Artist and Designer Ruby Thelot.

Artist, designer, and ‘DesignTO Talks: Dematerialized’ speaker, Ruby Thelot, discusses memes, memory, and more.

How would you describe your profession and your practice?

I’m a designer, cyber ethnographer, and artist based in New York. I’m an adjunct professor of Media Theory at NYU and the founder of the award-winning creative research and design studio 13101401 Inc. My work focuses on the interactions between humans and artificial intelligence, the metaverse, and the implications of being-on-line. I haves given talks and shown works in Tallin, Berlin, and Abuja, amongst other places. I hold a Masters in Design and Technology from the Parsons School of Design and a Bachelor in Business from McGill University.

13101401 Inc. (colloquially called “131”) is a studio focused on exploring the consequences of technology and being-on-line. Its main activities are research and design. It publishes research, creates objects, and collaborates with creatives.

Image courtesy of Ruby Thelot
Has your work changed over the course of your career?

In spite of formal changes, it really feels as though my current work is still in conversation with my earliest attempts at design. I remember some of the first posters I designed or some of my first video works were very much about memory and how it is distorted by technology. For example, “Cherish-Again” is a work that I made nearly a decade ago and it, is steeped in hauntology, vaporwave influences, and nostalgia. My current ventures like applications and websites still retain some of the obsession for memory and its preservation just in a different form.

What was your “eureka!” moment that made you realize that art/design was the route you wanted to take?

I started a meme page in 2014 with my friends and it blew up. We were just sharing our experiences as people of colour growing up in Quebec and the images we created were highly effective at disseminating our stories. I realized that at the intersection of technology, design and art, new modes of communication were emerging and that they weren’t occupied and gatekept.

Is your work inspired by anything in particular? What turns you on creatively?

My work is the manifestation of an obsession with memory.

Which designers or artists inspire you and why?

Shiro Kuramata, Yoruba artisans, Haitian sequins and carnival masks, Bauhaus, Yoko Ono, Katy Brett… the list is long.

What is the name of your 2024 DesignTO Festival exhibition, event, or installation, and what can attendees expect to experience? 

‘To the Unsaved: A Eulogy for Lost Digital Memories’ will be part of the symposium ‘DesignTO Talks: Dematerialized’

They can expect a call to arms to preserve digital memories. Stories of digital cultures lost, but also the heroic tales of people who fought to preserve them.

DesignTO’s ninth annual symposium ‘DesignTO Talks: Dematerialized’ brings together eight multidisciplinary experts to explore the complexities of dematerialization in an increasingly digital world.

Speakers include Lynne Heller, Austin Houldsworth, Alex Yueyan Li, Neo-Futuristic Walks, Joel Ong, Justin Kyung In Park, Skawennati, and Ruby Thelot