Impossible vistas: Exploring fantastic cityscapes and more from the artist AUJIK

Artist Stefan Larsson aka AUJIK, who was born in Sweden and now lives and works in Ōtsu, Japan, discusses with STIR his rich body of work, themes and influences.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : May 21, 2022

Artist Stefan Larsson, better known as AUJIK, creates mind-bending 3D animation videos. His work from the Spatial Bodies series appears as though to depict cities with buildings spreading out of themselves at impossible angles; likely unsuitable for human inhabitation, and yet quite fascinating as artistic artefacts. Spatial Bodies is, however, merely one portion of his larger oeuvre, that boasts some truly mind-bending videos. There is much fascination to be found within AUJIK’s practice, with his influences including architecture, human anatomy and even philosophical concepts. Discussing the beginnings of his practice, he tells STIR, “AUJIK is something I started around 2005 during my last year at (the) art academy. I had been using a couple of different aliases before, but those were when I was working with other topics. It was around this time that I became very intrigued by technology, and really took to reading books by Ray Kurzweil and other people in the AI field.”

02 mins watch Spatial Bodies: Hong Kong & Shenzhen, 2019, 3D animation and film | STIRworld
Spatial Bodies: Hong Kong & Shenzhen, 2019, 3D animation and film Video: AUJIK, Daisuke Tanabe, Courtesy of BANK/Mabsociety, Shanghai

The video artist became curious to explore the digital realm more thoroughly, so he decided to create a visual and conceptual format that he could use to navigate his explorations. He continues, “Prior to this I was mainly into more conventional modes of expression, and was happy using painting, sculpting and installation as formats to articulate my practice through. I have been going through plenty of phases, starting with graffiti art and then oil painting and eventually heading into contemporary art, but for the last decade, I have been working through new media art practices. Some of the more influential visual artists for me throughout the years and phases have been Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon, Jean Michel Basquiat, Martin Kippenberger, Mike Kelley, Matthew Barney and Chris Cunningham. There are also some other timeless artists I often go back to for inspiration like Velazquez, Böcklin and Hiroshige. Music has also had a huge impact on what I do. Especially the electronic music scene that emerged in the mid 90s on Warp records such as Autechre and Aphex Twin.”

04 mins watch Spatial Bodies: Osaka, 2007, 3D animation and film, AUJIK | STIRworld
Spatial Bodies: Osaka, 2007, 3D animation and film Video: AUJIK, Daisuke Tanabe

AUJIK lives and works in Otsu, which is about 10 minutes away by train from Kyoto in Japan. He tells STIR, “I am originally from Sweden, but I have been living in Japan for over a decade. When I started AUJIK, I focused hard on expressing ideas regarding AI and futuristic technological visions; which were often combined with nature and animism within my work. I was highly influenced by the technological singularity philosophy and the evolution of artificial intelligence, along with more complex aspects of a synthetic mind. I made several projects, drawing from various influences, and tried to convey these ideas visually. One project that comes to mind is called Impermanence Trajectory, which is a video triptych made between 2010 to 2015. The video depicts agents, meant to symbolise code and algorithms, that perform various task to evolve and reach a higher state. The videos are – besides AI –inspired by neuro science, and in particular, by the Limbic system. I am still quite fascinated by animism, and have also taken to drawing upon Shugendo, which is an old and esoteric philosophical system from Japan.”

04 mins watch The Limbic Empyrean, 2021, Immersive 3D animation, AUJIK | STIRworld
The Limbic Empyrean, 2021-2022, Immersive 3D animation Video: AUJIK, dvdv; Courtesy of Generative Gallery

The artist references the Spatial Bodies series, and elaborates on this, telling STIR that he also works with architectural elements in some of his video projects. He explains that he approaches these with the desire to explore futuristic and fantastical architectural possibilities that play with the fabric of reality. He applies AR and VR technology, and is keenly preoccupied with developing techniques to digitally deconstruct, and reconstruct urban landscapes and architecture on a vast, city-wide scale. AUJIK says “Aesthetically speaking, these video projects have been influenced deeply by Brutalism, the Japanese Metabolism movement, Zaha Hadid, Lebbeus Woods, and by nature itself.” Of these, Brutalism is perhaps the most distinct, and his visions carry much the same visual force and presence as some Soviet architectural undertakings did. This is particularly noteworthy, as AUJIK’s Spatial Bodies’ works haven’t as yet been set in cities where that school of architecture saw its heyday.

08 mins watch Tschandalacene, 2021, 3D animation and film, AUJIK | STIRworld
Tschandalacene, 2021, 3D animation and film Video: AUJIK, dvdv

AUJIK explains his process, saying “I generally work with digital art, and mainly with computer animation. For most of my videos, I combine video footage with 3D animation using a technique called motion tracking which is a bit similar to 3D scanning. Once you have a 3D data model of the video material, you can easily add CG objects in to it, and integrate it with the film material.” The artist often shoots test videos in nature or in various cities, and then proceeds to add other elements to what he captures. These will typically end up in a video project, but he is also not one to shy away from creating deeply thought out visual and conceptual plans, that he uses to guide his work. AUJIK is constantly developing and tweaking these through sketching and storyboarding. He continues, saying “The working process for the majority of my video projects has been between two to four months However, I did once undertake a short movie project called CATHEXIS, and that took about a year. I also regularly find myself making shorter videos, over the span of just a few hours. These are often more design and architectural orientated.”

Artist profile, 2022, photograph AUJIK | STIRworld
Artist Stefan Larsson, 2022, photograph Image: Courtesy of Stefan Larsson

AUJIK’s work seems to keep him quite busy, and he is currently planning for some upcoming exhibitions in Europe and Japan, while also working on some commissioned projects for artists in the electronic music scene. During the summer of 2022, he plans to make a new architectural video in his Spatial Bodies series, which will set to be filmed in Tokyo. The series currently has three fascinating entries, that have been filmed in Osaka, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, in collaboration with the Japanese artist Daisuke Tanabe. He tells STIR, “I am also doing a couple of video art collaborations with a German electronic composer called dvdv. There are also some other projects involving AI that I am excited to begin, that I am currently sketching on.” One can only wish AUJIK a fulfilling, creative year ahead, and wait eagerly to see what mind-bending pieces the project will produce next.

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