Pro Juice Profiles: Guerrilla Artists on the Cutting Edge of All Things Digital | Pekka Stokke AKA Darkitechture
By Ariel Nishli
Tastemakers and fans of delectable eye and ear candies have spoken. They want to know who designed the choicest treats on their Pinterest boards, the animators behind the most viral of videos, and what VJs concocted the laser art spectacle at last weekend’s rave, let alone who produced the unworldly beats spun by the DJ.
They want to know whom these artists are, the ones who remind them that our world is a beautiful place, and that in the digital world anything merely imaginable is just as real as a stretched canvas and smeared palette.
To answer the call, we’re running a series profiling five of today’s hottest indie digital artists. At one point, each was selected to reveal some of their craft secrets to the world on KoldCast TV’s Pro Juice, a show that brings the best tips, tricks and showcase clips to legions of creative types from the world of digital media.
Read the first article in this series: Jonathan Chong AKA Dropbear Digital
Hosts Arlo Enemark and Nick Calpakdjian bring their fast-talking, shoot-from-the-hip style to talented artists who peel back the curtain to show you how the magic is made. Pro Juice has an indiegogo campaign in the works to bring you Season 2, a truly innovative multi-platform production for which they’ve lined up an impressive cadre of talented new digital artists.
SECOND IN THE SERIES: PEKKA STOKKE AKA DARKITECHTURE
Just what exactly is a VJ? If you’re thinking of that dreadlocked fellow on MTV introducing the next music video, you’re way, way off. VJ’s, like DJ’s, are artists; visual artists that provide the mind-bending graphics displays at various events. Their work ranges from that killer interactive floor display at your local shopping center to the mind-bending light show at the last Coldplay concert you attended.
As for Darkitechture’s spin on the growing art form, let’s just say it’s not uncommon for him to pack a few hundred feet of mosquito netting, a giant weather balloon, or thousands of tea lights when travelling for a gig. In Episode 3 of Pro Juice, he explains how his stage display for a rock concert created an entirely new experiential dimension to the show. Combining digital video savvy with traditional art, Stokke is earning credibility at the front lines of high art for hire, where the two forms are increasingly being blurred into one.
Click to watch Episode 3 of Pro Juice
What are the most formidable challenges facing independent digital artists today?
Maybe the biggest challenge in terms of surviving as a digital artist is the sheer amount of stuff out there. Anyone with a smartphone can make an HD movie and edit it while sitting on the bus to school. Anyone can hook up a tablet to a projector and do a snappy VJ set, or download a drone synth app to create something artsy.
Today, two hundred million people can create stuff that looks, sounds and feels like the real thing. Instagram effects used to be the domain of dedicated retro camera collectors browsing for old unused film rolls at flea markets and garage sales. Now you can upload your epic smartphone film, hit the “Bleach Bypass” button in your browser and, in minutes, create an awesome film grading process previously developed for the likes of A-list directors over several months time. It was famously used by Steven Spielberg on Saving Private Ryan and cost millions to implement.
So getting your stuff out there is easy! Getting it noticed is what’s hard. And cutting through the readymade, pre-programmed eye and ear candy is even worse. This, coming from someone who routinely defaults to whiz-bang buttons and gets away with it.
What are the benefits and drawbacks to working as a “guerrilla artist” rather than as a company man for a major label, design company or advertising firm?
The main benefit is definitely the flexibility. Being able to choose gigs, choose who you want to work with and not work with. The ability to specialize and be weird without some preppy mid-level management careerist airbag telling you off for being who you want to be as an artist!
Of course, there are awesome companies out there full of great people who offer a fantastic creative environment, good pay, health insurance, interesting work and even holidays! Everyone wants to work for them sometimes, right?
How did you get started as an artist? What kept you going?
I actually started out as a musician. I was in love with the whole live performance setting: the concerts, the theatrical elements, the lighting, and the stage thing. So I studied film/TV/media for a while and got a good job. I spent it learning video software and cameras, living in a crappy apartment eating macaroni, and buying enough equipment to start my own business. Video gear used to be forbiddingly expensive, both in terms of buying and renting, so I made sure I got paid enough to buy gear. Then that led to other gigs, which led to more gigs, and so on. Eventually I wanted to use my visual skills in a live stage setting as a visuals guy or a Video Jockey.
I kept going because it was the only way I could see myself going.
How has the digital artistry landscape evolved over the last several years? In what direction do you see it going?
I think digital arts are still in their infancy. We are starting to see artists bridge the gap between the physical world and the digital world with the makerbot, for example, and the use of software abstraction altering our perception. The whole concept of “digital art” is ending and fusing into just “art”. Algorithms creating architecture; code creating sculpture.
What are some of the most innovative projects you’ve worked on and have seen?
Anything 1024 Architecture in Paris churns out is awesome. Absolutely, every single, G-damn thing.
How important is a show like Pro Juice in helping to promote independent digital artists’ work, as well as provide new opportunities for emerging artists?
Pro Juice is the perfect mix of showcases and tutorials, as well as simply being inspiring. And it shows young folks that media and art production is a good alternative to drugs when it comes to having fun!
I am not the DJ.
Ariel Nishli is the Editor-in-Chief of The Sixth Wall. He’s got a big apple in his heart but moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2007, he worked in the motion picture literary department at ICM, then moved on to feature film development at Parkes MacDonald Productions. Ariel’s wardrobe has steadily devolved from designer suits to worn out slippers, as he now focuses on screenwriting and journalism when he’s not obsessing over this magazine.