Please introduce your studio and work to our audience.
DR: Studio Roosegaarde is a lab for art, technology, and interactive design projects. We have been working on a series of interactive designs and landscapes, which are about how to merge ideas and tech with each other; and how to make landscapes which are not finished, but use technology to make environments more human, more sensory.
It's a creative company, based in Rotterdam and Shanghai, and with 25 people, ranging from designers to architects. I founded the company 4 years ago. We're extremely interested in how we can make environments where the visitor is part of the identity.
As a child, you build a treehouse, using nature to customise and to personalise your reality. Now, we live in an era mostly made out of concrete and shopping malls. We should be able to customise abnd personalise again, as human beings. Our artwork is about that; about proposals for the future.
Liquid Space was a new commission for YCAM. Usually, in Europe, you offer something rather gentle towards the visitor when it comes to interactivity, as many people don't understand it, or think that it's random. The Japanese grew up with Tamagotchi under their pillows!... and so they're more comfortable with sensations in their technology. So, we went a little more extreme. If you look at [our] other projects such as Dune, or Intimacy, they're more minimal... Liquid Space is more of a Labrador which always wants to play with you. We watched a lot of films of jellyfish to see how we could combine nature and technology. It resulted in a shape which becomes bigger and smaller when you're standing underneath it, filled with LEDs and speakers.
Why was Liquid Space chosen for Kinetica?
DR: It's a piece where we still use mechanics. Our later work, such as Lotus, uses more organic materials, We thought that Liquid Space was quite suitable within the context.
The media has suggested the emergence of a "new Dutch Digital Design" - do you agree?
DR: Absolutely. There's a whole new generation which didn't grow up with a fax machine, but with a Facebook account. Technology is not as kinetic anymore, but more organic; more part of communication, and more part of how we see reality. More designers, architects and artists are using technology as a tool to express the ideas that they have. If I had to express what was in my brain by painting, I would not know where to start. In the end, it's not so much about the technology, but we had that for a while in art: "Look at what we can do with it".
What is part of Liquid Space, and all of our other pieces, is that you don't see the technology. It's there to create the relationship between your body and your self, or other people, to make new connections, rather than to emphasise techno-glory. That's not interesting.
But, there is definitely a new generation popping up. Five years ago, interaction design was related to software engineers who made very expensive Flash websites. Now, it's related to departments of fine arts, and the V&A is holding exhibitions about it. So, it's definitely changing. And that's good... but it (Dutch digital design) is still searching for its meaning. That's normal for the beginning of a movement.
How has tactility become a common thread in your work?
DR: When we did a show at the V&A a year ago, the staff showed up wearing white gloves, holding a sign reading "Do not touch". We were like: "No way!" You have to touch. It's part of the interaction, otherwise it's just an animation. It's definitely an element; true interaction happens when you touch it. When you see something you don't know, you want to touch it, to taste it. We have always fought for that, in terms of exhibitions in public space... that people could do that.
How has your use of light developed in your work?
DR: Back to the boy building a treehouse, you always have a desire to personalise, to customise the reality around you. As a child, you get that a lot by hacking nature: hacking the world around you, and you use whatever you can find. In growing up to become an artist, your methods may evolve, but the principle remains the same. We use a lot of LED, as light is so important in terms of communication, but sound and motion, and the idea of showing and hiding things are also as important.
How are you seeking to develop the relationship between your work and the viewer?
DR: Interactive pieces are always about play and co-control. On one hand, the piece should know what you are doing, and on the other, it should have a mind of its own. Sometimes, it should do things that you do not do. With Liquid Space, if you make a lot of noise to it, it will react directly. If you keep on making the same noise, it will ignore you after a while. People think that it doesn't work any more; but, it just wants you to do something different.
On a metaphorical level, I have not been as interested in making technological art, but more to make art which people feel connected to - in the most connected way you could imagine. To show that life is not static, but that space and architecture can be based on your interaction with it.
When I was 16, my Art History teacher dragged me to the Architectural Institute in Rotterdam. We had to go - I didn't want to - but we saw an exhibition there, of big wooden models from Arata Isozaki. I saw the models and thought: "this is what I want to do. I want to build things. I want to be an architect". It was the first time that I realised that it was actually a profession. When YCAM called me and I visited the Center, I realised: this is a building by Isozaki. I invited him over, and I have a photo of him and me, standing in Liquid Space, talking about how architecture should connect to people, and how it should do more. That was Liquid Space for me: a weird "circle" moment that you rarely experience in life, but it makes it meaningful. So, in that way, Liquid Space is a big artwork, but also my prototype for architecture.
I think that technology is our second skin, or second language, already. We need to rethink what we want from it: it will influence what our future is going to look like. Right now, I think that technology... look at London, with its cameras everywhere. Technology is being used to Orwell-ise the world, to dominate, to infiltrate, to rule. But, there is also a da Vinci scenario, where we use technology to cure diseases, to learn how to fly... and that's the role of the artist. To show these different scenarios, and we can let people choose. Right now, we're too fixed on the Orwellian scenario.
What's next for you?
DR: We started touring four years ago. Right now, we're going more and more public. This year, you will see large-scale interactive artworks from us: landscape architecture with light design, of 100-500 square meters in size, and out there for between 10 and 50 years in Shanghai, the Netherlands, and in India. That's interesting, as it helps us to form longer-term interactions with the audience. We will still produce projects like Liquid Space - because we think that they are important - but I think that it's important for us to invade the public domain and make the kinds of expressions that we haven't been able to do... until now.
We're inviting everyone to come and participate in London; Liquid Space is something of a proposal for what our future could look like. That's the process we're in. We're remaking things that have made us. That's where the real interaction happens for me.
Daan Roosegaarde is the founder and principal of Studio Roosegaarde.
"Liquid Space" is showing at the Kinetica Art Fair, taking place at Ambika P3, London, 09/02/12 – 12/02/12. For further information and to book, visit the Kinetica website.