gif us a kiss as we fall in love with internet artist margot bowman

Making the strange beautiful and the imagined real, internet artist Margot Bowman casts us under her spell with her wonderful web wizardry.

by Tish Weinstock and Adam Fletcher
17 October 2014, 10:05am

Margot Bowman

How useful was art school in shaping your artistic aesthetic?
During my first term at CSM, the Lehman Brothers folded and all those really violent first few months of the recession sound tracked my first year there. At the time, Saint Martins was on the edge of the City and you could feel this crisis moving up the Chancery Lane. I think there was this sense of all these certainties falling away, a status quo breaking down, and all the culture that I was exposed to subsequently resonated as a way to move forward.

What is it about digital art that excites you most?
There are no rules. It's an opportunity to take spaces and technologies that have lost their magic, that are mundane and functional, such as screens, browsers, PDFs, and emails, and make them behave in ways they're not expected to.

What's your involvement with and how do you feel about the criticism that emotional complexity cannot be expressed online? is a project that I developed at the end of my time at Saint Martins. Since then, there have been more and more tools available for expressing ourselves, so from a tools perspective I think things are improving. But in conjunction with that, there's an increasing amount of information online that we're ever attempting to store, categorise, and sync, and this filters down into people, so they're sort of subconsciously self-simplifying. They are making themselves and their expression tag-able/storable.

Where did the idea for 15 Folds come from?
15Folds is something that I started 3 years ago with Sean Frank and Jolyon Varley. We were all fascinated with GIFs and we wanted to explore how people express themselves in this web-native medium. Furthermore, we wanted to open up the digital conversation to creative people. The culture that this generation creates will have its home online, and we have to make sure that the people in those spaces are as varied as possible. I don't want to be part of a culture that is solely defined by a group of socially maladjusted men in Palo Alto.

Finger Painting by Margot Bowman

Throughout history critics have constantly tried to undermine works such as Duchamp's Fountain and Andy Warhol's soup cans, claiming that they are not ''Art''. Have you come up against similar resistance in relation to GIFS being Art?
I think that because we experience all of our digital content - emails from aunties, registering to vote and re-blogging Richard Mosse - through the same devices, the same screen, and the same keyboard, works don't have a specific set of indicators around them that say 'this is Art'. That ambiguity is something that can be really interesting to explore, but it's also one of the reasons why the recognition of this medium has been slower. That's something which we really wanted to focus on at 15Fold's exhibition, Everything All At Once; to get GIFs out of the browser and into new more physical spaces.  

What do you think will be the future of traditional curatorial institutions such as galleries or museums? Will they stand the test of time or will they lose their relevancy now that digital artworks are no longer confined to traditional art spaces?
While I think it's important that cultural spaces remain, the form of these spaces - where difficult conversations and expression around topics that are not of commercial interest or run against status quo are all encouraged, supported and respected - is something that's definitely up for grabs. This freedom of expression is something that the early web really allowed for (all be it for a much smaller group of users). As we move forward and, no doubt, see increasing numbers of these spaces online, these are the values we must maintain. 

What's next for you?
A sort of sequel to - W.E.T., a multi-media project that explores what a future that is severely affected by climate change (rising sea levels) might be like, as well as 15Folds who this month are working with the Serpentine around the 2014 Marathon #Extinction.


Text Tish Weinstock
Finger Painting by Margot Bowman

Andy Warhol
Margot Bowman
Marcel Duchamp
digital art
Central St. Martins
Frieze Art Fair
Tish Weinstock
Serpentine Gallery
internet artist