Moving from an immersive full dome to a smaller, circular multiscreen installation, Alex Augier and Alba G. Corral premiered End(O) at LEV festival in Gijón (Spain) a few days ago. The artistic duo originated a little bit by chance – and actually, is not an artist duo strictly speaking. Nevertheless, after joining forces and learning from one another, they’ve finished composing a diptych inspired by nature, cosmos, and through which they’re able to create freely live.
The French-Spanish duo’s performance at LEV was outstanding. First, we could see their silhouettes in front of each other through a sheer multiscreen structure. Then, the sound starts, and the structure is illuminated and filled with the most amazing visuals. The artists look as if they were in no-mans-land; they’re in the middle of the void surrounded by a cosmos they’re creating live in front of our eyes. Mesmerizing, hypnotic, poetic. After the show, we have a quick chat with Alex and Alba about the link between technology and nature, the similarities and differences between Ex(O) and End(O), and their plans to expand the diptych into a triptych involving VR.
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Alba, Alex, put us into context. You’ve both played at LEV festival before, but this year, it’s the first time you do it together after participating in an artist residency at Laboral Centro de Arte y Creción Industrial. There, you’ve worked on the piece Ex(O), which is the second part of a first piece titled End(O). But how did it all start? How did you two first come together?
Alex: I met Alba in Japan during a festival. I loved her work and proposed her to make a common piece. To me, it was a step forward because the performance would be something new for her and for me. I asked to make something for a dome, so it was more like a challenge. So we started to organize everything to make it happen. And we did the first piece, which we performed at SAT (Société des Arts Technologiques) in Montreal. After that, we thought…
Alba: …You thought! (Laughs)
Alex: I thought that I didn’t want us to depend on the dome, and so I imagined the second part.
End(O) and Ex(O) are part of a diptych. Was it initially thought like this, or was the residency at La Laboral an opportunity to expand the first artwork?
Alba: We decided it before.
Alex: Yes, it was very early. Before Montreal.
Alba: We applied to work on the dome. For me, it was a dream to work on this; I saw many pieces in festivals and had the full dome in my head. At some point, Alex told me that if our application didn’t get accepted, we’d build our own dome, our own little house.
What do you feel you’re showing or explaining differently through this second piece that you didn’t in the first one? Is it a continuation, a contraposition, the same story seen from another point of view…?
Alex: For me – [speaking to Alba] and maybe you see things differently –, this is the same universe, it has the same aesthetic, but the scenography changes and so does the audience’s experience. The original setup of the piece involves the audience all around our structure, the circle. And the venue ideally would have a multiphonic system because End(O) is about audio-visual spatialization. For the sound, we need a lot of speakers, and for the images, we have this circular multiscreen. On the other hand, Ex(O) is a classic, immersive experience.
Alba: For me, it’s a contraposition. However, the workflow is the same. I’m used to painting in 2D, but when I worked on the full dome piece, I switched to 3D – but I use the same code to create 3D shapes, textures, real-time drawings, etc. Even though the two pieces are really different and many of the elements don’t work equally in both – mainly because of the structure –, if we didn’t have the first one, we couldn’t have made the second. What was nice about this residency and second artwork is that we had the time to prepare and see what the audience would see and experience. I think this is very important.
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You say that space and time are very important to this piece. And maybe this is my imagination, but for me, when I saw you inside the circular multiscreen structure, it was as if you were in no-mans-land. You were in the middle of a cosmos you were creating. Is it somehow related?
Alba: Yes, it is very related. For me, it’s fantastic to work with Alex because this piece is not about his or my world, it’s more like a symbiosis. Also, we created this artwork in La Laboral for many days and nights, with not much time, etc. Maybe it’s more like a state of mind when we play. Everything disappears – space, time, etc.
Tell us more about your teamwork and creative process. Even though both of you work visually and musically/sonically, I assume that for this project, Alex has focused more on the sound and music, and Alba, on the visual aspect. Also, if you feel like you’ve learnt from one another.
Alba: No. Alex is an audio-visual artist – and he’s a developer too –, and for me it’s very important to work with someone who understands. The first thing we created was the sound because it’s easier to work like this. And I think I’ve learnt so, so much from Alex. Now, I’m more structured, and maybe you’re more… [Moving her hands and looking at Alex]
Alex: …unstructured. (Laughs)
Alba: (Laughs) Yes. I do focus on my work, but Alex focuses not only on the sound but also on the management, the structure, the organization, etc. For me, this is fantastic. In the beginning, it was hard because we didn’t know each other; but now, it’s easier because we know each other better. He works during the daytime, and I, during night time.
So it’s a team that works 24 hours non-stop.
Alex: Yes! But with a crossover, a common moment.
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Ex(O) features many organic elements and is somehow inspired by nature and the biological world. At LEV, I also saw Elías Merino and Tadej Droljc’s show, Synspecies, also strongly influenced by the organic world. Do you feel that as artists working with technology, you try to make it less scary, more approachable and relatable, by linking it to nature?
Alex: Nature is very complex, it combines and includes many different elements – from physics to biology, to mathematics, etc. For me, the more powerful and advanced a computer is, the more it can ‘work’ as if it were nature. Before, many things were too complicated to make through a computer, but now it’s not, and that’s why I feel we’re linking it more to nature.
Alba: Yes. I was just reading an article from a magazine about the chaos and complexity of and in nature. I agree with Alex because now that computers are more powerful or developed, we can add more elements and particles. Thus, we end up with something more chaotic. But the complexity in nature is very similar to the complexity in this rich technology.
Alex: Also, now speaking about the artwork by Elías Merino and Tadej Droljc, it has a more technologic aesthetic. What I like about Alba is that she does something more organic with a palette of colours more similar to nature. There are many hues of green, for example. In a way, it’s very close to painting and, personally speaking, it reminds me a bit of Miró. Maybe it’s a bit cliché but…
Alba: No, no, I like Miró! And to me it’s very important that you say this because I’m more like a digital painter. To me, it’s central that I feel free when I paint.
You’ve just presented Ex(O) for the first time worldwide. What are your plans for the piece in the upcoming months? Any other places or festivals you’ll be paying a visit together?
We want to!
But no closed dates yes?
Alex: We’re going to Paris in January next year. And we’re speaking with other festivals and so on.
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Last one. Both of you have been working for some years now and have toured the world by performing in many festivals and venues. Could you tell us something that has excited you lately? An artist or collective you’ve discovered? Maybe a festival you didn’t know? A new technology or software that you want to experiment with?
Alex: This is difficult, I don’t know… I can say that I think that this is the last structure I will do.
Alba: Oh, really? (Laughs)
Alex: Yes, because I think that we will be busy with this project for two years more or less. But I want to think about what to do next. I don’t want to make the same stuff over and over again. I’m not like that.
Alba: Yes, but we have a third part. The VR piece, the final part of this series.
So it’s more like a triptych?
Alex: Yes, an installation plus VR.
Alba, what about you? Something new that you’re excited about?
Alba: Yes. I’m quite interested in – and actually started to study and check – creating a machine learning system that learns about my way of drawing; I want to teach it to draw with me. But it’s very complicated, maybe in a few years…
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