“Digital art can have a manifold of appearances - either being in the digital realm or reflect the digital within the analog world.”

Sabine Himmelsbach is the artistic director of the House of Electronic Arts Basel (HeK). HeK is dedicated to digital culture and the new art forms of the information age. It is a place for creative and critical discourse on the aesthetic, socio-political and economic impact of media technologies. HeK shows contemporary art that explores and configures new technologies; it promotes an aesthetic practice that uses information technology as a medium, makes it vividly accessible and actively intervenes in its processes. Recently she gave a talk at the  Experimenter Kolkata.

Artists working with digital technologies are redefining art, music, theater, film, and architecture, often dissolving the boundaries between these traditional forms. How does this affect the way to deal with art?

HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel) is dealing with that development. We are a multi-disciplinary institution that is dedicated to the arts - to the visual arts, electronic music and other forms and formats that involve the use or reflection of media technologies on our society. Of course, this also means that we are broadening our network. We are collaborating with a variety of institutions - from other museums (e.g. Museum Tinguely, Vitra Design Museum) to theaters (Kaserne Basel, Theater Basel) or music producers (Electronic Studio Basel).

What is the specific aesthetic of digital art? 

Digital art can have a manifold of appearances - either being in the digital realm or reflect the digital within the analog world. A great example is the project "H33333333K" by the Zurich artist duo! Mediengruppe Bitnik who were invited to do a „art-in-architecture“ piece for the facade of HeK. They produced a glitch, a digital artifact that was built in real. Something that we only know from the digital became real architecture and was quite irritating and is always reminding the viewer of the digital. 

The British artist James Bridle has coined the term "New Aesthetic", and uses it to refer to the increasing appearance of the visual language of digital technology and the Internet in the physical world. That term also addresses the evermore blending of virtual and physical.

How is digital art currently impacting the contemporary design world in your opinion? 

I think that with critical design and speculative design there is a strong connection between a contemporary art practice and design strategies. We have shown several speculative design scenarios within our exhibition projects. 

Experts in the creative industries are claiming there is a gap between what students are being taught at design schools and what they actually need to know to make products. What are your views?

That’s hard to tell from my perspective as I am not a teacher. We actually work closely with the academy of art and design in Basel and their students are often involved in projects in HeK (be it scenography, graphic design or other needs). That certainly helps them to understand the processes within a museum or exhibition space. 

Do you think the economic future of digital artists will lie in the realm of commercial art, gaming or somewhere else? 

That question is also difficult to answer. Of course the gaming industry is highly successful and will continue to be so. There will be many opportunities there. I also see that more and more artists working with media technologies are also successful within the art market and that there are more galleries featuring those works as well. 

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