On the Cover: Meet Zeitguised, the award-winning design studio behind our new issue cover, presented in partnership with WeTransfer
The materiality of the screen reaches new depths in the work of Zeitguised, the Berlin-based design studio seeking to blur the boundaries between digital design and physical craft. With backgrounds in architecture, design and fashion, their work explores the potential of a very tangible form of digital art, often taking real materials or objects and animating them so that they take on a new lease of life upon the screen. A ‘handmade algorithmic approach’ lies behind each work, meaning their computer generated design practice is guided by careful, manual skill. With this process they emphasise the craftsmanship and artistic process that lies behind intelligent digital design, just as much as it does behind more traditional making practices.
There is a playful and uncanny quality to Zeitguised’s work. Their weird and enticing creations are at once familiar and unreal. In their recent projects ‘geist.xyz’ and ‘Void Season’ clothes and materials become autonomous life forms, flowing and shifting their shape across indefinable bodies. In another work ‘Sim Stim’ this concept is reversed so that a woman’s body becomes a plastic, synthetic object.
In their specially designed cover for POSTmatter, a hooded figure transforms from a solid mass into something altogether less stable. Rippling and shimmering in an unseen breeze, the fabric assumes a new autonomy as limbs and gestures become disembodied within its folds. Digging into our theme of New Mythologies, Zeitguised enact the breakdown of the line between our physical and digital lives. More than ever, we interact and explore via the screen, assuming alternate identities within a web of data and simulated connections. It is a contemporary belief system whose stability morphs between the virtual and the real, and between the material and the immaterial.
POSTmatter: Your work blurs the line between physical and digital materials. What interests you about bringing a materiality to the screen?
Zeitguised: We're interested in finding materiality that blurs the physical/digital distinction. Materiality that is not taken from a physical one and bringing it to the screen, but rather using digital means to discover and explore unknown territory. Materials that don't exist yet and that never might, but through our hyperrealist approach become reality in the minds of the viewers.
PM: You often draw from fashion, textiles and sculpture to create your digital animations. What appeals to you about exploring through many disciplines?
ZG: It is not about accumulating as many aspects and disciplines as possible in one project. The limits between disciplines have always been a shaky construct. To bring things forward, exploration means to disregard those boundaries and try to find out what the object or the task needs in order to become interesting and break new ground, no matter how small these advances may be.
The limits between disciplines have always been a shaky construct. To bring things forward, exploration means to disregard those boundaries
PM: There is a surreal tension between the real and unreal in your work, for example with the invisible clothed figures in ‘Void’. What does your use of the term “Exquisite Realities” mean in this context?
ZG: Realism and abstraction act as two tension poles that define our style, and it takes great care, dedication and craft to finely balance the elements defined by these characteristics. This is a very delicate process that leads to exquisite results, hence the choice of the term “Exquisite Realities” for our work. It’s also important to stress that these are not alternate or virtual realities, but rather they are part of everyone’s reality.
PM: How did you develop your cover for POSTmatter?
ZG: We used different simulation softwares that construct spatial geometries with different pseudo-physical relations. Tweaking the parameters and misusing them has always been a major key to our work. In this example, the only element based on direct "natural-manual" input is motion-captured data from human performers. We connected synthetic geometries to those, simulated their pseudo-physical movement and behaviour, and worked layers upon layers of parametric design work on top of that: Geometries, Textures, Materials, Lighting, Colours, Behaviour.
All of that work is rooted in the human, as it is just following an artistic process that is entirely intellectual. It is widely misunderstood that manual craftwork is very different to this kind of work. Computer-based work is often frowned upon because it seems reproducible by machines. This disregards the boldness, agility and focused force of the ideas that go into code, algorithms and system setups. It is an entirely artistic process, and arguably more artistic than applying paint to canvas, for example.
PM: What is your process for developing your independent works and experiments?
ZG: We develop projects as explorations. We set out with no clearly defined goal. We look for possibilities and lucky accidents, potential that develops while working and thinking. If either stops, the process collapses. When upheld, this is opportunism at its best, as the opportunities are created from our own doing.
Computer-based work is often frowned upon because it seems reproducible by machines. This disregards the boldness, agility and focused force of the ideas that go into code, algorithms and system setups.
PM: What is your experience of working creatively for various brands?
ZG: Feeding on over ten years of experience working with brands, we split into two modes that are actually handled legally by two different companies.
One mode is handled by Zeitguised: brands approach us with a budget and a brief, usually for moving image work. The brand then needs to sign a contract to state that they commit to pay for bespoke Zeitguised work, while not yet knowing what it will be (although they know upfront that it will be amazing because that is why they came in the first place). We then get to know them, become interested in them and fall in love with them so to speak. We want to know everything about them, and then generate bespoke artwork that fits the client, situation and budget. In the end they can opt not to use it, but they need to pay for the work regardless. In this mode the client understands that they can only get the best, most mind-blowing results for a reasonable budget and timeframe if they let us work independently, and do what we do best. That involves trust on both sides, but of course we have enough examples of successful work and happy clients in our portfolio that should convince the most die-hard art buyers.
The other mode is the classic production mode. We get a watertight brief, an appropriate budget and a deadline with a working schedule, and we get to work. This work is usually more product display oriented. This is handled by our f°am Studio.
PM: Where do you see the future of animation and digital art?
ZG: Crossing all possible boundaries into the physical world!
This interview is published in partnership with WeTransfer, as part of our series exploring the creatives who push the boundaries between digital and physical space in new and surprising ways.
Helen Longstreth is a freelance writer based in London and editorial assistant at POSTmatter.