conversations – Interview by Margaret Murphy – 18.04.2023
ELLIE PRITTS: REINTERPRETING NOSTALGIA
PSYCHEDELIA AND GLITCH
Interview by Margaret Murphy
Ellie Pritts' work seems otherworldly and captivates the viewer with oversaturated colours, glitch art, and psychedelia. Working across video, photography, and AI, Pritts has developed a unique visual language that pushes the psychedelic and chromatic aspects of her work. With her digital art, she explores the relationship between cutting-edge coding techniques, analog technology from the past, and artificial intelligence.
In conversation with Margaret Murphy, Head of Community, Ellie Pritts speaks about her love for psychedelia, her recent projects, and exploring the deeper recesses of herself.
Margaret Murphy: Your original artistic medium is photography. What motivated you to start creating digital art?
Ellie Pritts: I have always been intrigued by technology, especially when it doesn’t work as expected. A little over 10 years ago, I transitioned from film photography to digital, and that was my first direct exposure to compression artifacts and glitches in my work. I loved them. I had to learn more about what was happening and why. I taught myself how to code as well; my initial motivation was out of necessity, as I could not hire help for my projects. Around this time I released my first digital art project, a glitch art series called PROJECT LOSS.
Still, I would say I was primarily known as a photographer up until 2020, when being confined to my home motivated me to really dedicate myself to digital art practices and I became active in Web3.
MM: You extensively work in the medium of video; was it challenging to move from still photography to video-based work?
EP: It felt like a very natural transition. The biggest challenge was learning new software, but after forming an experimental video editing collective (Racer Trash) during quarantine I had plenty of practice and support from professional editors.
MM: Does photography still play a role in your artistic practice in any capacity?
EP: I would love for photography to play a more active role in my day-to-day artistic practice. My photography work is pretty location-specific and requires travel to remote places. It’s been a bit more challenging to do that over the last few years. But I would say that my general "eye" for things, which I honed over many years as a photographer, is always with me. I feel I benefit from it every day as an artist.
MM: How do you describe to people who are not part of the NFT space what you are doing?
EP: I like to focus more on describing my practice than the method of how my work is sold; I’ve found that is the best starting point for me to conversationally discuss what I am doing.
MM: Psychedelia, the style relating to the psychedelic movement of the 1960s, plays a large role in your art. What about this movement resonates with you?
EP: Mind expansion, connecting to the earth, and working towards being the highest version of yourself all resonate deeply with me. I am not actually a psychedelic drug user, which is usually a surprise to people. I am an avid meditator, though.
MM: California is often associated with the psychedelic movement as well. Does living in Los Angeles inspire your interest in psychedelia?
EP: I definitely feel like I am in my element out here, especially in the desert. I have lived in many cities, but this part of the US is home to me. There is something tangibly magical about it. I’d say the photographic style I am most known for was definitely something I honed after I moved out here and started traveling to Joshua Tree regularly.
MM: You also incorporate glitch into your art; what is the connection between glitch and psychedelia?
EP: Broadly, I would say that both can lead you to learn more about yourself and what it means to be human.
MM: Besides making art, you have experience curating exhibitions such as Electric Psychedelia for Vellum in Los Angeles in 2022 and NFTBerlin at Kraftwerk in 2021. How does curating art impact your own artistic practice?
EP: I would say my artistic practice informs my role as a curator in many ways, particularly in knowing what it is like to be a working artist. I know what is helpful, what is fair, and how to treat artists well. I am also deeply passionate about art and artists in general, and I just really love elevating the work of others. I want to see more art in the world. I find curating to be just as fulfilling as creating—in some ways even more so.
MM: Has your background as a photographer been helpful when you started working with AI?
EP: My background in tech, specifically in my work with Python, has been the most helpful along with my video editing experience.
MM: How do you feel as an artist that art created in collaboration with AI is being questioned by critics?
EP: I don’t get too caught up in the tired narrative of AI art not being "real". I disagree with it, and I don’t find it to be a compelling or interesting point of view, personally. I feel excited about the future of AI art.
MM: Your series AMARANTHINE REVERIES, part of our exhibition ALGORITHMIC EMPATHY. THE PROMISES OF AI, are AI-animated self-portrait videos exploring the boundaries between one’s physical body and their core essence. Does this process of self-portraiture represent you more authentically than perhaps a photographic self-portrait?
EP: Yes, 100%, and that is what makes me so excited about this series. These are my first minted artworks where I am using source video of myself. Prior to this, I worked on a series of AI-assisted self-portrait paintings called Divine Recursions, so this is an extension of that universe. Working on these artworks has been the most self-empowering experience I’ve had as an artist.
MM: What are some of the promises of AI that you are intrigued by as an artist?
EP: I am very intrigued by the ways that AI can (and already does) improve accessibility, particularly for those with disabilities. It’s a topic that I haven’t seen much coverage about yet, but I hope that the perspectives of those whose lives can be greatly changed for the better will begin to surface more and more. There are important things I thought I could no longer do as an artist and musician that I can now access again because of AI. It feels like nothing short of a miracle.
Ellie Pritts (she/they) is a renowned transmedia artist whose work explores reinterpreted nostalgia via recursive analog and digital processes. Pritts' work has been exhibited internationally at venues such as bitforms gallery, Vellum LA, and Bright Moments.
Ellie Pritts is part of the exhibition ALGORITHMIC EMPATHY. THE PROMISES OF AI presented at the gallery in Berlin in collaboration with VerticalCrypto Art, 18-23 April, 2023.
UPCOMING NFT DROP: AMARNTHINE
REVERIES by Ellie Pritts will be released as part of ALGORITHMIC EMPATHY. THE PROMISES OF AI on 19 APRIL at 6 PM CEST on verticalcrypto.art. Inquire about the work via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.