Interview with Pioneer Toolkit

An interview with me on Pioneer Toolkit has appeared online. In it I talk about open source software, glitch art and a bit about organising events.

The full interview is available on the website. The website has since been taken down, so the full interview is below:

In this, the first interview for the PioneerToolkit I ask Antonio Roberts about the tools he’s used to create, collaborate and organise his work as a digital artist.

Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a digital artist currently based in Birmingham. My artwork focuses on the errors and glitches generated by digital technology. I recently finished my MA in Digital Arts in Performance at Birmingham City University and now I’m continuing my practice as a digital artist. My solo and collaborative work has been shown locally at events including Leeds International Film Festival, BitJam and ArtsFest and internationally at events including GLI.TC/H in Chicago and the Laptop Meets Musicians Festival in Venice, Italy

The GLI.TC/H festival was quite some achievement, what tools helped you organise such a complicated event?

We mostly have Google and Skype to thank for that! The GLI.TC/H team consisted of Nick Briz, Jon Satrom, Evan Meaney and Rosa Menkman, with myself and Theodore Darst as additional curators/event organisers. Myself and Rosa aren’t based in Chicago like the rest of them so there was a lot of e-mailing. We used Google Docs to plan things like accommodation for artists, equipment, video screening lists and so on. Occasionally we’d have Skype conversations which helped conversations flow more fluidly.

Reading your twitter timeline and hellocatfood website its apparent that you rely heavily on Linux and open source applications. How do you find this influences what you do and how you do it?

It’s the driving force behind everything that I do. I made the decision some years ago to ditch proprietary software and I’ve never looked back. It started out with curiosityat the alternatives but now it’s become quite a politically charged act. I don’t like how nowadays creativity and design skills are so tightly linked to proprietary software that usually comes at a high price. Put simply, I don’t have £500+ to keep up with the latest software from Adobe that is released every few years. I believe that design should be more about the skill than the software. When it comes to design applications for Linux, I use the usual software, such as GIMP Inkscape, Scribus, Blender and Synfig. However, I’ve found Linux is better used for design that is heavily influenced by code and self-built tools. For example, for Dataface and I Am Sitting in a Room I built a number of command-line scripts to generate each iteration of the design. Similarly, for my glitch art I’ve built a number of scripts, called the What Glitch? scripts, that simplify the glitching process and save me a lot of time.

What projects / project are you working on at the moment?

The Network Music Festival, which I’m assisting in organising and also playing at, is coming up at the end of January I’m planning, with some assistance from Pete Ashton, on bringing BYOB to Birmingham in a few months. Few details are available at the moment, but watch the Tumblr and Twitter site for updates. Aside from that I’m continuing my work with BiLE and learning more about using Processing and Pure Data

What lessons learnt will you employ from the GLI.TC/H festival in future work?

When it comes to organising events GLI.TC/H taught me a lot about working remotely with others. When organising fizzPOP and Birmingham Zine Festival we were lucky as all of the organisers lived relatively near to each other. At first working across time zones was difficult but the internet has helped almost eradicate distance. I also learnt a lot about working with business partners. The process of receiving support from Arts Council England, Birmingham City University and VIVID revealed to me that there needs to be some sort of value to an artistic practice or event if it is to receiving any kind of support. In terms of artistic development, seeing the range of work at GLI.TC/H has inspired me greatly. It has mostly taught me to look at my work more critically and see something deeper than what is on screen. I hope to do more critical writing on several subjects such as glitch art and the politics of open source software and it’s link to design

How has the mobile web / always on nature of the internet helped or hindered your ability to get stuff done?

Before I got an Android phone I had to wait till I got home before I could do any sort of computer work, be it serious work or social media. Now, being able to check e-mails and read my RSS feeds on the go means that I can focus on work when I get home instead of all of the social things. On the other side of things I find myself constantly receiving notifications on my phone and desktop of new e-mails, tweets and wall posts, which can get irritating. Ironically my phone spends a lot of time on silent mode

Do you have any tactics for keeping focused?

Turn off the internet! Although it’s ironic to resort to using an application as a method of self control, I highly recommend installing SelfControl (Linux version also available) and using it regularly. Not being at all able to access Facebook, Twitter and other distracting website has really improved my productivity. Aside from that, make a plan and stick to it. Most nights before I go to sleep I make a list of things I need to do, even the little things. It helps clear my head for the next day

How do you hope developments in 2012 will make your life easier?

I hope the amount of physical devices/possessions I have will dramatically decrease. My phone has already replaced my diary/calendar and a lot of other things, so I’m hoping to do the same with books and films this year. Less dead weight On a technological side, my coding skills have been getting progressively better, so I hope I’m able to automate more tasks using programs writing by myself and others.