NewGen meet-up: (Re)Discovering the digital realm, a recap
NewGen meet-up: (Re)Discovering the digital realm, a recap
With NewGen, DutchCulture actively reaches out to the new generation of young artists, creatives and other professionals under 30 years old with the skills and ambition to break barriers and share their stories internationally. The meet-up, which took place on April 7, 2022, once again provided a valuable temporary space for inspiration, networking and knowledge sharing. This is just one of the ways in which we continue to build meaningful connections with and between young artists.
Our live meet-up last April – Feet on the Ground, Work in the Cloud – focused on various online dimensions of the artistic practice, zooming in on digital arts, collaborations, and outreach. It was a great jumping-off point for further conversations.
These past two years, life was confined to the four walls of our homes and it was hard to encounter people by chance. DutchCulture’s NewGen team wondered what this meant for the artists and makers of the new generation. How did artists use the online world to change their practice, reinvent their work plans or make new connections and if so, how? How has being online affected the connections and the choices they made? How are they finding these new connections, communities, and collaborations? Does the digital world feel like a necessary evil to them, or has it become a valuable addition to their physical activities – maybe even replaced them?
On 7 April 2022, an eclectic group of seventeen internationally oriented artists and makers based in the Netherlands met up at the international cultural platform Podium Mozaïek in Amsterdam to discuss these questions, along with the digital aspects of artistic creation, collaboration and circulation. The group included visual artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, performance artists and choreographers, as well as designers and creative coders, all of whom shared specific interests in the opportunities of the digital world.
The meet-up event was moderated by Simon de Leeuw, programme editor and NewGen team lead at DutchCulture. He led an in-depth discussion on the stage with three NewGen artists and makers, each of whom has their own unique approach to digital practices in their work.
Vera van de Seyp defines herself as a designer and creative coder. After completing her studies at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague, she obtained a master’s degree in Media Technology from Leiden University. Van de Seyp currently works as an independent artist and teaches at the Design Department of the KABK and at ArtEZ University of the Arts in Arnhem. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she went from digital to analogue: to counterbalance all the hours she spent in front of screens, building playful websites and data-scraping installations, she took up knitting. Her new hobby soon got out of hand. “I bought a knitting machine and started to convert my data programming into physical knitted pieces,” she says. On the digital platform Discord, she found a knitting community that she now is an active member of.
Emilia Tapprest (NVISIBLE.STUDIO) is a Finnish designer and filmmaker. She graduated from Aalto University, Finland and Amsterdam’s Sandberg Institute, and completed her one-year research residency at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht last year. In a move away from her background in industrial design, Tapprest investigates the social and psychological implications of emerging technologies in her artistic work. She also forms a research duo with cultural historian Victor Evink. Their projects involve close, often digitally mediated international collaboration with other makers and experts.
One of Emilia’s peers at the Sandberg Institute, Cesar Majorana, is a writer and podcaster who also works as a programme maker for the Dutch broadcasting network BNN/VARA. He curated the Instagram archive Why Do Vloggers Cry?, investigating emotions on the internet, which won him a Social Media Award in 2018. His graduation project at the Sandberg Institute focused on the sense of smell, for which he extracted the smell of a data centre using traditional perfume-making methods.
After the panel session, discussions continued in three breakout groups, tackling three different dimensions in the relationship between artistic endeavours and the digital world: digital art practice, outreach and collaborations. Each of the three sessions included one of the three panellists and was attended by a small audience. NewGen team members from DutchCulture led the discussions with special attention to the subjects of an interdisciplinary approach and international collaboration.
NewGen is a generation that truly grew up with digital technology. However, when asked about the difference that digital artistic practice had made for them and for artists from earlier generations, the participants explained that the greatest impact of the digital age on their childhood had more to do with its cultural background than with digital tools themselves. “It’s a way of thinking – how to use the information from social media, for example,” mime theatre maker Booi Kluiving said. Van de Seyp elaborated: “Regarding digital technology development, it is also one of the temporary things. Certain paradigms are always being created alongside new developments.”
But the digital certainly offers possibilities to expand the spectrum of the NewGen artists’ creative practice, which is more likely to move beyond the traditional division of art disciplines or genres. For them, fluidity or interdisciplinarity comes quite naturally in their work. “Unusual or different formats can be used as a trigger for new effects,” says Nathalia Jordonova, an Amsterdam-based artist and alumnus of the Sandberg Institute’s Dirty Art master programme. “By switching to the (digital) medium or context, it often becomes interesting or even exceptional.”
Generally speaking, NewGen artists are digitally and social media-savvy; they have Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat accounts. As to which platforms are the best to use, Cesar Majorana’s advice is clear: "Whenever a platform does something new, just try it out. Once you start engaging with the platform you’re on, you find out what works for the audience and what does not.”
As a person with many different interests, Majorana started by posting all manner of content about various topics, modifying what he posted based on the comments he received. Other artists are more hesitant toward audience-driven content creation. For them, creating their art feels like a personal victory, and the reactions from the online audience are mostly motivational. In the online influencer culture, going online often means becoming visible and letting others see personal matters. Many artists struggle with this, often finding it easier to create a professional account on which they show only their work – sometimes even using their artist's name instead of their real name.
During the pandemic, the digital activities of artists did increase. Dicle Gülşahin, who is originally from Turkey but has been living in the Netherlands for several years, calls herself a self-taught musician. About the last two years, she said: "I just went online and met other makers like me, and I even collaborated with people I had never met before." Although the artists agreed on the many benefits of reaching out to a digital audience, they said they found it hard to value the digital attention they received. After all, what do clicks, likes and viewer counts actually mean? Wanting to create committed and engaged online communities, the artists found themselves faced with questions like: how can I better engage with a specific age group? What is the best way to target a digital audience? As Winke Wiegersma, editor of online zine e.i.i.i., put it: "liking and subscribing don’t give you information on the engagement. You can’t really measure anything from a like." The artists agreed that data visualisation would be a helpful tool in understanding the real meaning of data.
Participants in the breakout session about digital collaboration all agreed that national and international collaboration largely enriches their artistic ideas and practices. “The talent pool is just so much bigger when I look online, and internationally,” said artist Juliette Dominicus. The participants pointed out that trust and intimacy are key factors in constructive and productive collaborations. Irem Sezer Kalyoncu, manager of digital platform ArtsMap Turkey, specifically mentioned that it is actually also a community that exists between Turkey and the Netherlands, and even beyond. This community collectively provides guidance for young artists to understand what collaborations can or might mean, different ways of collaborating, and how to initiate collaboration.
When working internationally and online, it is important for artists to be aware that the availability of the internet and the digital skills of their collaborators might vary. Furthermore, the possibility of obtaining funding is a key factor. “That can be the bottleneck for many,” Emilia Tapprest elaborates. “If you want to reach out and work together, you should at least consider how you can fund it together and what avenues for funding are available.”
The NewGen artists also shared some information about online platforms that facilitate funding applications, even issues as basic as support with language or how to formulate an application. For example, the most recent open call on On the Move supports collaboration between specific regions (North/South).
At the end of the meet-up, Irem Sezer Kalyoncu was kindly invited to the stage. She reintroduced ArtsMap Turkey to all the present NewGen artists and invited them to be part of the community. DutchCulture also drew attention to the variety of services that DutchCulture can offer to young artists, such as assistance from our country-specific advisors, our Mobility Information Point and our residency platform, TransArtists. The meet-up concluded with drinks and networking in Podium Mozaïek’s beautiful cafe.
Please keep an eye on our socials or website for all DutchCulture #NewGen readings and events in the near future!