Artist Talks: Maria Gudjohnsen on Merging Data and Reality.
In this edition of Artist Talks, Palm NFT Studio welcomes Maria Gudjohnsen, an Icelandic/New-York-based 3D artist exploring speculative utopian realities inspired by the future and science fiction.
Palm NFT Studio caught up with Maria to explore their latest projects, the legacy of humanity’s data, and insights into how internet art culture has transformed her everyday life.
How’d you start as a new media artist?
I started in graphic design and I got my BA in graphic design, but I didn’t really feel like that practice. I don’t call myself a graphic designer and I hate being called a graphic designer, but I kind of just taught myself 3D on the side while I was getting my BA. In 2017, I slowly transcended into doing 3D-only, and sort of with that, I started doing…”less design, more art” and just experimenting with mediums.
What’s your process when approaching new projects?
I think I’m very lucky that I get to do like a good mixture of commercial and artistic and personal projects. Especially now with NFTs, I get to spend a lot more time on like personal projects and less commercial stuff.
My thought process at the beginning of a project is always in 3D and I use software to map out what my brain is thinking, which is something that I found with 3D to be possible. It kind of mirrors the way that I think, which is really, really nice for me.
It all just happens in my brain and I kind of like to translate it straight into the software. Then, my design thinking kicks in, and I kind of edit and start asking myself like, “Why are you doing this?, why do you need that?” I kind of cut out everything that I don’t need and clean up my projects. After that, I kind of know where I’m going with my work. I often find that I should be laying more of the groundwork at first, but it’s been working for me so far.
What core focuses revolve around your work?
I’m always like creating worlds and like trying to propose…not necessarily like a solution because these are not worlds that we’re meant to live in or aspire to but proposing alternatives; alternative worlds that are a possibility.
I’m always thinking about these worlds that I’m making up in my head. I think the world is a lot bigger in my head than what I put into the work in the end. I always have this tendency to create something positive and not something negative. When I’m proposing solutions or working with topics that are close to my heart, I definitely try to propose positive solutions because I feel like people tend to be more open to that.
How do NFTs enhance the connection between your communities and your art?
I definitely feel there’s a lot stronger sense of a community in the NFT world versus the art world. The NFT world allows for like subcultures to like grow and I think that it’s easier for people to find their audience within the NFT space.
The art world tends to have its own rules and is very exclusive in a way. Of course there’s subcultures within that, but I think that the NFT world is just better at maintaining those smaller communities.
I’ve found some really good communities and a really nice thing for me that I’ve experienced is that I’m able to buy art from other artists, which creates a really, really good bond between artists. I think that’s very valuable and I’m really, really honored when other artists buy my pieces because, artists, they know what’s up and they know what’s cool.
That bond is not something that’s necessarily possible within the actual art world. It’s really easy to meet people because it’s all on the internet, right? It kind of just transcends that spatial thing.
Is that your purpose in utilizing NFTs in this ecosystem?
At first, I arrived because I just saw that people were selling their art really fast and that was like back in the start of NFTs. That mindset didn’t work out for me and I had to take a break from it. I felt like my mental health was not good in that space because everybody was selling and I wasn’t and thought, “Why am I not making money? Am I not a good artist?” Then I caught myself it and figured, “No, that’s not a thing. You are a good artist, you’re just going about this the wrong way.”
That ended up being absolutely true and now I’m just taking part because of the communities, the people that I’m meeting, and the opportunities that I’m getting to create these bonds. I don’t care at all if I’m selling or not, that’s not the purpose that I’m in it for now. Alongside that change came collecting because at first, I was only selling my stuff. As I get deeper into it, it’s more about just getting into those communities.
It’s like really nice because I used to collect vinyl and I’m a big collector; I really like having things. The art of collecting for me fulfills that same need and it’s just really cool to have all these artworks. I know all these people and I’m just really proud to have these artworks and to be able to support people.
What are the latest exhibitions or projects that you’re working on?
I’m working on a personal exhibition that I want to have this summer in both New York and Iceland. And with that, I’m planning on doing a collection that comes along with it on the topic of digital legacy and digital resurrection. In other words, “what happens or what can happen in the future with your data after you die. So, yeah, it’s pretty cool.
I’ve been like researching a lot about where we’re at with all of our data and even now, we’ve arrived at a point where we don’t really think about what happens with it after we’re gone.
For example, generations before and after us are leaving behind data with Facebook. If you don’t name a person that takes care of your account after you’re gone, then that data stays there forever; they own it, and there’s nothing that you can do to remove that data. We’re seeing like all these ways that people are trying to preserve that data and like create these AI avatar chatbots, or voice chat generators, that you can actually use to talk to people after they’ve passed. If you leave behind that data, we don’t know what’s going to happen with digital resurrections. So it’s really scary that Facebook can own your legacy, right? It’s good to keep in mind that if you want to preserve someone, it’s actually possible to voice record a lot of stories that your relatives have and preserve them. In the Western world, death is seen as a really sad moment and something we mourn.
Most online platforms haven’t fully answered what ultimately happens to our online identities.
We don’t really talk about it, but in other cultures, death is celebrated. In 20, 30, 40, or 50 years, resurrected avatars might not be as taboo as they’re seen now. If you want to preserve someone, maybe you should consider thinking about their data, what you currently have, and sort of think of data as a concrete thing like you would think of their other belongings.
Learn more about Maria Gudjohnsen here and explore their latest works on: