an interview for Clone magazine on the creative spirits of California (edited for publication)

CLONE: Speaking of California involves in many cases, doing it of stereotipos created by the cinema, the music or the fashion. What part of the stereotype 'Made in California' is still valid and what is absolutely haggard?

Erik Adigard: And the gold!
“My” California is limited to the San Francisco Bay Area: from Napa Valley in the north (for the wine) to Big Sur in the south (for the waves and the spiritual retreats)
• This being said, OPTIMISM is a common theme across most of the state. California is the 8th largest economy in the world and it continues to introduce major innovations year after year. Californians love to invent, play and gamble.

CLONE: If you had to define the artistic trends that mark the guideline in the richest state of the USA, which they’d be?

EA: If there is an art movement here it would be science or tech-related, like in the realm of robotics, biology, social media, ubiquitous computing and sensors. It grows out of universities like Berkeley and Stanford.
• Los Angeles does have a thriving art scene which is more traditional. It seems like it has inherited a lot of New York’s artistic energy after the fall out of 2001.

CLONE: Los Angeles and San Francisco, two cities with two very different ways of understanding life and art. How is express this dual role?

EA: Los Angeles is a mass media city. It is a huge city that deals with big numbers, with quantity and with consumption, while San Francisco deals with quality, experience, research and innovation.
• The San Francisco region is more than what California or even the US can stand for. It is a place that attracts utopians and idealists. With every generation, a few innovators in San Francisco always succeed in conceiving and launching a global movement, from the hippies in the 60’s to design in the 80’s and now the social media and ubiquitous computing movements. It is the birth place of Google, Facebook and Twitter which are now the big cultural phenomena of our times. Are they artistic? I don’t think so, but they are cultural in the same way that psychedelia was the dominant cultural movement in the late 60s. No one would have defined psychedelia as “art” in those days.
• I personally see these tech novelties as passing fads that do not trully capture the human spirit. Something more creative will come out of here but it will be in the next decade.

CLONE: Nowadays mass culture and subculture (underground) often mean the same thing. Is it the critique in the art as powerful as it was in the 60s and 70s? Could you give me a name of a Californian artist who breaks new ground in that direction?

EA: The apparent collapse of capitalism is an interesting phenomenon as seen from here: it was knocked down not by anarchists, artists or leftists, but ironically by greedy capitalists. And now, in San Francisco more than anywhere else in the country, the counter culture, its writers, designers and entrepreneurs are busy rebuilding both culture and economy. There is no time for too much dreaming. If there is a big cultural catalyst here, I’d say it is, BurningMan or big conferences like TED, but not an artist or an art movement. Perhaps, it is also in art schools, as Paola Antonelli was saying last week in a conference.

CLONE: Finally, if you had to choose one style or artist that best defines the spirit of this region, what would it be?

EA: Greg Lynn who has managed to beautifully bring together design, art and technology? But really, everything is moving too fast for any one personality to appear more than as a blur. These days, no one cares about any major artist or style. There are many great designers/artists out there and they each have their own voice and their own perfect vision of the world and its futures. I do not know of any role model these days. Students and teachers exist on levels that are not so far from each other. If anything, the big vision has more to do with collaboration than with individual talent.
• Just to recap your set of questions: we are at the hinge of a millennium. The nation is coming out of an eight-year-long bleeding and it now needs to reinvent itself. Obama stepped in as a California choice. The very notion of art and design is being rethought and redefined to contribute to this renaissance. I go to many art, design and science lectures and I always hear the same shared concerns that deal not so much with aesthetics but with deeper meaning and with ethics. It is a creative output that is not as seductive as what we’ve been used to see in the galleries and magazines of previous decades. The art of today really seems to be an art of strategies and ideas more than one of beauty and forms.