French digital artists offer new entry into nature

Digital artists Adrien Mondot and Claire Bardainne specialize in blending technology and the physical world, creating immersive experiences using dance, augmented reality, and other methods. Their exhibit “XYZT: A Journey in 4 Dimensions” is currently open for exploration in Massachusetts.

The project consists of 10 interactive digital installations that are activated by movement, inspired by nature, and built on math and physics models, according to a release from the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem. The exhibit opened there on October 14 and is available through April 22.

Moving floor in XYZT exhibit

XYZT Photo Courtesy of Adrien M. & Claire B. ©RomainEtienne

Tree with letters in XYZT exhibit

XYZT Photo Courtesy of Adrien M. & Claire B. ©RomainEtienne

If you’re curious about the four letters leading the exhibit title, it’s a reference to the Cartesian coordinate system, which is used to mark location. “X” is the horizontal axis and “Y” the vertical axis, while “Z” represents depth and “T” refers to time. Combining these values allows one to follow the movement of an object in space.

This idea of movement is central to the installations: In addition to producing their own patterns, the scenes highlight and depend on the movement of visitors. For example, grass responds to footsteps and sand responds to touch. In one area, light molds to visitors based on an algorithm that describes the flocking behavior of birds.

“We want our images to be danced on, played with, and to react to the body,” Bardainne said in the press release.

XYZT – 2015 from Adrien M & Claire B on Vimeo.

The artists describe the project as a “journey through nature revisited,” according to the museum. Each virtual environment also includes an explanation of the underlying physical behavior.

“People often focus on how we react to the environment and XYZT makes us consider: What do we create? What is our effect on the environment? What do we bring to a moment that shapes and transforms it?” explained Jane Winchell, director of PEM’s Art & Nature Center.

First shown by Mondot and Bardainne in 2011, the installations were originally titled “XYZT Abstract Landscapes”; the project was an early collaboration of the duo after forming the Adrien M & Claire B company.

Among their other skills, Mondot is a multidisciplinary artist and juggler with a background in computer science, while Bardainne is a scenographer (someone who creates the visual design of a performance) and graphic designer. Their company, based in Lyon, France, has grown to include a host of dancers, producers, directors, and other staff.

Pixel – extraits from Adrien M & Claire B on Vimeo.

The opening of the exhibit at PEM also included a performance of “Hakanaï,” another of the company’s works. The title in Japanese refers to a state of impermanence or transitoriness, according to the project description.

In the performance, a dancer moves within and interacts with shifting images on a cube, inhabiting a space between reality and imagination. The movement is accompanied by an original musical score, and the digital animations are again based on models of physical movement.

Hakanaï / trailer from Adrien M & Claire B on Vimeo.

Other works include “Mirages & miracles,” in which images are animated through the use of virtual reality headsets and other techniques, as well as “The movement of air,” another performance piece, and “Snow does not make sense,” a monograph about the company that includes augmented reality drawings. (The project pages for each, linked above, all include wonderful videos that are worth the click.)

More information about the company and artists is available at the Adrien M & Claire B website.


Nicole is an editor and writer living in San Francisco.

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