Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Authors on Artists: Thais Benoit on Mattie Hillock

Mattie Hillock and New Media
by Thais Benoit

Alt Lit first attracted me because it seemed to be something that my friend, and his friends were doing for fun-not a highbrow, English major kind of thing; instead this small community of internet writers flew under the radar, and was full of talented, dedicated people creating experimental digital poetry and memes.  Though my passion for writing often consumed most of my time, I noticed that the Net Art movement is similarly comprised of digital artists who not only circumvent the status quo, but also carry incredible talent with work ahead of its time.

Mattie Hillock is what is called a net, or new media artist.  His work is completely digital, created with programming, and software; his style is minimal but conceptually heavy, either making you smile, or causing pause.  Integrating multiple digital tools to create fine art is newer territory, and difficult for some to categorize with conventional ideas of art; however, while new media faces the challenges of physical actualization and permanence, it is no different from other visual art except in the tools used to create.

Showing prints of digitally created works, or using projectors to display moving images in galleries allows for a more traditional display of work.  Akin to the painter perfecting command of the brush, or the steady hand of a seasoned artist, the technical expertise of net artists rivals web designers and software developers.  Hillock creates art with two computers, an iPad, iPhone applications and software, as well as music and video equipment.  He bounces from tool to tool, and program to program, all with a specific focus, mixing tools and content like a mad scientist.
One of Hillock’s pieces will be shown on Cloaque, a Spanish art blog that showcases some New Media art.  Hillock utilizes parallax scrolling, an arguably trendy feature used in many commercial websites, in a new way - to allow a playful interaction between the user and the work itself.  The user controls the pace and flow of objects across the screen; the urge to scroll up and down, toying with the moving figures, it encourages exploration and curiosity.  I think this kind of interactivity will bring new media artists to the forefront of pop and net culture because it allows for the work to feel shared among many instead of framed, displayed idolism.  

Selection from Hillock and net artist Systaime's collaboration Meme Art History and painted by Jeanette Hayes, September 2013
Not all of Hillock’s art is based on movement, though much of his work are .gif or .mov files.  In fact some of his work shies away from movement and embraces a more static, sculptural, and fixed form.  The 1st Exhibition piece seems like a virtual gallery space, where three, or even four, different pieces greet the user upon entering the website.  The painterly blues and blacks stretch around what could be confused for a canvas.  It’s no surprise that more traditional artists look to new media artists for ideas.  Popular painter Jeanette Hayes has turned one of Hillock’s digital memes into a painting, showing in Rome.  At what point will the painting no longer need to be painted, when many trends in painting and sculpture occur and originate online?  Some may argue that young artists working with traditional forms find inspiration in digital art because of generational norms: everyone on earth under age - - was born with Internet. It is normal to find cultural changes influencing artistic movements, and we should expect to see the net in all forms of art: one must wonder though, when will the digital work not need to be realized in another, traditional form?

1st Exhibition, September 2013
Dismissing much of what can be considered Net Art is easy if one considers the wide scope of digital content labeled as art online. Most digital works do not force the viewer, or user, to either connect or interact with the piece.  Tumblr is full of unique and eye catching .gifs or moving image pieces, yet what Hillock and his colleagues create holds true to many conventional art world standards while also pushing the limits of what defines modern fine art.  

Irma Hillock, The Jogging, August 2013

Some of Hillock’s attention has come through the popular Tumblr blog The Jogging, with a collection of tongue and cheek memes.  Signing with ∑ symbol as a kind of Samoo artist tag, Hillock maintains a strong social media presence. These connections remain a vital part of his promotional efforts, as they do for any artist, business, or brand on the internet.  Other internet-housed upcoming shows include Mon3y, a rotation on Cloaque, and participation in The Wrong New Digital Art Biennale. View his work IRL at an upcoming show at Outlet Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.


Thais Benoit is a writer, librarian, and graduate student.  Her work has been featured in theNewerYork, SPAMM Dulce, Metazen (forthcoming), Shabby Doll House, The Mall Lit Mag, and Haters Rag.  A NAP eChap of her poetry titled Obliterate These Items from the Beginning of Time was released this spring. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.