Sedition: Patronising the Product–Interview with Rory Blain, Director of Sedition

Text by 撰文 x Rajesh Punj

Translated 翻譯 x by Cai Sudong 蔡苏东

Edited by 編輯 x Michelle Yu 余小悅 Jesc Bunyard

The condition of being modern, of our living through modernity has been effectively harnessed by new technologies that predict precisely our thoughts as a set of rudimentary likes and dislikes, so that industry can more easily package all of our sensations back to us. As a consequence of such invasive innovation, we are able to be less active and more efficient in our unconscious search for the simple pleasures. The major industries have modernized and culture and creative aesthetics have come to bear a more sophisticated fruit. Animation, video, sound performance, light installations, and digital displays have become the major background for modern life. It allows non-physical forms, or virtual artworks, to effectively enter into the physical domain by communicating remotely by new devices. Art has replaced corporeal materials, (paints, wood, steel, plastics and the readymade), with the apparatus of a mechanical age, in order to better serve artificial endeavour.

Sedition is essentially a virtual platform for international artists creating visual art as audiovisual artifacts. Short animations, video and digital displays encompass a new element of the artist’s practice, and are available as animated editions for one’s laptop, smartphone, and iPad. Allowing an interactive audience the ability to acquire limited edition works by leading artists for the cost of one’s lunch, and the opportunity to create a digital collection as easily as messaging friends.

Where once art was distinguishable from music, and architecture was an industry entirely separate from design, now aesthetics, virtual and visual, are an amalgamation of ideas and industries that ceaselessly cross over one another. The machinery of the modern has only positively complicated matters further, by equipping aesthetics with the facility for new possibilities that are as responsive to the audience as they are to the artist. A sophisticated art engine that exists entirely in the virtual realm, Sedition is part of such an inclusive platform for video and animation. Sedition have introduced new art to a populous that indulge in the immediacy of new technologies; so that they can adorn our smart devices with an aesthetic skin. By positively mimicking the accessibility of music, Sedition’s initial attempt of introducing digital editions to audiences required them borrowing from the existing appeal for physical artworks, in order to operate dematerialised art as virtually viable. Moving forward in Sedition’s hands, art as an animated form has become an attractive, affordable product that is likely to become as integral to our lives through our smart devices, as our relationship to the art object in the public realm. Allowing for the virtual to become visual, Sedition sees new technology offering aesthetics a greater elasticity and mechanised emotional charge, which takes us all into the new age as agents of art; individually able to cultivate and curate our own cultures.





Interview with Rory Blain, Director of Sedition

ART.ZIP:  For this interview it would prove very interesting if you could begin by talking about the birth of ‘Sedition’. What are the circumstances surroundings it conception, and of your understanding of ‘digital art’?


RB: The idea, the birth, the genesis of Sedition if you like is actually quite an interesting story. We had the seeds and the conversation for it long before we were able to realise it. My brother who is the owner of the company, who also owns the gallery, ‘Blain Fine Art’ which became the ‘Haunch of Venison’, which is now ‘Blain Southern’, founded Sedition. The original conversation we had about an idea that he mentioned to me was many years ago, back when mobile phones were brand new. I don’t remember the year exactly, but I think it was somewhere in the region of 1999, 2000; it was that far back. It was about the idea of art for these kinds of screens and devices, which were gradually becoming more ubiquitous in people’s lives. That was something he had as a passionate possibility, way back when it was completely unrealisable at the time. The two drivers that made sedition possible from our vision were really ‘Internet bandwidth’, (or the ability to deliver much larger files and much broader reams of information online), and ‘screen resolution’. Initially none of the artists would want to have their works up on a screen, because it wouldn’t do justice to what they were trying to do. Both of those fields have advanced massively, and are still changing on a daily basis. So now the technology has gotten to the point where the artist really can realise what is in their mind’s eye, whether it’s on a screen, or as a projection, or some sort of digital or mono-media device. That has been the key driver for Sedition. The press at the time picked up on the word ‘democratisation’, which is something I dislike. Largely because it never felt to me that the art world needed democratizing,  but I understand the impulse behind it. The idea was to make sure of the ability to collect, to buy, and if necessary to sell works, in order to patronise the artists you really love.

If you look back at (Vincent) Van Gogh and Doctor Gachet, these were people who were patronising artists at that time. We wanted to make sure that the everyman, the person that was going to the museum, going to the gallery and looking at these things could engage with those works; in the same way as the collector can. It is huge to take an interest in contemporary art, and not say the impressionists, or Old Master painting. It is massively rewarding, and personally a very exciting thing to see the greats of our generation. The (Claude) Monet’s and (Pablo) Picasso’s of today. You have a chance to interact with, engage with, to set up a dialogue with these artists,  see their work, and sometimes even visit their studios, which is an enormous privilege.

RB:Sedition的理念和誕生確實有著一段有趣的故事。在還沒有現成技術支持的環境下我們就開始想像“Sedition”的概念了。我的兄弟Harry是公司老闆,擁有Blain Fine Art畫廊,後來改名為Haunch of Venison,再到如今的Blain Southern;是他創立了Sedition。還記得那是多年前的一次聊天,當時移動電話還是新奇玩意。我不大記得準確的是哪一年,大概是1999或者2000年前後吧,反正是很久以前的事情了。他談到了移動設備和屏幕藝術的可能性,那時手機在人們的生活中正漸漸普及。他充滿激情,認為這個方向有著可觀的前景,但那時候這些想法是完全不可能實現的。在我們看來,讓Sedition真正成為可能的是兩種技術的推動,第一種是“因特網帶寬” (或者說能夠在線傳輸大量文件和信息的能力)的普及,第二是屏幕分辨率的增強。一開始,沒有藝術家願意用屏幕呈現他們的作品,因為那樣沒有辦法充分展現他們的創作。帶寬和分辨率如今有了長足進步,而且仍然每天都在完善,這樣的技術變化使得藝術家能夠在屏幕、投影設備、或者其他數字或單一媒體上實現他們意欲表達的內容。這便是Sedition得以誕生的重要動力。媒體一度熱衷於“民主化”這個詞,我卻不喜歡這個詞。這很大程度上是因為我不覺得藝術世界需要民主化,但我理解這背後的推動力。它的觀點在於,讓人們有能力去收集、購買、甚至必要時出售作品,這樣便能更好地資助你喜歡的藝術家。


ART.ZIP: In order to define the collected works that come under the Sedition umbrella, in terms of their label, are they digital works, or animated artworks in their broadest sense?

ART.ZIP: 要定義Sedition名下的合集作品,如果要給它們貼標簽的話,它們是歸屬數字作品,還是廣義上的動畫藝術作品呢?

RB: Definitions are interesting. I find that whole field very fascinating. It is a very natural instinct to pigeonhole, to categorise, to identify, separate and organise. It is obviously how we make sense of the world, but at the same time that impulse can be slightly restrictive. When we first started Sedition there was a great deal of talk about ‘digital art’, ‘digital editions’ and ‘digital media’. Obviously that makes sense because a limited edition in digital media is ultimately what Sedition is offering. Now we talk less and less about digital art and digital artists, because ultimately it is not really helpful. The artists don’t see themselves as digital artists, nor do they see themselves as any other particular kind of artist; they see themselves as artists. With one or two exceptions most of them do not wish to be restricted by what they can do. By trying to say ‘you are a digital artist’ doesn’t really make any sense.


ART.ZIP: So for artists, they wouldn’t wish to be defined by one medium or method?

ART.ZIP: 所以,對於藝術家而言,他們並不願意被一種媒介或方法所定義?

RB: They do not wish to say they are producing works in one particular medium. One or two artists do do that, but the majority don’t. Even the meaning of digital is fluid, to put it mildly. Where does digital begin and end? If you take an artist’s work and then photographs of that work are transmitted to a potential buyer or client as a JPEG, is it digital? The actual artwork isn’t, but the communication of the image and the use of another medium to the end buyer are potentially digital.

Thus it is not necessarily a helpful term. It proves useful in how things are displayed, or the angle by which you may choose to approach something. In terms of understanding the art and enjoying, engaging with and viewing the work, it becomes less and less relevant. The key thing is whether or not you like the artwork or the artist, and the ideas that they are communicating.


ART.ZIP: So by removing such definitions, the works and their artists have greater plasticity?

ART.ZIP: 所以,拋開了定義,作品和藝術家的可塑性就越高?

RB: I think so, absolutely. I suspect, and I don’t have any data to back this up, the broader audience does that already. It is usually the art world professionals, the curators and organisers, the people who work with art on a daily basis, appear to have more of a need to separate things into various areas. Whereas, if you go to the average museum and see a visitor, they are not necessarily thinking: ‘I am going to see a digital artist’, or that they are going to see a ‘videographer’. They go to see some art, and that is very much how Sedition likes to approach it. We are a portal to the art world. We sell limited editions in digital format, but we offer you access to a much wider world than that; Museum entries and special exhibitions, chances to read artist’s interviews, see works from their studio, a look behind the scenes of their creative process, notifications of other things that are happening in the artist’s world, both physical and online. So once you are in the Sedition universe that becomes a portal to the art world as a whole. It doesn’t pigeonhole you just to the digital sphere.


ART.ZIP: So the individual works act as points of entry into the arts.

ART.ZIP: 因此每個個人作品就是進入藝術的入口。

RB: That is exactly it, exactly that. It is an entry point, a portal into a much wider world; the art world. I certainly wouldn’t wish to restrict anyone to a particular segment of it.


ART.ZIP: Is what you have done is a ‘revolution’ of sorts? When we are so used to the territorial determinism of who is owned by whom; gallerist, dealers, collectors, all pulling at the artists’ shoestrings. Are you consciously allowing them to be creative without burdening them with politics?

ART.ZIP: 你們所做的這些算不算某種“革命”?我們已經習慣了領地決定主義——誰為誰所擁有;畫廊經營者、藝術經銷商、收藏者都對藝術家指手畫腳。你是否有意識地卸除藝術家的政治負擔,準許他們自由創作?

RB: It is slightly revolutionary I think. But we probably can’t take credit for that in the way that is sounds, because ultimately that revolution was driven by the Internet as a whole. People have become far more used to the ability of having access to everything everywhere. Actually one of the resistances we came up against initially was very much from the younger generation, from whom the perception was that anything online should be free. So for some people, it was a question of ‘why should I pay for this, it is online?’ Now people, the audience, are becoming far more understanding of the fact that an artist’s work is an artist’s work. The online sphere is becoming far more entrenched, and far more policed in many ways. I suppose it is a good and a bad thing.

It is good to have the freedom there, but at the same time you don’t wish to have the Internet act as the Wild West. It should still be structured enough that you can put your works out and run your business. So essentially you conduct what you want to do online as you would in the real world, or physical world as well.



Bill Viola, A Phrase From Chris (2011), digital limited edition displayed on an iPhone, courtesy of

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