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Exploring the pioneering new media practice of Tigrelab

Mathieu Felix of accomplished Barcelona-based studio Tigrelab discusses the group’s past and future.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : May 01, 2021

Within the world of new media art and design, there are perhaps few studios that are quite as versatile and multitalented as Barcelona-based Tigrelab. The studio works with a variety of big names within the creative, automotive and lifestyle industry, and bafflingly does so with a team that does not exceed 12 people. As a co-creative director and spokesperson, Mathieu Felix, tells STIR, “Years ago, the team was bigger but started to lose its small creative studio sensibility, and far too much time was spent in administration and running the business, and not enough in creative work”.  However, the decision to downsize the organisation has not hurt Tigrelab in the slightest, and one feels as though it may have indeed improved overall cohesion as well as allowed for the group to pursue more projects that they find appealing. Felix explains, “The founders of the studio are really pushed by the creative side of each project. Our objective is not to augment the volume of projects but to be able to choose what we want to do, and to keep our high standards of creativity and production”.

Jungle Book by Tigrelab | Tigrelab | STIRworld
Jungle Book by Tigrelab Image: Courtesy of Tigrelab

On the subject of its leadership, Tigrelab is operated jointly by three creative directors: Felix, who studied Fine Arts in Marseille, France, and went on to attend a digital direction course at a school specialising in computer graphics. He mentions possessing a passion for exploring the connections between the human body and augmented spaces, and says that he is stimulated creatively by combining his vision with other creative practitioners such as artists, choreographers, composers and developers. He is joined by Javier Pinto and Federico Gonzalez, the former is a graphic communicator with a particular talent for three-dimensional visualisation that has been invaluable for the studio’s operations. Gonzalez is a graphic designer who spent many years working in Buenos Aires and possesses an affinity towards storytelling through the moving image. Together, the three lead multiple 3D Artists, graphic designers, creative coders and project managers. As the group takes up radically different projects, there is a strong focus on its members thinking through new visual languages and learning new software in order to appropriately tailor their creative approach to the job at hand. Over the years, Tigrelab has created installations and visual experiences at a number of high-profile venues, and Felix reminisces on these, saying “Some examples of great places we had the chance to do interventions are a half-kilometre wide library in Sharjah (UAE), a volcanic wall in Tenerife and the St Paul ruins of Macao. We spent three weeks working for an opera in the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich Opera, we have designed AV shows on the Maria Christina bridge in San Sebastian and have also created an interactive installation at the Funkhaus in Berlin”.

Depth | Tigrelab | STIRworld
Depth Image: Courtesy of Tigrelab

A mainstay for Tigrelab has been projection mapping, within which they are pioneering practitioners. They began on a whim a decade ago, when the craft was beginning to take hold in countries such as England and France, and never looked back. Tigrelab’s projection work ranges from the overwhelmingly beautiful, in its immersion, to more understated pieces that constitute a backdrop of sorts, permitting a main attraction to take centre stage. It would seem that it is the seamless medley they often establish with human and logistical participants that has allowed Tigrelab to undertake projects such as digital backdrops for the likes of Alicia Keys. Felix sums up the group’s creative approach succinctly, “We are passionate about blending technology with the warm human factor in live performances or interactive experiences through generative graphics”.

02 mins watch An experiential reel | Tigrelab| STIRworld
An experiential reel Video: Courtesy of Tigrelab

When it comes to aesthetic inspirations, Tigrelab takes advantage of the diffused development of its leadership. Felix says, “As we are three creative directors from different continents, each one brings his own inspirations and aesthetics to the table. But the three of us are fascinated by the movement (animation) and the geometric shapes we can find in nature. That’s why an important source of inspiration for us is kinetic art. We love motion, and art based on this variable alone gives us a lot of inspiration to develop our work”. He quotes the late, visionary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, saying “nothing is art if it does not come from nature”. Additionally, Tigrelab also owes some of its visual sensibilities to the work of visionary American light pioneer James Turrell, which is palpable in many of the studio’s larger, more contemplative experiences.

ALICIA album release | Tigrelab| STIRworld
ALICIA album release Image: Courtesy of Tigrelab

As the group’s practice is based on currently unfolding festivals, events and product releases, the pandemic has greatly affected their work. However, it was perhaps a prescient decision on Tigrelab’s leadership’s part to make a jump to virtual work a few years ago. This has enabled them to keep up with the market as well as any agency can possibly do so; one example of their growing versatility being the aforementioned collaboration with pop singer Alicia Keys, which saw them doing the set design, art direction and 3D production for the launch of her recently released and eponymously titled album, ‘ALICIA’. The entire job was under the direction of the two directors of Aggressive as they lead the entire live show. Speaking of the future, Mathieu wishes to combine what the studio has learnt over its decades of work, and says, “In the future we want to be in all the places we’ll be able physically join. In a digital art festival, in a real-world conference, in a theatre, in a museum or exhibition space; in the street even. We love generating experiences in mixing design, motion, interaction, light, technology and space. So, we need space to fully express ourselves. The year 2020 has been an opportunity to explore the digital world and virtual events through technologies like the XR studio, but we are now already focused on the next step. Could we mix physical and online experiences? New creative languages will be born from this crisis and it’s a nice period to pursue innovation for us”. Wherever they decide to take their practice, one thing is for certain: Tigrelab’s work will undoubtedly remain path-breaking and will serve as a beacon for future practitioners within the broad ambit of new media arts practices.

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