in progress: sebastian quast and the infinite digital

(Originally Published in E-MAIL MAGAZINE ISSUE #2)

By Joel Ivan Thomas

'in progress' is a segment in which E-MAIL MAGAZINE looks at artworks or a series of works that are unfinished or ongoing.

A mythical chrome star floats through the pastel sky, pixels glistening in the digital light. The star, or “gizmo,” kind of looks like a compass guiding outer-space explorers towards a new planet — its purpose is not far off.

The gizmo is a tool traditionally used to navigate users through a 3D digital space. Swiss artist Sebastian Quast, 23, created this one to push the boundaries of online exhibitions, which are booming in the isolation age.

There are almost no rules in a digital world. The laws of physics don’t apply, and with pixels (or vectors) as your primary construction material, your budget is infinite. Quast wants to use this to his advantage, so he’s planning a space in which you can meet in the middle, perhaps at a digital bar where you can drink digi-cocktails before traversing in every direction to look at art — you can walk on the floor or glide up through corridors where the ceiling should be.

“You can play the god of things you’ve always imagined,” Quast says.

But no matter how beautifully a space is built, its primary function should be connection. Connecting people to artworks, their environment, and with each other is Quast’s intention.

“It’s social VR, so you can see the other person in real-time, you can use your microphone, and if someone comes near you, you can actually hear their voice get louder.”

Sebastian is learning skills in virtual reality and coding at Munich’s LMU where he studies arts and multimedia. But wanting to develop a more artistic approach, he also started an extra diploma in fine arts at ADBK, in the class of Peter Kogler.

“This is much more the study I like,” he says of his additional workload. “You’re free to do whatever you want.”

It’s not all digital for Sebastian; he’s interested in how the physical and digital worlds interact.

“We may have physical openings but as an extension, we can use the virtual gallery... Maybe it’s corresponding with the real gallery space.”

But for now, the development of digital spaces has to prevail if artists are to continue connecting people with their work, even if artists want to get physical.

“The first thing I’m going to do is go back to the atelier to sew,” says Quast.