Inside the darkened gallery, star-like pinpricks of light move in response to the humans who open their hands and manipulate them. Shapes coalesce and then disperse like a flock of starlings; a simulated tree bends as if caught in a breeze. This is XYZT: Abstract Landscapes by the French artists at Adrien M & Claire B Company; it has toured all over Asia and Europe, and now it is landing in Albuquerque on its US tour courtesy of the digital art purveyors at Artechouse.
Artechouse got its start just last year in Washington, D.C. with the objective of providing the world's first gallery space dedicated exclusively to art that exists in the intersections where fine art and technology fold into each other. “We have a trifold mission,” Tati, co-founder of Artechouse and managing director of the project said as we sat down at Hotel Chaco in the Sawmill District, a stone's throw away from where Artechouse will open XYZT on May 24 (the exact address—1904 Bellamah Ave. NW). “For us it is important to educate people about new art and technology as mediums. We want to empower artists who already work in this field and the great artists here—UNM has a great program for digital arts. And we want to inspire,” she explained, outlining the guiding principles. “We want to inspire the next generation to see what they can create with technology.” Since Tati and co-founder and artistic director Sandro (the two go by their first names only) swung open the doors of their D.C. home base last June, they have welcomed more than 150,000 visitors to a variety of exhibitions.
“We see technology used in our everyday lives in all sorts of ways,” Tati continued, “but what can creatively be done with it? How can it create a different dialogue, a different experience, a more artistic one?” That is, in effect, what Artechouse offers—moving experiences that use technology as a vehicle, projecting visitors into another world through their sophisticated use of light, sensors, design and much more.
XYZT is a collection of 10 digital landscapes in 4 dimensions. Those dimensions are outlined in the show's title—X, horizontal; Y, vertical; Z, depth; and T, time. Using projection not for video, but to channel light, the design team creates an environment given texture through darkness and its absence with a keen emphasis on movement. “Everything in the exhibit stems from interactions with nature,” Tati said of the pieces. The artists spent several years researching by exploring the natural world around them. “They take that and then imitate it in this abstract world of digital art,” Tati summarized. In that way, XYZT is a great “introductory piece” to the this mode of high-tech art. Because we are all armed with certain associations and a certain understanding of the world, XYZT just transmutes those landscapes so that we might see them anew.
The primary architects of the 10 installations—Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne—got their start as performance artists. “They would do a lot of things with projections and interactions on the stage,” Tati described. “But … they wanted to share the experience that people in the audience were not getting. They were just observers, and they were appreciating it, but it is different when you are a part of it.” Throughout history “fine art” has been in the purview only of the wealthy, and even as our definitions of what art is have expanded, it can still be difficult to connect with. Instead, in the immersive worlds that Artechouse presents, they want to “revolutionize the way art is experienced,” as Tati put it. To provide art “you can participate in, where you're not a passive viewer, you're an active explorer.” Because XYZT is so rooted in experience—and in simple, manufactured wonder—it has resonance with many. “Anyone from the most novice to the most tech or art savvy person can really find their own depth in the installation,” Tati said. “You can just come and enjoy the basic interactive level of it, or you can come and dig into—how is it made? What inspired them? It's fascinating how many layers there are to it.”
The choice to bring XYZT to Albuquerque was “serendipity,” according to Tati. Sandro came to visit the city last December and “it struck him.” In some ways it even felt like a natural fit for Artechouse—with a vibrant arts and culture scene across the state and burgeoning start-ups as well as an established tech industry here, both directors saw potential in Albuquerque. In his walks around town, Sandro happened upon the Sawmill District, and less than six months later, XYZT is set to open at Artechouse's local chapter.
“We see this as an opportunity to understand what people appreciate and how they connect. … Albuquerque is very different from Washington, D.C., but we're coming with open minds and hearts. We'd like to see ourselves here longterm,” Tati said. Moreover, Artechouse is excited to connect with local creatives—as a platform, or just as a wellspring for inspiration. “There are spaces for fine art, for photography. There are movie theaters for film,” she outlined. “We want to create this platform, to take artists working in these mediums to the next level, connect them to audiences and create appreciation.”
These exhibitions and the technology used to create them are the new wave, early adopters of such tools for creative expression and enrichment. “It might be a little new to us,” Tati said—pointing out that when film was introduced widely, people would come into a theater and see footage of a train coming at them and run away. Digital art has all that potential to stir raw emotion and illicit reaction. “It's a revolution of art, it's a new tool,” she summed up—“it is incredible to see what artists can do with it.” And now—given a powerful stage and opportunities thanks to spaces like Artechouse—it will be just as exciting to see what artists will do with it.
Artechouse opens XYZT: Abstract Landscapes by Adrien M. & Claire B. Company on Thursday, May 24 at Artechouse in Albuquerque (1904 Bellamah Ave. NW). Tickets start at $10 and can be found at albuquerque.artechouse.com, along with more information about the project itself and the artists involved.