Winnie Soon

Meet Winnie Soon, the digital artist currently shaking up the Nordic artscape. She has been prolific over the past few years with major works in exhibitions from Pulse Art and Technology Festival (USA), Microwave International Media Art Festival (Hong Kong), FutureEverything Art Exhibition (UK), Mobile & DMB Festival (Korea), Stuttgarter Filmwinter Festival for expanded media (Germany), and International Digital Art Festival (Bulgaria), amongst others. Does this lady even sleep? Mr Wolf investigates…

What attracts you to digital art?
With this big term ‘digital art’, I am particularly interested in the art that is network-based and/or software-based. To me, using computers, programming, software, Internet are natural and have become part of my everyday life. These are the places where I obtain input and inspiration. It is difficult to avoid the notion of network in everyday life, things that you do daily such as surfing the net, going to the supermarket, authenticating different online accounts and using social media. Indeed, there are certain elements of computation and software involved in almost everything we do. Therefore, digital just comes naturally to me and it feels so much easier to use digital means to make art and to reflect on technology and society. But I also make artwork that is non-digital form; such as the project CANNOT which is in a printed-form consisting of different types of web page errors that I encountered during my few months stay in China. Internet Information is highly censored in China and I am from Hong Kong, with just a border divide, which is now part of China after 1997. This work aims to highlight the asymmetrical relationship between the digital medium and politics of information.

Do you think we spend too much time on-line?
Haha yes… sometimes I am even afraid I will go blind as I guess I spend more than 10 hours facing the screen everyday. 

What do you think of the Nordic art context?
For me the most famous thing in relation to Danish aesthetic is its minimalistic design, clean and simple representation. However, this does not necessarily apply to artistic context (unless you think design and art are the same thing).  I don’t really find many computational / network-based artworks here. I think that Nordic art is still focusing on the traditional fields; painting, drawing, sculpture, design etc. I feel like the Nordic digital art scene is still in its infancy, and this gives me plenty of freedom to experiment with new styles. But having said that, I have become inspired by a Danish artist and critical designer, Linda Hilfling. Her artistic practices take the form of interventions with a focus on means of control.  I especially like the way she makes art that is software-based and with a critical lens.  

Has locating yourself here impacted your practice?
Yes it has. Especially because I am researching at Aarhus University, the environment provides an excellent opportunity for me to meet different interesting and talented people across disciplines, such as cultural studies, aesthetics, computer science, critical design, sound art etc. I am like a sponge; I keep absorbing. In terms of direct artistic inspiration, I have to say the events, exhibitions and talks of Kunsthal Aarhus provides plenty of food for thoughts in many dimensions. Since being here I have become more interested in critical practices (both design and artistic) in the domain of software/network art. I like to think deeply about software and computation with a critical lens such as its social and cultural impact and condition, as well as politics and invisible forces.

What ides are you exploring next?
I have just finished an art project readme.SpamPoem in collaboration with my poet friend, Susan Scarlata, where you can write an email to then receive a personalised Spam Poem through an auto-reply feature in an email system. You can even customise different subject line and receive poems from the collection of more than 30 spam poems. This artwork reveals the assumed voices, cultural assumptions and computation processes taken on through spam. During the making of this piece, I found a lot of interesting yet unpredictable things happen when I observed the email flows in the network e.g. the email account also receives spam mail and it meets with my spam poem. Doesn’t it sound ridiculous that the spam poem responses to a spam mail automatically? What will happen if those marketing companies receive the spam poems? There is different hidden network data transferring even when no email is received. It seems the email system keeps communicating with the user’s computer. So what are they?  All these become the inspiration for my next project writeme.SpamPoem, which aims to examine the hidden computational processes and to think about  the aesthetics, consequences and cultural practices of the online  world.  writeme.SpamPoem will be exhibited in Hong Kong – Writing Machine Exhibition in coming Oct, 2014. I hope to bring and share this artwork to Scandinavia too in the near future. 

For your own spam poem email:

Words: Tullia Jack