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Andy DiLallo

3D Animation, Decolonization, Planned Obsolescence, Anti-Consumerism, Thought Experiment, Post-Capitalism


How to be Obsolete

How to be Obsolete, Andy DiLallo, 2022. 3D Animation, Sound. 2’52”.

"How to be Obsolete" examines how capitalist cyberspace has colonized our sense of the present and the future. Using the format of a Windows 95 operating system, it engages with technological nostalgia to explore and question whether contemporary smartphones and tablets have produced a different type of presence, one that is simultaneously ultra-connected yet even more disembodied.

Over the past thirty years, many technologies have risen and fallen. "How To Be Obsolete" embraces this spectrum of digitality and sides with the discarded, seemingly forgotten elements of information representation. It raises the question of what obsolescence means in a culture obsessed with production and consumption. 

As humans increasingly become replaced by machines, could an embrace of the obsolete be a rejection of the dominant extractivist cultural narratives? "How To Be Obsolete" can be considered a thought experiment aimed at disrupting the infinite growth paradigm, an attempt to discover new ways of intimacy and rest beyond the fetishization of the latest upgrade within a broken system.

Artist Interview

Q: In this new edition of the UAAD online magazine, we're exploring the theme of "[Matrix] of the [Not-Yet]." How would you interpret these two words, and how do you see your work aligning with the concepts of [Matrix] and [Not-Yet]?

In my work, I often contemplate the "matrix" as the intricate information landscape shaped by computers and the internet, which has fundamentally altered how we perceive the world, ourselves, and our relationships. This matrix is an emerging construct, contrasting sharply with the legacy analog frameworks that previously defined our understanding. My practice as an artist is integrating these paradigms and re-ontologizing how we can inhabit our current reality. Through this process, I find myself posing more questions than providing answers. However, I believe it's only by engaging directly with these technologies and the complexity they present that we can navigate and shape the "not-yet." For me, the "not-yet" represents a state of becoming, collectively and as "data subjects"—a term the European Union uses to describe individuals in the digital age.

Q: We are very interested in the trajectory of your creative practices and their connection to the theme. Could you provide us with a little more information about your background?

I grew up in the Midwest as a middle child, positioned at the cusp of transitioning into today's highly digital, "extremely online" world. My earliest memories with computers include the distinctive sound of a dial-up modem connecting my family’s Windows 98 to the internet—a symbolic gateway to the online world and now a generational marker. As the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds increasingly blurred, so did the trajectory of my interests. I began my creative journey with music, starting with analog instruments and eventually moving to software-based music composition as an undergrad. This shift led me to explore the interactive capabilities of digital software, which in turn steered me towards visual arts and an MFA in art practice.

Currently, I balance my artistic pursuits with my professional life as a software developer, where I help build a virtual reality heart surgery planning application for a children’s research hospital.

Q: The creators participating in this magazine work across various mediums, including moving images, interactive installations, music composition, etc. What factors influence your choice of medium for your works?

My interdisciplinary background influences my approach, as my works usually combine multiple mediums. Video games, which blend visual art, interaction, narrative, and sound into cohesive experiences, greatly inspire this approach. Depending on the project, I may engage with one or all of these elements. For instance, “How To Be Obsolete” combines 3D animation, text, and sound. In other projects, I use AI to examine art creation at the protocol level—collecting and curating data, modifying code, and training models. This process transforms the piece into what I consider a digital sculpture, embodying the system itself.

Q: How does your work reflect or actively engage with the cultural and social dynamics of your community or the communities you interact with? Are there elements in your art that seek to bridge, disrupt, or transform these dynamics?

In my project "How To Be Obsolete," I explore a blend of nostalgia while charting a path forward. This duality reflects the growing movement towards what is referred to as the "dark forest theory of the internet." Inspired by Cixin Liu's portrayal of the universe as a perilous dark forest where revealing oneself can attract predators, this theory applies to our digital interactions. It suggests a retreat from the Clearnet, or the publicly accessible internet plagued by ads, trolls, and data breaches, towards more secluded spaces like small group chats and Discord channels. My work engages with these shifts, highlighting communities that create parallel online spaces reminiscent of the old web, seeking autonomy away from mainstream platforms. You could say that becoming “obsolete” in this sense is having a revitalization.

Q: What real-world strategies or methodologies do you employ in your art practice to manifest your visions of the future? How do these tactics serve as forms of resistance or intervention within the current socio-political landscape?

I believe the future hinges less on digital innovation and more on digital governance. While technology can help solve problems created by humans, effective solutions depend crucially on governance, which is a design challenge. Much of my work attempts to engage with new technologies as a form of co-design, aiming to shape the outcomes proactively. To explore these concepts further, I’m increasingly participating in organizations such as the MEDLab at CU Boulder, led by Nathan Schneider, who is pioneering research and experiments in digital governance. My involvement is an artistic endeavor to probe and influence these emerging frameworks.

Q: How do you hope your work impacts its viewers or participants, particularly in terms of rethinking potential futures or alternate realities? Who do you perceive as your audience?

My work primarily addresses the ways in which technologies are reshaping identity. In "How To Be Obsolete," I playfully engage with what philosopher Luciano Floridi describes as “third-order” technology—an example being a machine learning program operating a robot that builds a car. This places humans outside the operational loop, presenting significant challenges and opportunities. My audience consists of those similarly grappling with these profound ontological shifts, trying to feel and think their way through, regardless of whether they possess the specific vocabulary to articulate these changes. Ideally, my work encourages viewers to consider new forms of communication, collective action, and governance we will need to contribute, even in a small way, to reimagined futures and alternate possible realities.

Q: As a creator, what do you see as the threats or uncertainties we will face in the coming decade?

A poignant remark by OpenAI's CEO Sam Altman reads, "AI will probably most likely lead to the end of the world, but in the meantime, there’ll be great companies." The sentiment underscores a significant problem regarding our relationship with technology: using fear as a marketing strategy. This approach discourages the public from meaningfully engaging with emerging technologies, consolidating more power, faith, and control into the hands of a few large tech monopolies.

The challenges we face require enhanced human intelligence, better governance, and a shift away from a human-centric model that has contributed to environmental degradation. We must respect human dignity while leveraging technology to benefit the environment, future generations, and other life forms. However, I am skeptical about achieving these goals within the neoliberal, capitalist framework that financializes every aspect of life and glorifies wealthy CEOs as the pinnacle of ingenuity.

Q: What motivates you to continue creating as an artist?

My motivation is in the practice itself; creating art is a means of exploring and experimenting with different ideas and ways of being. I view my artistic practice as directly engaging with contemporary issues, phenomena, and technologies. This intrinsic curiosity and the need for a deeper understanding provide a space where such explorations can be cultivated. Without this, the present can often seem overwhelming and intimidating. I hope my art serves as a conduit for navigating and making sense of these complexities.

Q: Are there any theories, books, or artists you would like to recommend in your current areas of interest?

I recommend exploring "The Dark Forest Anthology of the Internet," a collection of essays addressing various aspects of digital culture. Also, "Sacred Stacks: The Art of Cyborg Community" offers insights into digital communities and online governance tools. For those interested in artificial intelligence from a critical perspective, Jacobin issue 52 on Artificial Intelligence is an excellent resource. Additionally, any writings or lectures by Luciano Floridi provide a deep dive into digital ethics and the philosophy of information.

Q: If you could create an art piece with unlimited resources and no constraints, how would it look like, and why?

Imagining art I would create with unlimited resources has always been a challenge for me. I would need some constraints to make compelling work! However, I would love more funding to support collaborative projects that bring together artists, technologists, and thinkers from diverse disciplines.

About the Artist

Andy DiLallo (he/him) is a media artist exploring the intersections of technology, art, and human/machine interaction. Holding an MFA in Art Practice from CU Boulder, his work investigates cultural shifts prompted by machine learning and the interplay with digital media. Andy has showcased internationally at SIGGRAPH, Athens Digital Arts Festival, IndieCade, The Wrong Biennale, and COP26. Parallel to his art practice, Andy is a software developer at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, where he collaborates with a team at Unity Technologies to create a VR heart surgery planning tool.

©2024 Underground Art And Design LLC | ISSN 2835-284X

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