A series of interviews with SPACE Art + Technology artists in residence
What were you doing in the year leading up to the residency?
Annelore is working under the name ‘collectif_fact’ in collaboration with Claude Piguet (www.collectif-fact.ch). Our projects, which are mainly video based, explore specific places where architecture often plays the main role. The built space becomes a character in the narrative and evolves away from its original design while creating a sense of belonging. We are also fascinated by the deconstruction of cinematic codes within our visual culture. We explore daily repetition, stereotypes and clichés that suffuse our popular culture, dealing mainly with aspects of (anti)spectacle, simulacra and appropriation. To do so, we investigate the ways that narrative can be appropriated, disrupted and re-edited to construct different stories and alternative meanings.
Our videos use the viewer’s ability to construct stories from ruptured narrative fragments, weaving a complex mesh of references: fragments of dialogues, citations or music extracts. A collage of recognisable, familiar images with a multitude of allusion to cinema classics. Our videos play with our desire to be gripped and even deceived by images and stories. They encourage the viewer to reflect critically on the habits that condition their perception of reality. In 2019, we produced a video shot in a former Swiss bank. The building takes the leading role while voices of professionals with a unique perspective on space encourage viewers to observe hidden details: a police inspector in charge of burglaries, a ghost hunter and a game designer help us see the space from the point of view of someone willing to break in, or ready to solve a spatial puzzle.
Cyril was leading the user research for a tech start-up focusing on conversational AI. As a human-centred design practitioner I worked with several populations and subject matter experts to identify unmet needs and pain points in their daily lives. I then worked with designers, developers and data scientists to define products, build prototypes and iterate on them through user research. As part of this exploratory research work, I had the opportunity to work with experts in fields as varied as psychotherapy, career coaching, biography, financial therapy, positive psychology and behavioural design. It was when I was discussing this last field with Annelore that the idea for the residency project came together.
What are you working on at the moment?
For the SPACE Art + Tech residency, we’re continuing to research themes of narration and deceit. We are interested in how, in our world of surveillance capitalism, AI and software as a service, our attention has been turned into a commodity. Push notifications and cleverly worded headlines compete for our attention. Every interaction is tracked and interpreted to further optimise key performance indicators. 'Gamification' is a way of doing the same: rewarding behaviours desired by the designer. A badge, or some experience points provide just what the brain needs, again and again until a habit is formed.
Our intent for this project is to exploit discoveries in the field of behavioural design to create an App that will play with our desire to be gripped by a story as well as our inability to stop swiping endless feeds. We’ll use techniques from behavioural psychology. For example, B. F. Skinner demonstrated how to condition animals to perform a specific action on cue, through a clever system of rewards. Interestingly, the key for the behaviour to take hold quickly was not to provide a reward systematically, but randomly. The brain experiences greater pleasure when receiving a surprising reward than a predictable one. Humans work exactly the same. Our project will at the same time trick viewers and make them aware of how this discipline already impacts on their life. We aim to empower our viewers to reflect on the gamification of their life, with purpose and agency. When looking deep enough, everything is play.
How have you found the residency so far?
The residency has been great. To be surrounded by other artists/mentors interested in similar subjects and to reflect together has been insightful. It has also helped us plan our project based on the residency timeline. The studio in Ilford is a big, polyvalent space. We’re looking forward to holding a workshop there and interacting with the participants.
What’s coming next?
Annelore and collectif_fact received the Migros Cultural Award in Switzerland to develop a 360° video for an art museum where three automata, the musician, the draughtsman and the writer, built between 1768 and 1774 are hosted. The musician, the female character, will narrate and guide visitors while reflecting on her statue. She will raise questions about what it means to be materially conscious today and the right of the personal data we release.
Cyril will continue to help tech companies understand their users better and focus on their needs and mental models when designing and improving all sorts of products.
Cyril and Annelore are also raising two kids together; this project is far from over.
Workshop: Tiny Routines
Interview with Libby Heaney
Workshop: Art Pose Flow
Workshop: The Prime Directive
Workshop: The Last Resort
Workshop: The Algorithmic Self
Workshop: Supersaturation + Cloud-Writing
Interview with Chris Wood
Interview with They Are Here
Interview with Max Colson
Interview with Millicent Hawk
Interview with Otto Byström
Interview with Paul Wiersbinski