Multidisciplinary Digital Artist Kezia on How Arts Meet Tech


Multidisciplinary Digital Artist Kezia Chats Making Art that Meets Tech

Untangle the words on this page and everything can effectively be reduced into a string of binaries, threading between voids into self-contained messages tightly packaged within each line of code.

Curious about the pixels and the processes woven into digital artefacts and photographic images, Elizabeth Kezia is a Hong Kong-based, Indonesian artist who operates between familiar artistic tools and novel digital programmes to create unique bodies of work. Challenging the boundaries of photography and digital captures as a form of documentation, she deconstructs traditional notions of memory, perception, and identity - thus making metaphysical themes palpable.

Chatting to The Beat Asia about her journey into digital art, the interplay between STEM practices and her artwork, and the future of new media, Kezia shares her visions from the crossroads of art and tech.

For those of us who don’t know, could you please share your background with our readers?

I grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia and went to a typical academic-oriented school. I spent most of my time (other than playing around) on biology and music, and still graduated high school without much clue about life. I had a spur to be a veterinarian but realised later on that it’s just a fantasy.

I thought the most logical thing according to my high school resumé is to go to [find] biology-related majors, but at the time I thought all you do as a scientist is just work in the lab 24/7. I was totally blind to the other niche opportunities you could explore in the science field, so I moved on to see if there is any good chance [for me] in music. Audio engineering was a consideration, but I decided that I don’t want to do much physics at university.

So, all this confusion that I had, I just solved it by typing on Google: ‘art and science.’ My then university (School of Creative Media) appeared on the top, so that’s the story of why I came to Hong Kong.

What first drew you into digital art and mesh capture work?

Thanks to my professor Hector Rodriguez, his work introduced me to interdisciplinary art. And most importantly, it changed the way I see the world. What I used to see as very literal and monolithic perceptions, I see now as a possibility and causality of connections. That — gives me a crazy rush of adrenaline.

How did you begin transitioning your photographic works into other digital disciplines?

I picked up my first camera in my second year of university due to a school assignment. What at first began as purely a photography study, evolved into more complex work since I met more and more people working in a wide range of fields in and out of school.

What are some of your favourite/unconventional techniques you use to create your pieces?

Well, this one is not my favourite since it’s a pain in the ass to get it to work, but I like my recent 3D mesh camera work for Bad Times Disco. It uses MIDAS to estimate the depth map of an image, and then combines it with the image texture on Blender to create the 3D result.

I love that I’m establishing a very personalised system to document my life. And when I did take that ‘camera’ into real-life use, I feel it was kind of similar to taking pictures with antiquarian photography because of the painstaking time and energy you have to endure to get a single shot. At the same time, it’s ironic because the result is digital and obviously belongs to the 21st century.

Can you tell us about a memorable project or piece that was particularly interesting to make, or particularly meaningful in your journey as an artist so far?

As of now, it would be C0MPUTERC0MPLICATION with YeP YeP ISSUE 2. It is based on my myopia and I’m sure this is also a common modern physical condition that a lot of us experience.

In some pictures, I forced the audience to look at the magazine very closely, thus potentially ruining their eyesight too. I want my photographs to affect the audience, not just intellectually, but also through sensorial perceptions, and I suppose this project does the job. It is also designed to have utilitarian functions: as an educational presentation and optical screening test.

I feel that we have too many images cluttering both [our] physical and digital spaces, if I were to add more to [the space], I’d like to give something that has pedagogical value.

Where do you see the development of new media in art going in the near future? What changes do you hope to see?

I see new media art merging into the development of technology and [being used in] collaborating with academics. We’ve always been separating the ‘art’ as the divine; a separate subject that feeds into our fantasy, an escape from reality. But I think new media works are more essential to push the future of technologies.

For example, there’s not many 3D repositories online for the AI to train on, you need these new media artists to create more 3D works, and therefore you can have more data to train on. 

Has your experience in the STEM field been affected by your identity as an artist, and vice versa? If so, what were your key takeaways?

I currently work as a front-end engineer. I do see a disparity in thinking processes between me and my computer science graduate colleagues. While they are thinking of ways to optimise the website, I’m thinking of how to make the website more immersive artistically. So in a way, it is affected by my art-school background, but not exactly by my identity as an artist. I’m trying to learn to be more practical in my work though.

What/who are some of your biggest inspirations?

My biggest inspirations are Wikipedia pages, TED-Ed videos, random Internet memes that are just stuck in my head, all the people that I have encountered in my life, and of course, my own problems.

What have you got planned in store for the future?

Study more computer vision-related stuff. Playing around with LiDAR sensors. Thinking of showcasing more digital works and executing more fashion shoots. I may try going back to music. Finding my next destination after Hong Kong!

My upcoming project will be me attempting to call a legion of digital dancers at Bad Times Disco on May. 6.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Keep up with Kezia at @ekezia and at her website here.

Find out more about the upcoming Bad Times Disco Party here.

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