Editor's Note

Art in the Machine

Humaira Abid and plant stylist Tom Milewski at Steven Miller’s studio for this month’s cover shoot.

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So much of this moment in Seattle is defined by the friction between technology and art. The former represents economic boom, leading to widespread displacement and a loss of culture; the latter represents economic struggle, leading to an ongoing exodus and a heated defense of culture’s value. Prevailing narratives suggest that one is eating the other for lunch and a wake for the creative city may be imminent.

Please count me among those carrying a torch for the analog, the tactile, the human practices honed over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. I believe art makes life worth living and often long for the days before technology saturated my life. (“Hi, I bought this Internet in 1996 and I’d like to return it.”) But I’m also an indefatigable optimist, forever searching for strands of hope, and a pragmatist who knows the computer in my pocket is here to stay.

Is it possible that the painful pace of change has fueled a kind of hysteria that blinds us to the opportunities brewing amid all the destruction and construction? Even with the ever-growing function of machines, art and artists have an irreplaceable role to play in forging the future.

Several stories in this issue explore that role. Gemma Wilson writes about Auto, a virtual reality short film that stands out from the field for the way it harnesses VR to tell a directed, narrative story. Jonathan Zwickel’s feature about the Artists and Machine Intelligence program at Google is a wild trip into the heady and fascinating realm where human creativity and computer power collide—a place that’s much more utopian dream than doomsday nightmare.

See you out there,


Editor in Chief