Taking their name from their favorite command on computer programs, UNDOdigital started off as a group of friends working for the same ad agency. Feeling the urge to create work outside of the advertising industry to address broader topics as well as some of their individual concerns as digital artists, these (originally) twelve individuals banded together under the UNDO banner in early 2006. By the end of that year they had successfully organized their first show as an artist collective.
Two years later UNDOdigital.com [es] had changed from a basic catalog of the group's work to a full-fledged blog that lets UNDOer's interact with the broader online community, share their creations, promote their exhibits, and expose their readers to all types of art related news, interviews, and works. Rick Lipsett (@ricklipsett), one of the group's creators and editor of the site, explained how members of UNDOdigital “want to achieve a public recognition that art can be produced in the computer. That it is not the computer who does the work, but each artist with his/her own techniques and knowledge of the programs/medium.” We spoke with Rick about the genesis of the UNDOdigital collective and the group's experiences as digital artists in Puerto Rico.
Global Voices (GV): How did the idea for the UNDOdigital artist collective first start taking shape and what were some of the group's first projects?
Rick Lipsett (RP): Back in early 2006, we (the twelve founding members of the collective) were pretty much overwhelmed and tired of making advertisements and never getting the chance to create something for ourselves – something that a client couldn't say ‘NO’ to. One of our members (Gerardo Cloquell) had an Art Show as part of El Coro, another group which he belongs to, that some of us attended. It got me thinking: why not use our skills, which were being used for “evil” (advertising work) and use them for “good” (art shows)?
When I got to work the next day, I showed them the name and logo for the collective. It had me up all night. We fell in love with the concept and started off from there. I remember we sat down to have lunch at a Wendy's and threw in some ideas as to what the show could be about. That day we had the basic down for our first four exhibitions.
GV: What issues, topics, and themes has the collective addressed through its art to this date?
RL: The first show was a ‘Social Critique’ to further analyze our social situation through things we did (and perhaps still do) every day. The second was about ‘Dreams & Nightmares,’ an idea we've had before UNDO was created. The third, ‘Author/Artist,’ consisted of collaborations between a writer and an artist, which is what we do in advertising every day. And finally, ‘Addictions,’ which we envisioned as an opportunity to do some soul searching and explore ours and people's vices, besides the obvious ones that the media point to every day.
Although we've had four different art shows, with different themes, we tend to always show a strong sense of awareness of our social situation (in Puerto Rico) – and want to change it.
GV: What made you decide to take the collective online and how is the UNDOdigital blog an extension of the group?
RL: Joseph Garrahan, the animator in our group, suggested I open up a blog to let people in on our little adventures. At first I doubted the idea, but later gave in – and must say it's been one of the best decisions we've made so far. It lets us reach out to an audience that normally would be more difficult to talk to. That, combined with our Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Buzz pages, make a wide net that puts us in touch with more UNDOfans. The blog functions is more or less a reflection of our meetings: we are a group of friends that talk extensively about art. We make jokes. Criticize our surroundings. Make art critiques. Repeat.
GV: Is there a strong artistic presence within the Puerto Rican blogosphere and social media sphere?
RL: Oh yes. There are many blogs dedicated to the arts and even a unique social network called “Coalición de Artistas de Puerto Rico” [es]. Although we are not a part of that community, I must give them credit, for they have achieved a connection between a large number of artists from Puerto Rico – over 500 in all. But just to name a few blogs, there's Fractal [es], Autogiro [es], El naufragio de las palabras [es], Trance Líquido [es], and msa Xperimental Art [es].
GV: Have you found support for the collective's projects online and has the group received any criticism through the blog?
RL: Yes, thankfully we've received much support from the people who've followed us online throughout the years. When we have a show, they promote us and regularly comment on our posts and/or retweet our posts. About the criticism, I remember specially an interview I did a while back with Lisa Ladner. She gave us a few pointers and she was right on. Lisa is the creator of El Status which is a database of (almost) every artist from Puerto Rico. She's done an excellent job cataloging each artist with their biographies, external links, etc.
GV: What are some of the unique challenges that digital artists face in the creation and exhibition of their work?
RL: The creation is always limited by the knowledge of the technology an artist uses. The more they know, the more “fluent” the art piece becomes. Another challenge is proper printing or “output” of the work. We have to be very careful not to print on the wrong surface, or show an animation in a Plasma TV, when it was really developed for a 16″ television. That sort of thing.
GV: As a Puerto Rican artist, what concerns you most about the current economic, social, and political climate in the island?
RL: The atmosphere is very volatile and putrid. That is why we use it as inspiration for many of our art works. People are really tired of all the B.S. our politicians TRY to feed us. Some believe them blindly but every day a few dozen realize something's wrong. We want to help those who need a nudge to realize the truth.
The economy, being how it is right now, makes it harder for established galleries and museums to invest in upcoming talent. And since we're seen as “up and coming” we've had to make detours and present our work in handpicked places whose owners believe in our project. Many have paid no attention to us. Thankfully a few (important ones) have.