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Digital Genesis: Exploring the Intersection of Bioengineering, Jewelry, and Fashion with Balázs Ágoston Kiss
NCO 033
2023-04-11
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Meet Balázs Ágoston Kiss — an innovative artist who fuses technology with biology and nature, in an attempt to create complex bioengineering pieces that challenge the limits of traditional art forms.

D: All of your projects reveal a prominent hybrid relationship between organic and synthetic life and the use of technology to enhance or modify living beings. What is your main source of inspiration to create these complex bioengineering pieces?

B: I have always found technology to be the most exciting tool for rewriting existing structures and connections, with the possibility of democratizing the work of art. In my object- and body-oriented works, the borders between virtuality and the material world are the main themes, and I use technology as a tool to blend between these dimensions.

For the past 1.5 years, I have been working on a project called Genezis, based on the changing relationships of living things driven by robotics, bioengineering, prosthetics, and complex algorithms. With technological achievements enabling us to expand our bodies and consciousness to reach places we were previously unable to, and to overcome diseases and deficiencies to which we are vulnerable, my goal is to examine these new concepts and create gestures and systems inspired by biology and nature, using synthetic and organic materials, digital tools, and algorithms that reflect on the concept of creation and genesis (Genezis/Teremtés in Hungarian). Modifying and rewriting existing bodies is one of my main topics. Often, when I create wearable pieces, installations, or other work, the inspiration comes from my current obsession and excitement towards concepts, ideas, and scientific or artistic work that has been done before me.


D: Can you discuss how jewelry and fashion come into play in your art practice? Why do you consider fashion to be a relevant medium for your work?

B: From a very young age, I have been working with jewelry. My father is a jeweler, and he has worked in different factories. As a child, I spent a lot of time around objects and machines. When I started using digital technologies to make custom orders, designing objects and 3D modeling became a daily practice for me.

Years later, when I started to work on my first pieces, jewelry was a natural way of communicating my interests. I started using the internet as a channel to share my work and connect with other artists. I started to enjoy the freedom of sharing fashion-related works in the online space. A lot of interest came from the fashion world. I did a few collaborations with designers, stylists, and photographers, went to fashion shows, and started my own brand.

My relationship with craft and jewelry was always complicated. In my experience there's often a very conservative view from the industry and from art universities. It was quite hard for me to experience the dogmatic relations towards change in these fields. Only when I started to create and share my work I got more confident that my artistic practice is relevant. With all the downsides the internet can be a really good channel for feedback and recognition. I consider myself lucky enough to recognise that and use it to build confidence in my work.

In the last two years, I have started to work more on conceptual projects, new media installations, writings, and transmedia experiments. For me, fashion is a field like so many others that are in an identity crisis, struggling to define their function and aims. Often, it becomes self-serving and empty of ideas. Despite the attention and opportunities it still carries, I think fashion should be more political. The projects I am most excited about recently are those with deep ideological meanings, still capable of communicating in a simple and aesthetic way.

I am really interested in expanding the boundaries of what can be perceived as "jewelry," "sculpture," and "fine art." I think we live in a period of time when there is a big change in the classic structures of the industries and in the art world, mainly driven by new technological tools and their impact on society. There are fewer barriers to creation.

Artists no longer need to rely on institutions and hierarchical systems that were essential in the past to get publicity. From that perspective, galleries, art schools, fashion institutions, and journalism connected to arts and fashion should be reconsidered.

I love to see a network of independent artists and designers becoming known without the compromises of losing control over their creative process and staying interested in their work.


D: What connecting thread do you see between ancient life forms, human anatomy, and technology?

B: To study the world around us, understanding the body as a system is a concept that dates back to the beginning of human life, with the aim of interpreting and mimicking nature. Every culture has had an aspiration to interpret nature and shape it to our liking.

My curiosity towards the biological structure of both existing life forms and ancient creatures stems from a fascination with the perfection of nature, the principles of the system in nature, and the functional complexity of evolution. With the tools provided by current technology, the complexity of natural forces is more accessible than ever before. The algorithmic approach is capable of mimicking, modifying, and reproducing natural structures of organisms.

In my work, I often search for something that is both new and ancient, something familiar and strange. For me, the most interesting aspect is to study these systems and combine scientific and technological tools with an artistic approach.


N: And finally, what are your current obsessions? Are you working on something exciting you can share with us?

B: Recently I’m really interested in the topic of prosthetics and transhumanism. These topics are extremely fascinating for me at the moment both from an esthetics, a theoretical and a technological/functional perspective.

I view a lot of my objects as body expansions, moving towards the traditional ways and body parts that we modify or decorate. I'm working on tooth prosthetics, with 3D scanned dental molds and printed “grillz”. It's a complex process with a lot of experimentation but I see a big potential in this approach.

We just completed a project (which will be publicly announced in a few weeks) where we fashioned custom ear prosthetics for people with hearing loss. The concept is to explore and understand the world of individuals with disabilities, how they navigate and what challenges they face. I believe that art and design can serve as a tool to modify social systems and relationships.

Human-computer interaction is becoming increasingly important in our daily lives. In my opinion, transhumanism and cybernetics are theoretical concepts that are among the most relevant today. I previously mentioned my Genezis project, which is a collection of themes and expressions. Currently, I am experimenting with soft robotics, virtual interaction, meta materiality and expanded haptics. I am also writing a blog to explain the concepts behind my research.

All images courtesy of Balázs Ágoston Kiss.
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