also reachable. So yes, I do work in that direction just to avoid this kind of frustration; I never felt the notion of something that is not going to be possible in terms of materiality. As an artist you fly far away sometimes, but I try to do my best in terms of fitting the ideas with the reality and the resources. Web3 and the virtual world, open up new opportunities of expression, because we are not afraid of things that should be produced in the real world. Therefore we are more free in terms of production, if the artworks rest in the world of bits.