Digital Natives Gather at the Intersection of Art and Technology


On 12 December 2014 the Women’s Forum attended an exhibition entitled “Nouvelles Expériences en Art et Technologie (NEAT)”, curated by Simon Castets et Hans-Ulrich Obricht, one of a series of “Nomadic Nights” at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris. The exhibition showcased projects created by nine young artists during residencies curated by 89plus at the Google Cultural Institute Lab.


Generation Z or Digital Natives

We have barely had enough time to process the concept of Generation Y, and yet we must now grapple with a new attempt to categorize a generation with one letter of the alphabet – the last letter. “Generation Z” is meant as a label for people under the age of 25, born after 1989. Another way to describe them is with the term “Digital Natives”, acknowledging that they came of age with the so-called “digital revolution”. Their facility with new technologies and their familiarity with (or, some might say, dependence upon) smartphones may be a source of some consternation for members of previous generations (AKA, mum and dad). But how does Generation Z approach art? What is their concept of society and their role in it? With these and a few other questions in mind, the Women’s Forum takes a closer look at three young women artists participating in the NEAT project.


Three Artists, Three Approaches

To hear some people tell it, being a member of the Digital Native generation means having growing up with tight jeans and boy bands. But it’s also about growing up with the fall of the Berlin wall, the end of the Cold War and the reverberation of these two events around the world. “My project at the Lab explores the effects of the Cold war in Asia by experimenting with the speculative methods of writing history,” notes Brigitta Isabella, an Indonesian artist supported by 89plus and the Google Cultural Institute Lab. “The critical landmark for this project is the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but only to report on what was happening at this time, not as a major event in world history.” She worked specifically around the idea of the new forms of expression that have come about with the Internet, seeking to show how those who study history can also be those who make history. “Employing the Internet as a site for collaborations, this project invites young artists and researchers from India, China, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines to construct new transitional scenarios of historical progress that question the Euro-American view of the Cold War. The collaboration is based on the 1955 Bandung Conference, the first large-scale meeting between Asian and African states, which also marks the birth of what came to be known as the Third World. The collection of speculative scenarios will be arranged as a ‘choose your own adventure’ web-game format to challenge the reader, and eventually compel us to reimagine the past, the present and the future.”

  “From Bandung to Berlin” (fragments), 2014  Photo:  N.E.A.T Artist Brigitta Isabella

Another artist, 25-year-old Adriana Ramić in New York, had the intriguing idea of studying the paths taken by insects and transcribing them into language. Her tools? “Android Swype, Google Translate, InDesign and Illustrator”. The resulting work, entitled “The Return Trip is Never The Same”, is, among other things, a comment on the arbitrary nature of meaning. The words suggested by the insects’ travels across the Swype keyboard were translated (automatically by Google Translate) into 80 other words.


“The return trip is never the same” (After “Trajets de Fourmis et Retour au Nid”, Victor Cornetz, 1910), 2014.  Photo:  N.E.A.T // Artist: Adriana Ramić

“The return trip is never the same” (After “Trajets de Fourmis et Retour au Nid”, Victor Cornetz, 1910), 2014.  Photo:  N.E.A.T // Artist: Adriana Ramić

 To be a Generation Z artist is to work with a full palette of tools and technologies. For Laís Tavares, a 25-year-old native of Rio de Janeiro, this means using a 3D printer, although she also uses pen and paper. She begins by interviewing people from around the world and maps their hand gestures (that’s the part on paper). She then digitizes her drawing and eventually it becomes a 3D sculpture. “The decision to track only the hands’ movements was made because they are symbolically related to the process of making something,” Tavares explains. “That means they are responsible for turning the intangible into tangible. They help the subjectivity to manifest itself in a physical form.” As the subjects express differents types and levels of emotion, the resulting sculptures show the result. Joy results in a thick, expansive sculpture, while yields something smaller and more intimate.

 Sad Drawing (Oceania and Asia), 2014.  Photo:  N.E.A.T // Artist: Laís Tavares

Artwork from a 3D Printer  Photo: Nathalie Rault // Artist: Laís Tavares

Have we arrived at the science-fiction moment where machines are able to help extract the qualities of the human soul? This new generation – whatever we wind up calling them – doesn’t seem frightened by the idea, as Laís Tavares confirms. She says she is “glad to be a part of [Generation Z], a generation without any moorings – not only to create but to share. Internet is all around and everybody can communicate, but I am still not sure whether all voices can be heard, and because of this we are all speaking louder.”

About the 89plus and the Google Cultural Institute Lab

In 2014, 89plus and the Google Cultural Institute Lab joined forces to set up a program of residencies. 89plus selected three groups of three residents, hailing from five continents, and working in the fields of visual arts, architecture and design. They were invited for work periods of ten weeks within the Google Cultural Institute Lab. Their time was spent developing individual projects in close collaboration with engineers of the company. This residency program is part of a series of experimental projects created and run by the Google Cultural Institute Lab, which opened in Paris in December 2013.


COMING SOON: the ongoing Women’s Forum Street Art Project, in partnership with the Google Cultural Institute.