Wendi Murdoch and Kenzo Digital: Where Art and Technology Meet

'Viewpoints' talk brings together entrepreneur, multimedia artist

Melissa Chiu (L) and Wendi Murdoch (R) onstage at Asia Society New York on March 4, 2013.

NEW YORK, March 4, 2013 — "I like the idea of hijacking spaces," said artist Kenzo Digital in a talk focused on the relationship between art and technology here at Asia Society. He was describing the driving force behind his now widely known art projects, which use technology to blur the lines between conventional art media and practices.

Kenzo was speaking with Wendi Murdoch, a movie producer and collector of Chinese contemporary art best known as the co-founder of Artsy, and Melissa Chiu, Asia Society Museum Director and Senior Vice President of the Global Arts and Cultural Programs.

To kick off the discussion, Chiu asked Kenzo and Murdoch about their personal experiences with art and technology and how each came to incorporate their passions for these two seemingly mismatched areas of practice into their professional lives. Murdoch's passion for art developed when she first arrived in America and saw how people lived with art in their homes. As for Kenzo, he always knew he wanted to be an artist, and as a student working at Carnegie Mellon's virtual reality lab he discovered that he wanted to explore the "psychology of physical art" using "time-based media" through his art. The audience was introduced to one of Kenzo's first video works, City of God's Son, whose production Kenzo attributed to the accessibility and extensiveness of YouTube. The video was made available to everyone for free online.

Next, Chiu invited Murdoch to explain the motivation behind Artsy's founding. The company's mission, Murdoch stated, is to make art accessible to all. Through Artsy, the largest network of data on contemporary art, users can follow the profiles of artists they're interested in and even make purchases online. Pitched as a convenient platform for connecting people to art, Artsy works with museums, institutions, galleries and fairs.

Kenzo then discussed his brief involvement in politics in 2008, when he created "an absurdist piece of political propaganda" for the Obama campaign. Though he described himself as not particularly political, Kenzo said he recognized that Obama's candidacy yielded the first candidate accessible to young people in a long time and yet the soon-to-be-president's campaign did not incorporate media that reached young audiences. His final product was a music video distributed for free the week Democrats would vote Obama over Clinton as their party's presidential candidate.

Chiu then directed the conversation towards Murdoch's contemporary art collection. The collector showed the audience a slideshow of work by her favorite young Chinese artists which included examples of abstraction in contemporary Chinese art, although most the figurative work seemed to resonate more strongly with the audience.

After the slideshow, Kenzo talked about his biggest project to date, a video he created for Beyonce's performance at the UN General Assembly in 2012 in honor of World Humanitarian Day. An "interactive live performance," the video, which played behind Beyonce on 12 projectors as she performed, blurred the line between live performance and video art. To Kenzo, the video exemplifies technology's disruptive potential in art.

A video of Murdoch's subsequently played that displayed her use of old-fashioned stop-motion animation, with works made of acrylic on canvas, in the closing credits of one of her feature films.

Chiu ended the discussion by asking whether technology will fundamentally change art itself, or just the mode of its delivery. Kenzo and Murdoch agreed that, in Kenzo's words, "our ways to ingest content have changed," our "language" has changed, but "a great story will always be a great story," despite our world of shifting paradigms.

Reported by Renny Grishpan

Video: Highlights from the program (6 min., 57 sec.)

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Watch the complete program
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