The work produced by the UTS Animal Logic Academy (ALA) Master of Animation and Visualisation students is often well presented and highly awarded, but the Academy is also home to an active and exciting research unit, hosting a talented team of Masters by Research and PhD candidates.

Coming from diverse backgrounds, members of our ALA research team explore technologies such as motion capture, 3D printing, robotics, machine learning, style transfer, virtual and mixed realities to create innovative new ways of experiential storytelling.

Their work examines the intersection of the virtual (or digital) world and the physical world from a number of different angles to extend, augment or subvert existing film and art making practices. They are focused on improving existing practices through methods such as integrated archival techniques, virtualised CGI production tools and experimental interaction designs.

One such member of the team is PhD candidate Louis Pratt, who is a multidisciplinary contemporary artist working in sculpture, painting and video. He is best known for his use of new technology in art, with his research utilising digital processes and new materials to manipulate three-dimensional forms into strikingly ambiguous 3D-printed sculptural works.

We caught up with Louis to discuss his current work, which uses technology to generate digital sculptures, which are then brought into the physical world as poured bronzes, and then transferred back into the virtual sphere as Augmented Reality experiences. Louis’ process, somewhat amplified by his experience working in lockdown, indeed explores what divides, but also unites us.

Tell us a bit about your current research work
LP: These works aim to figuratively represent the spaces between people and what happens when we collapse the barriers of time and space that divide us. We can inhabit the same space as someone else, but at different times. By collapsing the element of time, we see the ways in which we overlap and are interconnected.
Similarly, cyberspace enables us to inhabit the same spaces, disembodied. We exist in a chat room or forum as a list of code, and multiple people can be present simultaneously, as physical space becomes irrelevant. These works imagine what this enmeshed experience might look like in physical reality.
These works gain new resonance in this time of social distancing and the need to maintain a space between us. We now meet on digital platforms so that we can feel the quintessential human quality of connectedness. Connectedness is something we crave and people who love each go further and collapse the space between themselves. Lovers enter inside each other, this space between us is sacred, tender and romantic.

What inspired you to create these works, and how is your process different from other forms of sculpture?
LP: Broadly, my work aims to reflect the daily process we all engage with by entering into digital spaces and then re-emerging. To mimic this process, I take real world scan data of the human form and manipulate it with digital tools. By doing this I am exploring how we (people) are being influence/manipulated by the digital tools we use every day.  I think of this as a feedback loop – our use of technology is changing us.

What is the relationship between creativity and technology in your work?
LP: New technologies allow new possibilities. I use technology as a tool, much like a chisel or a paintbrush. At the moment I am very interested in the CGI technology used in filmmaking. I draw a lot of ideas from watching contemporary films that apply these CGI tools to re-imagine the human form. Couple these novel cinematic representations with developing prototyping tools and you can have a fertile area of exploration.

How has being in lock down affected the project?
LP: As sculptor lock down is a disaster – sculpture needs to be experienced in 3 dimensions, so how does an audience do that? This question spurred me to make Augmented Reality (AR) versions of my works that can be experienced on a smart device – iPhone, android, etc.
The move into AR was a fairly simple exercise and has led to new opportunities. This year I will be presenting an AR sculpture at Sculpture by the Sea and I will develop a show for a regional gallery when they close for renovations.

What has been your personal experience as an artist during lock down?
LP: The shock of lock down was that all my shows were cancelled or pushed to next year. Bang! One day you are planning and producing then the next there is no urgency.  Apart from that I can still produce and then being an artist in lock down isn’t such a big change as we spend most of our time isolated anyway.

What influence does your work have on your own physical and mental health?
LP: When I was around 8 years old I had a reoccurring nightmare for two years. It was of my body/bodies hanging in inky blackness, these bodies or parts of them would distort out of time and space. This meant I was sometimes scared to go to sleep.
Fast forward to the first time I scanned myself and had my digital body, now hanging in inky black cyberspace and I remembered that nightmare! But this time I was in control of the distortion and manipulations. So, I guess it has been cathartic to me as a boy with those nightmares. It does seem odd to me how close the nightmare was to what I do every day as an artist…?!

What physical and/or mental health outcomes can others gain
through experiencing your work? 

LP: Often, I am surprised by what people gain from my work. I try not to be
didactic and allow the viewer space to experience what they wish with the work. Having said that I did do a work called “Regret” which was the human form, in a regretful pose, cast in coal. This work’s goal was to embody the visceral experience of inaction on fossil fuel exploration. This work has touched many people deeply and I have had letters and poems sent to me about it. I guess it gave them something outside of themselves to address these pressing and depressing realities of climate change.

You can experience Louis’ work in Augmented Reality on any smartphone (iPhone or Android device) by clicking on the following links and  selecting ‘See in AR’. Hover your phone over the room you are in, and the AR sculptures will appear in 3D before your eyes. Be sure to move around them, as you can experience the sculptures in every angle.

The Space Between Us I: https://www.allworld.io/oQTvscjWIixw2AcmR02B

The Space between Us II:https://www.allworld.io/Iuwo8Gha0TwuRGINrkLO

The Space Between Us IV: https://www.allworld.io/AgOrshmL75hq4t9kLLMd

More about Louis can be found on his personal website: https://www.louispratt.com/

To find out further information about the UTS ALA research team and their work, please visit our website.
If you are interested in applying to the UTS Animal Logic Academy research program, please contact Assoc. Prof. Andrew Johnston at andrew.johnston@uts.edu.au