How Addie Wagenknecht turns Zoom calls into abstract artworks ❦
In a Q&A, the artist outlines the creative and corporate journeys that led her to make digital paintings from pixelated screenshots of Zoom meetings.
Addie Wagenknecht’s social handle “@wheresaddie” hints at what it’s like to know her, trying to keep up with her many adventures across the globe. At any given time, she can be found cross-country skiing in the Swiss Alps, or surfing the waves of Costa Rica. Her studies in computer science and interactive telecommunications inspired her to be an early advocate for how crypto can be leveraged to support artists.
In this interview between Addie Wagenknecht and Gemma co-founder Eileen Isagon Skyers, the two discuss Addie’s newly commissioned Founding Artist Edition, Zoom Painting 2.14.23.
Eileen Isagon Skyers: How did you come up with the idea of making paintings through Zoom?
Addie Wagenknecht: When COVID hit, I ended up taking a full-time job in blockchain, and found myself on Zoom calls for 8-14 hours per day—which left me almost no capacity for art production. So, I started exploring how I could turn my everyday environment into inspiration for producing art and also keeping myself entertained. The creative options are pretty limited on Zoom, to be fair (laughs). I started altering video streams in real time with things that I found references the meme of WFH culture and internet culture—like placing a vegetable, or Jesus, on the other meeting participants’ faces- obfuscating everything but their voice and space, so Jesus or the veggies in the grocery story are having an intense discussion about KPIs or whatever corporate speak was extracted . . . It was easier to optimize my artistic practice while also doing a few hours discussion around protocols, on-chain governance, and solving interoperability roadblocks once I had some creative outlet, or if there was a head of broccoli talking to me.
Later, I went back through the videos and noticed details that I hadn’t seen before—for example, a lamp, or the pattern on someone’s shirt. The lens of my webcam captured minutiae that I would otherwise have missed, and I was able to turn that into creative material. I translated these pixels into abstract paintings that carried over some of the feeling of those experiences, while also obfuscating the speakers and topics.
Did you reveal what you were doing? Was that important?
The entire process made me reflect on how public and private experiences were intersecting so thoroughly at the time, and even now. When we’re on these calls, we’re both operating in a professional context while also revealing ourselves by inviting each other into our homes through the screen.
Is it true that you’ve sold some of the paintings back to the people who were referenced in them?
Yes, which feels like an important part of the concept—I mean, essentially, these are portraits of my previous coworkers, friends, and family. It captures an entire one or two year period of intense isolation where our only connection was video chatting with friends or even going to Zoom raves. All of these images preserve that moment in time, and I think people want to collect the portraits because it gives them back a piece of their own abstracted reality when time and physical space felt so different.
It’s amazing that you could take something as mundane as back-to-back Zoom calls, and turn it into a series of artworks.
My creative projects tend to begin spontaneously like that, without premeditation. Ideas will often come to me in the most mundane moments, like when I’m walking through a store or sitting in a conference. Or, I’ll notice a color or texture and try to figure out, “What does it mean that I’m obsessed with this?”
“Hidden Gems” are beautiful, rare, or meaningful finds from across the internet. Here are a few from Addie Wagenknecht:
💧 “How To Cure A Ghost” by Fariha Róisín
This is a Substack exploring “all of the ghosts that haunt me.” Arabelle Sicardi, one of my favorite collaborators, recommended Fariha’s work years ago. I never looked back.
💧 “10 Things To Let Go Of” by Alysha Waghorn
This is a poem a friend dealing with cancer shared with me.
Gemma is an emerging community co-inhabited by artists, curators, and contributors with a shared vision for how culture can shape our future. This summer Gemma is releasing weekly open editions from our Founding Artists. Subscribe and follow us on Instagram and Twitter to be notified about new drops.