Luna Woelle (@wo11.e) develops digital creations that challenge the feelings of practicality and security that make us rely on technology. The artist, originally from Slovenia and based in Tokyo, brought from her native country a connection to nature that sharpened her perception of the systematized mechanics that vertebrate life in the Japanese megalopolis.
In her project Imaginary Robotics, Luna strips technology, as a tool, of its functional essence, giving rise to devices that live an independent life, without being subject to use by people. If technology can exist in itself, free from human desires, could humans be freed from the desire for technology?
Luna is involved in the Japanese alternative scene through her digital art, her activity as a DJ and VJ, and also her work as a member of the creative platform Mizuha 罔象 (@mizuha.cc).
Chorareii: First, please introduce yourself.
Luna Woelle: I’m a 3DCG artist from Slovenia, 22 years old, and currently based in Tokyo. After graduating from a graphic design high school in Ljubljana I moved to Japan to study Japanese traditional cuisine, driven by my interest and previous projects based on the art of Kaiseki presentation.
With the progression of the pandemic I found myself returning to digital art – starting with abstract, organic shapes, moving onto hard-surface modeling, and experimenting with ‘Imaginary Robotics’.
As a co-founder of an experimental music label / audio-visual platform Mizuha 罔象, I work as a visual curator and manager, as well as a DJ for local events and international radio stations and platforms.
We, humans, use technological devices as tools to help us in our daily lives. However, it is clear from your pieces that technology is also a source of inspiration for you. How do you see technology, and what do you think technology can awaken when it becomes art?
For me, it represents the inner conflict of modern humans and their own personal struggle with adaptation to evolving technology and getting drawn into this idea of a highly functioning, extremely conventional society, ensuing in a loss of touch with nature. It’s how I feel moving to a highly convenient and technologically advanced metropolis, where concrete and machines equal human success and security.
This transition on a personal level triggers nostalgia and feelings of guilt, an inner conflict about shame, and acceptance of the fact that reliance on technology is the only way to thrive and survive.
Having said that, the progression also brings on a lot of excitement. Everything is rapidly changing and there is always a newer version of the new, making it challenging to stay on top of this man-made evolution.
Here comes the idea for Imaginary Robotics. Driven by a guilty feeling of getting lost in consumerism, I create objects that highly resemble a functional apparatus, but are really just superficial and meaningless. They represent capitalist goods that make us high from dopamine but leave us feeling empty and insecure, paving our road to addiction.
Nature is also present in your work: gray rocks, white sunlight, clouds, caves, green plants, and insects. These elements evoke a cold side of nature, so somehow I feel it has points in common with technology. Do you see it that way?
I always gravitated toward cooler color schemes, taking interest in the patterns and textures found in nature. Placing alien objects inside such an environment portrays a sort of mysterious as well as a bit reserved and withdrawn feeling, that I recently find myself recreating in the shape of robotics. There is definitely an underlying stiffness in both motifs, which I find both fascinating as well as illustrative of my own psyche.
As a 3DCG artist, you create your art digitally. But in addition to this, many of your pieces are consumed in digital environments, and you have worked with augmented reality. What kind of experience do you think people can receive through art in digital environments, versus what they can receive from analog art?
Analog art is personal. It shows the physical touch of the artist, you can feel their presence, and their creative process. Us humans are perceptive not only to visual stimulation but also to touch and smell, as well as taste, which makes it that much easier for us to find ourselves feeling more drawn to analog art, as we strive for familiarity, a sense of intimacy.
By depriving the viewer of this sense of comfort, we clear the path to a completely new experience via the ever-advancing technology of xR. You feel unsure and deceived, but at the same time overly visually stimulated by this vivifying embodiment of art. It brings us new possibilities to create without limits and to find ways to express ourselves in the digital world.
Using AR technology, I had some fun doing AR VJ-ing at Forest Limit, curating an AR exhibition at Contact Tokyo, as well as most recently exhibiting artwork at the P.O.N.D. exhibition in Shibuya Parco. With technical support from Psychic VR Lab, I will be implementing AR into an audio-visual performance at MUTEK Japan 2022.
You are from Slovenia but based in Tokyo, what elements of both places are present in your art?
Simply put, I like to differentiate the two by their effect on me. I think of my home country as the initial inspiration behind my use of elements from nature, hinting at a mixture of nostalgia and homesickness, living in the green capital of Europe in stark contrast to life in the world’s biggest metropolis.
Surrounded by and living in this highly advanced machine of society I found myself very quickly adapting, so I try to reminisce, deconstruct my feelings of comfort and search for guidance in the warmth of my upbringing. That said, I do not want to mask my strong dependence and inclination towards the use of technology as well as my active participation in our capitalist world, which is why I feel the need to express my sense of guilt through art.
The names of your projects and your pieces are reminiscent of terms of technological devices or product prototypes. I know this is an artistic exercise, but would you ever consider working as a designer of actual technical products?
At the moment, digital to me represents comfort, as well as confinement — I feel the need to make the 3D objects into real ones — finally coming full circle, creating the foremost idea of materialistic goods. I want to stick to their uselessness, their purposeless nature, which is why for now, I like to see myself focusing on artistic expression.
On a different note, I found myself working on a logo animation for a respected Japanese company that manufactures thread-cutting tools and center drills, which I find ironic and amusing. The future might as well hold something there for me, we’ll see.
Tell me about Mizuha 罔象, the A/V platform you are part of.
Mizuha 罔象 is an audio/visual platform focused on the post-experimental soundscape in parallel with 3DCG art. Originally founded by Ichiro Tanimoto, the idea was to put Japan on the map of niche, post-internet electronic music, and create a platform for young and/or lesser-known artists to release their work. The two of us strive for a balanced curation of both sound and visual artists, releasing albums digitally and physically as well as curating VR and AR exhibitions.
Having had a small pause, we are really excited to have five new album releases in the works. Being able to bring together so many talented artists from all over the world is what drives us to continue working on new projects.
Besides being an artist, you also DJ and have chef studies. How do you enjoy all these different passions? How would you like to develop them in the future?
As I entered culinary school, it took very little time for me to realize visual art is what I really ought to do. The primary reason behind my fixation with Japanese traditional cuisine was its visual presentation, whereas the physical labor, well, not so much.
In the 2-year culinary course, I had an intense 6-week internship at Nobu Tokyo, which pretty much sealed my choice of not head diving into the industry. I’m eternally grateful for the experience as it has been my main driving force throughout my high school years as well as getting me a scholarship to Japan, but after I graduate, I’ll be leaving culinary arts behind me for the foreseeable future.
As for DJing, it has always been a part of my life. Even though I finally picked it up only recently, as a child I felt like every adult was a DJ.
I grew up in a community closely knit to the club scene, as well as experimental electronic music. The latter greatly influenced and formed my interest in it as well as inspired me to create visual art. To me sound and visual are inseparable, a co-dependent creative process I find myself continually engaging in.
For the first time in my life, I have no plans for the immediate future. I hope to continue my creative work as I look for a way to stay in Japan.
What do you think art will be like in 100 years?
Oof. Beats me. I want to focus on the now.