Wilm Thoben

The dichotomy of trying to create a better world and the utter failure of a hyper-capitalist Silicon Valley bubble has been a topic of multiple of my works. I find the constant struggle of changing the world vs ruining the world fascinating.

by Melanie Brand I Nov 20, 2020 at 2:37 pm PST

Wilm moved from Berlin to Los Angeles in 2012 to work on his PhD at the Getty Research Institute. He talked to berlin-losangeles about his work as a Creative Technologist and Multi Media Artist, how both cities have shaped his career and how environmentally conscious code can do its part to reduce carbon debt.

You’re a Creative Technologist and Multi Media Artist - that itself sounds extremely interesting, complex and even a bit contradicting. Can you tell us what that profession means and how you got into it?

Creative Technology is a term coined in the field of Media Art for the lack of a better word. Artists dealing with media specific work involving contemporary or digital technologies are often framed under this umbrella. 

The focus of my artistic and design practise is the human relationship with contemporary technology. My work started out in music and sound which quickly expanded to physical art installations, theatre, dance and then venturing further into design, apps and websites. 

I don’t think creativity and technology contradict each other at all, art and design often work in the constraint of a medium and specific technologies. Creative Technology was born of the need to describe a generation of humans working within highly interdisciplinary practice on the intersection of art, design and technology. 

When you started your career in Berlin technology wasn’t what it is today, how did it look like back then?

Haha, I’m a millennial so not that much changes since my move to LA but a few trends certainly stand out: Technology is more ubiquitous than ever. Cloud computing and miniaturization definitely helped to make digital art more mobile and embedded in the everyday experience of technology in life. 

In the field of art & technology the focus shifted from pure explorations of very media specific and self-referential work trying to push the boundaries of technology to exploring the relationship between society and technology. I feel the basic formal metaphors of contemporary technology in the arts are established, the digital revolution is long over and artists are looking for new ways to talk about technology which is more relevant to their generation. 

What brought you to Los Angeles and how did the move shape your career?

I came to LA in 2012 to work on my PhD at the Getty Research Institute and was graciously hosted by the Design / Media Art department at UCLA. The move to LA exposed me to a very different view on art and especially on technology. LA is very open and wild, Berlin is wild as well but can be pretty strict and confining at times. Lots of rules, lots of expectations. LA and California traditionally are very utopian, especially in the world of technology. Discussion topics here are possible futures and talking about repercussions of actions we take today. This obviously became problematic with the rise of Silicon Valley and a sort of dominating and colonizing approach in the digital realm. The dichotomy of trying to create a better world and the utter failure of a hyper capitalist silicon Valley bubble has been a topic of multiple of my works. I find the constant struggle of changing the world vs ruining the world fascinating.

Where do you see creative technology going in the next few years? 

I’m not sure if I am the right person to answer this question :) I am interested in topics like green technology, open source tools or the relationship between socio-political developments and technology. It seems that these topics finally reach mainstream critical mass. Writing environmentally conscious code is discussed at many conferences and the design world is finally made aware of that. Cloud Computing and sending emails is a major contributor to our carbon debt, much more than aviation actually. 

In the art world the sociological repercussions of social media and technology in general are a hot topic to be discussed right now, especially in the current devise and tense climate. I feel these topics will form the center of attention in the coming years.

Project Highlights by Wilm Thoben

White Light / White Heat - Wilm Thoben / Rainer Kohlberger 2011
Two Legacies, Jürg Lehni & Wilm Thoben, 2014
Footnotes from the History of Two Cultures, Jürg Lehni & Wilm Thoben, 2015
Death in Venice 2012
Redaction Website 2019

Wilm Thoben is an artist, conceptual designer and programmer working and living in Los Angeles. His practice spans around creative technology, interactivity, sound art, experience design and web.

More about Wilm's work

Wilm Thoben

Media Artist

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