Rosi Grillmair, can you tell our readers how you became an artist?

One side of the story is, that I could not escape becoming an artist. I grew up being eager to show when I discovered something new and I also loved to combine two or more ideas from different fields – storytelling and technology, math and art, physics and individual life stories.
At the same time artists impressed me like superstars, especially those beyond any know discipline. Just recently I lost this prejudice that you have to create something impressive to consider yourself an artist– and after ten years of being a cultural worker – dared to call myself an artist too. Before I was an art mediator, a programmer or a teacher.

Rosi Grillmair by Katja Goljat

What you consider to be your first artwork and who (as specialist) / which venue (as creative organization or event) validated your first artwork? (they do not necessarily overlap 🙂 )

My first art work was a board game I developed when I was around 13 years old. It combined rules from different games and some elements of acting. But I am pretty sure besides me – and maybe my parents – nobody knows about this exploration.
I went to an art high school, studied computer science and media art and started working at a digital art museum, a contemporary art museum and several art festivals. There were at 5, maybe 10 people who are very dear to me and they kept supporting my ideas and treated me like an artist. That gave me self-confidence to participate in exhibitions.

What do you mean by digital humanism?

How our societies function is not only determined anymore by human behavior, but also (most of the time interpreted and accelerated) by technology. There are different forms of governance that developed since electronic data is around. We can observe surveillance societies but also consumerist (Silicon Valley) fueled societies that promise better lives by buying more things.
Both ideas put technology and control in the center and not individual decision making. Digital humanism is a counter concept. We should be digitally literate (means know how the technologies around us work) and empowered to decide for or against the use of a certain technology – or our data.

How do you make / produce /create an artwork using coding?

I compare it to pencil and paper. First you need to get to know your tools and learn how to use them. That means writing a lot of code. Rebuilding software that is around. Have a look at other creatives who work with code, try to understand how they do it. Become part of a creative coding community and share your ideas with others – learn a lot from them, especially when you are a beginner. Deciding which tools you keep using and which style is yours then comes naturally: the software, the technical setup, the algorithms, the design, if you work alone or in a collective.

What is ASCII art?

It was a popular style of code art in the 1990es. ASCII just means letters and numbers. By automatically generating letters and numbers (which by themselves do not carry meaning) pictures could be drawn. Just think about the look of “ “ or “ . “ leaving a lot of white space and “X” or “W” covering a lot of space. Then you can replace dark pixels in an image with the latter and light pixels in a picture with the former.

If your art is not explained / guided, can visitors understand what you meant?

On the one hand I always wish to create art that is alive through interpretation by as many different people as possible. So I am eager to create situations or moments that keep the visitor wondering and maybe they will be triggered to associate something new.

But also I tend to have a narrative in my work that I wish to tell the visitor like a story. It helps to understand several aspects of a work and might also give away my intentions. But similarly to a fairy tale, the visitor should again be able to draw their own conclusions from a work.

Can a classic artist (working with traditional tools, brush, colours, stone etc.) can become a digital artist (through genuine interest, specific training etc.)?

I think that artistic actions are not bound to medium. I tend to work with fabric and wood, performative elements and with code. Sometimes, telling a story through technology or just exploring what math, nature or simulations can do – it might be the right choice to familiarize oneself with digital technologies in order to create art.

When can you call a software developer a digital artist?

Software development is a creative profession in the same way any profession can be creative. There is a lot of problem solving and path finding involved too. But as long as these skills are only applied within the defined realm of software development, I would not call it art. Critical thinking starts where somebody applies the skills that are useful in software development in a different context. That can be theater, sculpting or subversion – just to name 3 examples.

Do you consider NFT digital art? What is NFT to you and what do you think it is its impact in present day audiences?

NFT is a capitalist practice and I would stay as far away from it as possible (and as we live in a capitalist system it´s unavoidable – like getting questions about it in an interview)

What are your future art projects?

Right now I am teaching teenagers about code and art, so I am not directly working on a new piece. But I am sure they will have to do with language, moments of wonder, a combination of opposing realms (like a forest and a data sculpture) and with traveling and passing on experience and magic fueled by tech through teaching.

Rosi Grillmairby Katja Goljat


Rosi Grillmair este artistă, programatoare și mediatoare culturală. A fost invitat de Forumul Cultural Austriac din București la un artist talk: Stories from the Anthropocene, în februarie 2022.