Tea Strazicic is a Croatian new media artist currently based in Los Angeles. Much of her work is heavily influenced by Japanese popular culture but distorted through a tripped-out lens of western internet art youth culture.
The cuteness of the Kawaii influences is generally offset by a subversive tension that is further explored in her more sculptural digital creations. Strazicic’s feverish visions collide slick digital surfaces with alien cyber organics and contemporary emoji culture. Her work offers a vital reflection of the myriad obsessions of a rapidly rising generation of digital artists.
Christian Petersen: Tell us a little about yourself.
Tea Strazicic: Hello! I’m from Croatia. I grew up on the Adriatic coast switching between Dubrovnik and Biograd. It was just at the time of war between Croatia and Serbia.
Croatia is so pretty, and it is quite intense for such a small country. Zagreb is a dirty European town, but it is filled with interesting gorgeous people who throw great events and film festivals.
Our government sucks like any other.
CP: What were you like as a teenager?
TS: Savage. But not all the time. I was a small bookworm level 1 goth kid. Used to listen to Korn, play “Fallout,” took a lot of photos, was into sword fighting for a while. Most of the time I was drawing or painting. Actually I’m still basically the same—the only difference is that I listen to remixed Korn.
CP: What are you first memories of computers?
TS: My dad is techno-dad. The first games I played on his laptop were “MDK,” “Abe's Escape,” “Myst,” and “Freddi Fish.” Now my mom and him video call me from five different devices at the same time, and they have a strange thing in the kitchen that talks to them about weather when they ask it. Sometimes it plays music but they don’t like music.
CP: When did you first realize that you could use them creatively?
TS: In “Freddi Fish” you had the option to create custom maps, then “RollerCoaster Tycoon” came up and absorbed me. Photoshop and Corel Paint where my first actual digital painting programs.
Once I had to PS paint an “Unreal Tournament” character’s camo skin into rainbow skin so I could spot and shoot him in the dark forest more easily. To be honest I didn’t know what creativity was back then and I was never proud of being an artist until it became fashionable (and annoying), but whatever I did then influenced my style a lot.
CP: How did you get into working with 3D? What attracted you to it?
TS: Hollywood’s highly professional pyrotechnic 3D was never my cup of tea. It took a lot of research, social media friendships, and growing apart from Academy art to find out about other possibilities 3D animation can offer. Recently that art is part of the academic world. Now I kind of leaned towards making VR pyrotechnics myself. Circle of life. I have to thank my sister Marta—@pirate_sheep—the most for pushing me towards all the different software. Our first music video collaboration was made for Strahinja Arbutina. She just started using Maya and Poser and I combined it into a fake TV report. It was insanely fun. Otherwise I hate animating on my own—it’s so much hard labor.
CP: What were your first experiences of the internet?
TS: Neopets and stupid chats. Those where such suspicious times.
CP: When did you first realize you could use the internet as a platform for your ideas?
TS: If Facebook was like “World of Warcraft,” I would be over level 90. The best thing I brought there is my diverse link sharing habit, ranging from art cinema to rare SoundCloud links. I like communicating through images more than words so it is like a utopian thing for me already. Wish Mr. Mark would pay me for it :(
CP: That’s true—it’s notoriously hard for new media artist to earn money from their work. Do you think that will ever change?
TS: I work hard on getting paid for my work. Last September I was in a collective (Slavic only) exhibition curated by NetDotCube around the theme “Economy of the virtual world.” My work was based on the primitive exchange of my visual services to SZCH’s music services. Now we published that work on a DIY cassette tape you can buy on Low Income Squad. I still don’t know anything about earning money and I wish someone can manage me so I don’t die in a standard poor artist way.
Cover art for Le Makeup’s EP
CP: When did you first realize that there was a “new media” community online that you could be a part of?
TS: My IRL friends and URL life have merged by now. For example I live with artist Nick Zhu who I first got introduced to about three years ago while he was making an online art museum. Even before that, being a resident VJ for Živa Muzika connected me to a lot of great musicians touring through Zagreb in the same “new media” community as visual artists, filmmakers, and meme creators. Now that I’m in LA everything makes so much sense and everyone knows each other already.
CP: A lot of your work is influenced by Japanese art and culture—how did your interest in that begin?
TS: I think Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball are masterpieces that influenced so many people. Anime to me was a passage through the other side of a mirror considering all I’ve been surrounded by was originating from western ideas and storytelling. Starting with Osamu Tezuka and Studio Ghibli, micro to macro narratives, to the diverse ethics of One Piece saga, anime by far offers the most advanced package of speculative, practical, and spectacular. It’s so relatable too (and it’s sooo much work). I’ve finished new media school with a great focus on experimental cinema and art cinema, but every theory professor ignored the fact (good) anime existed. It didn’t stop it from becoming the primeval forest of all fandom today. Other than that I was largely influenced by Hentai and Ero-Guro.
CP: How would you describe your aesthetic?
TS: Heavy Metal Magazine meets emotional Catholic kid in Koreatown.
CP: Your work ranges from super cute and fun to serious, strange, and distorted. Do these different styles represent different aspects of your personality?
TS: Yes, I’m still struggling with that. It feels like pulling a large medieval cropper over the potato field while what I should be doing is concentrating on one thing and pushing it to the end as advised by successful men. But I think that way works for hard working men and I’m too wavy for that, I wouldn’t feel happy, it wouldn’t be really me.
So right now I’ve been working on a cute graphic space saga, making album art, planning a clothing line, and writing exhibition proposals.
CP: What artists in the new media community do you particularly admire and why?
TS: Helin Sahin, Marta Strazicic, Dina Karadzic, Maya Ben David, Tavi Lee, Holly Herndon, Filip Ugrin, Motorola Beeper, Nicholas Zhu, Berliac Yungqin, Mario Udzenija, Ashida Park, Low Income Squad, BB5000 and The Garden Ceremony, Katrin Krumm, Lara Joy Evans, Donnie Fredericks, Darío Alva, Klara Vincent-Novotna, Pax Lyorn, Bora Akinciturk, Caterpillart Ludvicat, Lea Anic, Violence, Chino Amobi, Svengali, Swan Meat, xo.nighttime.xo… I’m already feeling guilty for not mentioning all the names but you can look up Felt Zine and find some there. Or just text me on Instagram.
I admire them because they are all honest. Their art is not ruled by stock markets and white walls; their language is in tune with the time we live in; they create the most independent and diverse art one can imagine. I’m so grateful every day to be able to see their content on my timelines and even share the table with some of them.
CP: What music and musicians influences your work the most and why?
TS: I mentioned some of them before, but I missed out on Elysia Crampton. Her music evokes empathy and her sounds can travel through memories.
CP: What do you think makes something “new media” as opposed to other types of art?
TS: What used to be distinctive passed from Yves Michaud’s art in a state of vapor to a very fluid understanding of new media that depends on how deep your personal knowledge is. Not even the curators of, for example, the Whitney Biennial know what is exactly happening, and they are supposed to be most informed about it—what is the real NEW. New can be hidden from them deep in Shanghai’s underground club and they will never notice it. It can be in an insignificant Polish village connected to SoundCloud. My knowledge of New can last only for so long to be witnessed. If it gets noticed it slides into some institution where it’s frozen. The state of frozen art is viewed mostly by white people with little notebooks. Also maybe there is something so new media that I can’t see because I don’t have money for it.
CP: New media has become a vital home for the expression of feminist, sexuality and gender ideas. Why do you think that is?
TS: People scroll through content more than ever. Our diet is full of info. I hope it helps to correct injustice done to so many people and reaches the minds of ones with a lesser gift of compassion. We don’t rely on the same structure people relied on before the internet. Next generations will be so insane, smart and caring too.
CP: What else do you do you have coming up?
We run an online magazine, so of course, we're interested in what's happening with art on the web. We invited online gallerist, founder, and curator of Digital Sweat Gallery, Christian Petersen, to write a bi-monthly column for us. Every other Wednesday he selects a Web Artist of the Week.
(All images: Courtesy of the artist)
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