Speculative future artist Anita Fontaine on ‘slowing down’ to feed the creative spirit

Conversations About Your Voice: Anita Fontaine talks about the duality of noise in design practice, her mantra of kicking roadblocks, and words of kindness to her younger self.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Jan 21, 2021

Can technology be withdrawn from its cold digital environment and placed in a warm and empathetic space that encourages wellness and improves your inner landscape? Can spaces be embedded with sentience? Can emerging technologies such as AI and VR elevate our realities?

Speculative future artist Anita Fontaine | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Speculative future artist Anita Fontaine Image: Courtesy of Anita Fontaine

Australian artist and creative director Anita Fontaine addresses these concerns in her design practice that employs speculative fiction and intuitive technologies to create escapist virtual landscapes. Though currently based in New Zealand, her last role before moving to this country was as the cofounder of a future-forward creative unit called 'The Department of New Realities' inside Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, where her work dealt with altering advertising and creative landscapes to produce hyper-sensorial experiences.

01 min watch Bitmap Banshees VR installation: set inside a dystopian Amsterdam, where a gang of biker banshees have taken over the city | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Bitmap Banshees VR installation: set inside a dystopian Amsterdam, where a gang of biker banshees have taken over the city Video: Courtesy of Anita Fontaine
The installation includes a custom bike which acts as the gaming interface and allows users to cross dimensions and pedal inside the VR world | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
The installation includes a custom bike which acts as the gaming interface and allows users to cross dimensions and pedal inside the VR world Image: Courtesy of Anita Fontaine

“There is value in the real escapist world,” says Fontaine, who believes that people today crave experiences more than anything else and that technology is not a bad word. Having studied fine-art photography, it was however a fond interest in video games that piqued her curiosity to explore imagined spaces and to experiment with films and design.

Anita Fontaine at her workspace | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Anita Fontaine at her workspace Image: Courtesy of Anita Fontaine

In an interview with STR, Fontaine talks about the duality of noise in creative practice, her mantra of kicking roadblocks, and words of kindness to her younger self. 

Edited excerpts:

Zohra Khan (ZK): We live, work, and create while being inspired or intimidated by the noise around us. How much of that noise helps in creating an identity or a voice of your own?

Anita Fontaine (AF): I was talking to someone the other day about how we never get bored anymore and I think there is so much noise and busyness around us that unless you have a strategy and a way to delve inside your imagination, then it can be a place of constant distraction. I think (while) growing up, for me, there was less noise in a way and therefore there was more mental space to construct these new realities or creative spaces to inhabit the world. But I also think you can tap into that phonetic energy and it can help inspire new textures, new colours, new ideas and new visions…It’s about finding a balance and being able to have moments of serenity and even moments of hyper momentum that feed your creative soul.

02 mins watch Corona Paraiso Secreto VR: the installation combined theatrics, VR technology and interactive set design to immerse visitors into a natural mirage and inspired them to spend time outside | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Corona Paraiso Secreto VR: the installation combined theatrics, VR technology and interactive set design to immerse visitors into a natural mirage and inspired them to spend time outside Video: Courtesy of Anita Fontaine

ZK: That one ‘hell of a project’ that brings tears to your eyes even today.

AF: I don’t really get tears in my eyes around work. Hahaha!

Snail: a glimpse from the kaleidoscopic video for New Zealand-based singer Benee directed by Anita Fontaine | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Snail: a glimpse from the kaleidoscopic video for New Zealand-based singer Benee directed by Anita Fontaine Image: Courtesy of Anita Fontaine
03 mins watch Benee in the video cruises down a road on her bike as luminescent mushrooms grow around her and the sky sparkles | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Benee in the video cruises down a road on her bike as luminescent mushrooms grow around her and the sky sparkles Video: Courtesy of Anita Fontaine

ZK: Where do you find refuge when you are facing a block?

AF: I don’t know if I get the classical kind of creative block but normally if I sleep on it or have some kind of dream or even in a state right before sleep, I tend to solve problems in between brainwave state. Sometimes when I meditate, there is something about slowing down of the nervous system that allows something in the imagination to take hold. Maybe it’s your intuition to be stronger when all those voices get quieter and the subconscious comes up to the surface with the solution to any problems you might have. I also find going into nature to re-balance if I am feeling anxious about a creative project.

MTV – Future Bae: Cinematic shreds inspired by a doomsday vision of LA where inhabitants split their days between VR and an eco-apocalyptic nightmare | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
MTV – Future Bae: Cinematic shreds inspired by a doomsday vision of LA where inhabitants split their days between VR and an eco-apocalyptic nightmare Image: Courtesy of Anita Fontaine

ZK: What is that one iconic mistake that you are grateful for?

AF: One iconic mistake that I am grateful for now would be choosing to leave my role as the founder and creative director of The Department of New Realities inside Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam. At the time, it was an extremely difficult decision but now as I am currently based in New Zealand, I can’t help but feel immensely grateful that I am in a country that’s managing this pandemic with a sense of grace and we have a relatively normal way of life compared to many places in the rest of the world. So, this would be that one instance where what seemed like a disappointing thing in real life became a hidden jewel.

Anita Fontaine - a childhood memory | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Anita Fontaine - a childhood memory Image: Courtesy of Anita Fontaine
It’s important to really keep aggressively making work, making new work and also to be little opportunistic in your connections. – Anita Fontaine

ZK: Looking back, what would you advise your younger self?

AF: It would be less about advice and more about words of encouragement and kindness because I think when I was younger, I was quite hard on myself. I would just like to give some kind words and encourage the direction that I am going in: the explorations that I am doing is all worthwhile, it is all going to be meaningful in the future, stick with it and speak confidently and spread the love.

ZK: What would you advise those who are seeking a voice of their own?

AF: I would say it’s important to really keep aggressively making work, making new work and also to be little opportunistic in your connections, in reaching out to people and not being afraid to ask for help on how to take the next step. Always look to be innovative and original and try to do something unexpected. Try and make something that people haven’t seen or experienced before and if you are coming up with a new aesthetic or a new kind of design language or creative sensibility, you are always going to get attention. There are always going to be people who are surprised and excited to see what you make.

ZK: How would you like to STIR up 2021?

AF: I would like to STIR up 2021 by creating more conscious content and partnering with more brands, people and collaborators who feel a sense of importance to change the future landscape into something more positive. I don’t think you can really get away with being creative without some kind of message in your work or a positive contribution and I hope to create more work like that this year.

STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020: Conversations About Your Voice
The 2020 edition of Kyoorius Designyatra (#KDY20) themed around ‘Your Voice’ caught many stellar creatives from the world of design and visual arts in a moment of self-reflection. As #KDY20 Exclusive Media Partner, STIR spoke with design luminaries Paula Scher, Seymour Chwast, Hyesu Lee, Frank de Ruwe, and Anita Fontaine to know what it takes to live one’s voice. To know more, click here.

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