What is ‘media art,’ and how is it changing our relationship with creativity?

We chat about projection mapping on old Japanese buildings, what NFTs mean for digital creators, and how media art can transform brand experiences with Senior Creative Developer & Media Artist Floz

Floz (photo credit: Pauline Goyard)

Florian Zumbrunn (aka Floz) is a French media artist, creative developer, and creative technologist, designer, and Y+L Projects collaborator. He’s currently back in France, but before his return to his home country, he worked and lived in Tokyo for several years,

We were lucky enough to work with Floz and learn an incredible amount about design and technology from him when we teamed up to create a series of unique digital artworks for Kyoto’s sequence hotel.

Floz piece ‘KOI’ for sequence, Kyoto

Prior to working with Floz, we’ll have to admit that beyond visits to teamLab, we knew very little about his fascinating and constantly evolving art world. So to learn a little more and share with you some insights into the media art and creative technology world, we caught up for a chat.

You can learn more about Floz here:
Website: floz.fr
MiakoAndFloz: makioandfloz.com
Y+L Projects sequence pieces: ylprojects.com

Introduction

Hi, I’m Floz. I was born in a suburb of Paris, and I always wanted to become an illustrator; or a painter. For a long time, I think my dream was to become a creator of characters for video games or an author of comic books.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered coding and how creative it can be, even though one of the first images we could have of “code” is a black background and green text, like we see in Matrix.

I realize coding could seem scary because it is quite mathematical, which seems far removed from illustrations and drawing. I found coding quite friendly and playful and have stuck with it as my main creative tool.

After going to school at Gobelins in Paris, I worked in a very good company called MakeMePulse, and went to New York in another great company called Firstborn. I started freelancing and ended up in Tokyo, where I stayed four years and where we (Y+L Projects and Floz) met!

Floz (left), and Marty Hicks (middle) at Y+L Project’s birthday party

You’re a media artist, creative developer, and creative technologist. Can you explain a little about these disciplines and how they differentiate/ intertwine?

A Creative Developer will creatively use code. I started as a creative developer to create a website that involves a lot of animation. The “creative” part is important, as it requires some creative abilities or a creative vision. To be able to understand movement, for example.

A Creative Technologist is someone that will be able to switch between technologies quite easily. For example, you could be involved in a website that requires a lot of 3D creation and animation (Threejs, Javascript, HTML…), then you will work on a project that requires doing some Augmented reality on Unity, then you will do some Processing for an installation on multiple screens. So it’s someone who isn’t scared to use new technologies for the right project creatively.

Floz piece ‘Scenes of Kyoto’ for sequence, Kyoto

A Media Artist is someone that will use technology as well as traditional forms of artistic expression. In a way, it’s merging analog and digital tools to create artwork, such as using robots to draw on paper with ink. That’s the most artistic of the three.

Obviously, the common element of those three roles is technology.

How did you end up working in this realm?

As I touched on, it was totally unexpected! I wanted to be someone that draw or paint. But one day, I went to a conference/event called Flash Festival in Paris, and an artist named Erik Natzke talked about how he used Flash to create animation with code.

For me, it was a revelation, and I got super inspired. I went back home and started to learn to code with the same software. I realized I spent most of my time on my computer instead of being in front of paper so that it would be the tool I would use.

Since then, I have started learning, creating, and working on many different kinds of projects and continue to do so.

Can you remember when you first recognized the media art/ creative technology world?

Very early. Actually, that’s why I joined Gobelins. I went to the school’s open day (the school opens its doors, and people can see what the students are creating). I remember an installation with four different screens that recreated the game Pong in a very fashionable way. That was another inspiring moment and the main reason why I decided to join this school.

What type of projects do you work on, and what is your role in these projects? Can you tell us about some of your favorite projects?

I worked on many different kinds of projects. I was a creative developer in a lot of advertising websites, doing 3D and animations. I also worked on some installations, on self-funded projects or professional ones.

I’m currently working on Fable.app;, which empowers other creatives to create motion design animations in a more accessible way. It’s a very ambitious and challenging goal. That’s probably one of the reasons I love being part of this project.

About my favorite projects, it’s always hard to select some, but I have 2 in mind:

  • Tsuki8, a projection mapping project that I did under Makio&Floz with my friend David Ronai, and Mathis Biabiany. We traveled through Japan to multiple cities, and we were looking for buildings to project on. From then we were creating the assets for the projections after finding some inspiration from our visits.
  • Symbiose, an installation that we did (again) with my friend David Ronai under Makio&Floz. It was divided into two parts, and both parts were inviting visitors to be part of the art installation.

I think one reason why I’m fond of those projects is that it was a lot of trials and error and a full ‘carte blanche’ in terms of creation. We did what we wanted, the way we wanted.

You’ve worked in a number of different countries (France, the US, Japan to name a few). When it comes to the media art/ creative technology world, how does each country differ?

Hmmm… That’s a tough one. I think people in Japan are very familiar with media art or concepts like projection Mapping. Probably thanks to teamLab or Rhizomatiks, and other events.

MV by Daito Manabe director and founder of Rhizomatiks

I know that France, thanks to events like la Fete des Lumieres, or Les Nuits Blanche also know of it, but, in my opinion, it’s still less than in Japan. I have less experience with the US in this domain, and it’s too big to generalize.

The main difference will probably be in budgets and how clients react to a pitch. It’s easy to make a pitch approved in the USA and in France; it’s way more complicated in Japan. Clients take more time, and a lot of projects get cancelled. Budgets are definitely better in the US when France is asking to do miracles with almost nothing. Japan probably follows France in this way.

But all this is coming from my limited perspective :)

You also started a media studio MakioAndFloz, how did this come about? What were the motivations for starting your own studio, and what type of projects do you create?

Right! It came soon after our project Tsuki8. We had an awesome time working on it, and we started to talk about it more and more. And at one point, we realized that’s the kind of project we want to be involved in. That’s also why we started our careers. Along the way, we got involved on a lot of websites and advertising — which is also very interesting in many ways — but we missed this “artist” goal.

So we created MakioAndFloz, a Tokyo-Paris media art studio.

Still from MiakoAndFloz’s ‘Symbiose’ installation

What do you think is the most common misconception about media art/ digital art in general? Why do you think that misconception exists?

I think some people only see it as motion design, and they forget about the interactive/technology part of it.

In our case [Makio&Floz], it was sometimes hard to make our process understandable, as we created multiple prototypes to decide where we will go. When you work with clients, they want to be reassured and to know what the deliverable will look like from day one.

Media art is a vast work, and if you love to play with different technologies, you don’t always have a strong identity; each of your projects becomes unique. That can create frustration in some parts of the communication. Fortunately, the people I worked with have all been happy with the final result. But it’s just something to keep in mind.

Do you think the recent popularity of NFTs and the new ability to monetize digital art have influenced the digital art landscape somehow? How? What’s your opinion on this?

I think it’s great for artists. It allowed some of them to be paid for their art finally, and some others more than they usually do! The result hopefully being they also have more time to be creative the way they want.

People are sometimes talking about it as an “artistic movement,” I disagree. In my opinion, it’s a new way of receiving money for what you create and a new way of displaying your work. It can also bring artists closer to their community and become direct advocates of their work.

My only negative opinion is about the ecological impact it has. Some platforms are better than others for this, like https://www.hicetnunc.xyz/.

In what contexts do you think media art is most powerful/ inspiring?

As I said before, media art is a vast world. It can be very simple, but it can also take so much space.

If you go to the teamLab museum, you enter a room, and there is art everywhere. It’s moving, colorful, and you feel and think that you are in a different space and time. For me, that’s the kind of moment where you realize that media art is really powerful.

As it mixes technology in the real world, it’s almost limitless. So much can be done. In terms of contexts, I think that scale and interactivity are the best.

In my opinion, interactivity is not exploited enough, and that’s a bit sad as I feel that if the user can play with the art piece, it brings so much emotion. The word “play” here can be seen as childish, but art and childishness are, in my opinion, an excellent combination.

And if you don’t like the vision of “playful,” you can also see it as “becoming one” with the art or “experiencing” the art. It becomes, physically, a discussion and an exchange.

How can the format help brands/ companies do you think?

I think it comes with our current time!

People spend time with screens, animation, and interactivity. I think creating a piece with technology talks easily to people. Look at all the Instagram stories you see with a piece from teamLab. Everyone is loving it and sharing it.

Floz piece ‘Flowing Seikaiha’ for sequence

Brands and companies need visibility, and I think creating a media art piece can help them gain some. It could be an entire thing concept that overtakes the business or a side piece that just brings another reason to come to a local store.

But if it’s well and smartly done, people will engage with it and share it. And they will remember it. I think that’s one of this type of art’s strengths and how brands can use it to touch more people.

Do you have a dream media art project?

Yes, but instead of explaining it, I will let you know when it’s live and when you can experience it ;)

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You can learn more about Floz here:
Website: floz.fr
MiakoAndFloz: makioandfloz.com
Y+L Projects sequence pieces: ylprojects.com

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