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Studio Phormatik: Light and movement at the bleeding edge of new media arts

Vladislav Iliev, the Bulgaria-based artist and co-founder of Studio Phormatik, discusses the studio’s work and ethos with STIR.

by Manu SharmaPublished on : Jul 03, 2022

Bulgaria-based Studio Phormatik uses cutting edge technologies with a bold creative outlook in order to create incredible, immersive art experiences. The artist statement explains their process as such – “Developing concepts from scratch to building on existing solutions – we begin every project with creativity and innovation in mind. Storyboard, motion design, visual effects, and sound are our tools to create high-quality sights and compelling multimedia worlds. From ideation to execution, we take concepts and bring them to life using programming, interactive tools, virtual reality, augmented reality, you name it. Our shows offer new experiences and pioneering forms of entertainment. We use new technologies to break physical laws and amaze audiences.”

Their partnerships include Mercedes-Benz, Samsung, and Heineken among many other big names. They create versatile multimedia pieces across a variety of sizes. Apart from VR and AR, the studio’s impressive portfolio also includes art installations, 3D-mapping, stage design, interactive installations, and visual work of a large variety, which they typically present in incredibly vibrant imagery and videos. Studio Phormatik was founded just over a decade ago, and in its early days, was an art collective of young artists with different skill sets, who came from varied fields of expertise. This included stage and set designers, musicians, interactive programmers, motion and graphic designers, among others.

Porsche Taycan S Launch Event, 2019, multimedia exhibition (still), Studio Phormatik | Porsche Taaycan S Launch Event | Studio Phormatik | STIRworld
Porsche Taycan S Launch Event, 2019, multimedia exhibition (still) Image: Mario Stoynov; Courtesy of Studio Phormatik

Vladislav Iliev, better known as ‘Vladzen’ and one of Studio Phormatik’s founders, tells STIR, “The main goal was to create an opportunity for young artists to collaborate on public artworks by experimenting and developing their aesthetics and skills. That collaborative process has remained an integral part of Phormatik and acts essentially as the core principle behind our work. We are here to “experiment and create”. During their initial period, Studio Phormatik found many valuable opportunities to create in the new media and public installation space, and they took advantage of these with great enthusiasm. The studio got to work on building its impressive and diverse portfolio, and eventually, that particular creative space has come to become their focus.

“When starting on a new project, we start by defining the context within which our work will be seen. Based on that, we discuss different ideas and techniques that might or might not fit the context of the work. In that regard, we always aim to be conscious of the techniques we use and the designs we create. Since our creative process includes every stage of a project’s development, it is crucial to define a direction right from the start. We are involved in every step of the development of our projects - from the initial concept to the technical specifications, and finally the content creation and live implementation. Along the way, we collaborate with other artists and creative professionals such as sound designers, choreographers, lighting designers, and so on,” Iliev elaborates on the studio’s creative process.

Vitrina, 2022, multimedia exhibition, Studio Phormatik Video: Marin Kafejiiski; Courtesy of Studio Phormatik

Iliev hails from Bulgaria and has graduated from the Secondary Art School for Applied Arts and The National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts with a Bachelor's degree in Stage and Film Design. He specialises in art and movement in digital spaces, in the pursuit of new aesthetics, and like the studio he co-founded, is focused on stage design and creating salient experiences; usually in a public space. He shares that the creative practices that inspire him dearly are theatre, various genres of digital art, and new media and interactive design practices.

Teleport, 2021, Multimedia project, Studio Phormatik Video: Marin Kafejiiski; Courtesy of Studio Phormatik

“Some recent projects that we are most proud of are Teleport and Radiant Route. Teleport was created in partnership with Derida Dance Center and choreographed by Jivko Jeliazkov. Its performers included Vyara Bolgradova and Isabel Mitkova, with sound design being handled by Ivan Shopov. The project started as an idea during the first days of the pandemic. Out of necessity, the big question we posed to ourselves was "How can we create a live digital experience that can comply with the requirements of the lockdown?" Iliev relays. "At first, we wanted to create virtual copies of the performers, along with a virtual stage for those copies, and for our audience, but that seemed too dystopian!” Studio Phormatik did not want to replace their live performance with a virtual one. Instead, they wanted the live performance to still exist in real space. So, when the first wave of the pandemic subsided and people were allowed back in theatres, they decided on a parallel performance – a live performer in front of a live audience and a digital copy in a surreal, virtual space for an online audience. In order to achieve this, they used a Kinect Azure camera to create a live 3D copy of the performers that participated in Teleport. The 3D version follows the movements of Phormatik’s project in real-time.

Radiant Route, 2022, multimedia installation, Studio Phormatik and LALD Lighting Design Video: Courtesy of LALD Lighting Design; and Studio Phormatik

Radiant Route was created in partnership with LALD Lighting & Design for the city of Shenzhen. “We have always been fascinated by Shenzhen and the history of its development. As one of the fastest-growing and technologically inclined cities in the world, we wanted to create an artwork that captures the spirit of the city. For that purpose, we chose the electric bus - an object that is an integral part of city life but also exists on the cutting edge of electric vehicle technology. All of the motion design was inspired by the same themes - technology, innovation, and evolution. The sound design was created by Stanislav Genadiev with whom we have previously collaborated, and whose work we love. As for our future plans, they are the same as most people’s - we hope that soon we will be able to travel freely again and explore the world and create even bigger installations for the enjoyment of people everywhere,” Iliev adds.

Artist Vladislav Iliev | STIRworld
Artist Vladislav Iliev, 2022, photograph Image: Courtesy of Vladislav Iliev

Whichever direction the studio decides to go in, it is clear that their work will be among the most vivid, engaging new media arts practices happening right now. Vladislav Iliev and the rest of Studio Phomatik are practitioners to keep an eye out for.

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