How Can Artists Explore New Technologies While Grappling With Sustainability?

Clearly, technological innovations are changing the way art is created and shared, enabling artists to reach new audiences beyond the conventional boundaries of the art world. To wit: Facebook Open Arts has partnered with the Helsinki Biennial, the world’s first art biennial with sustainability at its core, making its program available not only for people in Finland, but also for audiences online and around the world.

Artists of all kinds are increasingly leveraging the latest tech developments to express their most urgent ideas, often grappling with issues of sustainability, social justice, and technology itself. Recently, Midnight Publishing Group News’s Europe Editor Kate Brown moderated a panel exploring sustainability in art and technology. Participants explored the moral and ethical challenges faced by new-media artists—and asked what the limits of digital art’s ability to address urgent contemporary issues are as well.


  • Samir Bhowmik, Helsinki-based multi-disciplinary artist and Helsinki Biennial participant
  • Stephanie Dinkins, transmedia artist currently in residence with Facebook Open Arts & AI Team
  • Josephine Kelliher, Experiences Lead, Facebook Open Arts
  • Patrik Söderlund, founding member of artist duo IC-98 and Helsinki Biennial participant

Watch the full talk here.

From left: Kate Brown, Patrik Söderlund, Josephine Kelliher, Stephanie Dinkins, and Samir Bhowmik.

From left: Kate Brown, Patrik Söderlund, Josephine Kelliher, Stephanie Dinkins, and Samir Bhowmik.

In this conversation, you’ll hear:

  • Stephanie Dinkins on why it’s important for artists to engage with Artificial Intelligence: “I think art brings new perspectives. I’m a novice, a tinkerer—someone who plays in this space, not someone who knows this space. I have very different questions than the engineer. I think it’s really valuable for artists to be able to lead in this way of questioning from the outside in. We don’t have the luxury to not be involved. My own fear is that communities of color in particular are going to get left behind if we fear the system so much that we just step out of it. And the question is what can we do now to pave the way so that people can work in it deeply, understanding that they have a role to play in trying to help craft the future?”
  • Samir Bhowmik on the role of empathy in art and technology: “We relate to technology as an apathetic and indifferent tool, but it’s pretty ingrained in our lives. It’s around us—it’s in the forest, it’s on the island. There’s nothing called nature as such anymore. You have to also consider that technology also comes from within us—it’s part of our universe, and we are part of it. So my approach to this is always to take it all in—not fight it, but to work with it, and to kind of carve it, and sculpt it, and shape it, and choreograph it in ways we can understand it and deal with it better. That’s all we can do now.”
  • Patrik Söderlund on addressing the climate crisis in his work: “If I’m critiquing or talking or worried about the climate crisis, obviously I don’t want to be part in creating it or furthering it. But I’m battling with this all the time. At the moment, we’re working on this huge landscape park, which is being planned on the site of an abandoned iron mine in northern Finland. Most of our working group is in the south, so it turns out we have to constantly travel there. And then I have to ask myself, ‘Is it better to do something, or is it better not to do anything?’ It’s a difficult question. In our practice we have made this compromise that maybe 50 percent of our output is filmmaking or animation or something like that, and the other 50 percent is projects which are site-specific. So I hope we are at least able to maintain some kind of balance.
  • Josephine Kelliher on Big Tech’s role in art and culture: “What artists are doing is so important to the world, and we saw this over the period of the pandemic—how thirsty we were for those things that fill the soul up, and how much we felt the absence of important conversations, encounters, and engagement. So I think the most important thing is that technology companies are recognizing their duty of care to the cultural industries, and showing up for them—to put themselves in a space of listening and learning from artists here and now. That’s the ambition we have at Facebook Open Arts—not to catch up after the fact or pretend that we’re ahead, but to be in a space of learning, and to walk with the artists as they explore, as they tinker, as they disrupt.”

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For Its Major Post-Pandemic Triennial, the New Museum Has Invited 40 Rising Artists to Explore the Theme of Persistence

The 2021 New Museum triennial—the fifth iteration of its signature exhibition of emerging artists—has been in the works since long before the pandemic. But its overarching theme, of tenacity in the face of hardship, will likely feel more relevant than ever when the show opens this fall, well over a year into the pandemic.

The museum announced today that the exhibition, co-organized by Margot Norton, a curator at the New Museum, and Jamillah James, senior curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, is titled “Soft Water Hard Stone.” The name comes from a Brazilian proverb: Água mole em pedra dura, tanto bate até que fura (“Soft water on hard stone hits until it bores a hole”).

For the curators, it’s a metaphor for persistence: Even the most inexorable of materials change with time and energy. 

The 40 artists included in the show—a group that represents five continents and nearly all media—the proverb can, occasionally, be read more literally. The transfiguration of discordant materials and ideas will constitute a prominent theme in the exhibition, as will the use of outmoded models and artistic traditions.

Their works exalt states of transformation, calling attention to the malleability of structures, porous and unstable surfaces, and the fluid and adaptable potential of both technological and organic media,” a statement on the triennial reads. 

Ambera Wellmann, <i>UnTurning</i> (2019). Courtesy of the artist and KTZ gallery, Berlin.

Ambera Wellmann, UnTurning (2019). Courtesy of the artist and KTZ gallery, Berlin.

Though all of the artists were born after 1975, the curators say they didn’t look to birth dates for their definition of “emerging artists.”

“We decided that, instead of age, our parameter would be based on exposure,” James tells Midnight Publishing Group News, “so that artists we invited that had not yet had a major solo exhibition in a U.S. museum.” 

Norton and James began research for the Triennial in the summer 2018, logging nearly two year’s worth of travel and in-person studio visits before the pandemic necessitated some improvisation. “When we scheduled our travel, we were interested in visiting locations where it made a difference to be there physically, and in areas where artists are often underrepresented in international exhibitions,” James says, pointing to places such as North Africa, South Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Since then, the curators have “become quite accustomed to the Zoom studio visit, to say the least.” Norton says. “While there is a huge disadvantage to not seeing work in person, we actually found it to be quite efficient to continue our research remotely, particularly as we honed in on the show’s theme, and for the artists whose works we have had the opportunity to see in person prior.” 

Brandon Ndife, <i>Modern Dilemma</i> (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Bureau, New York.

Brandon Ndife, Modern Dilemma (2020). Courtesy of the artist and Bureau, New York.

“Soft Water Hard Stone,” is set to run from October 27, 2021 to January 23, 2022 at the New Museum. See the full list of participating artists below.

  • Haig Aivazian (b. 1980 Beirut, Lebanon; lives and works in Beirut, Lebanon)
  • Evgeny Antufiev (b. 1986 Kyzyl, Russia; lives and works in Moscow, Russia)
  • Alex Ayed (b. 1989 Strasbourg, France; lives and works in Brussels, Belgium, and Tunis, Tunisia)
  • Nadia Belerique (b. 1982 Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; lives and works in Toronto, Canada)
  • Hera Büyüktaşcıyan (b. 1984 Istanbul, Turkey; lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey) 
  • Tomás Díaz Cedeño (b. 1983 Mexico City, Mexico; lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico) 
  • Gabriel Chaile (b. 1985 San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina; lives and works in Lisbon, Portugal)
  • Gaëlle Choisne (b. 1985 Cherbourg, France; lives and works in Paris, France)
  • Krista Clark (b. 1975 Burlington, VT, United States; lives and works in Atlanta, GA, United States) 
  • Kate Cooper (b. 1984, Liverpool, United Kingdom; lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands) 
  • Cynthia Daignault (b. 1978 Baltimore, MD, United States; lives and works in Baltimore, MD, United States) 
  • Jes Fan (b. 1990 Toronto, Canada; lives and works in New York, NY, United States and Hong Kong)
  • Goutam Ghosh (b. 1979 Nabadwip, India; lives and works in Kolkata, India) 
  • Harry Gould Harvey IV (b. 1991 Fall River, MA, United States; lives and works in Fall River, MA, United States) 
  • Clara Ianni (b. 1987 São Paolo, Brazil; lives and works in São Paolo, Brazil)
  • Kahlil Robert Irving (b. 1992 San Diego, CA, United States; lives and works in St. Louis, MO, United States) 
  • Arturo Kameya (b. 1984 Lima, Peru; lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands) 
  • Laurie Kang (b. 1985 Toronto, Canada; lives and works in Toronto, Canada)  
  • Bronwyn Katz (b. 1993 Kimberly, South Africa; lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa) 
  • Ann Greene Kelly (b. 1988 New York, NY, United States; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, United States)
  • Kang Seung Lee (b. 1978 Seoul, South Korea; lives and works in Los Angeles, CA, United States) 
  • Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho (b. 1987 Dallas, TX, United States; lives and works in New York, NY, United States) and (b. 1985 Manila, Philippines; lives and works in Berlin, Germany) 
  • Tanya Lukin Linklater (Alutiiq) (b. 1976 Kodiak, AK, United States; lives and works in North Bay, Ontario, Canada)
  • Angelika Loderer (b. 1984 Feldbach, Austria; lives and works in Vienna, Austria)
  • Sandra Mujinga (b. 1989 Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo; lives and works in Oslo, Norway and Berlin, Germany)
  • Gabriela Mureb (b. 1985 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
  • Brandon Ndife (b. 1991 Hammond, IN, United States; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY, United States)
  • Erin Jane Nelson (b. 1989 Neenah, WI, United States; lives and works in Atlanta, GA, United States) 
  • Jeneen Frei Njootli (Vuntut Gwitchin) (b. 1988 Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada; lives and works in Vancouver, Canada)
  • Ima-Abasi Okon (b. 1981 London, United Kingdom; lives and works in London, United Kingdom and Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
  • Christina Pataialii (b. 1988 Auckland, New Zealand; lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand)
  • Thao Nguyen Phan (b. 1987 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
  • Nickola Pottinger (b. 1986 Kingston, Jamaica; lives and works in New York, NY, United States)
  • Rose Salane (b. 1992 New York, NY, United States; lives and works in New York, NY, United States)
  • Blair Saxon-Hill (b. 1979 Eugene, OR, United States; lives and works in Portland, OR, United States)
  • Samara Scott (b. 1984 London, United Kingdom; lives and works in London, United Kingdom)
  • Amalie Smith (b. 1985 Copenhagen, Denmark; lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark)
  • Iris Touliatou (b. 1981 Athens, Greece; lives and works in Athens, Greece) 
  • Ambera Wellmann (b. 1982 Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, Canada; lives and works in New York, NY, United States)
  • Yu Ji (b. 1985 Shanghai, China; lives and works in Shanghai, China)

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