Visions of Digital Utopia: Pussykrew Artist Interview

Visions of Digital Utopia: Pussykrew Artist Interview
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What does the future of art, and society itself, look like? We can only predict what it might shape up to be. Perhaps a sharp and shiny world where everyone is isolated by the technology around them. While most of us wait and watch, one artist duo is shaping the landscape — one that looks much brighter, liminal, fluid, and more connected than anything we’ve ever experienced before.

For more than a decade, artists Ewelina Aleksdandrowicz and Andrzej Wojtas, collectively known as Pussykrew, have been collaborating and exploring the very edges of immersive media. Both hail from Poland and were creative from a young age, but met later on while living in Ireland. Soon after, they started to collaborate on short video film work and live audio/visual performances. They had been exhibiting at different festivals, and, after an exhibit that caught the attention of a school, were invited by the culture lab at Newcastle University to move to the U.K. and get a master’s in digital media. Their practice rapidly changed, being exposed to a new community and different forms of experimentation.

Their shared experiences of growing up in Poland directly shaped their work. With heavy Soviet dominance of the country during their upbringing, access to new technology was delayed and analog tools were the majority of what was accessible — both shared a hunger for experimentation due to that unavailability. “Having experience with analog tools really helped us to deal with the transition to digital, and the transition happened after we left [Poland], both of us wanted to create a different kind of future for ourselves than what we had in our own country.”

As that accessibility opened up for both of them in the early 2000s, the interest in experimenting with new tools grew. “The democratization of technology was extremely liberating for us, and help us pursue our own careers to create… we wouldn’t be here without these tools.”

After graduating from Newcastle, they traveled all over the world, from Berlin to Asia, to LA and NYC. ”It’s been a long journey of collaborating… moving spaces, places, projects, working with different communities and trying to visually challenge the existing patriarchal systems.”

Pussykrew’s artwork is highly immersive. Working across video, 3D printing, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and audio, their art is a futuristic dreamscape where human and nonhuman forms traverse a fluid, sensual, uncanny world. The spaces and sculptures they create across mediums feel peculiar, yet completely familiar and inviting for the viewer. These pieces are a direct response to the lack of diversity in current notions of technology and futures. “With the fluid, organic shapes, those are a reaction to all the futuristic ideas — whether it’s film, gaming, or art, that’s coming from an almost military, male perspective of the future. Lots of hard surfaces… the energy of it is always connected to battle. It’s not equal.” This mash-up of forms and ideas, influenced by nature, brutalist mega cities, and non-human elements creates a rich, immersive place to escape to — one that anyone, no matter their identity, can feel welcome in, where everyone can feel like they’re appreciated and respected.

The works they create are constantly pushing the boundaries of current technology. “We always wait and try to figure out how it fits into our work, and we never shape our ideas around the technology, we would rather shape the technology around our ideas.” As VR technology gained momentum, they discovered Oculus Medium in 2017 and found that being able to sculpt in a totally immersive environment brought a different energy and aesthetic to their work. “That’s how we’re actually producing these organic shapes… it’s much more physical than screen-based sculpting.”

Working in both the commercial and art gallery worlds, you can find the duo collaborating with clients like Adidas, Columbia Records, and Converse. They also teach workshops wherever they can, making sure they’re raising new and young artists up, striving to make experimenting with technology as accessible as possible:

“Even in current times, not everyone has access to technology, not everyone can write the rules… with our creative practice, giving workshops, being transparent, showing the kinds of tools we are using and in what way, and especially in helping younger people. This is extremely important because we still believe that by being creative you can change a lot. Not only in your art practice, but in real life.

“It’s very important to bring diverse voices into this discussion of technology and the creative technology field in general, because it’s often people coming from the same background, male-oriented, from certain environments… it would be great if people can create multiple futures and we could have an inclusive technological environment,” they said.

Pussykrew can also be found taking on residencies around the world. Last year, they were invited to participate in the Adobe AR Residency, and were in the third session of the program. The AR residency brings artists working with emerging technologies together with Adobe’s development teams to explore the future of the medium and Project Aero. “With Adobe and Project Aero, that’s a big step towards the democratization of AR, not only for artists and creators, but for anyone in their everyday work or personal experiences, how they could interact with this medium… it gives a lot of possibilities because it’s so instant and easy to use.”

The residency is a three-month-long experience, one the duo found very rewarding. “Being involved in this process — having the opportunity to use Project Aero, having conversations with the team at Adobe, feeling like we’re helping shape this app, as well as getting a lot of feedback, questions, and challenges about our work — it’s helping to shape our practice in a better way.”

During their time, they found a process that allowed them to easily iterate site-specific AR sculptures. First sculpting our their forms, they used Adobe Capture to collect textures from anywhere using their mobile devices to apply to the forms, then placed them out into the city with Project Aero. “Adobe Capture was really fast and intuitive… there was no need for overthinking. We were taking pictures of interesting shapes and textures. This is a workflow we’re really happy with — sculpting the objects is pretty fast, using texture and uploading to Creative Cloud where they were immediately on our devices was pretty fun, and we could do a lot quickly.”

This is just the beginning for immersive technology not just for artists, designers, and engineers, but for everyone. Pussykrew is excited for the road ahead, and they hope to create more sophisticated projects in the years ahead. “The landscape is changing — we went through the first wave of VR experiences… there will be another wave of more rich, complex content. We’re waiting for the moment the devices are more seamless.” “It will be more democratized… VR/AR can really help to elevate real-life experiences for some people who don’t have access.” The duo’s dream project is to create a multiplayer universe, a safe, inviting space where everyone feels equal.

“Immersive media has a much bigger potential and will unfold as we work on experiments in the next few years.”

You can find more of Pussykrew’s work on their Instagram and website.

Interested in making textures and applying them to AR and VR work? Download Adobe Capture and share your creations with us using #AdobeCapture.

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