With an ethos that stands for “doing our own thing” and a “feeling of community”, Selam X is a studio that does things a little bit differently. You will have most likely have seen its work before, whether it’s a CGI animation for Nike, the AI Kylie Jenner cover for Dazed Beauty, formed with AI program Beauty_Gan, an AI generated music video for Rammstein Frontman Lindemann, or second-skin face filters that saw Esmay Wakeman’s masks enter the digital realms for Sleek magazine. A broad portfolio, to say the least, and one that prides itself on collaboration.
“Collaboration is everything,” explains Claudia Rafael, art director and “lead posthuman” of Selam X. “Together we are stronger than one single person. We are curious about new technologies, and we are always interested in getting the most out of it when it comes to visual realisation.” With a seven person-strong core team based in Berlin, the studio is also made up of freelancers, interns and collaborators who all bring their skill set to the table.
An example of its synergetic work can be seen through a recent project titled Wide Awake – a new fashion label by illustrator Friederike Hantel and fashion designer Ethel Vaughn. Upon contacting the studio, Friederike was seeking general guidance on the best ways to approach a new large-scale project. “We were immediately stuck by her aesthetic and unique ideas, so we decided to go all-in with her on this project,” says Claudia. “We quickly decided that a holistic approach was needed, so we treated the project as a brand and elevated it with a multimedia treatment.”
Continuing to evolve the pitch, Selam X called upon out-of-house creators to send over their ideas – with 3D artists, sound designers, makeup artists, models and photographers all delivering their visuals. “All participating creators had absolute creative freedom and that made the project so fun and diverse,” Claudia continues. “So with the help of the collaborators, her ideas could transcend into something bigger – a whole cosmos. The synergies, ideas and energy that everyone contributed positively affected not only the outcome in a unique way, but it kept the workflow itself fresh.” The result is a highly transcending visual depiction of a digital fashion retailer – where the landing page greets its viewers with a trippy video, before entering a land of cartoonish characters and illustrative photography to sell the collection.
Rather than a studio, think of Selam X as more of a digital collective. Even its name is inviting and mysterious: Selam translates to “hello” in Turkish and the ‘X’ symbolises the unknown – “we come from X and go to the X,” says Claudia. Creating recognisable visual communication for individuals and institutions on various projects, the team seeks out the client base through a vision, making sure that they adhere to the studio’s own. “We are currently moving towards a system-based approach for a growing amount of our CGI/3D work, most comparable to game design work. As we experiment more with real-time, interactive an procedural work flows, conceiving worlds or systems is taking the place of creating single shots or scenes.”
Ahead of the game entirely, Selam X is tackling and channeling all-things digital. In terms of how advances in technology and digital manipulation is affecting our world, the studio believes that it’s highly positive, particularly in terms of self-representation. “With technology, we can alter the digital appearance of our bodies, which enables us to develop more personal and abstract interpretations of our physical selves,” says Claudia. “Using technologies to change circumstances, which are dictated by nature towards an individual approach to beauty, has a huge emancipatory potential for self-realisation. Digital tools and resources to learn how to use them have never been more available as they are today.”
As technology continues to evolve and our perception of the world increasingly alters alongside it, what does this mean for the creative industries and its relationship to reality? Claudia concludes: “Augmented Reality is the reality of the next ten years followed by VR. So digital fashion, AI generated music and 6G are the future we are almost in – we’re curious about what’s coming next.”