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From Buenos Aires to Berlin

From Buenos Aires to Berlin

The trip out of Buenos Aires

Before launching the online sale in Argentina I felt I needed to learn more about what was happening in the world regarding this new form of art. I suspended all my activities in Buenos Aires, closed my studio, gave the keys to my good neighbor Brenda to water my plants and left on a trip only following my intuition.

 

Scotish Landspace at Cairngorms National Park, summer 2019

Low-cost Millennial

I could only afford one ticket to go, so I took it to Europe. I had been saving for the last 5 years for this trip, but the frequent devaluation of the Argentine pesos didn’t help so I had really moderate savings. I could accomplish a year of travels thanks to three things: 

– The most important: The help of the people who hosted me when visiting their city.

– 80% of the trip was possible thanks to the App TrustedHouseSitters. I had good childhood experience on taking care of large houses and pets so I easily gained a good reputation in the app. I took sitting places quite seriously. It gave me the time to get into the real pace of each city from the local point of view, not only the touristic. The main difference is having some responsibility in the place you stay, as someone´s pet or home.

– Living a low-cost lifestyle. There are always different budget plans to get to know a city and the opportunity to live the lowest is always a lifetime one. Enjoy the ride as it comes.

 

Taking care of "Bear" near High gate's cemetery in London.

Between London and Berlin

In the last 6 months I found myself going back and forward between London and Berlin, the two cities that were calling my attention the most and where I could find the best professionals and artists involved in the development of this new art genre.

The results of a year of research

Through this year I was invited to go back to Paris to participate with an interactive installation for the 2019 “Nuit Blanche” event at the CRI (Centre de Recherche Interdisciplinaire) and also to London to exhibit at the first “Tilt Brush Global Contest & Art Fest” (by Google) at the Realities Centre (London´s official Virtual Reality lab). Finally, I was introduced to 3DRuhr lab in Essen, Germany and invited to create a version of Automatic City of the Ruhr Area in the second semester of 2020.

Exhibition at the Realities Centre in London, January 2020

Urban Symphonies

I learned the meaning of “Urban Symphonies” through Sofía Mellino, an argentinean artist radicalized in Essen, Germany. She was the last artist I got to meet when coming back from London’s exhibition to Berlin whilst the frontiers were shutted down and Coronavirus started striking the world. Someone sent her my number (written on a potato chips packet) and she called me when I was in Amsterdam so it was easy to plan a visit to Essen. Sofía is a video artist inspired in Urban Symphonies, also known as a City Symphonies, a cinematic experimental audio-visual form that focuses on showing all aspects of a city. She showed me through history that how cinema directors have presented cities has determined the way we see, imagine, create and remember them. Cities are given the capacity to act, either making them interact with the characters in the film, or represent a character on its own. I embraced this new concept and started to work together with Sofía on the ideas and production lines for Automatic City of Berlin and the oncoming version of Automatic City of the Ruhr Area, where she lives and directs her projects.

First visit to the FabLabs of the Ruhrgebiert, Essen, Germany.

COVID-19 = Going back home trip cancelled

It was March 2020 and I was planning to go back to Buenos Aires to mount an “Automatic City” art installation for the Art’s Fair week in Buenos Aires for the Hipodromo de Palermo (the city’s horse race stadium) official opening. I was gathering the initial group of artists for this event and we were all so excited of how far our first collaboration had taken us. I was creating in Berlin an art network from producers, artists and investors interested in my work and even sponsoring that art installation. 

 

"Capítulo Uno, despertar en silencio" show at the theatre Santos4040, Buenos Aires.

A new beginning

But the news about COVID-19 made me face a life changing decision. Going down to Buenos Aires might mean not being able to come back in May as I had planned and loosing this new network. Plus the crisis in Argentina would most likely sink me with it. On the 13th of March I decided to change my ticket back home and stay in Berlin at a friend’s place who hosted me at his couch and let me settle a working desk for me to start a new production that was already beating in my heart: Automatic City of Berlin. 

Berlin = “Time has another art”

The worldwide coronavirus situation enhanced my inspiration towards the main concept: Time. While travelling through the EU and UK I identified each city with one concept. If London was “Business”, Paris was “Facade”, Madrid was “Marble”, then Berlin was “Time”.  

Despite being the capital of one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, Berlin’s daily pace still follows a slow-motion deep contemplation of details, life and humankind. Berlin is not a beautiful city in the traditional sense: it used to be poor and it’s still sexy because of the relaxed mindset of the people that choose to live in it.

Coming back from London to Berlin I could already start feeling how time was being stopped all over the world. Countries being locked down, train trips being reduced, flights almost reduced to repatriation, shops closing, restaurants empty, desolated streets. When I arrived in Berlin the breaking-notion of Time that the city had always given me to reflect was imposed all over the world. If there was a place for me to do quarantine was Berlin.

A photo of Berlin by Josie Watson on March 2020.

Why Berlin?

Getting to know Berlin inspired the resignification of Automatic City. Automatic City became a 3D parallel reality in itself to which I travel to express and understand my life in each human organization that reality presents to me. And it could be, to you, an immersive fantastic reality that would feature different cities of the world through different moments of my life and of our collective history. In this sense, producing Automatic City of Berlin during the COVID-19 pandemic would allow me to preserve both my and other people’s impressions of how time appears to have stopped for humankind, everywhere.

Reference: “Berlin: Symphonie der Großstadt” (1927) – Walter Ruttmann

One of the most recognizable creations tagged as City Symphony is “Berlin: Symphonie der Großstadt” (1927) from Walter Ruttman as he allowed us to understand how Berlin was in those times. Surprisingly, throughout the film’s footage, no recognisable monument of Berlin appears, resulting in an absence of recognisable elements that make the city of Berlin an allegory of the metropolis of the time with all its faults and virtues.

The value of heritage

The past has a fundamental and principal value in the personal and collective identity of individuals and societies. The past continues to have strength as an identity phenomenon. As a reference of what we were, what we are and as an answer of what it can be. And in this sense, cultural goods play a fundamental role, since it is the tangible objects that evoke that past. That is why we consider Heritage to be objects or elements of great value. Like heritage itself, its value depends on the social and historical context in which it is analysed. In the current context, it may be an economic resource as a tourist attraction or as a museum or educational resource. The case is that in order to appreciate heritage, the use it is given has a lot to do with it, as well as the symbolic value it has for the people around it. The main value of Cultural Heritage is what it represents in today’s society, its historical value as a resource to generate identity, prestige and strengthen the culture of the people.  But its historical value is not the only appreciable value. Its aesthetic beauty can be a great attraction as an element that evokes a brilliant past or as an artistic model.

A remain of the wall of Berlin by Josie Watson on April 2020.

Into another dimension of time and space

A Urban Symphony is the creation of a new city that results from the creator’s own vision of an urban space, an artistic expression that needs the configuration of a space that constitutes a reality. Selecting urban places means building a certain reality and pursuing the development of a new architecture based on the two fundamental elements of film content: time and space. Author, time, space and subjectivity are the basic subjects on which the film contributions of the symphonies are based. The sensation of similarity to real space produced by the film image is so powerful that it makes us obviate the flatness of the image, giving the film space the third dimension in the collective imagination, that is to say, that our perception reacts to the film image as to a real space and, nevertheless, we are before a realistic representation of an imaginary space that seems to us to perceive as true.

Bicimático
Autobusmático Buenos Aires WatsOnArt Josie Watson Arte
"Bici-mático" painting 2012 by Josie Watson.
Photo by Josie Watson on April 2020.

 

Millennial Identity

I understood the importance of highlighting my identity as a Millenial by analysing my own ways of production. I was born in 1988 in Argentina in a world where the internet was not yet available to almost anyone and I knew life before globalization. I took analog photos, watched movies in VHS, heard music on the radio, taped my beloved tracks on cassettes, used floppy disks, fought with my siblings over the use of the landline for internet, played the first arcade games, went back to the middle age with Age of Empires, used ICQ to meet strangers and MSN to chat with boyfriends, worked for an agency creating backgrounds for a private Stan Lee’s videogame project and applied Augmented Reality on my collection paintings. Millennials saw life change early enough to embrace the digital era as our own identity yet still keep the inner analog pace of time. 

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is a digital feature that allows a device to display films, animations, sounds, effects, words or any source of information on a real object. After tracking and recognizing a designated image/form placed in reality (called “marker”) with a special AR camera integrated inside a digital device, the tangible form gets enlarged by the addition of a digital form of art, the connector within this two realities will be a broader concept or form of art in itself that we call IT-Art.

An espectator feedback on the exhibition at the Realities Centre in London, January 2020.

 

Innovation

By using Augmented Reality to create a Urban Symphony about Berlin I approach an intention of creating a poly expressive symphony starting from a piece of art itself, a collection painting playing it’s own role in a particular space and time. The viewer ends up feeling how the art is enhanced into deeper realities with multiple inner concepts and interpretations triggering the search for his own and finding it in the new IT-Art identity.

From Art to IT-Art

To explain it in a more familiar way, IT-Art is different from traditional visual art: it is no longer a tangible piece of this world that invites us to travel through our imagination to a fantastic world, but a form of digital art that uses a real-world anchor to help us enter a parallel reality and enables us to choose, using technology, how long we’d like to stay there and how to come back to reality through the tangible art.

"Reflection" IT-Art (original oil painting on canvas and digital animation and sound) by Josie Watson.

 

Life after COVID-19: A new perception of technology 

If there is something the human race will not forget after Coronavirus pandemy is how the Internet became an essential necessity to connect and take care of others. From the health systems online updates of the spread-deaths-recovered of the disease, to meetings online via Zoom and people finding time to learn new creative skills through social media (as Millennials and Centennials did since they were young). We can say that from this situation on the Internet gained its own cultural heritage and technology became closer to save people. This is why the expression of Berlin during the current situation has to be made through the fusion of art and technology.

First official IT-Art

My goal would be to create the first official IT-Art piece of art inspired by the city of Berlin in a precise historical circumstance. After the experience in Buenos Aires as a local private production and trial of many forms of fusion of art and technology, WatsOnArt was ready to produce a more mature piece of art focusing on the IT-Art new concept. 

Exhibition “Automatic City of Berlin – Time has another Art”

The final outcome of this production would be a collaborative exhibition with a special performance that could be visited by the public to experience IT-Art live. The production of this exhibition would be an IT-Art form itself created through online collaboration as many of these people live in different parts of the globe and would be able to connect through the internet, until lockdowns are gone and they can finally meet in Berlin.

Photo of a rolled up copy of "Alta en el cielo" IT-Art. 

IT-Art product

The importance of creating a product out of this first IT-Art piece through printed copies on paper or stretched on canvas sold online is to present IT-Art as an art genre initially close to people (accessible prices) and into their houses. The pre-release would be made through Kickstarter, fostering a community of art and tech lovers in search of new trends. The incomes of this pre-release would be used for the marketing of the product. Finally the product will be released in WatsOnArt e-shop and the incomes of that sales used to create the next IT-Arts.

Kickstarter

For this, I created a Kickstarter campaign to raise the first funds for this new production.

To be continued: Click to read about the Kickstarter campaign.

Photo of a mural in a random street in Berlin, April 2020.

The origin of WatsOnArt

The origin of WatsOnArt

Who am I?

My name is Josie Watson and I am an argentinean artist of Scottish descent. I am recognized in my country for the series of paintings “Automatic City” inspired in the City of Buenos Aires (my homeland) that introduced me to the local market at a very young age. Through this series of paintings and my interest in technology since childhood I would introduce my self in the inmersive realities world where art and technology fusion to express the new digital era identity in it’s own new art genre: IT-Art. 

"Femme-Automatique" painting, photo taken on 2011.

 A young art career

I started to paint and exhibit my work at the age of 10 thanks to the tutoring of many argentinean renowned artists who treated me as a colleague from the beginning. They all agreed I needed to study art on my own because I had a unique style, which was rare to happen at such an early age and could get incorrectly influenced by attending their classes. As I was already disciplined and committed to my art I followed their advice and frequented their ateliers as a friend to collaborate and enjoy each other’s art while creating my own studio at my parents home and painting daily. By the age of 19 I was working as an assistant in an art auction house which also gave me the understanding on the real economics of arts. This way I could accomplish all the aspects of an art career from a young age. 

"Femme-Automatique" at an Auction Exhibition at Arroyo Remates, Buenos Aires 2011.

First sales 

The paintings of my series “Automatic City” were introduced to the market in 2010-11 (when I was 20 years old) through one of my art colleagues, Adolfo Nigro, who presented them to a galerist. A peculiarity, only the few people that knew me directly knew my age,  but in the art scene of Buenos Aires people guessed that by my name I should be a man of 60 years old. This was also because of the size and quality of the paintings, for how long my CV showed that I have been exhibiting my work and the coherence of my visual work. 

Congreso Nacional Buenos Aires WatsOnArt Josie Watson Arte
"Como llueve de abajo para arriba" painting by Josie Watson.

From “emerging” to “consecrated” artist

Through the years I achieved top sales in the “Emerging artists” category. In 2014 I was invited to exhibit at the British Arts Center where I did a large exhibition in which 80% of the paintings were already owned by collectionists of the city. The exhibition was displayed on a three floored gallery and attracted the attention of many gallerists and curators. In 2016 my painting inspired in the National Congress of Argentina was auctioned in the “Consecrated artists” category positioning me together with my art colleagues. The painting was bought as a gift for an important argentinian politician.

 

Need of innovation

Since then I had the chance to exhibit almost anywhere I applied to, but by 2016 the exuberance and solemnity of saloons and museums felt empty to me. I felt that there was something missing between the painting and the viewer. Without being completely sure of what I was doing but following my intuition, I invited some friends and artists who’s creative work I admired to create a collaborative exhibition inspired by the same series of paintings. They all gave me their own professional approach to the series and I created a plan to fusion all the feedback. None of them really knew what we were doing until the very first exhibition that took place at the art space of Banco Ciudad (the official bank of the city of Buenos Aires).

 

First exhibition “Automatic City of Buenos Aires”

We jointly created an interactive exhibition inspired by the city we lived in, where traditional art forms (paintings, drawings, sculptures, and an installation) were fusioned with technological forms such as sensors, lights, mapping projections, augmented reality and interactive features. Under my art direction, each fusion was fused to enhance the art in a way that would connect the tangible form to the digital form, and by doing so I found that the new generations have a new understanding of art. A new concept was born that, I trust, will very soon develop into a new art genre that I called IT-Art.

 

"Bombonera" painting and IT-Art by Josie Watson.

Millennial =  Born in a world in a crisis

In 2017 the economic crisis in Argentina was bad again and made us all work extra hours or double work to get enough money to pay the bills, besides our creative projects. Our time to meet was reduced by this and the energy each of the artists could give was limited. So I decided to take the exhibition into my own hands and turned it into a project under my direction and focus on taking the best out of each artist’s time. We were all highly motivated, so having someone devoted to the project 24 hs was crucial to accomplish our goals.

For this, I lowered my own working hours, reduced my income, learned to live with the essentials, quit many activities and only kept my work as a muralist for “Proyecto Balvanera”, a neighbors activity to paint the gray fachades our district. Someone was needed to direct this new project and I was the one who could really understand each artist’s creation and take it further into a bigger project. I could see it’s future.

 

Interactive Instalation at Banco Ciudad, 2017.
Interactive Performance at Theatre Santos4040, 2017.

You are Josie Watson?

The project exhibitions demanded social media marketing and a Sponsor. I presented myself to the Banco Ciudad, private sponsors, the city of Buenos Aires government and some investors. Almost every time I heard the same expression I had heard many times since I started exhibiting my work since the age of 10: “You are Josie Watson? We were expecting to meet a old man of around 60ish… not such a young woman!”. Believe me, that may sound like a funny anecdote but it also brought many sexist situations, insinuations, pre-judgments, discrimination and twelfth different stories of different people intending to manipulate the project. I took all this experiences as necessary learning for something worthy coming later.

You are Josie Watson?

The project exhibitions demanded social media marketing and a Sponsor. I presented myself to the Banco Ciudad, private sponsors, the city of Buenos Aires government and some investors. Almost every time I heard the same expression I had heard many times since I started exhibiting my work since the age of 10: “You are Josie Watson? We were expecting to meet a old man of around 60ish… not such a young woman!”. Believe me, that may sound like a funny anecdote but it also brought many sexist situations, insinuations, pre-judgments, discrimination and twelfth different stories of different people intending to manipulate the project. I took all this experiences as necessary learning for something worthy coming later.

Josie Watson and Carlos Leiza, Head director of Art and Pledge Department of Banco Ciudad, 2017.

First fundings

I gained the Banco Ciudad (Official bank of the city of Buenos Aires) sponsorship for a year and two public funds, one to keep my activities social mural activities in my neighbourhood and the other one for the exhibitions production. I also received private funding from a collectionist who knew me for several years and for whom I had created a special painting “Alta en el cielo”. The inspiration for the painting came from his -positive- farewell to his dad, with whom he used to walk to the obelisk every Sunday for many years. He chose some characters, the place represented and some colours. When I told him about this exhibition he didn’t doubt that he would sponsor us. In a country in crisis, each support was essential, as my main worry was to pay the artist’s work to create and maintain a solid network.

WatsOnArt

The bank’s sponsorship helped us make the exhibition itinerant for one year and for each presentation develop each fusion a little bit further into this new concept. When the period was over I turned all my new know-how into an art brand which I called WatsOnArt.

It took me a while to find the name for my art brand. It was on 2008, ten years before, while I was chilling with one of my eledest sisters, Vicky Watson, under our parents backyard straw hut that she said to me: “When you grow up you are going to have your own business and it’s going to be called WatsOnArt!”. I remembered this right after I wrote down “WATSONART” on a shit of blank sheet of paper.

 WatsOnArt is a future collaborative IT-Art platform-to-be that currently provides immersive value to paintings as a minimum viable product. In detail, it’s an Augmented Reality App that extends the story told by the art pieces through a display of digital animation, capturing the viewers attention back towards the tangible painting.

With WatsOnArt I produce interactive artistic experiences focused on cultural heritage content. Each production merges the effort of artists from different disciplines working remotely for one main goal: the creation of a collaborative IT-Art piece.

I funded WatsOnArt with a three based cyclic method of production intertwined by the concept of Interactivity through IT-Art:

– Art Production: Automatic City exhibitions inspired by cities of the world.
– IT Development: Development of collaborative platform for IT-Art.
– Products: Production and sale of IT-Art products.

 

 

First products

In decemeber 2018 I created the first IT-Art products and tested its sales in Buenos Aires. Results were successful and showed me they worked perfect to bring this new art form closer to an audience not familiar with immersive content or even not close enought to arts.

 

Following Gardel’s steps

The economic crisis was striking back in Argentina by January 2019. I joined the big brain rush of millennial tired of having everything so difficult in Latinamerica and bought one-way ticket trip to Europe with absolutely no plan. I would only follow my intuition, the one that had lead me to the creation of WatsOnArt. If something was certain was that I needed to go on a trip to learn more about this new form of art. For this I had to close down my art studio and say farewell to the city, my homeland, that had inspired me initially.  

It is said that to be recognized in your country you have to find success somewhere else first. That’s the story of Carlos Gardel, one of Argentina’s most renown tango musicians who’s music was only acclaimed when he came back from finding success in Paris.

First Interactive Exhibition at Banco Ciudad, July 2017.