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Here’s the Problem with Digital Art

How do we reconcile the digital experience with our need for the physical? Intermedia Artist Nicole Ringel shares.

Is print coming back anytime soon? Did it ever leave?

Artist Nicole Ringel answers that question today, with her latest and most timely project. 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, communal experience amounts to a conference call. The bounds of the digital world have never been tested more strenuously. 

Art Basel Hong Kong cancelled its fairs last month. More than 2,000 works of art, around  $270 million worth, was instead placed online for viewing. Are those still the same colors being filtered through our dusty screens? 

Phantom of the Opera is streaming on YouTube. Is it quite Broadway? 

Why We Need the Tactile Experience

It’s easy to look at this as a binary question. Is technology good or bad for art?

But Nicole believes in a narrower path between. 

“We really do get tired of looking at screens,” she says. “Something about tactile reality reminds us of the present, of our bodies, and of the symbiosis constantly unfolding between the two.”

Instead of entirely refusing technological progress, her art since grad school has sought to combine the virtual world with artistry for novel experiences, to connect and enrich observers.

Nicole studied interactive experiences, combining the digital world with the physical. 

For example, she created an app that would guide users through a “gallery” of sorts: a public city street. The app shared about the “immortality” of lichen, an organism that does not age, growing on a rock in southwest Baltimore. 

With projects like these, Nicole has sought to create news spaces, “bring people together to reconsider the banal in new ways.”

That’s just one example of how technology and the tactile experience can reinforce each other. 

Nicole’s latest project does something similar. But this time, the dial has shifted to suit a world where tactile experiences are few and far between.

She’s going back to print…

Printing in a Pandemic

Nicole spent all of last summer fixing a risograph printer (kind of a mix between a silk screen press and standard photo-copier), planning to print her own books. 

Risographs were originally designed by churches and school systems to build mass quantity for cheap. They produce a distinct aesthetic, very bright, vibrant colors. 

Her first project on the risograph will be a collection of pandemic landscapes from various visual artists. 

“Print never died, but I think we have to be smarter about it,” she says. “You can’t just print something and not have a strategy for disseminating it.” 

Nicole’s strategy is open submission. She calls for visual artists to submit images for her book over the course of the coronavirus lockdown. 

And she hopes this will be an effective tool for dissemination across communities, again, in effort to bring people together in empathy.

You can learn more about Nicole and her project here:

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