This year, after a period of UX consultancy work, Maf’j Alvarez returned to the FuseBox to complete another 6 month of residency. Maf’j has rejoined the FuseBox to continue her exploration into developing new ways of telling stories and helping people produce immersive content.

We thought it was time for a chat to see how things were shaping up this time around…

Hi Maf’j, for anyone yet to meet you, can you tell us the name of your company?
My company is Root Interactive and I’m currently evolving this business to include XR in the brand and to become sustainable. I also work as a process artist under the identity Limbic Fishnet.

And can you tell us a little bit more about what you do?
I work on three very different streams of activity: User Experience consultancy work, cultural education and artistic production. I am using the FuseBox to develop those last two areas.

I’m very interested in the creative processes and human relationships. What I do lends itself really well to the heritage and cultural sector which includes working directly with museums and libraries and helping them find new ways to tell stories from the past and involve audiences in making work with them. I’ve just developed a new VR content workflow in Unity to help other artists develop immersive content and I’m introducing it to several other residents working in the FuseBox.
 Kate Stokes trying out new content development workflow in VR

What has been your biggest highlight since being a FuseBox resident?
I worked collaboratively with a fellow FuseBox resident Andy Baker, curator Thomas Felfer and local sound designer Anna Bertmark to produce an immersive experience called Warbells which explored the historical story of the church bells taken from an Austrian village to melt into bombs during World War 1.

With Warbells, we told a story driven by technological change, the introduction of clocks led to the creation of weapons and war was an inevitable end result. And through that, the village lost their bells and their voice. Obviously it’s a lot more complex than that but I’m interested in how future technology is adopted and its cultural implications.
 Testing VR in an Austrian Belltower

We made Warbells into an emotional and poetic piece. It was a significant project for me and a huge achievement. I really loved finding an angle within the story, the research process and meeting people and connecting with a new place and its history. The Curator of the piece;
Tom Felfer, had connections with the subject so brought the authenticity and the understanding, he was the conduit of the whole project.

I really enjoyed working with Andy and Anna, we made a great team and found a collaboration style working in short bursts that worked out well. The challenge of Warbells was not being able to showcase it in the UK so we would love to take on a similar project that provides a response to another historically and culturally hidden story but in a more local location.
 Launch of Warbells at the Vorarlberg Museum

What would you like to achieve in your next 6 months?
I would like to explore and eventually achieve how Virtual Reality can be sustainable for Root Interactive in the Arts and to build a business model around that. I would also like to explore and develop my knowledge of Augmented Reality and learn how to produce technical training videos.

Following on the idea of future tech I’m developing a funding bid with the help of Phil Jones, Managing Director of Wired Sussex, and Sebastian Weidt – Senior Physicist at Sussex Ion Quantum Technology Group for a project that involves exploring art and science collaboration around Quantum computing.
 Beat Saber VR at the Quantum Technology lab.

How do you think immersive technology can help us tell stories?
Technology is in a constant state of flux as it’s always adapting and evolving and immersive tech has completely re-established how we perceive reality. I think it can help us explore the story in a more profound way, to give us a richer experience. As an audience member, rather than being spoon fed a story, we can now have a unique perspective and response to a narrative. And as a storyteller, you can share things in a way that allows someone’s curiosity to drive the story.

On top of your artistic practice and running Root Interactive, you have an interest in games, can you tell us more about that?
There are more people talking about the importance of collaboration now, there is so much room for games to expand. Although I don’t identify as a gamer, I see their importance as a process artist, I see the act of playing, making games and of rules-driven creative processes being incredibly powerful. Most of my work involves bringing people into a game of one kind or another.  
 Now Play This – Somerset House

Who have you met during your time at the FuseBox?
I’ve had so many rich collaborations; I’ve been working with and helping fellow FuseBox artists Iona Scott and Rachel Henson, there has been frustration about not adopting immersive in the way they wanted to and not being able to move their physical and respective projects forward.

Through this partnership, I’ve been utilising the 3D printer as part of the Brighton Immersive Lab with Rachel to help her develop attaching components and hardware for her Augmented Reality project; The Quizzer.
 3D printing with Rachel Henson

More recently I’ve been working with Copywriter Louise Winters, we have talked a lot about language, embodiment, expression and poetry. We have also been speaking to Sarah Ticho who runs VR agency, Hatsumi and expanding the discussion to include immersive tech and mental health. The three of us have entered into a collaborative dynamic to drive these conversations forward.

I’ve been talking to Phil Nutley a lot about the circular economy and immersive workflows. I’ve had similar conversations with Alexandra Stuart-Hutcheson who is part of HIVE, an artistic collective working in the FuseBox who has joined as a resident in her own right. Also Becky Lu who is an artist taking part in the Arts Driva @ FuseBox programme and Kate Stokes who worked in the FuseBox to develop her VR piece: Alice in Wonderland.

Any projects/events in the pipeline?
On the 27th June I’ll be talking with Andy Baker about our experience of making Warbells at the Museum Tech 2019 conference in London. We hope by showcasing the project and talking to people with a view to gaining a similar UK commission to work on.  
 Presenting with Andy Baker
I’m currently working on a murmuration inspired augmented reality art experience featuring a dynamic flock of paper planes over the west pier that uses live social media feeds in response to Brexit and belonging. I would like to build a prototype and also explore the possibility of running workshops for this project with young people.

In general, it feels like I’m in a creative void and that is incredibly scary but exciting. It’s similar to being in the middle of a large swimming pool where people, projects, ideas and opportunities keep popping up. Good stuff comes out when you don’t have a destination. I’m allowing myself to do that this year – reaching out and connecting.

How do people find out more about your company?
My twitter at this point is the best place to see the things I’m working on, I’m continuously microblogging on there. Check it out here.

You can also find my Linkedin page here and is my artist portfolio.