Voilah! 2019: An Interview with AR Artists Adrien M and Claire B
Catch a work by Adrien M & Claire B and you’d swear that you’ll have stepped into another world, or multiple realities have collided. The French multimedia artists are masters of the digital realm, crafting interactive pieces that bring together reality and the virtual world, utilising technology to animate storybooks into life, or craft entire environments for performers to play against. if anything, the collective’s promise is that they can and will deliver a visual treat.
Founded by Adrien Mondot, IT-juggler, and Claire Bardainne, visual artist-scenographer in 2011, the duo were recently in Singapore for the first time to deliver a talk at the ArtScience Museum on their craft and artistry, as part of the Voilah! Festival 2019. We’re not kidding when we say Adrien used to be a juggler – he means it quite literally, as he explains in our interview with the two about the collective’s origins and its plans for the future. Says Claire: “Adrien’s main area of expertise is actually building software, and as a designer, I was interested in creating both spaces and images simultaneously. Adrien and I came together with the aim of juggling these elements, and so we decided to base our work on the idea of merging the digital and the material, the body with images.”
The two go on to talk about how they feel that their craft was the best way to explore the digital world, activating audience imaginations through their out of this world pieces. Says Adrien: “We didn’t choose the medium, the medium chose us. As producers, we create work when an idea comes to us, and we don’t want to be commissioned by big companies and don’t want to do advertisements. Our goal is still primarily to create artistic projects, and not with profit as our main goal.”
Adds Claire: “As artists and founders, we want to hold on to our creative freedom, and try to create teams of dancers, technical people, and producers, and try to find different ways of building these intimate spaces and experiences. We want to be economically independent, and we do have a lot of strong public funding and support actually. Money is the fuel and tool to make projects, but not the be all end all – passion is what drives us.”
The work that Adrien M & Claire B have produced includes abstract landscapes, interactive books, and their latest work, Acqua Alta, a performance with projections and 2 dancers, all performing and worked in real time. Says Claire: “As much as Acqua Alta is about Venice, its themes deal with global issues such as global warming, flooding and the ice caps melting. There’s always a story to tell that goes beyond our identities as French people – after all, the French language doesn’t appear in our work at all, and we love to collaborate with people from all around the world.”
As they demonstrate later in their talk, much of their work takes inspiration from nature and natural phenomena, from the movement of waves to grass shuddering in the wind. Providing a live demonstration, we watch as they play with digital physics to craft worlds and objects that obey differing forms of gravity and malleability, focusing on how each individual (digital) particle reacts to each other.
Best of all perhaps, is how these altered realities can be interacted with, with motion capture technology that allows the real world, where these digital particles react to our movements – the flow of digital particles, for example, changes when an audience member waves at it or even blows at it. One wonders if it is the animation or movement that is designed first, and which it is that determines the choreography or design of each show. Says Adrien: “We know each other very well, and the way we approach each piece, we talk about it from the very beginning to decide what we want to portray and how. I share with Claire very early on what algorithm we should use, what tech merges with reality, and what she wants to say in terms of images.”
Of course, both Adrien and Claire can’t do all this alone, and work closed with a team of mostly freelancers and a few permanent staff members to create their projects, Says Adrien: “It’s always important to choose the people you work with carefully, especially in artistic fields, where they need to have the conviction and intuition to work.”
Adds Claire: “Our team usually shares a very similar aesthetic, and we like to use black and white dots, focusing on movement and to be patient about nature and the observation of nature. These are our bases for collaborations.”
What is it that makes this work so arresting? Perhaps it’s precisely because it defies categorisation, taking inspiration from comics, animation, theatre, dance, art and video games to form one unique art form. “We’ve toured around maybe a third of the theatres in France,” says Adrien. “A lot of our projects are complete originals, where we pitch from scratch to museums and exhibitors. While we’ve worked many times in Asia, this would be the first time in Singapore, and could be the beginning of something new.”
Claire concludes: “We always do our best for every project, and always to create an incredible experience every time. It’s about getting our audience to connect to our realm, activate their imagination, and share in these worlds. A successful project for us, is when the audience’s attention is completely captured by our work, and if they have these emotions and sensations reacting to it. Hopefully, we can keep doing this for the rest of our lives.”
Adrien M & Claire B delivered a talk on their craft at the ArtScience Museum on 31st October 2019 as part of Voilah! 2019. To find out more about them, visit their website here
Voilah! 2019 runs from 3rd October to 17th November 2019 around Singapore. For more information on the festival and the full programme, visit their website here.