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Insight: APOLYSIS by Hermione Flynn and Evelyn Bencicova

Interview by Tony Cho

Apolysis, Hermione Flynn & Evelyn Bencicova (2019). Still image

APOLYSIS is Hermione Flynn and Evelyn Bencicova’s latest project exploring the medium of digital avatars through the lens of art, fashion and photography. APOLYSIS is an experimental project conducted to expand what redefining the 3D aesthetic can mean in art and fashion. In this shoot, the model is contorted, distorted, and deconstructed only in the way that 3D computer imagery can project. Clashing layers, object collisions and infilled models all point to the distinctive quality of a 3D-rendered image. At the center of this piece is Em, the model that serves as the protagonist for this glitchy shoot. 

For Flynn, part fashioner designer and progenitor of Em, APOLYSIS serves as an example of how Em can be a medium for Flynn’s collaboration with other artists, as other artists choose to create the backdrop for her performances in these digital spaces.

Em is a copy of Hermione Flynn as a digital avatar. For Flynn, the creation of Em serves many purposes, first, as a platform for her performative art to be not only delivered in digital form but be enacted inside it. Secondly, it serves as a tool for collaboration, as Em can be a subject of study and examination for other artists as well. Ultimately, it is Em that carries out the performative aspect of Flynn’s work through the manipulation of her body and environments in a digital space. 

One of the artists growing Em’s experience is Evelyn Benicicova, a fashion photographer known for her surreal image-making that depicts a bleak postmodern aesthetic. For Benicicova, Em presents another opportunity for her to explore her conceptual photography work through new tools and mediums for expression. Her taste in the conceptual and surreal are imposed in an environment where both the model and space can be manipulated at will. The result is a series of photographs that are a surreal take on the infiniteness of a digital landscape and test subject. 

Together, APOLYSIS’ conceptual foreground lies on its experimental approach to photography and image-making – one that is unconcerned with limits from either physical boundaries or even anatomic ones.
Projects like this are giving more recognition to the emergence of 3D models as hyperreal objects that are redefining the context of reality. That 3D modelling is now considered a medium for expressing conceptual works and postmodern thought not only shows how much the technology has grown but also how widely it has become widely accepted into our model of reality.

From APOLYSIS to the emergence of social media phenom Lil Michaela, it is clear that 3D models, mixed reality and these blurred mediums of real and digital no longer identify a niche subculture in technology circles and academic forums, but one that is emerging in our dominant culture.

Apolysis, Hermione Flynn & Evelyn Bencicova (2019). Still image
Apolysis, Hermione Flynn & Evelyn Bencicova (2019). Still image

For our audience that is not familiar with your work, who is behind the project, and what inspires you? 

Hermione Flynn: In 2018, I collaborated with a team of 3D experts to create “Em” – an exact 3D digital double of my own physical form. This 3D replica functions as my performance-art avatar, occupying digital spaces in the realms of virtual reality, augmented reality, online performance and animated video.

Evelyn Bencicova: I am a visual creative specialising in photography and art direction. My work is informed by my background in fine art and new media studies (University for Applied Arts, Vienna), and my practice combines academic research with an interest in contemporary culture to create a unique aesthetic space in which the conceptual meets the visual.

What is the intellectual process behind APOLYSIS?

Hermione Flynn: I have always admired Evelyn’s work as a photographer, and now she has taken the plunge into the 3D medium. It was exciting to me to witness her creative eye to explore the 3D realm and so I offered my digital double, Em, as a subject for her. One of my continuing creative ambitions for Em is to see her virtual presence realised by other artists and creatives I admire. In this edition, our process was to fall headfirst into the limitlessness 3D offers and embrace the lack of physical boundaries we consciously or subconsciously engage in real life. 

Evelyn Bencicova: I wanted to challenge my creative and visual skills in a new medium, and collaborating with Hermione Flynn gave me exactly what I was searching for. In the process, I realised that working with a virtual “set” allows me to do what I’m interested in – rather than taking pictures, I’m creating worlds. It’s as if you design your own reality, and the act of capturing it through photography is just the last and easiest part of the incredibly complex journey. 3D is not an easy option. It offers little in the way of “random happenings” and overall requires more creative challenges as the artist builds everything from scratch. But at the same time, if you are willing to dive in, you can experience limitless possibilities bound only by your own imagination…

What do you expect from the audience experiencing the artwork?

Hermione Flynn: We want the audience to experience a new potential in 3D aesthetic. The 3D medium is typically dominated by the games/feature film industry, producing content in the realms of fantasy, war, science fiction and sports. However, it doesn’t need to be refined or defined by this kind of content. Our work seeks to reveal the nature of the medium itself, pixel-thin layers, infinite space, impossible lighting, limitless surfaces, glitches and all! 

Evelyn Bencicova: Yes, I would describe our visuals as digital surrealism, in contrast to the hyper-realistic approach, which is what we usually get to see in commercial 3D. Our goal was to produce a photo shoot in the virtual world- with an avatar model (Em) and digitally fabricated garments by Hermione Flynn. We tested and challenged possibilities of available technology – playing with layers, patterns, and transparency, exposing what normally stays hidden and vice versa. The aim is to show this medium as a new, creative and exciting way of approaching artistic and fashion-oriented projects.

What’s next? Any plans for the future?

Hermione Flynn: Individually, I will continue to work with Em to develop her as a well-versed 3D performance art avatar. Collectively, Evelyn, I and several talented collaborators have a few projects/concepts which are currently in development. These works will consistently explore conceptual processes and new mediums.

Evelyn Bencicova: I consider this project to be a starting step, an experiment at the beginning of something bigger that I’m excited to explore deeper in the future. It was a great opportunity to explore the possibilities, and boundaries, and how to overcome them. The truth is that sometimes obstacles also create grounds for new ways of thinking! We are planning to start working on more complex artistic projects conjoining forces with a few other talented collaborators soon, so if you’re interested, keep watching us. 

(Media courtesy of the artists)

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