Liat Segal, a multidiscplinary artist and former researcher at Microsoft Innovation Labs in Tel Aviv, joins us for our second installment of 'Five Questions With...'
In her work, Liat harnesses information, software, electronics and mechanics to build installations and machines that connect the physical world with virtual ones. Observing inconsistencies and dissonances that rise when personal lives meet ever-evolving technological environments, Liat questions issues such as intimacy vs. alienation, privacy vs. over-exposure, identity and originality as they reflect in technology.
In dialogue // LIAT SEGAL
Rimma Boshernitsan: Tell us a little bit about your background, where you grew up and how that influenced your current work?
Liat Segal: I was brought up in Israel of the 1980's. I was a middle child with two brothers. My parents are both self-made people ("Life Hackers") who creatively built their own trajectories. Their way taught me that boundaries are a mental state and that I don't need to perceive definitions and instructions too seriously. I learned that it's more fun when problems are looked at as riddles, forming constraints that invite creativity.
As a child, I used to build physical structures, and what today I can maybe call 'installations', but I also always had a passion for science and technology. So when I needed to choose what to focus on during my studies, I chose computer science and biology. Only later, after finishing my master degree and while working in the hi-tech industry, I started playing with electronics and made projects that got more complex with time. Then I very quickly understood that I found my medium as an artist.
Today I create with technologies, whether traditional and commonly used or state-of-the-art, use them out of their original contexts and give them new and intimate purposes. The final artworks consist of several dimensions; a physical structure, motion and mechanics, electronics, software and data. The act of building the machines and activating them is significant to me. I feel that the technical choices I make affect the final artwork just as much as the touch of a painter affects a painting.
RB: What turns you on creatively, spiritually and/or emotionally?
LS: I love the concept of serendipity. Serendipity is a fortunate discovery that is made unintentionally, without searching for an answer to a specific question, but rather by being perceptive to the occurrence and development of events. A known example for serendipity is the discovery of penicillin by Alexander Fleming. After being away from his lab for a month, Fleming returned to find that his bacterial cultures had been contaminated and destroyed by a fungus. In many labs prior to that day, bacterial cultures had been contaminated and thrown in the garbage, but Fleming saw the potential and kept the cultures. The discovery of penicillin occurred due to a flow of accidental events and because of Fleming’s attention, observation and his ability to "catch the chance."
As an artist and as a person, I feel that it is important to be able to recognize and be inspired by meaningful patterns and to make significant links within the flow of accidental occurrences. This depends, to a great deal, on being present and observative, a task that is nowadays becoming more and more difficult.
RB: What was the impetus for you to start your artistic practice?
LS: I've created for as long as I can remember. However, it took me many years to start calling what I make 'art'. One of my earliest memories is of a 'Rube Goldberg Machine' filling my childhood bedroom, which I built around the age of seven. As I grow, my narratives, tools and environments change, but the same forces that got me to create, are still ones that drive me in my work today.
My artistic practice got a major boost when I found the expression medium that gives me most passion and inspiration. Then, for the first time in my life, I felt that I was in the right place.
Who are you most inspired by?
LS: I am inspired by 'border-less' people who make things in their own way; by people, who in the face of obstacles can take a breath, observe what is in front of them and start playing to create something completely new. I'm inspired by people that have the ability to turn 1+1 into 3.
How would you want to be remembered?
LS: New. I would love to be remembered via analogue memories rather than just digital ones.
Liat graduated her M.Sc studies in Computer Science and Biology and the Interdisciplinary Program for Fostering Excellence at Tel Aviv University. She worked as a researcher at Microsoft Innovation Labs and taught at the Bezalel School of Arts and Design at the Hebrew University.
Liat's recent works were exhibited at the Israel Museum Jerusalem, Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt, National American Jewish History Museum Philadelphia, Hansen House, Jerusalem, the Amsterdam Light Festival, Jerusalem International Light Festival and others.