Joanne McNeil

Digital Arts Writing Award

Grants & Awards

Interview with 2015 Digital Arts Writing Awards Recipient, Joanne McNeil

May 28, 2015
Digital & Media Art

THOMA FOUNDATION: When and why did you begin writing about digital art, and why has it been important for you to contribute to scholarship in the field?

MCNEIL: I first began writing about digital art on my blog The Tomorrow Museum in 2008. I was interested in the ways that technology changes the arts, with a particular focus on projects involving experimental storytelling, ebooks and new publishing. In 2011, I became the editor of Rhizome. I got to know the artists, curators, organizations, collectives and institutions that are contributing to rich diversity of ideas and experimentation in this field. It is important to think of digital art as a practice with a rich, multicultural and varied history.

THOMA FOUNDATION: Who are some of your influences (thinkers, writers, artists, educators, etc.)?

MCNEIL: David Wojnarowicz, James Baldwin, Lucy Lippard, Andrea Fraser, JG Ballard and Laura Poitras.

THOMA FOUNDATION: What kinds of programs would you like to see supported in the field?

MCNEIL: I would like to see further support for art collectives engaged in networked activism. Digital projects often act as the glue between online engagement and in-person involvement. The #blacklivesmatter movement began as three artists and cultural workers— Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi— responding to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. This year at Eyeo, Netta Elzie, Deray Mckesson and Sam Sinyangwe will speak about, an exceptional work of data, science and digital art that deserves further recognition within our community.

THOMA FOUNDATION: Briefly describe your current writing projects and/or those you anticipate beginning or completing in the next year?

MCNEIL: I am currently writing a booklet to accompany a series of workshops developed in collaborating with Dan Phiffer and EyebeamOurNet: Building Trusted Network Infrastructures for Youth was a winning proposal with Digital Media and Learning Competition’s Trust Challenge. The workshops are based on Phiffer’s Rhizome commission winning project and Paul Ford’s Tilde Club.

I write regularly on technology, art and culture for Medium’s the Message.

THOMA FOUNDATION: How do you anticipate this award will impact your career and work?

MCNEIL: I will continue my work to provide a broad historical context to the contemporary study of art and technology. There is now very limited critical writing on digital art, and consequently much of the history risks being lost. With this award, I plan to move forward with ideas for books and other publishing ventures that will expand this discourse.

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