We talk with the Australian new media artist Lauren Moffatt, who has recently participated in a residency at Espronceda, in Barcelona.
Talk to us about your training and education.
I studied painting and drawing in Sydney. I was mostly painting in a realist style, and I was also experimenting a little with painted animation. When I moved to Berlin in 2005, after finishing my undergraduate studies, I started to explore stereoscopic image-making in order to create first-person perspectives, and I switched from painting to digital images since it allowed me to work much faster. Since then I have gradually evolved into an immersive video artist, complementing my studio research along the way with studies in theory of contemporary new media art at l’Université de Paris VIII, and audiovisual art production at Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains. Much of my work is also realised in partnership with scientific institutions, and that also means I am constantly learning and challenging my knowledge with every new work I make.
Where does your interest in art and technology come from?
I’ve always been interested in making artwork that connects with people on a physical level, to invite them to experience their bodies differently. Since technologies are often amplifications of some part or function of our bodies, I find it interesting to build images and stories with them. I love science fiction, both for the imagery and for the types of speculations. I have also always loved moving images, especially animation, so it was natural that I would also fall in love with a medium that allows people to inhabit video.
You work with video, immersive experiences, performances… What do these techniques bring to you and your works?
I like virtual reality because it gives me the ability to create a parallel universe for people to exist inside of for a while. I can tell stories through landscapes and architectures that are populated by spatialised sounds and movements that react to the visitor’s interaction. I can decide on each detail of the spatial narrative I want to tell, but the visitors also build the story through their interactions and the way they live and perform the story. Sometimes they uncover aspects that I didn’t realise were there. I really like directly engaging with people, and performance and VR allow me to do that.
What purpose do you follow with your projects?
At the moment I’m working on VR stories that seek new understandings of our existence as people in relation with non-human entities. I’m trying to turn that into something that can be experienced by the body, it’s about experiencing the body as being connected to the environment and being affected by it.
Your last work was a Web Performance and Immersive Video. Tell us a bit more about this project.
I am interested in how we inhabit digital environments like the web. Here, we co-exist with other people and with automated processes (for instance, chatbots) in an ethereal realm. We are disconnected from our bodies and all of the physicality of our existence that traditionally identifies us. We are able to create fantasies about ourselves and about our lives, we are able to curate our own life stories. With The Tulpamancer I was exploring how people map out their identities in this non-space, looking at the positive potential of that, and also its dangers.
How do you decide which technique to choose in each project between the different ones that you use? (VR, video, 3D, immersive experience…)
Each idea asks for its own format, it’s about finding the best way to tell that particular story or give a voice to a particular character. I like moving around between technologies that are cutting-edge, like VR, and those that are considered obsolete, like 3D. Part of that is about anticipating the prejudice of the audience, revealing a sort of vulnerability by working with something that is no longer in fashion or integrating a technique that people consider has no place in digital art.
Why did you apply for this residence and what project do you have?
I have only recently moved to Spain and I am looking for ways to get to know the artistic landscape here, and to understand how working as an active artist in Spain could be similar or different to experiences in France and Germany. The residency at Espronceda was an opportunity to get some insight into Barcelona’s creative life and receive feedback about how VR art is perceived there, as well as a chance to challenge myself and learn. During the residency — which is now continuing to different cities in Europe and beyond like Paris, Helsinki, Hamburg and Miami — I collaborated with two other artists to make a room-scale VR experience for multiple players which also functions as a tool for viewing and analysing scientific data: signals from radio telescopes that are searching deep space for evidence of other advanced civilisations.
How do you value the experience?
I had a great experience with Espronceda and with Immensiva: I would absolutely recommend it. I learned so much, both technically and artistically from my peers and from the directors and curators who designed the program. All of the artists who attended the residency came with unique skills and knowledge that complemented and challenged my own. The context of group work really helped me to realise new potential by contributing to a project that is outside of my usual sphere. Finally, I was given such generous access to people and institutions in Barcelona who could be possible cooperators on future projects, it more than exceeded my expectations on all levels.
- Deptique – https://deptique.net
Recommended citation: MOSAIC. Interview with Lauren Moffat. Mosaic [online article], June 2020, no. 183. ISSN: 1696-3296. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7238/m.n183.2024