Discovering Digital Creators — Interview with Tony Murray from ToMu Lab
Tony Murray’s work caught our attention as he has a very clean aesthetic mixing different elements from fashion, architecture, design, art and technology.
The art created by Tony could transport your mind into another place where can almost imagine being part of the scene. In our opinion, there is also a sense of mystery and sophistication that is very well executed on Legion XII-VIII.
- Tell me about you and how you got into digital art? And why?
I’m Tony Murray. My background is in apparel design, so my gateway to digital art was actually through working with digital tools for the fashion industry like CLO3D with the purpose of streamlining the design process and making the design process more sustainable. The more skilled and adept I became with 3D garment modelling, the more I shifted away from viewing 3D tools as solely a technical garment design solution and more toward the exciting potential of creative expression.
2.What is the inspiration behind your work?
The inspiration behind my work is constantly evolving. It is rooted in a love for fashion photography and cinematography, but increasingly I am looking to machine learning, conceptual art and relational aesthetics for inspiration. I just had a chance to see Beyond the Uncanny Valley: Being Human in the Age of AI currently at the DeYoung in San Francisco and the show got me feeling very inspired. I love seeing work that makes me realize that I’m only barely scratching the surface.
3.What is your creative process?
As a habit, I keep a record of ideas in a number of formats, which I then go back and review as I am preparing new work. I always have a small pocket notebook that I sketch or jot down ideas in, but then there is the less romantic, but no less crucial, saving of images on Instagram and bookmarking websites. Usually, the vision comes first, but sometimes a technique can drive the motivation. Shutting off the barrage of imagery is also important — unplugging and going outside, or reading books. Once I have an idea, I just start doing rough 3D sketches and experimenting, then honing the work until it feels finished.
4. Is there any particular piece of art that you feel very connected to (from your creation or someone else’s)?
Lately, I have been feeling a connection to art that deals with time. The photography of Hiroshi Sugimoto, for example. Charles Sowers’ Solar Totems in which a solar-powered mechanism moves a magnifying lens across a log over the span of a year, burning lines that record the days. Of my own work, I’ve done a few pieces using poetry generated by an artificial intelligence app and read by a synthesized voice — a few that I’ve minted and a few that I haven’t.
5.What is unique about it? Or What is the story behind it?
It is collaborating with something that is not human. Created by humans, yes, but still not human. The first time I generated a poem, I got results that struck a very eerie Ouji-board-Esque nerve with me, which both frightened me and drew me in. Historically, there has always been a non-dogmatic spiritual element that has sat at the edge of scientific discovery, which can be both fascinating visually but also dangerous since spirituality and the occult can be or have been conduits of racism and patriarchy.
6.Where do you see your work going in the future?
I am exploring using more machine learning mechanisms in future pieces. I would also really like to explore how to digitally express decay as a marker of the passage of time in a meaningful way. Technically, I don’t yet know how this could be done — like a video that, instead of 29.97 frames per second is something more like 1 frame per day.
7.Are there any other digital artists you admire? How about writers or movie directors?
Everything Solange Knowles touches is pure magic. I loved Metatronia. The work of Agnès Varda is amazing. As far as digital artists — which throws me a little because at this point, isn’t it all digital? — artists I admire are Aron Jonson, Jeron Braxton, Auriea Harvey, Carla Gannis, Forensic Architecture, to name a few.
8- Do you also collect digital art? And what are the things you consider before buying an art piece?
Nothing beyond some wearables on Cryptovoxels. I would like to grow my following more before really jumping into collecting. For me, collecting would be a function of building community. I’ve been reading Edgar Villanueva’s Decolonizing Wealth and thinking about how the NFT metaverse is a reflection of the existing power and wealth structures while at the same time can be a platform to subvert that existing power structure. We live in a world that operates on a system that values scarcity, often imagined or constructed scarcity. If we can imagine and construct scarcity, we can imagine and construct abundance.
9.Where do you see the NFT and digital market going in the future? Predicting the future is outside my skill set, but I know where I would like to see the NFT and digital market go, which is — going back to the previous question — building an economy of community and abundance. Right now, many digital artists, whether they realize it or not, are working for the platforms they are on. The artists do benefit from the networks and connections they build, but in building these networks they are generating a lot of surplus labour that is appropriated by the platform. It’s not a fair trade.
10.Are you planning to collaborate more with other creatives?
I would love to do more collaborations.
11.Any recommendations for new artists entering the digital NFT space?
I am too new in the digital NFT space to have any credibility giving advice, but I will advise staying true to your vision and maintaining mindfulness amidst the noise, and there is a lot of noise. Avoid negative energy.
12- Could you please tell us more about your CCA fashion experience project?
I teach 3D digital tools for fashion at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. It is a new program, and I feel privileged to be the lead for this new curriculum. When the pandemic forced us into lockdown in March 2020, we pivoted to remote learning. Typically, we celebrate the graduating senior cohort with a fashion event, but the pandemic of course required that event to be virtual so we crafted an interactive website with both a VR environment as well as an AR feature to showcase the students’ work. Since the 3D digital tools program is new at the school, only about one-third of the students had learned the skills to create 3D models of their collection so we explored a range of 3D scanning apps. We ended up using Autodesk ReCap which is a photogrammetry app that can generate 3D models from a photo set, often with glitchy results — sometimes delightful, but sometimes just unusable.
Working on this end of year extravaganza was insightful. Even though more of each students work was featured in the VR space, the AR features got a lot of engagement and highlighted the importance of building a community into the experience. It’s about relational aesthetics — creating not just interactivity, but also the space in which to interact.
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