by Vatsala SethiDec 30, 2022
American artist Jay Borgwardt is developing a fascinating and multifaceted body of work that sits at the intersection of digital and traditional practices, new media, sound art and light art. It is truly an enchanting thing to behold: interactive art such as Borgwardt’s, that can involve so many different elements and yet feel as though it is all necessary; not nearly as ostentatious as the work of so many others treading the same paths has begun to feel. Borgwardt can tell a simple story, such as with Shadows of Memory, that is profound in its timelessness, and speaks to all of us on some level, with a sensitivity that is increasingly missing, or is obscured from contemporary art; often by a forced drive to overproduce work. The artist discusses this piece, telling STIR, “In Shadows of Memory, people can shine a magic flashlight around the room and reveal the shadows of people who aren’t physically there. But the shadows aren’t static; they are dancing, and through dance, they are telling a story over the course of several scenes. I believe that every set of lovers creates something secret and new in their love, and this was an attempt to reveal that secret love interactively to other people. Love and memory are such interesting topics; the most meaningful parts of our lives no longer exist in reality. They live as subjective representations of what actually happened, deep in our heads. If you were to go back and revisit the places where some of your most important memories took place, it might feel something like Shadows of Memory.”
The artist who hails from St. Louis, Missouri, graduated from the Media Arts and Practice program at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, which he looks back on fondly as a fantastic program that helped him understand what it means to merge theory and practice. He says that it was a wonderful training ground for him to figure out what he wanted to pursue, both as an artist and as a person. Prior to his time in the Media Arts Practice program, Borgwardt was an amateur dancer and musician, and wished to pursue music as a full-time career. Even though he decided to follow a different path, he maintains that music and dance are integral parts of all art, and tries to implement them wherever possible. He says, “A formative moment for me was watching Ballet Rotoscope by EUPHRATES. This is a new media art video in which a ballet dancer fades in and out as digital lines form abstract patters over her body. I love the way the movement, music, and digital shapes combine so beautifully to form a jaw dropping piece of video art.”
The artist continues mentioning his influences, and tells STIR, “I was also inspired by Teruaki Tsubokura, a creative technologist who actually came up with the original magic flashlight technique years ago. His work transcends simple hardware and software as he creates art that feels like its 10 years from the future. More recently, I have been inspired by Harvey Moon, a new media artist who creates stunning works of digital and physical art. I was fortunate enough to start working for his company MB Labs a couple of years ago, and he continues to inspire me every single day with his out-of-the-box thinking.”
Borgwardt admits to have struggled with his creative process for quite a few years now. He mentions that he would often fall prey to the tendency towards overproduction mentioned at the onset of this article. Owing to this, his pieces would turn out to be what he regards as “shiny-cool tech with little real substance”, where the meaning behind his work was always relegated to a secondary position. Recently however, he has taken to pursuing a substance-first approach to his practice, and wishes to find a happy balance between the two paths.
Continuing with the topic of finding balance, the artist asserts that there is immense potential in the tryst between music and coding. He explains, “I believe that coding and music make a perfect match, as music can create live visuals through code, and a code can create music through synthesizers. Both “languages” rely heavily on math, though music can convey a much more easily accessible depth of emotion. By combining the two, artists can harness the best of both worlds: the creative power of code and the emotional power of music. It’s a match made in heaven and the basis of some of the most incredible art I have ever seen. I want to explore this convergence more in my future work as well, as I have only just begun to scratch the surface of sonic media art.”
Borgwardt’s latest exhibition was his premiere of Shadows of Memory at USC, but not long before that, he participated in the creation of a multi-part installation called Negative Red, hosted at MB Labs. He mentions that he is eager to undertake more collaborative interactive installation work, regarding it as an effective vector for artists to share ideas with one another, and ultimately create something that is more than the sum of its parts; something that is greater than that which they could create individually. He is also dreaming of taking his work to film festivals. “I know that wouldn’t be the standard pipeline for a lot of interactive artists, not that there really is a standard pipeline, but I think I have a lot to learn from the film industry about storytelling and I would love to show my work to that kind of audience, and in that kind of atmosphere. I recognise that film festivals aren’t very accessible, so another goal of mine is to create installations for public and semi-public spaces to bring more fun and creative art into the world,” he says. The artist’s desires to develop this presentation format is highly promising, and could indeed bridge a gap between formal and informal creative transmission. Regardless, Borgwardt’s artistic expression will no doubt remain engaging for all audiences, owing to its simplicity and timelessness.