Digital Artists FIELD interview

Lumiere London presented a dazzling show of world class light sculptures and audio-visual installations across the capital this weekend. Amongst these pieces was Spectra-3, created by digital artists FIELD. Being specialists in the area of immersive installations, FIELD have previously collaborated with Nike to create an audio visual running experience and with Universal Everything on eight video artworks that portray atmospheric cityscapes and landscape animations. Premiering at Lumiere London, their latest piece Spectra-3 created an affecting space for contemplation at Kings Cross. FIELD studio co-founder Vera-Maria Glahn talks to us about creating their radio telescope-inspired artwork.

A: Spectra-3 is part of a series. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the body of work as a whole and how Spectra-3 fit into this?
VG: The pieces in the Spectra series, each in a different way, create an audio-visual immersive experience by connecting physical and digital elements: motor-controlled kinetic objects, reflective materials, light, projections and reflections, generative software systems, data inputs, and sound tracks composed in real-time. Together they all present very sensory experiences and tell very “human” narratives about communication and relationships.
We like using metaphors of technology, space and time for these narratives, like in the previous Spectra pieces, and in our wearable VR sculptures Quasar from 2015. Exploring the future and the unknown edges of our universe might be driven by the same, deeply human desire that makes us want to connect with each other.
Spectra-3 is an immersive light experience that tells three stories of communication through a choreography of movement, animated lights and spatialised sound. It looks like a communication device, a technological artefact that we’re bringing to life with a fluid choreography. This contrast of a technical, minimal form, and an almost human behaviour, was one of the core ideas for Spectra-3 from the start.
Spectra-3’s show has three parts: Forever is Composed of Now’s, Infinity and Latitude of Home, and I look for you in Everyone. These titles were our guidelines for designing to choreography of movement, lights and sound. Our aim is to create an immersive space that absorbs you, with an abstract narrative that viewers can enter and leave as they like. You can read it purely as a composition of form and light in motion, or as a poetic narrative about human communication and the longing to connect: that is up to the viewer.

A: What inspired you to start using physical sculpture, combining it with software, light and sound?
VG: We started FIELD in 2009 with a focus on generative and interactive art, mostly with screen-based work. Making things come to life was one of the core ideas of FIELD from the beginning. We want to use the power of code to make visual art feel alive, to explore new aesthetics and visual languages, to create audio-visual spaces with the sense of an abstract narrative.
In the last few years, our interest in the fusion of digital and physical systems has grown. We’re fascinated by sculpture as a medium that interacts with its environment. We’re approaching these new physical and sculptural projects with the same generative and code-based thinking that we’ve developed as our workflow over the years.

A: FIELD is a group of digital artists, making Spectra-3 unusual in terms of its collaborative creation. The development of the project must have had a great combination of skill, input and identity, making it quite a unique journey to completion. Can you describe the work process of the group from concept to reality?
VG: Working in physical posed a huge amount of new challenges for our team; we had new considerations, such as the structural integrity and momentum of the installation and external factors such as the wind…and pigeons. Finding the right software solution was a particularly long discussion. For the detailed, part-handcrafted and part-procedural choreographies we wanted to create, we needed to build our own animation design tool that would run in realtime, have a useful timeline system, give a good sense of preview in realtime, simulate and finally control all elements of the installation.

Our core team for Spectra-3 is over 15 people – artists, computational designers, software, lighting and structural engineers and manufacturers. It was quite the moment when we saw the sculpture move for the first time in a warehouse just before Christmas – after an eight months process from sketches and references, to 3D models and preview animations.

Aesthetica, 2016
Photo of Digital Artists FIELD interview