Featured FuseBox Resident: Maf’j Alvarez
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 and to find out what her goals were this time around…
Hi Maf’j, what is the name of your company?
My main company is Root Interactive and I’m currently evolving this business to include XR in the brand and to become self sustaining. I also work as an artist under the name Limbic Fish.
And can you tell us a little bit more about what you do?
I work on three very different streams of activity: I.T and UX consultancy work, cultural education and also artistic production. I am using the FuseBox to develop those last two things.
I’m very interested in narrative research based and helping people to produce virtual reality content. 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.
I love working and facilitating work with artists. I’ve just developed a new workflow to help people create immersive content that I’m introducing to several creatives working in the FuseBox.
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.
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.
I also enjoyed working with Andy and Anna, we made a great team. 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.
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 history story but in a more local location.
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 in the Arts and build a business model around that. I would also like to explore and develop my knowledge of Augmented Reality and learn how to produce videos.
I’m also trying to put together a funding application for a project that involves quantum computing and Phil Jones, Managing Director of Wired Sussex is helping with that.
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 I’m a process artist working to help people develop processes. I see the act of playing games being incredibly powerful.
However, there are a lot of faults in the gaming industry, like any other creative sector, there is a wave of people who want to work in games and that fact is exploited and people aren’t being supported or paid properly. There is also a considerable gender gap, like many of the sectors I work in.
Who have you met during your time at the FuseBox?
I’ve had so many rich collaborations with various people; 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.
More recently I’ve been working with Copywriter Louise Winters, we have talked a lot about expression and poetry. We have also been speaking to Sarah Ticho who runs VR agency, Hatsumi and expanding the discussion to include 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, we’ve been talking a lot about circular economy and workflows. I’ve had similar conversations with Alexandra Stuart-Hutcheson who is part of HIVE, an artistic collective working in the FuseBox and 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?
I’m talking with Andy Baker about our experience of making Warbells on the 27th June at Conference: Museum Tech. We hope by showcasing the project, we can gain a similar commission to work on.
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 by teenagers and the adults that decide their futures. I would like to build a prototype and also explore the possibility of running workshops for this project.
In general, it feels like I’m in the creative void and that is incredibly scary but exciting. It’s similar to being on your own in a large swimming pool, swimming and discovering new things along the way. Good stuff comes out when you don’t have a destination.
Virtual Reality as a movement is too new to productise and so that brings a host of challenges and opportunities to explore. Currently this period in the FuseBox is about reconnecting with the tooling and space and hopefully falling back in love with VR.
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.