Interaction designer Mélanie Courtinat and creative director Quentin Dubret immediately started working together after first meeting in late 2017, forming the Paris-based creative studio Pastor/Placzek. “We realised we shared the same views on the use of technology and interactions in digital arts,” the studio tells It’s Nice That. “Working with technology allows us to explore and experience an in-between state where the ‘realness’ is digitally altered,” the studio explains.
Having worked with brands like Dolce & Gabbana and on artistic projects with make-up artist Cupid’s Vault, the studio’s goal is to focus on what it calls “liquid interactivity” in their projects. The studio’s first interactive VR project, I Never Promised You a Garden, turned into a manifesto about interactivity. At its core, although interaction design has become more widely utilised in a range of creative and immersive projects, many of these forays into digital reality projects are still highly device-dependent.
“The only barriers remaining between the so-called ‘digital’ and the real are interactive devices. Screens became a medium, reflecting us and our surroundings as the surface,” the studio states. Sure enough, many promising AR and VR projects fall short because of the complexity of setup that often falls on the user’s hands, and the myriad versions of devices that need to be accommodated for a homogenous experience. “Our practice focuses on the notion of surface, what that means and what needs to be reconsidered,” the studio says.
For the SummerSHOW 2019 exhibition at the Lily Robert gallery in Paris, Mélanie and Quentin explore this very idea through an augmented reality installation called Kurasshu. “The idea was to occupy this idea of the in-between state. The phone was glued to the window of the gallery, so that people passing by could interact with the show 24/7 by seeing themselves through the filter, but couldn’t actually see it while visiting the show inside the gallery,” the studio explains. The filter turns the user’s face into something that looks like crumpled plastic, laying over a surface that’s both smooth and textured at the same time.
For The Communal Sofa, an animation commissioned by furniture brand Vitra, the duo wanted to create a piece of work that fits into the typology of unconventional furniture, creating interactions that aren’t as obvious as when you sit on a chair or a bench. Working with British filmmaker Samuel Fouracre to create a video that shows the possibilities of interactions on what a communal living space might look like.
The studio wanted to “suggest a context to these pieces while depicting possible interactions without falling into the ‘tutorial effect’,” referring to instructional guides that limit the user’s grammars of action because of the dogmatic language that they use. “The world of furniture design has its own way of communicating and extracting the pieces from their reality,” the studio states. In this way, the furniture serves as a screen-less device for new interactions, suggesting that perhaps interaction designers working digitally should bring their practice into the real world.
The studio has an upcoming collaboration with fashion designer Julia Heuer, a VR build-your-own story that envelops the viewer in Julia’s signature pleats. Using the increasingly-popular technique of photogrammetry, where 3D objects are created by analysing an array of photographs, the studio is “able to create a visually compelling architecture mixed with disturbing narrative devices.” As interaction design becomes more and more integrated with art, advertising and graphic design, the work that studios like Pastor/Placzek do in questioning how such interactions are delivered becomes ever more important.