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In Conversation with Alida Sun cover photo

INTERVIEW

In Conversation with Alida Sun

by Jeff Davis

Alida Sun is an artist and intersectional futurist based in Berlin and New York. Her current practice focuses on assemblage, extended realities, and experimental humanities. I had the opportunity to speak with Sun in anticipation of her upcoming Art Blocks project, glitch crystal monsters.
Jeff Davis: Hi Alida! Great to chat and learn more about your background. How did you first get into making art?
Alida Sun: I sketched and scribbled on and with whatever I could find as a small child. I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t making art. It took a bit longer to realize I was an artist, and when I did, I tried running away from it a couple times. But ultimately art found me quite early on.
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Alida Sun, Far Away Signals.
JD: When did you start pursuing creative coding?
AS: Does coding comics and science fiction/fantasy art sites count? If so, then age ten. I’m a complete autodidact when it comes to code—I studied things that encompass technology, but never had any formal training in programming. I got into generative art in what I now realize was a rather strange, roundabout way via projection mapping. This was right after university. I had no money, and the notion that one could create quasi-magical interactive environments with frameworks that were completely free and open source was wildly inspiring. Still is!
JD: Then how would you say your creative practice has developed over time?
AS: It’s become far more fluid than fixed. But it’s also more disciplined, yet that discipline is grounded in healing, community building, and curiosity. Not career ambition. I generate a new artwork every single day—as of writing this, I’m up to day 833. I’m also experimenting with more and more emerging technologies like machine learning and biometric sensors. I’ve grown to love physics, especially fluid dynamics, and I merge these studies with more artistic inquiries.
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Alida Sun, Techno Leviathan Cloud Deities.
JD: Any recent accomplishments you’d like to share?
AS: I just had a solo exhibition at SOMA, one of the biggest, most breathtaking art spaces I’ve ever experienced, thanks to wonderful curator Nabi Nara. It was a great honor to have the show supported by Berlin state arts programming, which also enabled me to do a live coding performance collaboration with world class dancers. I was over the moon about that—choreography deeply inspires my code. I believe the two share artistic DNA.
I’m also delighted to be published alongside friends in an art book and augmented reality exhibition this spring by Generative Hut + Vetro Editions. And this past autumn, I had my installation work featured in The Architect’s Newspaper and co-led a workshop with Jeffrey Halstead at the ACADIA summit—one of the keynote speakers was Ruha Benjamin, the author of my favorite book on tech. I was so happy. Spring that year my digital art was also exhibited in New York and they let me put “Don’t Trust Secret Algorithms” in the title, which was displayed in Times Square.
JD: Then how did you end up discovering NFTs and crypto art?
AS: I was among a group of computational artists who got bombarded with invites to join platforms in their nascent stages. At the time, I was busy with other projects, and I wasn’t intrigued by NFTs until I saw artist friends like Dmitri Cherniak and Helena Sarin dive in and do their marvelous work.
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Alida Sun, glitch crystal monsters #0, 2021.
JD: Alright, let’s talk about glitch crystal monsters! What was the inspiration behind it and how is it connected to your current practice?
AS: Ancient and emerging mythologies, minerals, art manifestos, light, and long research into the implications for society and culture that decentralization carries, both beauty and horror. I set out to visualize some coalescing iconography with the blockchain without being literal or using crypto logos. Naturally, I infused this project with pretty much everything I’ve learned from my daily art practice (by the time I fleshed out my script I’d completed over 777 days) in installation, architecture, augmented reality, drawing, projection mapping, and performance.
JD: What would you like collectors to pay attention to in your Art Blocks project?
AS: I hope people pay special attention to the structural intricacy, color depth and subtlety, plus the range and duration of 3D motion—these are all elements I’m not able to share on mainstream social media. Big Tech platforms' compression often decimates my art beyond recognition. What gets published on Twitter represents a tiny fraction of what generative art is and can be, and not just as far as my own work is concerned. That’s why the common dismissal of collecting digital art, “well I can just screengrab that” is so uninformed. There’s a ton of technical, practical reasons why that assumption isn’t true. Plus—this may sound uncanny—digital artworks really can have their own spirits, so I imbued glitch crystal monsters with elusive ones that originate from and can move across different dimensions.
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Alida Sun, Vessel for Becoming.
JD: Anything else people should know to better understand your art?
AS: Generative art does not have to be restricted to screens, still images, or 2D. My practice is as much informed by the physical and biological as well as the virtual and technological, and I don’t isolate or privilege any element over the other. I believe there’s far more fun, enchantment, and truth when they intersect and entangle.
JD: And what’s the best way for people to follow your work?
AS: I share my daily practice via Instagram. I’m also active on Twitter, devouring compression and all. Feel free to check my Linktree for other projects and exhibitions. Many thanks!

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