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Karina Smigla-Bobinski is a true interdisciplinary artist. Working with interactive, kinetic, physical and sculptural media alongside oil painting and digital display, she has enjoyed considerable success across five continents with work such as Ada and, more recently, as part of DiBari's "dream team" innovation collective.

We caught up with Karina just after her keynote at Berlin's ReTune Conference "Inside The Mirror".

What were you talking about at Retune?

KS-B: I talked about my works ADA, ALIAS and SIMULACRA in the context of mirrors and reflection.

ADA - analog interactive installation / kinetic sculpture / post-digital drawing machine at FACT Fundation in Liverpool

Your work covers a range of media – audio, light, video, water. Was this intentional – did you always intend to cover a range of different media as an artist, and do you embrace or shun the concept of "multi-media"?

KS-B: I learned a classical and modern art techniques, ranging from painting and drawing to interactive and mixed-reality technique in the form of installations, objects, in-situ and online art projects, art interventions or multimedia theatre. This leaves me free to use that technique that suites for a project the best. I take that technique that can transport my intention/idea the best way. Also, I'm not afraid to mix or to interchange them. I like unorthodox mixtures, that lead to new, intriguing solutions.

How important is public interaction in your work?

KS-B: The classical, traditional way of viewing art is to go to gallery and look. We are constantly warned: Do not touch! The participation is confined to looking and nothing else. All reactions occur inside the viewers’ head. The result is the divide between the two.
Interactivity in art stands out as a way to connect with the audience. This contact between art and the public creates a relationship that personally involves the viewer in the project. When we talk about interactivity, we imagine it as a digitally-created, non-physically-connected experience where computers and electronics have very often been forced into the foreground. The best part of interactive art installations is when you can use your body, which then turns you into a analog part of the (post-digital) art piece.

Nicholas Negroponte wrote already in 1998 in The Wired Magazine under the title "Beyond Digital" that "the technology, is already beginning to be taken for granted, and its connotation will become tomorrow's commercial and cultural compost for new ideas. Like air and drinking water, being digital will be noticed only by its absence, not its presence. The decades ahead will be a period of comprehending biotech, mastering nature, and realizing extraterrestrial travel, with DNA computers, microrobots, and nanotechnologies the main characters on the technological stage. Computers as we know them today will a) be boring, and b) disappear into things that are first and foremost something else: smart nails, self-cleaning shirts, driverless cars, therapeutic Barbie dolls, intelligent doorknobs that let the Federal Express man in and Fido out, but not 10 other dogs back in. Computers will be a sweeping yet invisible part of our everyday lives: We'll live in them, wear them, even eat them." 

For example, ADA, as a post-digital art "creature", does not need programming, because it is an analogue interactive kinetic sculpture, post-digital drawing machine resembling a molecular hybrid, such as a one from nano biotechnology. It developes the same rotating silicon-carbon-hybrids, midget tools, miniature machines able to generate simple structures.

Similarly, with my other works, it is very important for me that the entrance into the practical experience of art is possible for everyone and that visitors may decide how far they dip into the art experience according to their ability or will. I like the fact that visitors are able to work with the intuition in my installations, and use their body to explain how they work. As ADA is put in action by visitors, she would fabricate a composition of lines and points which are incalculable in their intensity and expression. By exerting control on ADA, visitors fall into some kind of a trance as they try to govern its drawing path. It is a good feeling of having created a piece of art that is autonomous, but that it would not be complete without visitors. Within the artwork-space-people relation, visitors are obliged to respond. That was my intention when I built ADA for the first time, but the reality got beyond my wildest dreams.

ALIAS - interactiv video light installation at GAK - Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst in Bremen

Alias can be understood as a metaphor for the dependency of art - without a viewer or visitor, it is trapped in an incomplete existence. The visitors are alienated in an intimate situation. The strange confrontation with the personal shadow and the appearance of a stranger inside creates a tension between individuality conceived within one’s own silhouette, and the presence of an image of somebody else.

How focussed and detailed do you become when working in a specific space?
KS-B: Size and scale decide our perception and how to deal with the work. The relation between our bodies and the artwork is crucial. Is the artwork smaller than we are, then it is subjected to us .... it can be absorbed or rejected. Is the artwork the same size, then it is equivalent and equal ... it mutated into the counterpart and we have to deal with. Is the artwork bigger ... much bigger ... then it is superordinate and omnipotent and we will be absorbed and subjected. We act in it and we have to arrange ourselves, or we can leave it.
For example, in the ADA installation, I used the last two conditions:
> Visitors - ADA > equivalent and equal > balloon human greatness > visitors perceive it as his counterpart
> Visitors - drawing in space > superordinate and omnipotent artwork > visitor produced drawings > visitor becomes part of this artwork,  that influences them

SIMULACRA - interactive video installation at FILE Festival in Sao Paulo

How important is the concept of tension in your work – of borders, of dualism, of politics, of people, of media?

KS-B: It is, for me, the same method as chords for a musician. Sometimes they are harmonious, sometimes dissonant ... it depends on the intention behind it and the role that I give to the participants.
If we're talk about the interpretation of tension, then it is, for me, like two sides of the same coin (light you can not understand without shadow, virtuality is not without reality, and so on). The visitor should throw the coin and decide for himself: heads or tails ... or both. Art is not propaganda or preaching. I dig the hole to Wonderland ... but jumping into it? This, you need to do by yourself.

How do you see your work as progressing in terms of the statements – political, social or otherwise – which you make through it?
There is a heavy amount of metaphor and reflection in your work – could you talk about what that means to you?

KS-B: I'm an artist and my primary perception is visual one. I think in pictures, and so I articulate myself in this way. It is logical that my (communication) medium is visual. 
My artworks are materialized stations/results of my (virtual) thoughts.
We live in this world and I try to understand what is going on outside of the the black box of our body. Sometimes, I set my view to the outside and position myself in relation to the others. Sometimes, I set my gaze inward and examine our perception and awareness. Therefrom, I create art to get in dialogue with the others. The interactive artworks created an unhesitating connection, where information flows not only in one direction (artist > artwork > visitors), but influence each other and created something new when meet in the artwork (artist > artwork < visitor).

Could you talk about your work with DiBari – what is your area of focus there, and how will working in such an organisation disrupt, change, or modify your own ways of thinking and working?

It is a unique associated studio bringing together star-architects like Niemeyer, star-artists like Theo Jansen and star-designers like Gary Chang. We all share the same vision: creating new, eco-compatible cities implementing new materials, new technologies and brand new ideas.
I was invited by Vito DiBari as one of the first members, and the group is still growing. The structure and working practices are still developed. However, we are in touch about our new projects and we have sketched already some proposals for the first ideas. It's exciting to collaborate with such mavericks.

Further information on Karina and her work is available at her website, and she is @smigla_bobinski on Twitter. Our thanks to Retune for their help in the production of this article.

Paul Squires, Imperica Media And Arts Magazine by Perini Networks Europe, Oxford UK