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Imaginary Friends Coming to Life: J's Vision for Interactive Tattoo Art
NCO 057

N: Hi J! After researching about you, I noticed that you are still a student! It's incredible the amount of work you have been producing, and the fact that you are not even out of school yet. Has it always been an objective of yours to complete these studies? How has your MFA in Computer Arts Programme been for you so far? How did you get into making art?

J: It's been a wonderful journey being in the program! I graduated from Parsons in 2020 for fashion design. My work has always been about storytelling through different mediums, especially with creating characters, also practicing different mediums as a way to express myself, discovering and developing my own self-identity. I'm always fascinated by art, fashion, culture, and music as well as computer art and technology that can be presented in retrospective fashionable styles. To me, those things are all intertwined and closely affecting one another. I wanted to push myself into learning computer art, especially 3D art for those reasons, and with digital art being so popular, I wanted to see what I can do as an artist to achieve using those tools. Being in school always helped me to learn faster. Something important too is when I'm surrounded by other amazing artists and professional faculties, it encourages me to produce my best work and be more productive. I've been drawing and creating art since I was 5. My family has always been supportive.

Growing up in China, being influenced by its culture, Asian y2k aesthetic, anime, and video games, they have been the biggest inspirations for my art practices. Being an only child and living with my grandparents, I was very introverted, and I used to just be drawing characters and making my manga in my own little world. That's how everything started.

N: One of your recent works that really caught my eye is obviously your Augmented Reality tattoos. They are blowing my mind right now. It's like we are finally ready to become cyborgs. You've figured out a fun and dynamic way of merging the digital world with the real world. How do you see AR technology changing the way we approach Art & also Fashion or other mediums! And what kind of new creative possibilities does this open up for you (the artist) but also for the wearer?

J: When I was little, I used to have imaginary friends that lived in my pockets that I would pretend to talk to. Creating the AR tattoos (like my most recent project) was like that concept of having a little friend that follows you around and also is a part of you coming to life.

With the technology we have now, I think it opens a new door to storytelling- making art more interactive and fun and adding more special meanings to the viewers, each of the viewers could have a slightly different experience with it.

The mixture of real life and 3D is becoming more and more common in all different fields, and it creates more jobs now that older generations would probably not even understand (like my dad), which I think is crazy.

I started tattooing about 2 years ago. Many people might know my tattoo style is somewhat specific, with a splash of y2k style and retro-futuristic touch with the designs. I love cyber fashion and anything tech-related; mixing multiple interests of mine is very fun to me. The making of AR tattoos has to involve many different skills, connecting all the parts together and making it make sense are also things to consider. I love thinking outside of the box. I love doing things differently, repetitive tasks or things that have been done the old ways can get me bored easily so I like to explore new ideas, and give the users/viewers a breath of fresh air and open their minds to new possibilities.

Tattoos are personal and special to most people, so why not make them even more fun and interactive, right? Plus, everyone wants to be a cyborg these days… including me!

‍N: And you have so many other creative talents up your sleeve, from 3D rendering to animations, illustrations, tattooing, and styling. How do you approach working with different creative mediums, and how do you keep the consistency of your artistic touch across all your mediums? Any tips for other multidisciplinary artists?

J: I think my answers to the previous questions touch on some parts of this. Even though I use different mediums, the main concepts behind my work are very similar, and they all connect in a way. Tips… don't be afraid to try new things, and it's never too late to learn anything! The most important thing is to be yourself, to be original.

N: There has been so much talk around AI lately. What is your opinion on generative art? Have you played with it? What kind of new creative possibilities does this open up?

J: AI has been a very controversial topic lately, but it's already been around for so long. Personally, I wouldn't depend on it too much, like I think there are smart ways to work with it- to use it as a tool, to explore new ideas, as long as it doesn't take away the art's originality and characteristics. I'm pretty open to accepting it and learning to appreciate it. I've used AI-generated art with just texts. It's fascinating how dreamlike most of the outcomes are, and to see the way the computer 'thinks'.

N: Thank you for taking the time to exchange with me today, and to finish on a high note, what is next for you?

J: Besides more AR tattoos and 3D design commissions, I want to create more mixed-media interactive installations in the future-projection and Kinect using touch designer… and I want to get into live visuals with music artist/concerts, VJing, or even big-scale concert visuals is definitely something I want to work towards after my study at SVA. Again, my passion for fashion, art, music, and my community pushes me to find ways to connect all that together. I'm hoping that through my work, I can show others my vision, and the beauty and happiness I find in my generation and culture, while at the same time remaining excited for what the future brings us.

All images courtesy of J.
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