NR presents Soundsights, Track Etymology’s sister column: An inquiry into the convergence between sound, its visual expressions, investigating music’s intrinsically visual narrative quality.

I wanted to start by delving a bit into the past. As I was researching your work, I found myself amidst an incredible journey down memory lane when I realized you were part of Aucan! I was 14 when Black Rainbow came out, and I remember that record being one the first passages I encountered toward two things: the more experimental side of electronic music and the world of music writing – online reviews, music theory, blogging. It was when I started to be conscious that a discourse around music existed, one beyond “simply” listening to it. At what point in your career did you decide to move towards different mediums, or rather, why did you feel the need to build upon music and annex to it a different, transdisciplinary narrative and experiential dimension?

Haha! I’m glad to hear you listened to Black Rainbow! Aucan was a seminal experience for me – we really shared everything for many years, and developed something which transcended the individual level. After nearly 10 years and over 300 live shows and we finally took a pause, I felt the need to find a place where I could converge various priorities. I studied philosophy, and then arts & design. During that time and along with friends, I co-founded what would become Krisis Publishing. I realized that to discover a new and authentic language, I needed to integrate the diverse, often conflicting, elements I was engaged with. Adopting a multidisciplinary approach to the project thus came naturally.

The pandemic, in a way, further propelled me in this direction. Until then, following Adversarial Feelings (2019), LOREM was predominantly a sonic project. However, the inability to tour for live shows forced me to explore new expressive avenues. I started producing AV live sessions in the studio designed for home viewing, aimed at audiences to experience them as they would a Netflix series—this format seemed most fitting given our confined livelihoods at the time. This shift led me closer to what is now the project’s narrative aspects, which today remains one of my primary interests. It was during this period that I conceived the idea to create several installations, such as the first iteration of Distrust Everything, which I introduced at Graz’s Elevate Festival in 2021.

“The limits of my language mean the limit of my world.” The opener of Wittgenstein tractatus that rings exceptionally true for AI and language models. Musical language and computational language have long been intertwined in LOREM production, and, as your press release states, Time Coils is “imbued with global cultural correspondence and reimagined connections sourced from a wide range of references.” I don’t want to spoil the fun of discovery, but I’m curious to hear from you about some of the influences and central elements behind this project and how they concurred to form its language/world.

The relationship between language and our experience of the world is indeed one of the fundamental aspects I aim to explore with LOREM. Significant influences for Time Coils, as well as for my practice, come from authors like Franco Bifo Berardi, Federico Campagna, Jacques Derrida and Timothy Morton, among others. Today, machine learning provides advanced statistical tools for working on data corpora (texts, images, videos) from an inter linguistic perspective:

“I am interested in building archives of samples (and texts), and interpolating them to examine the interstices… to hear a hybrid sound between a voice and a guitar, to see a face that is also a tree, to read a text that lies between Thomas Pynchon and Franz Kafka.”

This approach was actually the starting point for writing Time Coils. I employed this method both on my samples and on those collected from a wide range of sources. The datasets include traces of soundtracks from early Walt Disney films, old school dubstep tracks, re-synthesized rap acapellas, and Italian prog music. Often the references are completely unrecognizable and become something else, but I like the idea that an attentive listener might discover traces of other works in a completely new form.

Did you have more of a narrative-oriented approach to the record or were you more interested in atmospheres and leaving sonic and visual traces for the listener to follow?

While the narrative dimension has become essential for LOREM, with Time Coils I felt compelled to refocus on purely musical exploration. Working with images and especially texts means that the music must always complement the overall experience. This requirement doesn’t weaken the music per se, but it does confine it within a specific framework. Over the last couple of years, I’ve attempted to differentiate my compositional approach depending on the consumption context. On one side, I am keen on advancing an inquiry into states of consciousness through texts and large-scale audiovisual narratives and installations. On the other, I’ve chosen to pursue a strictly musical path with my audio releases.

“Time Coils, therefore, departs from the concept of crafting a narrative and is instead an opportunity to create a sonic landscape, a sort of auditory swamp that results from a continuous process of self-digestion.”

Back on the AI Language-music adjacency, how do the two processes intertwine in your approach to composition? What do you think composing an algorithm and composing sounds have in common?

I would say that in this case, algorithmic writing is a part of the musical writing project. Perhaps for a “classic” programmer (or should I say a “real” programmer), the code is the true product of creative intervention. In my case, however, the output of the algorithmic processes is never the end result. Ultimately, it’s always me who picks up the pieces, trying to fit them together organically, sometimes without hiding the flaws.

Over the past few years, I’ve been developing methods to integrate machine learning into my musical production processes. These involve sampling, time-stretching, granular synthesis, and recorded instrumental music. I started in 2016 by using simple LSTM (Long Short-Term Memory) systems to generate percussive MIDI files, which reinterpreted beats from my jam session recordings. Later, I began recording the automation I applied on samplers via SysEx to create datasets that would help train other models. Recently, I have also started to focus on audio manipulation, including simulating microphone re-amping, blending completely different types of instruments (such as analog instruments with synths, or percussion with vocals), and generating synthetic rap vocals that I can control with my own voice.

Throughout your work I find that the concept of interaction is a central one: machine-man, man to man, the individual and the group, visual and sonic languages. AI is not only generative but also perceptual, much like ‘real’ audiences. It simulates neural networks through mathematical abstractions in order to perceive inputs and register them. What is your relationship with audience perception, and how does your knowledge of audience response to an art piece or a live exhibition inform your interactions with machines?

Certainly, the hybridization of various disparate elements greatly interests me. I’m not particularly keen on framing AI as a generative tool. It seems much more intriguing to view it as an agent of transformation and hybridization.
When interacting with the audience, however, I generally do not seek a direct exchange.

“In designing live performances and installation, I always aim to create a significant asymmetry between LOREM and the crowd. I want those who listen and observe to be overwhelmed with stimuli, to force them into an experience that allows for only one possible point of view.”

The work of artists like Kurt Hentschläger or, in some way, Sunn O))), is an example of what I mean, I believe. At the same time, I enjoy embedding hidden references, “encrypted” messages, and correlations, to open questions and reflections through ambiguity. This approach can lead to profoundly deep interactions post-experience. Occasionally, an audience member may approach after a show to inquire about an insight they had or to propose new interpretations. For instance, I once spent an entire evening discussing the script of Distrust Everything with a scenographer who had come to see the work, and with whom I have stayed in contact ever since. Those moments are particularly rewarding, as they allow me to connect deeply with people…

Since we’re discussing languages and interactions, I’d like to make a digression. I began this interview by mentioning the early 2010s: a time of peak music media and blogging. I recall reading Deer Waves (shout-out to Italian hipsters worldwide), Pitchfork, and all the usual suspects. Your work is deeply intertwined with technology and the nature of media(s) itself, with music being one of its key components. I’m curious if you’ve ever considered how platforms and the circulation of music actually influence the composition of music itself. Think about “MySpace Bands,” or SALEM and the emergence of Witch House with its Web aesthetics. We’ve witnessed the era of SoundCloud rap, which is self-explanatory, and nowadays, and nowadays TikTok is shaping how mainstream labels function and the pop songs structures. I’d be really curious to pick your brain on this particular matter.

Distribution platforms and modes of consumption undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping our aesthetic experiences, and they certainly influence artistic languages, probably as they always have. As I mentioned, the experience of the pandemic and the subsequent changes in consumption habits heavily interfered with the evolution of the project. I doubt I would have moved so close to the narrative dimension if we hadn’t all been in lockdown for months.

That being said, I’m uncertain about the direction that the music industry will head in the coming years. Frankly, it looks like a colossal mess… There are numerous factors at play in regards to that: the need for fairer and more inclusive distribution systems, the emergence of new technologies based on decentralization, the critical role of algorithms in shaping musical trends, and the emergence of “instant” platforms like TikTok, as you mentioned, among others.

Speaking of the evolution of media, I recently read about “neural media,” which K Allado-McDowell has theorized as developing out of network media in the mid-2010s amid increasing human-AI interaction. K’s description of neural media’s mechanics posits the concept that our ideas of individuality and identity formation, as well as what itmeans to communicate as a human (among other living beings), are about to be majorly recalibrated. What role do you think audiovisual expression, a language that is already forward-oriented and one you have been experimenting with for years now, plays in such futurable socio-cultural landscapes?

I can’t give you a general answer. What I try to do and what I recognize in the artists that I admire, is an attempt to produce aesthetic experiences that have a strong emotional impact while simultaneously “showing the scars”, so to speak. Their works create a space of ambiguity useful for recognizing the artifice, and without hiding it. This way, to use a phrase by Hal Foster, “…artifice, the Utopian glimmer of fiction, can be placed in the service of the real.”

Why did you choose SEAGULL as one of the two singles anticipating the full-release? What drove you towards the concept of flocks and shared-perception, and how does it relate to the record’s structural narrative?

I began working on the video with Karol Sudolski, a friend and collaborator on the LOREM project from early on in the creation of the Album. Karol is one of the people who inspire me to think of LOREM as a hybrid identity, which sometimes speaks in my voice but other times expresses itself as a collective, a chorus. We simply felt that the track was perfect for the flow of the video, which features a single continuous shot within this swamp of organic and inorganic forms.

Are you thinking of other outlets for the Time Coils narration to be experienced? Something transmedial like what you did for Adversarial Feelings, out on the publishing house you co-run, Krisis.

The first is a large-scale AV installation, ARC, which features a walkable dual-channel large LED wall that displays visualizations of contradictory states of consciousness. I created it with Visioni Parallele, and it will debut on Saturday (April 13th) at the Mattatoio in Rome. The work is based on the idea of intertextuality that I mentioned earlier… here, the question might be, for example: what a morph between excitement and boredom might look like? Perhaps something akin to me scrolling through Instagram on the toilet.

In early May at L.E.V. Festival in Gijon, there will be a new iteration of the Distrust Everything project; an immersive chamber that narrates a speculative dream emerging from Mirek Hardiker’s Dream Report Archive. These projects are in dialogue with the album, in a vague way, because they share the same approach, but they are also related to it as I continue to reuse the same datasets, which keep expanding.

What is Krisis role in the economy of your varied and intersectional practice? Is that a place where you focus more on curating others? Taking a step back from “your” own work and constructing bridges for others?

We founded Krisis Publishing in 2009, and I manage the editorial direction of the project alongside my friend and fellow researcher, Andrea Facchetti. The main focus of our project has always been and remains the politics of representation: we are interested in examining, through various lenses, the impact of media cultures on contemporary societies.

Both of us have academic backgrounds in philosophy and design/arts, which makes Krisis the platform to formalize and disseminate both our research and the works of pivotal authors. We typically handle the editing of the books we publish ourselves, and this has enabled us to connect with artists, theorists, and researchers we respect and admire. Among the notable authors we have published are James Ballard, Timothy Morton, Simon Reynolds, Kate Crawford, Hal Foster, Vladan Joler, Sofia Crespo, and also friends like Silvio Lorusso, Luca Pagan, Filippo Minelli, Corinne Mazzoli, Ryts Monet (just yesterday we launched the pre-order for the book we developed with him).

In recent years, we have begun to move beyond the borders of printed paper. Krisis functions not only as an independent publisher but also as a curatorial platform, producing audiovisual projects, music albums, events, installations, exhibitions, public talks, etc.

Certainly, there are parallels between my research, that of Andrea’s, and the editorial line of Krisis. In recent years, we have intensely explored the theme of the relationship between language, reality, and identity, the political implications of AI’s emergence, and the articulation of ecological perspectives. In a way, Krisis serves to me both as a source of input for LOREM and an opportunity to translate into theoretical language the issues that concern the project.

Last but not least..Nomen Omen. Why LOREM? A nod to unfinished but in-itinere linguistic forms?

Lorem is a model for extracting correlations within corpora of unstructured texts.
When I started working with texts and machine learning to enhance the emergence of intertextual correlations, I began by removing all character names from the literary texts in the datasets. I wanted the machine to confuse the characters, thereby overlapping the information pertaining to each. I have now started to group different types of characters using different letters (L, M, D, etc.), but initially, all characters in my datasets were named LOREM. When it came time to name the project, all these LOREM’s were already there…

Interview · Andrea Bratta
Photography · Omar Golli (ARC Installation)
Time Coils out on 26.04.24 via Krisis Publishing Pre-order the album here.
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Luna Lopez

Through staged photography, Luna Lopez works with the emotional, the psychological and the erotic. Lopez infuses her photographs with contradictory elements, which makes her work both unsettling and arousing at the same time. She explores the dynamics of intimacy and violence, the calm and aggressive, as well as the strength that exists within the vulnerable and uncomfortable. Lopez stages and constructs photographs that don’t provide any fixed reading, but only hints about what’s beneath the seemingly obvious.

The underlying erotism that recurs in her pictures, manifests itself in what is not shown. Lopez interest in human connection is not only apparent in how she presents her work to the viewer, but also in how she identifies the nuances in a face expression or the gesture of the body when photographing.

Whether it’s a feeling of emptiness or a spirit of connection, Lopez captures these moments for her viewer to play part in. With the artisanal skill of darkroom printing and an acute eye for shape, texture and color, she has managed to create her own visual atmosphere, one imbued with a highly-attuned sense of tension and composition.

In order of appearance

  1. Untitled (Arched Woman)
  2. The Practitioner
  3. Attachment and Separation
  4. Brush of Censorship
  5. Metallic Object I
  6. The Spot (Eternity)

All images courtesy of Luna Lopez

Luna Lopez (b. 1996) is a Danish-born artist, currently living in Gothenburg, Sweden. Lopez completed her BFA in photography at the University of Gothenburg in 2021 and graduated from Fatamorgana, the Danish School of Art Photography in 2015.
Her work has been shown at Oblong, Copenhagen (2023), Oslo Negativ with MELK gallery, Oslo (2023), Göteborgs Konsthall, Gothenburg (2023), Galleri Thomassen, Gothenburg (2023), Galleri Cora Hillebrand, Gothenburg (2022), MELK gallery, Oslo (2022), Gallery Steinsland Berliner, Stockholm (2022), Röda Sten Konsthall, Gothenburg (2021), The Print Space, London (2019) and Copenhagen Photo Festival, (2018).

Rita Lino



Photography · Rita Lino
Styling · Elettra Simos
SFX and Makeup · Greta Giannone
Styling Assistant · Elena Bignamini
Photography Assistant · Irene Guastella
Production · Cecilia Fornari
Special thanks to Marsèll and Loris Moretto

Matthias Leton



Photography · Matthias Leton 
Styling · David Herrera
Casting · Cameron Nedrick
Hair · Ruby Howes 
Make-Up Artist · Leana Ardeleanu
Flowers · Misha at Studio Linné
Production · Anytime Studios
Models · Tory at Modelwerk and Edda at Miha Modelmanagement
Photography Assistant · Nico Markschat
Styling Assistant · Maria Krementi 
Light Assistant · Ibrahim Cavas


  2. Jacket DAVID KOMA, top SF1OG, skirts OLIVIA BALL and OUR LEGACY
  3. Top and Trousers LOU DE BETOLY, tights FALKE, and shoes ANCUTA SARCA

Andrea Lamedica



Photography · Andrea Lamedica
Co-Creative Direction and Styling · Allegra Coccolo and Sonia Alipio
Casting · Sofia Michaud
Hair · Davide Perfetti
Makeup · Filippo Ferrari
Model · Jiyeon Park at The Lab Models
Photography Assistant · Francesco Imbriani
Styling Assistants · Seo Young Kim, Anna Di Bernardo, Francesca Filosa and Enrico Calvo
Production · Clara Giberti, Coming Studio 


  1.  Jewellery TETIER BIJOUX
    Dress SPORTMAX
    Shoes JIL SANDER
  2.  Dress ANNA HEIM
    Accessories D’HEYGERE
  3. Dress SIM SOO HYUN
  4. Accessories GARCON DE FAMILLE
    Shoes SPORTMAX
  6. Full look SHANG XIA
  7. Full look FERRAGAMO
  8. Full look BOTTEGA VENETA
  9.  Dress SACAI

Lulu Lin

Lulu Lin breeds genderless titans for your fever dreams

Lulu Lin illustrates the fever dreams and nightmares people wrestle with in their dream state. Oblong faces glimmer like metal sheets, and silver-polished cheekbones and glinting foreheads show up on muscular facial features. Bald genderless titans dominate her oeuvre, a seemingly vicious reminder of her viewers’ submissive tendencies to fear. Their giant hallowed eyes haunt viewers with their dilated, singular-coloured pupils, emotionless gazes, cry-for-help stares, droopy eyelids and eyeballs roaring in ecstasy. The Taipei-born artist reveres scrunched-up lunar faces too that remind us of the potentially monstrous and monotonous cycles the moon goes through if she ever lived as a walking living being among us. 

Lin’s distinctive digital art yearns to ground a profound and genuine relationship with herself and her viewers by pursuing fears that people sweep under the rug. She draws the longing to free oneself from restrictive despair, impending dread and unshakable fright for whatever reason by springing these very fears onto the viewers themselves. The artist seems to take up quite a literal interpretation of facing one’s fears, and she has not yet quieted down with her style. Words do not cut for the resulting illustrations that attempt to underpin her desire to let people feel the fear they try to escape from, since her signature visuals keep stirring the pot, brimming with alien-ised giants that only live in fantasy.

‘I’m fascinated by dreams and what they could mean. The same goes for my illustrations. They are both means for me to conduct intrapersonal communication. Things like self-analysis, self-discovery, and self-awareness are my incentives,’ she tells NR. On top of dreams, Lin’s imagination runs toward human emotions and how people deal with them. Untangling the tangled and often-complex intricacies of the human psyche excites the artist’s creative zen with all its might. The thrill that flows through her artistic veins when she analyses them by drawing results in monolith, otherworldly beings dressed with ovular physiques. ‘Feelings are a fickle thing, and I’m fascinated by them all. I wish to be more emotionally self-aware, and to be more capable of perceiving and comprehending emotional experiences, to be able to convert the knowledge into motivation, communication and behaviour,’ she says.

Past human fears, the abundant stream of visual influences Lin drinks up springs from the well of everyday conflicts people undergo. She shoulders the excruciating joy and euphoric pain people face in their best and worst selves. She finds her deep sense of grounding from the trivial animosity people bear for each other, such as the air of jealousy drifting the success of others or the feeling of betrayal from knowing that the once favourite is no longer the favourite, and the exciting feats people celebrate, such as saying goodbye to predictable sordid personalities and the quieting of occasional mood swings.

Instead of verbally expressing how her people-watching goes, Lin paints them, drawn from her belief that she is more capable of illustrating them rather than fully realising them in words. In fact, she uploads them on her Instagram page which she named dig a hole. ‘It’s how I view my work. There’s never an end, never a clear image of what to expect, always a work in progress. But I’ll still keep on going for some reason. It’s quite similar to the concept of “hobby tunnelling”, only for me, it’s always a hole,’ she says.

Her social media page becomes a safe space for liminal cults who love being reminded of the immaterial, and at times grotesque, pronoun-less visitors in their hazy dreams. ‘dig a hole’ also leads fans into Lin’s state of mind, a seemingly virtual door that Lin leaves ajar for the public to peer through. Flashes of images appear to reflect what Lin cradles in her mind and heart. In one image, she draws a voluptuous dark grey vase with a twinset of cherubim faces crying in blue tears. The lilac tulips planted inside the vase bend their heads, eliciting a seductive yet melancholic tone. Lin writes that this certain image would be her if she were a non-living thing.

Amid the tangible digital artworks rising out from her introspective state, the illustrations of Lin are pulled out of her intuitive guts. Her dexterity in the virtual tools allows the artist to snatch a magnetic non-lead pen resting on the side of her tablet’s case, fire up her Procreate app on her iPad and let her hand and mind draw. She receives bits of images in her vision, like an omen that ships batches of visual scenes to her conscious memory, and trusts that her mindflow will finish the work. ‘Planning or not depends on whether I’m commissioned,’ she says. For a handful of her personal drawings, her cathartic self-expression is manifested in a myriad of looming-over and squashed figures decked out in subdued colours and shades.

Lulu Lin has always enjoyed drawing, but being an illustrator hot-footing to invite cashflow into her pockets was not on the table. She’s still striking a balance between producing artworks for enjoyment and business, and gives herself some time off whenever she needs to recharge her imaginative batteries. Along the way, her artistic sensitivity, sharpened by people’s tedious weight of misery and their unwavering faith in optimism, opens her arms to soak in a platitude of whimsical dilemmas in life. She wields them well into life sized forces of nature that take up Instagram’s image ratio size.

Devotees of her illustrations keep tapping twice on their smartphones to show their affection for the continuous stream of uploads Lin makes. In return, the artist hustles to produce more, not for the sake of commissions, but to participate in a give-and-take relationship between her and her audience, even though she once captioned an illustration with ‘reciprocity in a relationship is overrated’.


Artworks · Courtesy of the artist

Yein Lee

Lee’s biomechanical forms

After completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Seoul, South Korean-born artist Yein Lee went to the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna, Austria. She stayed there to live, refining her technical prowess into an intensely profound body of work. And she is far from done.

Combining her past experience, dexterous innovations and interest in advancing technology, Lee has exhibited her work in numerous locations, showing her work ten times just in the last year. Her sculptures have approached the world with the strength of a cyborg. Their creator has constantly developed alongside them, her mind evolving with the same creative mental software that transforms these objects into personable, breathing beings.

Her work has an unrelenting originality. The sculptures are crafted into augmented forces. Lee approaches the overall composition with creativity in mind; she creates the presented proportions, and her treatment of the fabricated flesh can be felt through panels and poles. Lee installs biomechanical forms that brush against the fabric of a wall. The dark, drooping and dagger-sharp bodies poke out of the white walls of a gallery. Xylophoned rib cages jerk out with splayed bones, like arachnid arms reaching around a polymer and epoxy heart. Loose limbs fall like sinuous vines bleeding black and stretching into nothingness like the electrical wires that they are. These forms are obscure and anything but human. However, they hint at a humanity that can be found within ourselves, only with multiple jabbering mouths sealed in polymer paralysis. If humans are contorted in hate and loosened by drink, Lee’s hand-made creatures are intensified with the cold glitter of a PVC plexiglass and wires that twist like wilted willows.

These are not merely artworks in stasis. They transform over time and have a life of their own. Lee transfers the essence of being into objects with an actuality and reality at their core, giving the pulsations of a creature with a soul.

You originally studied traditional painting in Seoul and then moved to Vienna. Since finishing up at The Academy of Fine Art, you have continued to live there. It has been almost a decade since you graduated from University in Seoul. Why did you stay?

I had no idea about the city at all. Soon, I decided there was a young, active scene going on, and there were many spaces for artists to produce, especially considering the smaller scale of the city. Many artists were around the city, and everyone was working around me, and I enjoyed this input and movement. Now I really have a sense of community here.

Did this sense of belonging come immediately or over time?

My friends are here, my partner is here and my studio is here. I now know how to source my materials, and I know how it works here when it comes to running my studio. This usually takes some time. You have to get used to a German-speaking country and then deal with the art bubble (which is all in English).

Your material practice has branched out from the norm and has spread into the realms of technological components, metals and alloys, and plastics and organic materials. At what point did you move towards sculpture?

Through my BA in Seoul, I focused on Asian painting, and then for my Masters, I followed a more modern path with Contemporary Art Direction. I went to Berlin and then went to Vienna for the Academy of Fine Arts, where I continued in the painting class. I struggled a bit as I couldn’t find my own visual language through paint. At the time, the whole Zombie Figuration discourse was going on (in the mid-2010s), and there was an overwhelming overload of paintings.

So, what did you do?

I tried to forget everything I had built so far, and I decided to leave Vienna and go to Shanghai for an Artist Residency Program. But I didn’t bring any material with me, on purpose. In the program, there was a lot of leftover material from the previous residents, so I just collected it all and began using these random materials that artists had left behind. Leaving my old studio behind and starting with new tools was really helpful. I started using hot-glue guns, plastics, acrylic colours and polyurethane. I started working with these new materials, and after that, my painting became more sculptural. When I returned to Vienna, I kept experimenting with different materials and processes, and learning casting and welding helped me get closer to what I was looking for.

The scale of your artwork varies, yet the forms depicted remain relatable. One can see a drill-motor heart and limbs of steel, a chest with spread combs like fork prongs and body positions that feel so human. When you returned to Vienna, how did you start collecting the materials for your sculptures? Are there human elements you search for which operate as surrogate body parts for the forms?

I like that it feels human. In 2018, I really started getting into sculpture. I turned to casting and melding metals out of curiosity, but soon I fell in love with it. After using these plastics and metals for painting, I began making the frames for the works, which later became structures in themselves. As I explored these forms of matter, I knew I needed an anchor to communicate with the viewer, as my visual language of monstrosity tends to be less communicative and more framed. Using the human form was a translator. There has always been a presence of organic matter in my work. Even before I went to Shanghai, I had always used bodily elements; when I returned, I deepened my research on organic structures and was influenced by pop culture and movies. This all helped push out my creativity, and body machine parts started working as surrogates, but sometimes they just expanded on body parts.

Technical skill is a quality by which sculpture is evaluated. Does your practice involve meticulous working and reworking until you are happy with the result?

Every time I work, there are millions of possible next steps to creating the sculpture. For example, how much should I bend this piece of metal? But I like that. It is nice to explore these possibilities and refine the options for finality.

“Finding what’s ‘right’ is a thrilling feeling.”

And how do you know when to stop?

I could pretend to be a genius and say, ‘I just know’, but there are rules to follow for basic forms; I have an individual formula, focusing on the completeness, content, consistency of form and ratio of texture to balance in the composition. When everything fits into what I want to talk about, I know it’s done. I’ve definitely grasped more of an understanding of finality, which came over time and through more experience with my materials. The experience gives me more choices in what I can do. The experience makes it easier to see what is possible.

“The point of arrival for artwork is the ability for the piece to be presented.”

However, for many artists with a strong technical focus, the mastery of a process can be overlooked for a purely aesthetic interpretation; it can become cold. Despite this, your pieces have a lucidity, a sense of being which can speak. 

How do your technical skills allow you to grow such a concept?

Coming from a painting background, I came into sculpture with quite a messy and dirty technique, but I let it be like that, and it turned out that I liked doing it the ‘wrong way’. For instance, with latex, I was supposed to pour it carefully into the mould, but actually, I did it the wrong way to try something new. It gave me a more instant expression. At times, being used to traditional techniques makes the work enter a certain frame, whereas what I wanted to say about sculpture and how I wanted to expand my work was more fluid; let it drop and overflow. I thought, ok, let’s break some rules, see how far they can be broken and how I can use the pieces, whether they are ‘failures’ or not.

Do you wish for your sculptures to communicate with the audience somehow? Do you want them to breathe like us or remain objects for opinion?

I always have my own intentions and ideas about my sculptures. Sometimes I have favourite parts of a work and what it is supposed to be. However, once the sculpture is out of my studio and leaves my hands, it is not mine anymore. Sculpture should have its own agency, and it should be able to deliver certain things to different people but without the arrogance of a god. I like to leave it up to viewers with what they see. Sometimes it is very different, and I think, ‘that’s ok’.

How does it feel to separate yourself from them? And how do you feel about your work as a whole?

I feel strange. I do a lot of drawings, but they are not necessarily related to the outcome. Some parts of a drawing can be involved in this outcome, but the journey is only partially planned. Once I have finished a piece, I think, ‘what are you?’. Sometimes I feel alienated from the sculpture, and other times I feel attached to it. It’s a weird mixed feeling because I never planned to make this sort of work. After completing a sculpture and it is sitting in front of me, whether it is the scale or material elements, It still takes me by surprise. 

They also possess a depth that seems personal. Rather than being shells or a disregarded snakeskin, they could almost be seen as extensions of your personality. Is your working method related to this emotional connection?

I make my sculpture in a way that fits my personality. My working method is who I am. I am always slightly rushing, determined and sometimes slightly clumsy and rough. But my character is shown throughout my work, and it’s funny to see it, but the gestures do show.

Are they autobiographical?

They express how I feel, but they aren’t autobiographical. Many artists take inspiration from their experiences, so some of my experiences are embedded into the process and final outcome. But then, for me, it often gets separated; the initial idea that exists when I start a work sometimes changes while I’m working as my thought process goes into a meshed structure rather than a linear method.

When you are in the process of making these artworks, what do you feel and see? What sort of environment do you put yourself in (besides the physical surroundings of a studio)?

Not too often, but sometimes I get into a trance. It feels like a buzzy, feverish and floating sensation when I really concentrate, but that could also be the caffeine and exhaustion. When I get highly focused and concentrate so much, I get absorbed into the process so much that my body disappears and it is just my brain and hands.

How do you want people to react to these works? The sculptures are hardly embodiments of peace and harmony. At least in the conventional, Edenic sense. Sci-fi characteristics emerge when words like ‘hybridism’ and ‘cyborg’ are thrown around. Still, your work takes a step further by removing the past and melding present silhouettes into alien forms articulated to a raw framework you have created. How do you react to sci-fi labelling and labelling in general?

Hybridity has been such a significant term that has circulated, but it is now a natural concept at this point. With sci-fi, the concept is a current metaphor for our imagination and society. It is a present-term idea that moves around our dreams and narratives. There are many bodies today that are very attached to artificial material, and I see the hybrid concept as a phenomenon that already exists. I was always more into manga and animation, so I got more ideas from these magazines than from traditional sci-fi; I didn’t grow up with it, but lately, I’ve been watching all the classics, but only as an adult. My works are about what I see and observe, but people can receive them as one ‘type’ of art. It is the same with science fiction: it gets categorized as one thing. The artist Ivan Pérard says, ‘Sci-fi’ is a modern fable’, which I very much agree with. Animism and mythology operate around nature and culture, and science fiction mirrors society just as much. It is about our life as it stands now.

And what do you want to change this attitude?

It is essential to keep talking about art in a way that doesn’t limit terminology and simplifies the language that describes it. In my work, there are lots of languages of monstrosity, and people immediately think of the artist, H.R. Giger and how many monster-esque forms are coming back in art.

“The sculptures embrace distinct ambivalent emotions.”

For me, the works are in a status of becoming. I want people to discover hope in the form of reflection on our current society. It is necessary to focus on the details and have more sub-categories to be aware of.

Do you think your work promotes that concept?

I hope so. I have been trying to find a way to communicate it with metamorphic presences, blending the ‘me’ and ‘you’ and ‘us’. For that reason, I worked more into the human form to express a language of monstrosity that is less misunderstood and more anchored. Making these forms relatable makes them beings you can communicate with. Components resembling human body parts communicated and specified what I wanted to say.

These sculptures have their own weight. They possess a dense mass that stands perfectly. They support themselves just like Francis Bacon’s creatures in his Crucifixion paintings did. There are various rods and stabilising factors involved. However, these prodding protrusions make the artwork whole by grounding the body and creating a proportionate form. How do you want your work to stand?

Through wires and steel supporting the sculpture’s weight, they can look weightless and rooted to the ground at the same time. Being in the air is a nonhuman thing, and my works take components of human anatomy beyond bodily function. I want them to stand with natural and artificial elements growing from this body coexisting.

And towards what environment do you see them moving?

I want to explore all sorts of locations. I don’t just want my work in white cubes. I’m working on this sculpture park exhibition in the Netherlands which will be interesting; the surroundings there are radically different, which will also dramatically affect how the sculpture behaves and how it is interpreted.

Your production has led to your works avoiding the limbo between weightless futility and a heavy, immobile mound. In many senses, the fact that these works float yet are still weighed down by gravity makes them appear as embryonic creatures captured in stasis. Do your choices in materials and proportion impact the presentation/display of your works and their ultimate impact on audiences?

Proportion is only one part of the decision-making on form, so it’s hard to say it’s the ultimate effect, but it is crucial that my works have a certain openness. With Devouring Chaos (2022), I liked having a balance between the human anatomy, electrical wires and wooden branches that poke out of the skins. The branches make the piece float in the air and, at the same time, stay rooted to the floor as if it were a plant. I like having a duality and coexistence of weight and weightlessness, a growing and wilting being. I find that concept really interesting, and I want to explore it further in a different direction.

A word that sparks to mind when observing your work is protuberance. Not only in the content of your subject matter, (as it juts out of a human shadow with the suddenness of a razor-sharp guillotine) but the context of these protrusions. Do you want your artwork to jut out from the norm?

“I want them not just to jut out of the norm but to stretch out the norm and expand normativity. These forms convey that we are all simultaneously different and alike; it is the form that decides the content just as much as the content decides the form.”

How do you decide what form these sculptures will ultimately take?

In the beginning, the size of the works themselves is planned. Because of shipping, the scale is regulated for practicality. When I started working on my latest pieces, I fixed their average size first. However, the forms then develop and grow out of my imagination, and with Devouring Chaos, I got the idea of this fazing face and legs frozen in motion from a long exposure picture. Showing constant movement across frames in a particular image was an interesting visual element that led to a transition in the movement process.

Your expertise in gleaning used and disregarded materials comments on the extremes of consumerism and assists in communicating the issues regarding the state of the environment today. How do you see your art playing a part in the way we move forward?

I would like to embody specific thoughts and concepts in my sculpture. They are metaphors and suggestions. Let’s say a viewer could see a broken iPhone cable as part of my work and wonder, ‘Yeah, I do have a couple of broken smartphone cables somewhere at my home, too’ Then it’s a good start.

And the ultimate goal for them?

Being born abroad and living in a foreign country is frustrating, and you sometimes feel like you do not belong. Even the concept of nationality is weird for me here, and within Vienna, I live in a bubble where I only speak English. It is weird but interesting. I want to explore the possibilities of representing the body in this way. For example, the issues of hyper-consumerism and the ecological crisis come up in my sculpture with aesthetics and materials providing belonging in an extended body. I want to embrace more possibilities of the body. I am not just ‘me’, but I am a human. I consist of thousands of cells, fluids, and microorganisms living with me. This comes out in the work with not only the mechanical components and broken machines, but also branches and formed figures that look like microorganisms and then faces. I try to use macroscopic with microscopic imagery to comment on both the body as an individual entity and the world as a whole.

There’s no missing one of your works. Not only do they jump out with their presence, but they are wholly yours and could be produced by no other artist but you. The structures you make are transformed into a veritable presence that catches the eye in a second. Is there more to be done?

I want to keep creating and working on my career. The practice I want to promote is one where humans are not in the centre of the world, but I want my sculpture to coexist with the world in a way that expands certain areas of thought but not in a ‘core’ social sense. I am happy with what I have been able to make, and I try to give credit to myself instead of just being a perfectionist and asking myself every time, what more should I have done? But sometimes, you just can’t push it further because of budget, time or energy.

Are you confident in the artwork you produce?

There is always room for improvement, but the best thing is to be able to learn from your work and improve upon it the next time. Looking back, I did my best work within a limited time, and although it is difficult, I always want to improve. However, I am happy with what I have done and what I will continue to do. Sometimes you have to move on and keep working on the next piece.

“My confidence is in my desire to explore more possibilities.”


  1. Yein Lee & Nour Jaouda, Installation view 2022, Paulina Caspari, Munich. Photography by Thomas Splett
  2. Detail, devouring chaos – growth of reconstructed time, overflowing bodies, and static electricity. Photography: Courtesy of the artists and Loggia, Munich/Vienna
  3. Yein Lee & Nour Jaouda, Installation view 2022, Paulina Caspari, Munich. Photography by Thomas Splett
  4. Yein Lee & Nour Jaouda, Installation view 2022, Paulina Caspari, Munich. Photography by Thomas Splett

Alain Levitt

“For a long time, I felt like I had failed as a photographer.”

Last year, Alain Levitt started sharing his archive of photography on a dedicated Instagram account. As a photographer in New York in the aughts, Levitt had turned his back on photography by the time the decade was out. In the intervening years, Levitt’s photographs gathered dust, whilst film photography was supplanted by the rise of social media. From the perspective of 2022, it doesn’t seem a stretch to say that, since its launch twelve years ago, Instagram has changed our relationship to photography. In its early days, the photo-sharing app was characterised by a limited choice of filters and corresponding borders to boot; the more vintage an Instagram post looked and seemed, the better it was. But what happens when photographs – real 35mm photographs – taken in the years just before Instagram’s launch reach an age where they become ‘vintage’ themselves? For something to be deemed ‘vintage’, it has to be at least twenty years old; one particularly striking photograph shared by Levitt on Instagram is of the New York blackout of 2003. 

Having moved to New York in the early aughts, Levitt started photographing and documenting the people and the scene(s) around him. The city’s nightlife and streetlife, bodegas and bars, its residents – native and adopted, making it, or faking it, are captured with an energy and nonchalance that Instagram users could never. Looking at Levitt’s photographs is a who’s who of New York life, and a glance at the Instagram comments on his posts confirms as much. Director Spike Jonze is photographed simultaneously taking Levitt’s picture – does he have Jonze’s photograph of him, one commenter asks? There are shots of Chloë Sevigny, Kim Gordon, Cat Power (under a table) and Mischa Barton, as well as photographs in which the Levitt’s subjects see themselves, an old flatmate or someone who was once a familiar face around town. Recognisable faces from New York’s skate scene also appear frequently – from the late Harold Hunter, photographer Tino Razo, Fucking Awesome’s Jason Dill, filmmaker William Strobeck and artist Mark Gonzales.

Levitt’s photographs may be from an era before Instagram, but they’re as relevant as ever. Last year, Vice profiled Levitt’s photography – linking a previous feature that he had contributed to on the site. A banner at the top of the page warns: “FYI. This story is over 5 years old.” The feature is, in fact, from 2007, but it’s a curious moment when photography that was made and shared on the internet in its infancy is now old enough to be vintage. Coincidentally, the newest social media app, TikTok, recently declared the return of “Indie Sleaze”, a catch-all for the fashions and music of the aughts. Enough time has passed for the early 00’s to seem cool again (or just cool, for those too young to have been there the first time round), and Levitt’s work is (re)finding itself. Indeed, a photograph of the late artist, Dash Snow, that was taken by Levitt appears on a t-shirt for Supreme’s upcoming S/S 2022 collection. And in February this year, a book launch party for Levitt’s collaboration with Spotz Club took place at Public Access – an East Village gallery founded by Leo Fitzpatrick of Kids fame. Time passes, places change and people seemingly move on, but as Levitt’s photography shows, the energy of youth is timeless. 

NR: What was it like revisiting these photographs for the first time?

AL: It wasn’t easy. For a long time, I felt like I had failed as a photographer. I took pictures every day but never got much work and certainly was never able to make it into a career. I wasn’t thinking of these pictures as what they were, documents of a beautiful moment in time, but as validation of my own inadequacies. Thankfully I got over it.

NR: And what led you to revisit these in the first place?

AL: Just prior to the pandemic a friend needed early aughts images for a potential project. I didn’t go too deep, but what I found brought back not just memories but how I felt back then. That really surprised me.

“What I thought was going to be painful ended up being more like finding the fountain of youth. After that, it was on.”

NR: Apparently ‘Indie Sleaze’ has returned; what does it feel like to see the return of this aesthetic of the aughts?

AL: I love it. For a year in high school, I dressed in nothing but thrift store bought disco era clothing. Bell bottoms, tight striped shirts with giant lapels, etc. I completely romanticized that era. I can only hope this is coming from a similar place. Luckily, I was taking the pictures. I cringe when I think of my style back then.

NR: Do you think the New York you captured on camera still exists? If not, at what point did it become “the past”?

AL: It definitely does. This city is alive right now. Everybody’s an artist, everyone’s working on a project. It’s vibrant. The energy is so similar to when I arrived in 2000. I’m very inspired by it but just a little too tired to want to participate. 

NR: You’ve been sharing your photographs on Instagram, what’s it like seeing people share their stories and memories of them?

AL: It’s beautiful. I can put up an image and have twenty people comment with completely different memories. I have the picture, but collectively we tell the story. 

NR: If your photographs from the aughts could be characterised as celebrating one thing, what would that be?

AL: Youth for sure. We were young enough to not give a fuck. Young enough to think that anything was possible and not deal with the repercussions of our actions. And young enough to feel like we were special.

“It was a beautiful delusional time. Real life came after.”

NR: Has sharing your work made you want to pick up a camera again?

AL: It did! I stopped carrying a camera right after my first daughter was born in 2012. I still shot photos but mostly of my kids and like almost everybody, they were taken on a phone. After going through my archive, and getting some much-welcomed attention, I realized how much more weight I give to my images when shoot them on film. It’s silly but I care more about them; they mean more to me. So out came all of my cameras from storage and I kind of felt like it was time to finish what I had started. I don’t go out much at night these days but when I walk around, I always have at least one on me. It feels right.

NR: Did you keep in touch with the people in your photographs? And has sharing your photography rekindled any lost friendships (for you, or for others in the comment section!)

AL: Luckily, I have. My wife and I have owned a restaurant on the Lower East Side for the last fourteen years. Because of it we’ve stayed connected with many of the people from my images. But it’s been sporadic. Someone comes into town and then you won’t see them again for years, sometimes. When I started posting photos on IG, it was like everybody was visiting at once; we were a group again. Sharing memories and stories from what was the most magical time in many of our lives, it was like a hipster high school reunion. No offence, everyone.


Images · Alain Levitt

Posted in 미분류

Mark Leckey

Mark Leckey

“I’ve felt this for a while about technology – that it’s inducing this strange kind of medieval state, in the sense that they cohabited two realms between the spiritual and the profane.”

“Ah rabbit holes, I know them” texts Mark Leckey, after I ask if we can delay our interview. I have a list of questions I could put to the artist, but I’ve lost myself in the matrix of his work. And where do you start? Perhaps with Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, the 1999 video that put Leckey on the art world map. But that isn’t the beginning of the artist’s story, something the artist himself has subsequently explored. Leckey grew up in Ellesmere Port, a town used as an overspill for Liverpool in the late 1960s that looks back towards the city on the other side (the wrong side, Leckey would say) of the River Mersey. Leckey studied art in Newcastle, moved to London and, having not found success, decamped to the States for a while. Leckey has spoken previously about how, in the mid-to-late 1990s, he was interested in the music videos that were coming out at the time. But Fiorucci, the result of that intrigue, was less MTV and more ICA. And it was at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London that the video was first screened. Fiorucci, with its thumping music over a montage of found footage of Northern Soul dancers and hedonistic ravers, may have since entered the domain of British art, but the artist didn’t become a household name at the time. That arguably came later in 2008, when Leckey won the Turner Prize for his exhibition Industrial Light and Magic at Le Consortium in Dijon, France – a show which concretely outlined the recurring themes that have since come to define his practice, in which the post-industrial landscape of his youth and the emergence of an alternative, quasi-digital landscape in its place, are recurring motifs. 

A week later, I meet Leckey – wearing a full-length white fur coat, matching plaid shirt and bottoms, and his signature pearl earring – at a pub near the artist’s North London home. Originally, our interview was scheduled to take place on Zoom, but I have a hunch that the rabbit-hole questions I have prepared could better benefit from meeting Leckey, a self-proclaimed hermit, in person. And over a pot of tea, we begin by discussing the art world, the internet and what it means to be a working-class art student today. It’s a topic Leckey has pondered over for a long time, but now, he suggests, if he were in his early twenties, he’d be prioritising NFTs over art school. “I don’t think NFTs are just bad drawings of monkeys,” Leckey says – there might be more to it than that. And if there’s a novelty to NFTs now, the German electronic band Kraftwerk seemed novel, too, at first. “You don’t know what the tail of that is going to be, or the direction it will go.” It’s in no way surprising that Leckey is thinking about NFTs, even if he says he is sceptical because of the environmental arguments made against them; he’s been dubbed the ‘artist of the YouTube generation’, and an art career spent scouring the internet for soundbites and videoclips to use in his work means that, naturally, Leckey is all too aware of what’s happening online. But, having rewatched Fiorucci on YouTube rather than the gallery setting it was made for, I wonder if the artist now considers his work to be made for the internet, or still to be absorbed in a physical environment? 

“Both, I think. I like the immediacy of putting something on Instagram.” Leckey has an upcoming show at Cabinet Gallery in South London, and so when that opens, he will also share the work on social media. But using Instagram doesn’t necessarily give Leckey a clearer indication of what people think of his output. “People can go ‘fire!’ or whatever,” he says in relation to the emoji – one of eight pre-set reaction emojis that Instagram suggests for its users in the comment section. “[But] I don’t know why they liked it. And then you can have an opening and people just sort of nod as they walk out the door – so I can’t gauge any response from that.” Fiorucci was one of the rare occasions Leckey got an immediate reaction, with people coming up to the artist and telling him what they thought of the piece. “And then, nothing happened,” he says of Fiorucci, “it slowly percolated. But it got its maximum impact twenty years later, around 2019.” The resurgence of interest in Fiorucci coincided with a huge show at Tate Britain, O’ Magic Power of Bleakness, in which the artist recreated a motorway bridge from the M53 in Merseyside to go alongside a new video work, Under Under In.  

But it was also around this time that rave culture of the late 1980s and 1990s enjoyed something of a renaissance. Perhaps that yearning for anything closely resembling the rave scene could explain the sudden interest in Fiorucci, even if the other side of it – Northern Soul – remains firmly in the domain of a particular vein of Northern working-class culture. Nostalgia is something Leckey often speaks of, so I wonder if he sees the renewed interest in Fiorucci’s depiction of rave for a younger audience as (misplaced) nostalgia? “Yeah, but then, it’s not,” he says. Growing up in the eighties, he was nostalgic for the sixties, the equivalent decade for today.

“Woodstock and all the rest of it seemed impossible, and I guess that’s part of the thing with rave. It seems both exciting and intoxicating, but also depressing.”

Leckey describes modern-day nostalgia as a “contemporary condition, of technology, of capitalism.” That much is evident in the 2015 video, Dream English Kid, 1964 – 1999 AD, in which the artist used found footage to recreate his childhood, having seen a clip online of a Joy Division concert he’d also attended in his youth. By using found footage, clips from television shows and a 3D rendering of that same M53 bridge, Dream English Kid doesn’t depict Leckey’s own childhood per se, but reconstructs a kind of collective memory. In that sense, he describes nostalgia as being algorithmic in a way; “it’s like data passing through your body.” An equivalence could be gentrification, “in that, as an artist or whatever, you’re just moving into space, blithely unaware of where you’re leading society.” So when it comes to nostalgia, Leckey says, “you’ll connect with these things in a very real way, but you’re actually just at the forefront of clothes manufacturers and all the rest of it that are going to come in your wake and exploit that.” 

There’s a bit in Fiorucci where a voiceover lists off clothing brands – Fiorucci, of course, but also Lee, Fila, Burberry, Slazenger, Lyle & Scott, Lacoste and Aquascutum – to name just a few. These were the brands of choice for the Casuals, a subculture of football supporters in the 1980s associated with designer gear and hooliganism (Leckey was, for lack of other entertainment, a Casual for a period in his teens). And like return of rave to popular culture, the brands that defined the Casual’s Terracewear seem to have seeped back into the collective consciousness, too. But, anyway, it takes a few listens to fully grasp the brands that are listed in quick succession in Fiorucci, the voiceover taking on a rhythm that seems to mimic the hardcore beats that Leckey samples throughout the video. Was that deliberate, on Leckey’s part? “I think when I did that, it was more out of embarrassment,” he says – “because it was me and I didn’t want my voice on it. So, I pitched it down and put loads of reverb on it.” The result was something more akin to an incantation. “And I suppose Fiorucci is about conjuring up a religious experience.”

Under Under In also plays on the idea of the almost religious dedication that is afforded to brands. Across five separate vertical videos that seem to mimic the world seen through Snapchat, we’re introduced to a group of kids at the centre of the film, their identity fixed in the brands they wear: Nike Air, Adidas, C.P. Company, North Face. “We’re Stone Islanders,” one boasts. But these kids also seem to betray their youth, drinking a £1.29 Maltesers drink, the sight of which might elicit a Proustian madeleine moment for anyone attending an English secondary school near a corner shop in the twenty-first century. The kids also recite the names of car brands they’re too young to drive, let alone own. But if Under Under In can be seen as a Fiorucci equivalent for a subsequent generation, Leckey thinks that the moment of brand affiliation as self has passed. “I read something really interesting about subcultures in the twentieth century,” he explains “and essentially how using consumption to define yourself has been wholly exhausted.” Now, it’s through opinions, not brands. “I listen to that bit in Fiorucci now and to me, it seems almost quaint.”

If the world that shaped Fiorucci and Under Under In has moved on, Leckey’s work continues to be a source of inspiration for others. There are 327 comments on the Fiorucci stream on Leckey’s YouTube channel – musings from the artist himself over the eleven years since it was first uploaded, and from viewers recalling the first time they saw the film, or the memories it evokes. In one comment, a user asks if they can sample part of Fiorucci. “It’s all part of the Creative Commons. Get in there,” Leckey responds. Soundbites from Fiorucci previously made their way into Jamie XX’s 2014 track, All Under One Roof Raving but, I wonder, so much of Leckey’s work is gleaned from what he finds online – how does he feel about others doing that with his work? “I wish they did it more!” he exclaims. “I mean, it’s just stuff really and it’s there for the taking.” Leckey describes found footage as being a surrogate that allows him to communicate something. “If someone can do that with my work in the same way, then that would delight me.” 

In last year’s To the Old World (Thank You for the Use of Your Body), Leckey repeats, reconstructs and deconstructs a ten second video he found on Twitter over the course of almost nine minutes. The video clip sees a boy take a run up before jumping through the side of a bus stop, his friends, out of shot, laughing (in shock? out of amusement?) as he crashes onto the floor surrounded by glass. But what was it about that clip that was so compelling to Leckey? “I always try and avoid drawing in theory, partly because I’m going to do it really badly, but it’s that Roland Barthes book, Camera Lucida; there’s something in that image that draws you in and connects in some way.” That could be, say, “some hi-res, beautiful, well-shot image,” but in Leckey’s case, it’s “some piece of shit” that affects him so resolutely. “And it’s like, why? What the fuck? Why is this making me feel anything?” He’s been thinking a lot recently about something the sci-fi writer, Philip K Dick, said: the symbols of the divine initially show up at the trash stratum.

“So there’s God in the midst of this shitty piece of videotape of this stupid kid.”

But that stupid clip of that stupid kid resonated more deeply with Leckey – after all, his work is usually, in some way, autobiographical. “As soon as I started watching it, it was like, I did shit like that when I was young.” But whilst Leckey’s work connects with lived experience, the process of making the video is as important. If Leckey set out with different intentions when he began making Fiorucci (it was, he says, intended as a kind of documentary), it quickly became about the medium itself. “I was looking at these VHS tapes and a strange intimacy and distance developed as I was watching. Something about the footage compelled me to look closer into the ghostliness. I’d find myself wanting to merge with it, but at the same time it’s continually pushing me out and repelling me because it’s a ghost and it’s the past – and it’s impossible.” To the Old World comes from a similar place – of simultaneous intimacy and distance. “We live in this continuously mediated space, and all I feel I can do is try and find some intimacy or immediacy in that.” It’s somewhere in this space that Leckey thinks we now reside, where memories and the present exist on the same plane. When it comes to the video clip from To the Old World, “I can be that boy jumping through the bus stop, I can one of his mates watching, and I can be me watching them, watching him. I can be all these things at the same time.” 

To the Old World, which was commissioned for Art Night and toured the UK in autumn 2021, followed a period in which Leckey – like many throughout the pandemic – struggled to make anything, let alone the video. But, he says, he began to see the bus stop in the clip as a sort of portal. “I look at it now, and realise it’s made out of a kind of frustration. There’s this kind of compression in it, and then it’s looking for a release.” At the end of To the Old World, after Leckey’s stupid bus stop kid has been turned into a repetitive motif, rendered in 3D, and re-enacted by an acrobat who recreates the jump from various angles, the piece ends in song – “a song of joy” as the boy disappears into the glint of fractured glass. Artistically, it’s a kind of ultimate release, but the ending also reflects another side of Leckey’s creative output – making music and hosting a monthly show on the Hackney-based online radio station, NTS. Does he find soundbites and music in the same way he finds footage? “There’s less choice with video,” Leckey says; he has a library of footage and sound, but the latter is much vaster. The problem with video is that, sometimes, it seems out of bounds, watermarked in a way that sound isn’t. But Leckey tried to approach To the Old World in the way he would making music or putting together an NTS show – music, with a visual element.

“I want to find a way of using video how I use sound, because it involves a sort of not caring, or not caring so much.”

When Leckey explains that his work is about getting to the root of what compels him about the footage and materials that he is drawn to, he jokingly asks why he “can’t just go out into a field and enjoy nature instead?” But, it seems, that is precisely what his next work will be. He is currently working on an accompaniment to the bus stop video which he summarises as a being “about a hermit getting joyful.” Leckey’s inspiration for this work comes from Orthodox Christian iconography – paintings of religious saints that don’t adhere to a traditional, Western understanding of art history. “These icons are not images or pictures,” Leckey says, but portals;

“When you look at an icon of a saint, you’re looking into heaven.”

So the artist has set about finding his own portal (or, a ‘channel as grace’ as the act of looking into heaven through an icon is called). “I went out to Ally Pally on a really beautiful, sunny day and recorded myself getting overwhelmed by the world.” The idea stemmed from the artist’s contemplation of hope, and hopelessness, during the pandemic – and a curiosity, then, to delve more into the divine. There’s a community of people that Leckey follows on Substack and TikTok who are investigating something similar. “Like I said before, the divine shows up at the trash stratum, and maybe it is.” The trash stratum here is TikTok, where users in Leckey’s orbit are attempting to grapple with what may lie beyond, or within, the internet (comparisons are made between the structure of the world wide web, and its similarities with NASA’s images of space). “There’s a strange confluence of things,” Leckey notes. “I’ve felt this for a while about technology – that it’s inducing this strange kind of medieval state, in the sense that they cohabited two realms between the spiritual and the profane. We sort of exist in two realms now. It’s the immaterial space, like you originally asked me about the internet, and the only antecedent I can think of is the medieval.” And with that, Leckey heads off to Sainsbury’s to get some bits. 


Images · Mark Leckey

Ani Liu

“I think that the process of creation and the process of critical evaluation must occur separately”

Research-based artist Ani Liu works at the intersection of art and science to explore the reciprocal relationships between science, technology and their influence on human subjectivity, culture, and identity. Graduating with a Masters of Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a Master of Science from MIT Media Lab, Liu’s work has been exhibited internationally and featured by the likes of National Geographic, VICE, Mashable, TED, WIRED and more.

Liu’s approach to art making is multidisciplinary and centred around themes of gender politics, biopolitics, labour, simulation and sexuality. Liu’s work interrogates how our plastic subjectivity goes through modifications and expansions with technological and scientific development. It is in this realm of plasticity that Liu operates as an artist to further explore the impact of technology on culture and identity, and ultimately, what it means to be human.

NR Magazine peaks with Liu to learn more about speculative design and storytelling in her work and her hopes for the future.

What inspired you to start working at the intersection of art and science?

As a first-generation immigrant, certain values were deeply ingrained in me from a young age – to work hard, to study math and science, to try to make a better life for myself than the one my parents had. For reasons I still don’t understand, I loved art from the beginning, but given the working-class context that I grew up in, I couldn’t imagine how to make a life of it. As a result, I studied architecture, which combines engineering, material science, physics and software, with design and culture. I think this was the beginning of my merging of art, science, and many other disciplines. My roots in architecture opened my eyes to thinking beyond rigid boundaries to create experiences that transcend each individual discipline.

Your work involves what you call ‘speculative storytelling’. Could you talk a bit more about that? And what does speculative design mean to you?

I am always fascinated by the pulse of technology, and all the breakthroughs rapidly happening in synthetic biology, machine learning, etc. For me, speculative design is a means of making work to reflect on where we are going societally, in the midst of this rapid trajectory. I think this is the value of good speculative design; it can draw the viewer into the world and ask questions that conventional design does not. Some of my heroes in this domain are Fiona Raby and Anthony Dunne, who have written extensively on the topic.

You’ve mentioned that you love speculative design that reveals something in the fabric of your reality that you weren’t previously aware of. Could you talk a bit more about that?

There is a quote by science fiction writer Frederic Pohl, where he says ‘a good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile, but the traffic jam.’ I think when you get into the heat of creating within the speculative domain, you essentially build an entire world out of a few artifacts, or a few moves in materiality. An artist and speculative fiction writer that I deeply admire is Margaret Atwood, for the ways she is able to build alternate worlds that scrupulously pierce into pressing issues of today.

In our cultural landscape, how important is interrogating the concept of identity to you and your practice?

It is constant! Identity is unstable and constantly shifting. It’s a construct that we each craft and perform differently in various contexts. I am interested in how technology interacts and co-creates the sense of self. Growing up in the time of internet chat rooms, as a teenager I spent time experimenting with different usernames and avatars, interested in ways I could escape my physical body in cyberspace.

“There is an awareness that the person on the other side of the screen is not who they appear to be, and yet we still consume it at face value sometimes.”

Watching people painstakingly craft their Tinder or LinkedIn profiles is fascinating to me. There is also a darker side to it – for instance the proliferation of beauty filters on social media can be linked to body image and self-esteem issues. Somehow, knowing that they are filters does not prevent us from holding ourselves up to literally simulated standards.

Reoccurring themes in your work include gender politics, biopolitics, labour, simulation and sexuality. What do you enjoy most about exploring these ideas in particular?

In my research, I enjoy the process of discovery and revelation, and the potential for cultural change. It is 2021 and we still live in a world with violent sexism. The right to education, healthcare and bodily autonomy are still things female identified persons struggle with. Through some of my works, such as Mind Controlled Sperm, A.I. Toys or Pregnancy Menswear, the hope is that it can contribute to a cultural conversation that can shift mindsets about how we perceive sex and gender.

Do you rely a lot on your intuition?

I do. I think that the process of creation and the process of critical evaluation must occur separately. I don’t always succeed, but I try to separate those days out in my studio. There are days when I attempt to make in a purely intuitive, non-judgemental way. There are other days when I return to edit the works more critically. The processes exist in a never-ending cycle.

How has living in New York affected your practice?

New York is expensive! I have had to be creative about my practice – I have had large studios and extremely tiny ones depending on the ebbs and flows of my life. I have become good at continuing to create work no matter the physical circumstances of my studio. During COVID I was locked out of my studio completely, and learned how to work from home, like many other people. I adapted my material palette to things that were more domestic friendly and less toxic.

Living in New York, I also spend a lot of time commuting, and have learned ways to fold it into my practice, either by drawing, writing, reading, or simply observing. I do feel incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many museums and galleries. There is never a shortage of art to see. There are certain museums that are almost like temples to me – I have been visiting them since I was a child. I feel spiritually nourished every time I return.

How important is exploring an emotional narrative in your work?

Extremely! I am an artist that practices at the intersection of art and science, and while the research component is very important to me, I think it is the emotional narrative that draws you in. It’s also that magical element of art making and art experiencing that drew me in from the beginning – the elements of mystery, contradiction and the transference of knowledge that is not necessarily verbal but deeply felt and understood.

In your 2016 TED talk you mentioned being ‘obsessed with olfaction as a design space’. How do you feel this compares to other kinds of sensory perception with regard to constructing an identity?  

The art historian Caroline Jones has a wonderful quote about olfaction. She says (and I am paraphrasing), ‘smell is preverbal, and has no capacity to pretend.’

“As a human who can tend to be hyper cerebral and analytic, I love smell for the ways it continues to remind me that I am also an animal, with instincts, intuition, and involuntary bodily relations to the world.”

Olfaction as a design space tends to be underdeveloped in an increasingly hygienic and sterile world. I love the stories that can be told through the nose, and I am interested in how your own experiences, histories, and geographical memories remap experiences that different people have towards identical smells. What makes something smell disgusting, pleasurable, familiar, or erotic? How many of these reactions are cultivated, and are any of these reactions universal?

What’s your usual process when coming up with new ideas and research projects?

Sometimes it begins with a feeling – a feeling of sadness or longing for a particular memory, for instance. Other times, it begins with research – a paper that I read and bookmark and sparks a new idea. I try to keep a meticulous sketchbook and record of moments I find interesting to revisit in later projects.

Your work is obviously very forward thinking and future-gazing. Do you ever feel drawn to working in the realm of nostalgia?

I actually love looking at retro depictions of the future, such as images of the future that were created in the 50s or 70s. They are simultaneously future gazing and nostalgic. I think I am attracted to these images because they often tell a better story of the time they were created. In some of these images,

“even though there are flying cars and robots everywhere, women are still depicted doing domestic chores and performing the traditional gender roles of the time.”

There is a strange emotional power to simultaneously holding both; I am also thinking of TV shows like Westworld for example, which is both set in the future while containing an amusement park for visiting the past.

What has been your favourite project to work on?

Each project has its own joys and challenges. I laughed out loud quite frequently while creating A.I. Toys, a project where I trained a machine learning algorithm on real world toys made for ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ to get at the zeitgeist of how we teach gender from a young age through things we give them. The machine learning model was then asked to generate new ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toys based on what it learned. Because the project was essentially a collaboration with A.I., I often sifted through unexpected inventions that the algorithm made up. Something that I didn’t anticipate was that the model would pick on the verbal sass of marketing language.

What are the main things you want people to take away from your work?

My hope is that they come away questioning their relationship with technology. I hope that the world opens up new ways of thinking about gender, biology, biotechnology, algorithms, equality and identity – so many of the things we talked about in this interview. I also hope it leaves them with a feeling, perhaps, the same way I feel after reading a good poem. I know that kind of magic is not going to happen every time, but that’s the dream.

What can we expect from you in the future? Are there any other creative industries you can see yourself dabbling in?

I recently became a mother and have been re-learning my body and crafting new relationships with new bodies. I feel that I am engaging in physical processes that millennia of women and other birthing bodies have experienced before me. In my work, I have recently been trying to capture this messy experience of becoming. As a researcher, I have been delving into the history of birth, the history of medicine and technoscience as it relates to reproduction, gender, and sex. As an artist, I have been making vignettes of these first-hand experiences – of lactating, the waves of hormones through my body, the enormous emotions, the stretch marks, the contradictions of love, pain, exhaustion and branching of identities. It is all work in progress, and like life, I find that some things are better understood in retrospect.


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Images ANI LIU

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