Margit Lukács and Persijn Broersen, based in Amsterdam, are an artist duo that challenges our society's increasingly toxic relationship with nature in their work. Taking contemporary culture as a standpoint, Broersen and Lukács' oeuvre spans mediums – going from photography, animation and video to sculpture and traditional graphics – but their message is one and universal.
Through the merging of different media and techniques, the pair creates colossal pieces that reflect on how our media-dictated society is heavily influenced by the virtual world and, consequently, how that relates to nature. Broersen and Lukács' discourse is quasi-dystopian, yet entirely visual, serving as a refreshing form of social critique. With their latest exhibition, Point Cloud, Old Growth, on show at Foam Amsterdam until February 10, we catch up with the duo to discuss their creative process, inspirations and how imagination can become a commodity.
You have been working together since the early 2000s. How did you first link up as a creative duo?
Our first work together in 2001 was a music video for the Amsterdam rock band Coparck. It started as a broccoli forest turned wild, but our ideas on ‘routine’, when working together, propelled to the use of animated stock photography, as a flattened orderly world run amok. This photographic universe was comprised of business handshakes, happy couples on the beach to suburbs and office life. You can still see it on YouTube. Looking back, we still think it's a wonderfully edited video, with many omens for the future. I like especially the plane taking off at 1:55. Later on, we made another video clip for Copark, World of Tomorrow. The quality of the videos on YouTube is terrible, though.
What made you work mostly together as opposed to being individual artists?
Our work together is more ambitious, and probably also more ambiguous since it is linked to two people. We cannot create something together we could expect to make but we can be sure we will make something we like to create.
You both studied at the Sandberg Institute and then went on to do a residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Do you feel an academic background is still essential for artists nowadays or is the purely experimental route equally valid?
There are many artists that started studying philosophy, science or other fields – something that definitely enriches one’s art practice. Still, we think it's important to learn to create and develop your ideas at the same time and to have your work seriously observed and critiqued in relation to art, design history, society, the world, etc. and to learn from other (struggling) artists. So definitely, yes, and maybe no – sometimes, the abundance of understanding can make you partly blinded.
Establishing Eden 2016 Broersen Lukacs Courtesy the Artists and Akinci Ph.gj.van Rooij.jpg
Why did you decide to become visual artists? Was it a conscious decision or did it happen more naturally?
Both. As a kid, Margit dreamt about being a writer, but during the day she wanted to be a concert pianist. Persijn wanted to be a travelling magician with a monkey. All interests are combined in our artistic careers.
You work with a wide variety of mediums. Coming from a more traditional graphic background but going over mixed media, with a particular penchant for video and adding 3D as of late as well. What techniques are you most captivated by?
Each medium has its own charm, but in each medium, we try to capture a sense of time passing, of reproduction, and of the virtual. That's equally possible in all media, it's possible to copy paste in painting as well as in Photoshop as well as in video. We think it's important, as artist(s), to rethink your position – and the position of your work – amongst all the stray images that surround us in the endless embedding, retweeting, referencing, etc. The feedback loop that we are trapped into. We think it's of utter importance that artists understand the new possibilities that constantly recreate our world and shape our imagination and reality. If we as artists will not fill this void, it will be pervaded by others and imagination will become a commodity.
Do you come up with the idea first and then decide on what medium to use, or does the medium define the idea?
Both. We are sculpting our thoughts and thinking about our work.
The P Ast Future Broersen Lukacs Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam 2016 Mg 4533.jpg
Regardless of the preferred mediums, the common thread that ties your works together is the subjacent social commentary. This most notable in pieces like your 2011 photo composition The Past Future, which depicts a raw portrait of war-torn London whilst, at the same time, displaying futuristic elements. Do you set out to do this from the beginning or is it something that develops as you’re immersed working on a piece?
In The Past Future, we appropriated imagery from science-fiction films, so it's all a décor and a reference within a reference within a reference. Nothing is ‘real'. Yes, we set out to make this piece with only fictional material, but at the same time, we do believe in the future-telling and future-creating powers of fiction, especially in blockbusters that are consumed by millions. We don't consider fact and fiction as oppositions. Really, we think this subjacent social critique is embedded within the way we think and hence is part of every part of the process and the result.
Your work delves greatly into the future, for example, in Ruins in Reverse. Why do you feel it's more imperative to look to the future and its possibilities rather than the past?
Ruins in Reverse is a work in which we appropriated décors from sci-fi movies to show the history of the future as foretold by the blockbusters of before. So, it's actually a look into the past. How was the future imagined in the past century? Future visions, in sci-fi movies, have changed from modernist, futuristic skylines to apocalyptic wastelands over the years. We think that tells something about the way imagination leads to certain beliefs and ideologies. It's fascinating to see how the idea about the future is fixed within time periods and only changes on the surface.
Right now, we are in a time that we consider very ornamental, specifically in the way we are only able to see a vast amount of endless surface, and nothing more. The surface is patterned, copied and posted, it's immutable and morphs constantly, it's motionless while moving and it’s practically impenetrable. Everything that is behind this surface seems to be not there. The construction behind is made unnoticeable.
How would you say your work adapts and evolves with the times we live in? Do you feel they will remain timeless throughout the years, or are they specifically poignant to the moment you’re creating them in?
We created Prime Time Paradise fifteen years ago, a work about the hypnotic powers of television, in which a drone-like camera flies over and penetrates a frozen landscape of television stills. Still, it's a poignant work, even more so in a time of hyper-connectivity, in a world that's constantly changing. We think our work is not only about this moment in time but also about perception in general.
“Future visions, in sci-fi movies, have changed from modernist, futuristic skylines to apocalyptic wastelands over the years. We think that tells something about the way imagination leads to certain beliefs and ideologies.”
Who or what inspires your work most significantly?
Gustave Flaubert in his paradoxical lyrical critique on the merging of literature and life, while he himself seems to be taken away with his own writing.
The sheer nature of your work is that of a critique, albeit in the form of art. Have you ever been constrained by external factors in the art world because of the topics you wish to showcase or have galleries always given you freedom?
We've never been fully aware of being constrained in a way that would stop us from making the thing we needed to make. The constraints can be used as a tool. Our critique is often hidden under the veil of (the depiction of) nature.
Your first-ever major solo exhibition at Foam Amsterdam, which is part of the Next Level exhibition series, is open until February 10. Why do you feel it took so long for you to have your work exhibited this way and what does it mean to you as artists?
We've had solo exhibitions before, but with this larger show, we could really build a story in which many lines converse – the mythical woodlands of Białowieża, the history and journey of the song Nature Boy that originated in the forest, and the story of the virtual perception of time and space. But perhaps, it is mostly a story about contemporary fiction and reality, about cognitive escapism and unconscious realism or the other way around.
Forest on Location 04 Video Still 2018 C Broersen Lukacs Courtesy of Akinci.jpg
Forest on location (Video Still), 2018 © Broersen and Lukács / Courtesy if AKINCI
The exhibition is titled Point Cloud, Old Growth. What was the inspiration behind the name and what does it foretell about the work displayed?
‘Point cloud’ is a term from 3D scanning and photogrammetry. It describes measurements in virtual space that can, in turn, be rendered as 3D objects and printed. It's only the shape: the points literally refer to points in space, and not to volumes with mass and weight. It's actually a three-dimensional hollow map that represents and ‘maps' the content, with a photographic texture laid over it as a drapery surface over a hollow mass. Seen in that way, point clouds are ‘nothing', only representing information, so in it selves utterly fictional but at the same time as precise a copy as can be.
‘Old growth’ is its exact opposite. It’s the word for primaeval forest – a forest that is quite untouched by human hands. In this ecology, trees have a far-stretching underground network of communicating roots, which make the trees regenerate in the case of viruses and sickness, reabsorbing the dead trees the way it has for millennia. Everything is matter, vivid with life in this forest: once something dies, it will be taken over by a wild variety of species, it never dies. 
At Foam’s request, you developed an entirely new three-part installation of sculptures and projections. What has been the most enthralling thing about working in these? What message do you hope to send out to the world?
We hope we can share some feelings, some ideas and spark some or more imagination. Perhaps to show nature as a mirror, to show the void of our screens, the daily doses of blankness that circulates time and again, but furthermore the time-travelling, cross-bordering, all-encompassing possibilities of music and image; the pitfalls of imagination and its immense positive possibilities; missing and filling; losing and loving.
In June 2019, you’ll have another solo exhibit at Denmark’s Viborg Kunsthal, called All or Nothing at All. What can you tell us about that one? Will you be creating exclusive artworks for it as well? 
We're working on a virtual musical, in which we'll depart from Frank Sinatra's 1939 hit song All, or Nothing at All – a song about control and the fear of losing it, a song that mesmerized millions. Originally performed from an utterly male perspective, the song will be transformed into an alternative, rebellious version from a female point of view. The singer will appear as an avatar, multiplied into masses that ramble through town, following a choreography of a mix between the grand-scale human as machine–musicals of the '30s and the mass demonstrations of recent times.
In collaboration with the local animation school in Viborg, we will develop a virtual game-like structure of the city of Viborg. Viborg, with Viking settlements dating back to the 8th century and with a name that literally translated means 'holy fort', is the perfect décor for this virtual musical army.
You've developed over twenty projects spanning almost two decades. Even though you like to focus on the future, looking back, is there a specific project that holds a special place in your heart?
Crossing the Rainbow Bridge is the first artwork we’ve made together, it's a split-screen musical about our fictional selves, both locked up in our own screens and thoughts. It's the only work that we perform in ourselves. As this is an honest picture of our fictional love story played by ourselves, it's a wonderful mix of fiction and reality. And it still seems to make some sense.
The exhibition Point Cloud, Old Growth, by Margit Lukács & Persijn Broersen, is on view until February 10 at Foam, Keizersgracht 609, Amsterdam.
Montevideo Overzicht1 A4s Crossing the Rainbow Bridge.jpg
Pkerk A4s Crossingtherainbowbrdge.jpg
P Mligtzingt A4s Crossingtherainbowbridge 2003.jpg
The P Ast Future Broersen Lukacs Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam 2016 Mg 45253.jpg