Whitehot Magazine

Carlo Zanni: Art in the Information Age

200 Carlo Zanni, ZANNI (Ẓ), 2018, Crypto coin. coin.zanni.org (detail)


Carlo Zanni’s oeuvre has explored the aesthetics of our technological age, employing various media like writing, video, programming and printing to bring to life his vision of the role of technology in our lives and in art and the art market. During the opening of the Biennale di Venezia 2019 Carlo is participating in an exhibition taking place in the first permanent art district in Venice – the Giudecca Art District. Carlo took time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.

A Journey of Learning 

Carlo Zanni, The Possible Ties Between Illness And Success, 2006. Server side generated movie (data cinema). Data from Google Analytics. Installation View, Frieze London, 2009

I was showing a video at Frieze London with Lorcan O’Neill Gallery and the day of the opening the gallerist got so mad at me because every single time he was about to show the piece to some collectors my video was rolling the end credits. He asked me to cut them all right away. I didn’t do that. I was quite proud of this. It took me almost six years to understand that he was right, both technically and theoretically. 

About Carlo’s Practice

200 Carlo Zanni, ZANNI (Ẓ), 2018, Crypto coin. coin.zanni.org

I've been investigating the use of Internet data since the early 2000s, exploring contemporary subjects where politics are somehow embedded in a fiction narrative frame. I also give a preference to identity issues. I recently did this project called ZANNI (Ẓ), that is a crypto coin named after myself. Here the artwork, its price and the artist collapse one into each other, ready to be traded and contemplated as numbers on a screen: the art market at its peak. This project is also a bridge to my other research field that is the art market for video and digital art.

The Book: Art in the Age of the Cloud

Carlo Zanni, Art in the Age of the Cloud, published by Diorama Editions

I wrote “Art in the Age of the Cloud” as a recap of my experiences in this field, my ideas and feelings. It is more an artist book than a peer reviewed academic publication. I wanted to be free to tell my point of view on the subject, writing about possible future scenarios. Part of the book is historical research but it works more as a stage from where I can tell my point of view. In brief I think that the way Video art, and some other file based art, gets sold is pretty wrong. Selling them like you sell a painting (a very expensive unique object) doesn't take into account the specs of these media. I think we should find new models to take advantage of their inner nature. https://viceversaartbooks.com/items/art-in-the-age-of-the-cloud/

The Evolution of the Art Market

Carlo Zanni, The Possible Ties Between Illness And Success, 2006
Server side generated movie(data cinema). Data from Google Analytics.

To play these projects at their best, to let them enter the art market taking advantage of their own specs, we would need a new selling model and not just an adaptation of something thought for a painting for instance. Let me use an example I learned watching a great TED talk. In a computer everything is described by long sequences of 0s and 1s. Think of this as to a candle if you want. But the future of computers, quantum computers, are more like a light bulb, not just a bigger candle. They work differently. In QBits, the quantum bits, 0s and 1s can exist at the same time in something called superposition, they exist in a combination of 0s and 1s. For instance a QBit can exist with the 30% of probability of being 0 and the 70% of being 1: this means that its identity is on a spectrum. Videos and files are on a spectrum as well as they can manifest themselves in many different ways. They even include the idea of “editing”: special versions done for a selected audience. If declared, this is perfectly fine (you can’t do this with a painting). So I think it makes sense to edit a video for something very specific like an art fair is, but we still need a selling model that works on a spectrum as well.  

The ideas behind ViBo and ViBo XXL

Carlo Zanni, Koh-i-Noor, 2014 - ViBo XXL, 2’05’’ loop HD video

ViBo started out as a one shot project of mine several years ago. It was a video brochure to sell my video art, and with time it transformed into something else: a selling model that works on a spectrum of possibilities. ViBo suggests that a file-based work can be both streamed, sold as digital download or through inexpensive physical versions up to precious limited editions accompanied by a proper license. The same exact video available in many different formats. The video remains the same and what it changes is how it is delivered, and its associated rights. With Vibo XXL, for instance, you get a license giving you exhibition rights with credits and digital distribution rights. Basically you can re-sell, or give for free, a number of videos. The collector becomes a sort of co-producer and at the same time a distributor of the video work he or she acquires. His role, his identity are renegotiated. It could sound like a dichotomy, being co-producer somehow at the opposite of distribution. But again, when we deal with video art and files, everything is on a spectrum; the collector, the artist, the dealer, and everyone else involved in the process.  

Venice Biennale

This is pretty exciting, I’m part of “Tu Vs. Everybody” a group show produced by Anita Calà’s Villam, co-curated by Elena Giulia Rossi and in collaboration with GAD, Giudecca Art District, that is a new initiative on the island. I’m gonna do a pretty huge outdoor project next to the Estonian Pavilion. It will be about my crypto coin. Come by and check it out! WM

Nicollette Ramirez

Nicollette Ramirez is an art dealer, writer, producer and events organizer, nurturing artists and promoting their work. Nicollette’s projects have often combined artists from diverse backgrounds working in different media in various locations. Nicollette named her company Beez And Honey.   

view all articles from this author