Sebastián Errázuriz: “I have developed my work from a digital point of view where manufacture is a secondary act”
The Chilean artist based in New York says that today he is making digital works with high levels of realism. In addition, he is developing a platform for artists to create their works through augmented reality, with the aim of making the art market more efficient, democratizing works and breaking down the existing barriers.
Have you done any new projects during quarantines?
There are various topics there. The first is that I have developed my personal work from a digital point of view, in which the manufacture of the final work is a secondary act. Right now we are reaching levels of 3D, digital renderings, which are almost perfect, we are at 97% realism. The interesting thing is that it makes the work of creation for certain types of artists, where the work is rather conceptual and not so much in the marks of the stroke, of the brush, allows the computer and certain softwares give way to generating almost perfect images that can be distributed digitally and that gives the possibility that others can see the work and connect. That is already very satisfying for me as an artist and I am moving more and more towards it, despite having a history of manufacturing works of a very high level of physical perfection in their manufacture. I am moving towards digital and freeing myself a bit from manufacturing as an element that prevents producing all the ideas you want and with this I can focus on a digital medium that allows reaching many more people.
How does this work?
I work based on sketches and then we model on computer with the same level of obsession that one would work with if they were doing it in clay. So we work up to 6.1mm. precision. We can work in 3D and see an object, a sculpture on all sides and masks. Then we can print them in 3D.
Now I am also using augmented reality to be able to see a work in 3D in a physical place, in real size, as if the work were there. The interesting thing about this is related to freedom and efficiency as an artist, to be able to work at the scale you want, within the means you want, in sizes and complexities that are impossible or very difficult, and to be able to use the media. The art gallery is no longer so necessary. Today's art fairs even have the experience of digital, online.
Do you think this digitization is here to stay?
Hundred percent. I am working on that, but in parallel I set up a company to develop the augmented reality digital platform in which the rest of the artists can create. Those are my two main things, my work and understanding that if one is capable of generating the future platform on which other artists can create, I would be creating the most complex and ambitious work that I could try to access. What more important than to generate the digital canvas on which my peers and future artists can use as a means to express themselves and communicate in a more democratic way without the imperfect systems of the art market today, which is looking for the possibilities of creative expression.
Do you have any plans for when the quarantines end or are you going to continue working digitally?
I have been going from my physical workshop to a digital one for two years. That implies that we use cameras 360 to scan my entire workshop. We have the workshop scanned in three dimensions, so I could close my physical workshop and continue presenting artworks as if they were inside it. In this way, the cost of manufacturing decreases significantly, where in my case they are very expensive to produce due to the levels of completion, the processes and the fact that I am in New York, where the cost of labor is very high. Therefore, manufacturing is a big problem and exhibition also because the whole system of the art market is inefficient and problematic for artistic creation.
We are used to a gallery representing around 15 to 30 artists, which tend to have a one-month exhibition, and if it has 30 artists, the gallery can only offer one exhibition every two years or a little more. This means that the artist is obliged to work for two years and present a work that at times can be completely out of date due to the speed at which the news moves today, presenting works that may be disconnected. Another issue is that the artist has to be able to finance himself and must be professional to be able to dedicate 12 hours a day to making works. If it depends on an exhibition every two years, the level of risk involved is very high, and this makes the gallery tend to have a much stronger role, not only as a curator but also as one who restricts the types of works can be presented. Because at the same time the galleries have a very high cost.
This system is limited, so if I have 70,000 followers on Instagram and I make a post, I can have 15,000 views. If instead I exhibit in a gallery, the work can only be seen by those who were physically in that location and who had the time to go there. Although the system has many advantages, seeing a physical work in a space and sharing with an artist is very interesting and important, it still needs a digital disruption and within that, the best means to do it is augmented reality.
Is this going to make art more accessible to a general audience?
Exactly. In the past there was a monopoly on music, and at one point it got broken and allowed equipment so that anyone can record at home from their computer and distribute it to the whole world. The same with the movies and so with each of the areas. In the arts, the gallery model remains the same. If there is any external element, from society, that is preventing my work from reaching the necessary levels of quality and creativity, my obligation is to try to modify that system. At the same time, as a person who comes from a small country in Latin America, I have felt responsible since I was a child to generate some social impact that can help others. This is not just me.
Generating tools to help others is as satisfying as generating my own work. Both are tied up and it's like an obligation. Once you see it, it is very difficult to turn your back on it and decide to play dumb.
That doesn't mean that I won't keep doing physical work, that I love working with my hands. However, more than ever, I am working on this process that I have been coming with for years. In 2018 I had an exhibition at Corpartes that dealt with technology as a theme, it implied the social revolution that was coming, it presented sculptures that have been digitally sculpted through the computer, printed in 3D, presenting augmented reality. That was two years ago and I think today it is very difficult to look ahead and not understand the importance of working digitally as a vital part of the artist's practice.
How relevant is technology in your work?
Technology is just a tool that allows me to express myself and distribute work in a disruptive and democratic way that brings access to a greater number of people to create and discover works.
However, technology is also the great change that is triggering a series of social, economic and political movements. That in Chile and NY there is a social revolution due to all the inequities and oppressions and lack of opportunities of a system in which these are monopolized by an elite class that is in charge of power.
Today technology has a positive and a negative side. It multiplies all the good and bad in us. I think it is extremely important that the community of artists in Chile can get on as soon as possible to the use of technological tools, that they can explore augmented reality from Chile, our corner at the bottom of South America, to participate in a more active way in the arts community internationally.