The solo exhibition Royal Chambers opened in 2022, and the book of the same name, which expands and reflex on the project, was published in 2023.
Image source: wangsoderstrom.com
University of Queensland runs through the workings of visual perception
Still from the movie I, Robot (2004)
Marvin the Paranoid Android from the movie Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
See footnote 270 in the summary of the talk Wang & Söderström gave in Copenhagen
Technically, you still own the rights BUT all platforms have special licences that you have already opted into by being a user, which grant them the right to use your copyrighted work in whatever way they see fit.
Video from Wang & Söderström website
Interview with Anny Wang & Tim Söderström
Speaker at chapter 3: Community
Words by Bethany Rigby
Shortly after gathering together in Copenhagen, we invited Anny and Tim from Wang & Söderström for a conversation on finding their place in both physical and digital spaces.
What have you been up to since the festival in Copenhagen?
Anny: Since the festival, we’ve done another lecture, at Rian Design Museum, and then we have been travelling with the project Royal Chambers, this time to Gothenburg in Sweden to open an exhibition and we had a book launch there this week. We’ve also just started our course at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Germany, exploring the theme of a multi-sensory future digital dining experience.
One of the questions you asked the audience during your talk at the Tangle was “What is the most important sense” to them- what is the most important sense to you?
A: It’s without a doubt sight, because we are mostly working with visual expressions everyday in our practice.
Tim: We’ve been thinking about this a lot as it’s also the theme of the course we’re running in Karlsruhe – and we’ve begun to realise that all the senses depend on each other which makes the question a bit more complicated. What is vision without touch?
A: And what is taste without visuals? So perhaps we would say all of them! You hear the question “what if you had to lose one sense” and when you imagine yourself losing sight, for instance, it brings up sadness, or thoughts like “I couldn’t continue to work how we do today’, but since AI and other digital technologies are developing so fast, I could imagine how people with visual impairments or blindness could use AI descriptive technology to describe what is seen in an image. For example; the blind person could take a photo, and the AI could tell them what the photo consists of. Or you could input text or audio and an image is created. So there are new ways to create visuals, and alternative descriptions other than the purely visual. It’s interesting that just a few years ago, when I thought about losing sight I imagined it a certain way – but now (of course it would still be very sad to lose it) there are new scenarios to imagine thanks to the development of AI.
T: We’ve read about how the area in your brain that processes and creates visuals takes the information and makes a kind of render, you could argue. The nerves and the synapses where this visual render is created are also shared by the other senses. Different senses are rendered at the same time.
A: Senses are based so much on memory and past experience, so getting a new experience is just as much about what your past experiences have been and how your senses were reacting then, and how they mix and collaborate in this new experience.
T: So what you’re after, I guess, is the richest input so you can have rich renderings.
A: Yes, diverse and rich input means we can render diverse outputs because the brain is so plastic. If you use one specific sense a lot it takes up more space, but if you don’t use some senses very much (like tactile features for instance) they will take up less space and the synapses get weaker. For us being parents, it’s really difficult to imagine what the future will be like for our child and how their senses will evolve with all the digital developments. Also since all the schools of today are decreasing those tactile and hands-on courses in schools, which is super sad we think.
T: Actually the latest thing I heard is that now they are putting a lot of money into bringing back physical learning – at least in Sweden. That said, kids are really pro at using all senses at once, right? At the dinner table; smelling, tasting, throwing things around, touching everything. They know how to do it.
A: Although we are a bit concerned about the development away from tactility, the human brain is so adaptive that we might be able to enhance something through technology. Maybe we haven’t yet reached our full capacity of sensing the world, so as technology develops we might actually expand our sensory horizon.
You’ve brought up your family (which also featured in your talk at the Tangle) and how this embodied, intimate relationship manifests within the physical space of your home. You’re examining the tactility of home through Royal Chambers, but what do you think about relationship structures within a digital space? Often in popular culture we see digital>physical relationships depicted as humanoid robots interacting with, and making friends with human characters, but your space isn’t humanoid- it’s something ‘other’.
T: According to Deborah Gordon, the ant researcher, the internet has such a big impact on our lives not because it is huge, but because you can make so many personal connections. You can build your own little network and really flourish. This is amazing – but there is also the risk that since you can always find your “people” online somewhere, you think you don’t need to connect to the people in your direct physical surroundings and perhaps that’s not the best thing either. We still have to live and interact with the people around us, we still need to take the bus.
A: Thinking about our own community and network, we’re at home on the internet. Our practice is on social media, where we can share with our peers and show our work, to find connections and relations in our field. This is super important to us. With that said, we know that we are under the tech giants spell, we are almost entirely reliant on them. It does connect us, and it does put a lot of great opportunities within reach, but it it’s downsides. The way the internet and social media works means that you have to follow their way of showing your stuff. Instagram reels require our work to be snappy to get attention. We are noticing how we sometimes adjust our work to fit their format, which is kind of problematic. And if we were to talk about the ownership side of things, it’s mind-blowing that we even put our work in the hands of the tech giants. They own it because we post it there. The algorithm and the tech giants are actually shaping all of us who are using their platforms, without us thinking about it. It is both good and bad.
T: Social media are incredible tools. But it is weird that their creators are in a totally different place in the world, in a different category of wealth and position in society. It would be amazing if the Danish state had a similar platform or tool [like instagram] where we could present our things.
Seeing your films on the big screen in Copenhagen was amazing, because we often get so used to seeing them on a phone screen, or a laptop, or an instagram feed. It made me wonder; what is the way that you want your works to be consumed? You’ve got this book now with AR, you’ve got the exhibitions, but with your digital works; what is your dream for how we could consume them?
T: It’s really nice to try out new ways of bringing our work to life. It was great when we had the exhibition because you can get really nerdy. The optimal presentation is in a space when you can decide where all things are placed, perhaps even including smells – everything.
A: Basically our goal is to work more immersively. In this field, technology is so expensive so this usually limits us in certain ways. But we love it when your whole body can meet the digital- this full body immersive experience beyond the screen.
T: The presentation is always the trickier part, but we do see so much potential in these things. The work is on a whole other level when it’s on a bigger screen or space that’s not the usual social media format.
A: In autumn we are doing a VR installation, and even though VR has been a bit dead in the past couple of years I think it will have a resurgence – we’re excited to dig into this field again.
You work across scales of collaboration; you’ve had your book where you worked with researchers and writers, you’ve had your client based work – but on its most basic level your collaboration is first and foremost as a couple. Can you tell us a little more about the mechanics of that collaboration and how it works for you?
A: Yes, we are partners, both in private and in work. Obviously, there are pros and cons – it is very safe and nice to work with someone who knows you completely. Someone who knows how I think, what I need and what I’m capable of, when to push, and when to help. That’s super comfortable, so I can be myself – and can feel safe to think big. I feel like if I say something, I won’t be judged, so I can just be honest. I think the reason why we work so well together is that we started to collaborate quite early on in our relationship, whilst helping each other with school projects. We noticed that ideas became catalysed when we worked together and we enhanced each other in a way.
T: It’s also a little bit like what I said earlier about the internet: it’s our own little safe space, we don’t have to deal with an annoying boss. But it’s almost too easy – hiding from reality and other people a bit. So we also really enjoy it when we have to work with others.
A: Yes, we work so much together that we almost become one person, one entity that needs to get challenged by someone else. So when you meet a colleague or a person or a collaborator you have to express yourself in different ways because they don’t know you, or how you think and feel. You have to evaluate yourself all the time. That’s something we have to implement more, the evaluation part. It’s why we do talks, and give lectures, and have these moments where we go “okay, what do we actually mean here?”
Bijan and Maša both spoke about how they keep an ear to the ground about what’s happening in their local neighbourhoods, their physical neighbourhood where they live and work. Do you have anything that is happening in your hometown, or something happening in Copenhagen right now that you want to share?
A: They’re about to release the new lambs to pasture! Every spring the farmers let out the sheep and the lambs to our local green area – it’s very cute.
T: We live on the outskirts of the city and because we’re afraid of becoming isolated we’re actually quite good at attending our neighbourly meetings, and summer parties. I think it’s important to do this kind of thing, to ground ourselves a little bit. You don’t do it because you want to, necessarily, but because you need to- but then afterwards you are happy that you did it.
To keep up with all of Wang & Söderström’s works in the pipeline – follow them on Instagram.Back to grid