Written by Geoffrey Nguyen
It is safe to say that this year has been quite the tumultuous one. We are witnessing seismic cultural shifts that have made us all uncomfortable. Historically, these shifts also pave the way for new artists. When the future feels unclear, we often look to art to paint that picture for us.
Elizabeth Wirija is NYC-based Indonesian born artist. She speaks in multiple mediums and weaves together the past, present, and future. It’s only natural. She remembers life before the internet, and now, life is slowly becoming the internet.
GN: You’re originally from Jakarta, how do you think this influences your work, if at all?
EW: Being from Jakarta, it’s a small town on an island that nobody really knows about. During my childhood, all I did was play and experiment and have fun without outer influences. In a sense, I was searching within for my voice. So when I discovered the internet at 12 – I was fascinated because it connected me to the rest of the world. I started absorbing everything available. It’s like experiencing the world for the first time.
I had a lot of time to learn since there was not a lot of distractions: I read a lot of books, watched mad cartoons and films. Exposed to a lot of anime with the assortment of saturated hues in anime also influences my affinity to colors. Jakarta can be intense since there is a lot of things going on, I can never focus on one thing – I usually work on multiple projects due to this. It is a pivotal time in my growth when I grew up there, my work consists of internal, emotional dialogue, and an element of play. If it’s not fun & exciting, I won’t create something. My heart gotta be in it, ya know?
GN: That’s what I love about your work! The playfulness, as well as you having a conversation with yourself.
Our generation is very influenced by the internet. How do you imagine it influencing art in the future?
EW: The internet is a wonderful place. It is as vast as the universe itself, there are also multiple layers to it that provide different functions. This interconnectivity and constantly updating nature revitalizes trends in an immediate way – information travels rapidly. Therefore, ideas live and die in a microsecond. I think this will initiate collaboration as artists and humankind in a more real-time manner. What we absorb is what we create. I come from the only generation that is alive before the internet and during this era, so I know how we used to connect and learn. But in general, what’s interesting is the progression of technology alongside art – the presence of virtual reality and algorithms that can determine taste. I predict that in the future our minds will be merging with the platform more and the physical tangibility of the internet itself in terms of the computer or phones will disappear. Everything will be more mental. Perhaps we will create art that is more abstract with no 2-dimensional body, we can generate feelings and affect emotional states from merely an experiential product.
Ah thanks! I’m glad that you can feel those objectives within my work. Although as an artist you can direct what someone thinks about your work, still their reaction and what they internalize is based on their own experience. Conversations with the self is real important. Hopefully as I have a conversation with myself in this lifetime, the world that is listening can also start talking to their own souls.
GN: Your future is going to be a very interesting time! What type of experiences do you look forward to creating?
I think that’s the greatest thing about art that some people don’t get. Art offends some and comforts others, as long as you feel something.
Your tweets are art. It’s an experience in itself reading them.
EW: The future for the whole humanity is going to be a compelling one! I look forward to creating multi-sensory experiences for the consumption of art. Also perhaps entertainment projections when we make portals for the first time for teleportation. I know for initial versions, it will take time to teleport from one place to another. So I desire to provide a sublime journey for individuals. The only reason I want to unlock the secret to eternal youth is so I can contribute and see the far future. I want to design smart interactive clothing, one that senses the physiological changes in the body and responds accordingly, a production that is sustainable so it can morph during extreme weather and change forms like you can customize features and is created through a printer or some other way. I want to design the platform for holograms. Maybe create new color schemes when we have upgraded our motor eye to perceive a wider range of spectrums. I have all the visions, I lack the technical logistics at this point but eventually I know I will find others who have the mechanical knowledge to proceed with these ideas. It’s just a matter of time.
Exactly, I think art is meant to initiate something within you. Even if you don’t understand it at first, there is no such thing as a negative or positive response. No matter what, it is successful when it evokes emotions. Art penetrates all the social beliefs and learned aesthetics and instantly communicates with the heart. Nothing else in this dimension does that, I also believe everything is art. Living itself and the simplest modes of existence is art. Like how you said my tweets is art. I appreciate that, I think words are beautiful too. Language is something we created so we can interact with other people in our vicinity. Our vicinity now is the whole wide world/web. I also want to make clear that I am not always positive, I do experience the other extreme of emotions often like sadness, fear and anger. I don’t want others to view me as only one-dimensional. To realize that we all have our shadows and they are not meant to be kept hidden but to be accepted and embraced is so important. So many live in this constant state of denial and I never want to do that. Inside, my shadows and light slow dance to the sounds of understanding to form a masterpiece. For one cannot exist without the other.
GN: The journey is always the best part! You are about to release your new line, ALONES. Isn’t it interesting that in your VR world, you could also be designing clothes for it?
What are your inspirations behind this new project?
I really like the jacket you designed in your short film Here Not There
EW: I have always been drawn to fabrics, my dad owns a textile store that distributes fabrics to local tailors and makers. Therefore, it was always a dream to eventually design clothes for wear. ALONES provides that medium for me to do so, currently it’s starting off with t-shirts and other components of streetwear but I’m aiming to evolve into a greater frontier along the line such as cut-and-sew pieces, jewelry, furniture. It will constantly change, maybe even the brand name. The inspiration is purely from the desire of wanting to make new generations feel fly when they are wearing the pieces. I want to make things the world doesn’t know it needs until it is created. Clothing is powerful because it encompasses the identity of the wearer through a visible channel. Someone needs to feel like the clothes expresses a part of them for them to commit to put it on. My style eternally changes as I change as a person and I know the brand will transform and progress with the times. ALONES actually stemmed from the concept of the collective consciousness, a paradox where we as individuals in this virtual age still feel detached with one another even when we are connected at all times. In a group of people, we are still a singular being. Yet, in our solitude we still consists of multiple souls that we encountered or are yet to encounter. Thank you! I started experimenting with customizing existing outerwear, it’s cool as hell to be able to project my vision for a specific project into cotton and assemble something cohesive as a whole.
GN: That’s cool, your dad gave you the foundation for one of your loves.
Your concept is spot on, we need something that reflects the times. It seems like style wise we haven’t progressed past the 90’s. The idea of ALONES constantly changing is really interesting. I don’t think our generation wants to be held down.
How do you think living in NYC has added to your voice?
EW: He really did solidify my love for colors, patterns and palpable textures. It is crucial to express the times honestly. I wouldn’t say that, I think it takes elements from past eras and makes modifications to fit the current generation. Even if the final is adopting the traditional silhouette but then adding and customizing then it is still a new original piece. I think we’ve come to a point where we realize our true power and potential and that is never limited by categories or mediums. I am so for it. NYC is an ultimately diverse place, it features so many different perspectives, voices and stories. I can’t help but be inspired when I encounter people from different backgrounds and they teach me lessons about their life and provide me with the knowledge. Finding a space that is so geared to change, hustle and progression is aligned with me. Being surrounded by creativity forces me to constantly challenge what I know and explore new avenues.
GN: What new avenues are you looking forward to exploring in the new year?
EW: I think possibly cut-and-sew pieces or even other products. More thought-provoking films. I want to experiment with film photography and create some impactful series on that medium. I want to start branching out to music production for sure, try out making instrumentals. Common forms of experiencing beauty in this dimension is through light and sound, I have played with light a lot but sound is neglected so that is something I desire to delve into. Oh, and sculptures either by hand or through 3D-printing. I always loved making things by hand and the 3-dimensionality of objects. Another software I want to learn is cinema 4D, it’s this amazing tool that creates depth-inducing visuals.
Follow Elizabeth Wirija
Official Site: http://elizabethwirija.com