claudia maté talks avatars, the internet, and digital surrealism

Spanish artist Claudia Maté is at the forefront of the digital art avant-garde.

27 May 2015, 9:14am

imagen cortesía de claudia maté

Born in Madrid in 1985, when Tetris was the biggest and best computer game in the world, is today a recognised digital artist who exhibits in half the world (New York, Madrid, Paris, Berlin, Chile, Peru, London…) and who works with a thousand and one formats that know no borders. From her Instagram account, featuring works in progress, to her art installations and uncanny, frightening and humorous images of her avatar, CGI celebrities, overgrown babies, and cats. 

How are you, Claudia? Are you in London? That's where you're based at the moment, right?
Right now I'm in Kuala Lumpur, I've come here to spend take time off. I've spent the last two years working in London, but in Asia there's no doubt that you live much better; I think I'll only return to the UK to visit.

You sign off your emails with your digital avatar. Do you recognise more in that image than what you see in the mirror?
[Laughs] Not really, no, in front of a mirror I'm a very real person and I like that.

Did you want to be an artist when you were little?
No, as a child I wanted to be a trapeze artist, a doctor, an architect, and a lawyer… the truth is, I never set out to be an artist, although I always loved to draw.

Do you remember your first contact with the internet?
I freaked out over the Internet. I especially remember the days of Netscape, when you had to connect via telephone and then always got cut off when you got a call. I always waited for my parents to go to bed so that I could go to the computer and get online. The concept of instant information seemed like something from the future.

Nowadays you exhibit around half the globe, your work knows no borders, and you even have a piece in MoMA about Bjork. But, despite all this, do you think there is still resistance to artist's who don't work in traditional mediums?
Truthfully, I don't know. Sometimes I think that if I was painting or sculpting people would take my work more seriously, but at the moment I'm not interested; with the internet I can reach any corner of the world in seconds, and I love that. Painting is slow and I need high speed.

Do you think it's easy for anyone to understand digital art?
Well the internet is within the reach of everyone, so net art as well. If you are interested in painting you go to see paintings in a museum, and if you aren't interested you don't go… But now the whole world will end up coming across net art from time to time. A lot of people still think -especially in Spain - that net art is an aesthetic or a movement rather than a medium or a discipline. I've heard many people say that net art is about Tumblr, and that's like saying all painting is Rococo.

And should net art be preserved for posterity, or there are other parameters in play here?
For as long as the internet exists, net art will exist as well. There is no need to conserve it, it will simply continue there. 

Is a GIF worth a thousand words?
If a picture if worth a thousand words, then a gif is worth millions.

In your digital universe, there are lots of dancing babies. There are also hands that move like snakes, and doors that lead you nowhere.
I commonly base almost all my work on dreams. One of the things I like best in the world is sleeping, I guess that illogical logic describes what I do very well.

Where does this fascination to feature grotesque dancing babies come from?
I've always been inspired by people dancing, and if it's a baby, then even more so.

Talking of dancing and music, you spent some years on the door at Nasti, an infamous clubnight in Madrid. What do you remember of those nights?
It was a fun era; despite spending the nights working I always had a lot of fun, I made a lot of friends, and I saw a lot of great gigs. If I was ten years younger it would, without doubt, be my dream job. 

If any of your works could be exhibited in the living room of a celebrity, in whose house would you like it to be?
Mmm… Hillary Clinton, maybe?

By the way, digital art seems like a universe dominated by men. Does being a woman make life more difficult for you in this domain?
Well, honestly, I think the opposite. Men have always dominated the world of computers; there are very few female digital artists in comparison to men, so I have always believed that being a woman has opened many doors for me. When people discover that a woman is behind my work, they become more interested in it. 

You have also collaborated a lot with SHOWstudio, do you like the world of fashion?
I've worked on some projects with them - right now I'm working on another. They are brilliant; they deal with fashion in a way that is very open and experimental. A team like that is not easy to find.

What do you think the future of fashion is?
I imagine it to be simple, unified, and intelligent.

What do you think the digital artist proposes?
I don't think that has anything to do with whether it's a digital discipline or not, but with the person themselves. There are artists who are constantly taking self-portraits, and on the other hand others who would never do so. I had hardly ever used my own figure in my work until I created my own 3D avatar; she's the perfect combination between what I do and what I am, and for this reason it represents me the best.


Texto Nico Grijalba
Imágenes cortesía de Claudia Maté