In Conversation with Luis Gutierrez Rico
We interview Luis Gutierrez Rico to gain a deeper understanding of the role technology can play in demystifying nature. Innovations in generative art and his experiences of graduating during a global pandemic.
Your artwork Plant Eden seeks to demystify nature and reveal the complexities of our own perceptions. What do you want participants to take away with them after interacting with your work? What can we learn from the technologies you're working with?
The boundaries of the living are not as deﬁned as we might think. I hope to bring participants an opportunity to think about new perspectives of nature and life, exploring and questioning the opportunities and dilemmas caused by the conﬂict between the ‘engineered’ and ‘organic’.
We can create photorealistic imagery faster and more accurately than ever before. Not only that, computer-generated graphics and VFX look more “real” than the equivalent ﬁlmed by traditional means. Almost any phenomena found in nature can be simulated, which raises the question, are we diluting the meaning of reality, or expanding it?
A new understanding of nature is needed, in line with the current advances in technology. We need to revise the value of the current concept of nature, reﬂecting on the features of our contemporary society.
You blur the boundaries between generative systems and physical interaction. How do you seek to push the medium of generative art and reveal new interpretations?
My practice explores the potential of humans and machines working in tandem, picking on the limits of the relationship and considering artiﬁcial creation as an autonomous entity instead of a tool. Plant Eden is half designed and half spontaneous, continuously evolving and learning from external stimuli, just as a real living creature. But one of the inevitable consequences of generative processes is that you need to give the machine a certain level of freedom for it to make choices on the creator’s behalf. How does that inﬂuence the perception of the creator or designer?
Instead of using the computer as a tool to create a pre-designed output, this way of making feels like a collaboration. The computer becomes a creative partner, making the most out of the symbiotic relationship and achieving levels of complexity otherwise impossible.
Tell us about your experience of graduating during a global pandemic?
Finishing a 2 year MA from home was truly a challenge, not only because of the limitations of online communication but particularly for me the lack of access to university facilities like the library or the workshops. However, the situation has influenced my work for the better. Being in isolation and disconnected from university gave me an unexpected feeling of freedom.
The degree show was cancelled and our project did not even have to be finished for assessment, so all the pressure I had to make something “great” just vanished, which allowed me to focus on the things that I am genuinely interested in and have fun with. Regardless of my experience, I wish I had a degree show and a graduation. I believe that art education is one of the fields that suffers the most from a lockdown but luckily I only had to experience it in my last couple of months in university.
Plant Eden is available to purchase via Earth one Campaign
You graduated with a BA in architecture. How has this informed your practice?
I think that architecture education, at least the one I received, really taught me to have a very structured and holistic vision of the creative process. My BA not only focused on architectural design but also all the technical aspects of it, so design for me always felt like a balancing act where I had to play with all these abstract interconnected pieces until something beautiful and functional emerges. I learned to create and work with complex systems and with that began my fascination for generative processes.
What insights would you offer to younger designers?
For everyone interested in digital art, It has never been easier to access tutorials and documentation to learn almost anything, including the code for the latest discoveries, making it much more tempting to try to achieve what big artists do. But the creation process can quickly turn into a frustrating never-ending mess of YouTube tutorials, software documentation and GitHub repositories. It is a tedious and long process, so learning to pick my battles has become an essential part of my practice. I need to be comfortable enough with the software in order to bend it at will, but not too comfortable so I stop looking for new ways of creating, so being constantly aware and situated is essential.
Do you have any artists / designers who we should look out for?
I would definitely suggest Ian Cheng’s as well as David’s Claerbout. I find their work with real-time graphics fascinating. Hito Steyerl’s video essays and theory have been incredibly helpful and are a great resource to situate digital art. I would also recommend Max Colson, which was one of my tutors that helped me the most and whose work I really enjoy.
If you could encourage a reader to make one small change to positively impact the climate, what would it be?
A great small act that we all can do is to grow a bee-friendly garden to help local populations. Bees are pollinators and play a critical role in healthy ecosystems, so are essential for our food production. Yet, bee populations are suffering. Here in the UK, habitat loss and fragmentation combined with climate change are having huge impacts on bee populations. Planting traditional cottage garden flowers and native wildflowers such as lavender and buttercups will create a space where bees can thrive.
Do you have any upcoming news or projects you'd like to share?
I'm trying to incorporate feminism into my work and exploring the idea of how our current definition of nature was created to oppress women. There is an astonishing amount of similarities between gender theory and my masters' research. The book Nature's Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science by Dr. Londa Schiebinger is incredibly insightful!