The interview with artist Antonin Fourneau, creator of Water Light Graffiti, was conducted via email in April 2013. Photos and video of Water Light Graffiti were taken at Grohe Live Center, NYC Design Week, May 13, 2013. Other photos and videos are provided by the artist.
Water Light Graffiti
Generactive : Your project, Water Light Graffiti (WLG) looks like water gun play meeting graffiti art in a very beautifully executed way.
You spray water at the wall, touch the wall with a wet finger, or paint brush it with water, and the wall brightens up. When the water evaporates, the light gradually dims. You can see the gradation of the brightness depending on the amount of the water on the wall’s surface. Would you like to describe this project in more proper detail and tell us what was the motivation behind this project?
Fourneau : I often used water as base of interaction in my project :
in this installation wet sponge allow to connect people together to trigger an action in the Tetris game exactly like a MaKey MaKey, in fact in you disassemble a Nintendo Game controller you have already inside a pull up resistor and if you put your finger on the pad directly on the PCB you triggering the actions.
in this dinner with my research team in design school I’ve used the chopstick and contact with the wet sushi to creat a sort of musical environment.
and in the “Jawey” pieces in my portfolio http://atocorp.free.fr/portfolio/PortFolioAto2009.pdf
The led dim in the contact of the tongue. A sort of prothesis for a new kind of communication.
but also in workshop with students
and in this workshop at CAFA design School in Beijing about Natarual Device Controller
This is during this workshop than the idea of WLG grow up. I was in a park for the lunch and an old guy drew with water on the ground.
My motivation is always to find new canal of interaction with the public. And the street fascinate me more and more currently. Create gameplay in streets is a interesting challenge.
Also the ephemeral in the asian culture intrigue me a lot.
Generactive : You said (at the Digitalarti interview) that this project can be autonomous, responsive to the falling rain, for instance. Is there a future plan for this piece, such as making it a weather responsive architectural project?
Fourneau : Yes during the first part of my residencies my interest was to develop a new kind of materials for architecture. In fact the time process to produce a sustainable material needs more time than the prototype. But I’m in contact with some architect interested by the project. I find interesting to produce a material in reaction with the human and also with natural phenomena.
Generactive : Could you tell us a little bit about how the technology in WLG works? There is no danger to get electrocuted, right? : )
Fourneau : No I use just 5 volts. It’s quite simple I use water as a bridge to conduct electricity around each Led.
A larger part of my job after find this simple idea was to optimize the fabrication and the design of the WLG tiles.
Practice as Artist
Generactive : (In your portfolio) Douglas Edric Stanley at Aix-en-Provence School of Art describes the secret ingredient in your art, where you go beyond your many inspirations and define yourself with an integrated artistic identity (Hope it’s not too far from what he meant), is a sophisticated form of amateurism. What do you think about his interpretation?
Fourneau : He was my teacher for 5 years and we are still working today often on one of my projects: a contemporary fun fair revisited. And Douglas is certainly one of those most able to analyze the way I work. And its interpretation is very fair. I really like the hack, I’m not a great engineer but I like all the time discover new things and experimenting with. born in the era of the video game I’m always questioning me about how people are going to play with what I do. And if that is not playable my other influence comes from the popculture. And also a part of my own culture comes from Movies, comics, manga,… So I think that the supernatural have a part of influence on me.
Generactive : Speaking of inspirations, I want to know how you transfer them to your work. I guess my question is about your general work process. Does a certain technology or a platform give you an idea that you’d like to work on? Or do you have an idea and then seek for tools to execute it? Or is it all combined process?
Fourneau : Most of the time it’s a combined process. I need to touch material or code to think. The Idea of WLG emerges may be 8 years after the first time when I used water in an electronic project. I have many ideas in my mind and not enough time to try everything. So I wait to have all the right ingredient in hand to launch me. In the case of WLG I also need funding to make a bigger wall and not only a small prototype.
Generactive : There is a strong sense of playfulness in your work and your art is often in the form of a game. Where does this come from?
Fourneau : Born in the eighties, play to board game and video games. But mainly born in era where the code was teach in school. I touch a first time a code in the primary school. And I always remember the feeling to give a life in a digital turtle.After my french high-school diploma when the question of what I want to do in the futur came. I was terrified, I’ve chosen an informatic school without real idea. after a month of learning the language ADA and count words in database. I felt that this area of programming interested me but I was not in the right place for creativity. With a stroke of luck, an artist talked to me about an art school where there were different fields : 3D, sound, robotic, programming in addition to traditional creative fields. It was the Aix-en-Provence art school. I integrated this school and I think it was the right place at the right moment to help me. I think the practice that I developed there would be never support in another school. I could have fired me the 1st year in other context.
Generactive : I recently met one artist who said that she was going through what might be a midlife crisis. She said she was working on her art, but doing so without SOUL! For someone like you, whose work shows a strong sense of love and joy in it (Not just that your project instills joy into the audience, but I can see that you must have had a lot of fun conceptualizing and creating the piece), do you ever run into “artist’s block” like this? If so, how do you tackle these moments?
Fourneau : the question of soul in my creation come every times. And even more when a creation is played with the public. if someone makes a beautiful sketch on the WLG. is it still my creation? My part of job is to cause excitement in the public mind. for me it is very important to meet people opinions and discuss this strange practice that I develop. I think that part of my creative approaches increasingly now to a designer practice.
On Interactive Media and Technology
Generactive : Interactive media seems like an everyday term these days. Now that more, and even most, people in the world are using interactive media in some way, the question for artists has become “how”, “why” and for “what” do we use it. What does it mean to you to work with interactive media and technology? Is it just a small part of your bigger creative practice? Why are you in this field?
Fourneau : I’ve always lived with media that move and live.It is therefore a sort of clay for me too as painting for a painter. Today is a material like any other and that leads to a way of thinking. we do not think in the same way with paint on hand or with a tablet or with a keyboard. But we stay same person with the same influences.
Generactive : Is there a routine for you that you do to push yourself forward as an artist in the field? Do you try to learn new skills every now and then? Or is “working with technology” natural for you (embedded in your DNA)?
Fourneau : I’m a fairly lazy actually. When I have an idea that comes to me but asked me to learn too many new things. I find it too complicated at once. And I’d rather get an easier way to achieve it.
I wish it was in my DNA. But at the same time I feel that for some people the technology is time consuming. I often spent a lot of time on a technical problem. And the mere fact of trying to solve this problem suffiser me mentally. But I actually lost a lot of time. If you do not want to be an engineer but a designer or artist in this field. I think it takes a minimum know what will be the job of the engineer who will help you.
Generactive : Is there a new project that you are working on right now? If so, would you like to tell us a little bit about it?
Fourneau : I work on friendly versions of WLG. Play duck hunt with a water gun 🙂
I’m working on a book about my project Eniarof the fun fair (www.eniarof.com).
And I’l try to finish my game Oterp on iPhone. www.oterp.com
Certainly the project who asked me the most time. Precisely because the code is not enough in my DNA. But at the same time it has some interesting maturation in a project that you carry for so long.
Generactive : Is there any project, artist or idea you recently found, or have always admired, that you would like to share with us?
Fourneau : Certainly the mine Kafon project
be inspired by a ball game to solve real problems. Ohh ! it’s another level than my board…respect
– Interview by Inhye Lee