Fotograf Magazine

With Pavel Smetana and Ivor Diosi on Artificial Worlds and Image Manipulation

Pavel Smetana – From Canvas to Immersive Installation

Pavel, you gained a name as a painter but early on you wholly turned your attention to new media. Did the motivation stem from distrust in the powers of classical painting?

No. It’s necessary to return to recent history, to the 1980s when I was really mostly painting. At that time digital art was still in its infancy (the first Mac came in 1984) and my transition wasn’t a planned one. It was a social reaction, because before the war in Iraq the art market was booming and, in particular in France where I was living, art was massively commercialized and the work of young artists who were “in” sold for astronomical prices. The market went crazy and the art scene was conforming to it. The augmentation of business and art felt personally uncomfortable to me so I was looking for an environment and a medium which the market wouldn’t intervene as much with. And that was video. Video embodied real avant-garde at the time. The majority of people had no clue either what it was about or that it could actually exist as a specific autonomous art field. People such as Bill Viola, Gerry Hill and Woody Vašulka were unknown and experimenting with the medium absolutely freely. When I met them I realized they had this kind of original artistic freedom, free from any considerations whether their work will sell. Back then people acted on the simple assumption that it was impossible to sell a video, since every videocassette was a copy by nature and could be copied further. People took copies of stuff by Bill Viola from each other and he knew and didn’t mind it at all.

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#23 artificial worlds

#23 artificial worlds