Interview With Artists and Creative Technologists Tin&Ed

Tin&Ed at Space 10 Gallery in Copenhagen
Tin Nguyen & Edward Cutting at Space 10 Gallery during their exhibition Kaleidoscopic Homes.
Courtesy of Space 10. Photo: Seth Nicolas.

By Lucija Bravic

“What if we experienced a different home each time we woke up?”

Ed Cutting

Tin Nguyen and Edward Cutting (Tin&Ed) are two Australian artists and creative technologists based in New York. They explore borderless dimensions between art and science, the physical and the digital, the human and the non-human. Mainly inspired by the wonders of nature, they use their creativity to re-imagine the world through the lens of interconnectedness.
We had the pleasure to talk to Tin Nguyen in Copenhagen, just before the opening of the Tin&Ed exhibition Kaleidoscopic Homes at Space 10. We discussed the inspiration behind the exhibition, their views on digital art, and what is coming in the future for this creative duo. 

Kaleidoscopic Home: An Exhibition by Tin&Ed

Tin & Ed’s Kaleidoscopic Home is one of the Everyday Experiments projects, an ongoing series of digital experiments developed in collaboration with SPACE10 and IKEA to explore creative ways to enhance our interactions with space and improve our everyday lives.

Kaleidoscopic Home is first of all an Augmented Reality (AR) application aimed at improving physical and mental well-being and changing the way we interact in a familiar space. Through a screen, it is possible to observe an ever-changing array of colorful and surprising sculptural forms: the digital sculptures emerge from surfaces such as walls and floors, but also tables and chairs. Using AR and object recognition, Kaleidoscopic Home can transform spaces to create unexpected pathways through surroundings. In addition to the app, Tin&Ed created real-life sculptures that are a physical manifestation of their AR-created counterparts. The artists then collaborated with lighting designers Asif Rahman and Fady Sadeq to illuminate the inflatable sculptures that were made from recyclable ripstop cloth.

The colorful, inflatable sculptures at Space 10 Gallery are manifestations of the digital playscape and constitute an exhibition that is an exploration of how innovative technology could redefine the way we live and use our space. The exhibition is running on two levels – physical and digital – and aims to encourage interaction with both digital interventions and physical sculptures.

Augmented Reality application Keledoscopic Homes by Tin&Ed.
AR application Keledoscopic Homes by Tin&Ed. Courtesy of Space 10. Photo: Seth Nicolas.

What was the aim of this experiment?

The idea is that physical and digital objects blend in a world somewhere between physical and digital reality. We tried to merge physical and digital space together with these sorts of sculptural elements and then build a really fantastic, colorful playscape that can hopefully encourage people to be more playful in their everyday lives. We thought, how can we make home a more playful space?

Digital art designed by Tin&Ed
Kaleidoscopic Homes: digital objects. Courtesy of Space 10. Photo: Seth Nicolas.

What is the meaning and aim behind the physical objects in the exhibition?

So, the original experiment is these AR forms that come out of your space and encourage you to move through it in different ways. Now we have it physically as well, and it’s interesting to see how they blend together. We created these physical forms and we worked with an electrical engineer and software developer in Washington DC for the lighting system. You can’t see it at night time, the lightning system moves through a sculpture that is connected to Unity, a program that we use to create a lightning effect. Thus, this physical object almost becomes a digital object.

The objects on the floor are filled with BioFoam. They are compostable and CO2 neutral, so they are a better version of Styrofoam balls.  Everyone sits on these very differently – the idea being that people find their own way to engage with them. Whether they want to sit this or that way, everyone is doing it very differently. That is the idea: people can move objects around if they want, it’s a sort of organic space.

How do digital sculptures fit into the whole story?

Well, the idea started with digital form and then expanded to physical; so, we thought, what happens when digital crosses that boundary into the physical space? And what happens when they go back inside of it? Ed and I really think that our world is very much a hybrid world now: we have these digital identities as well as physical space that we inhabit and those boundaries are very dissolved; so how do we explore ways to live in such a hybrid world in a positive way? What are the positive things we can do? 

Also, I think, the thing with digital culture is that everyone is so connected, but at the same time, it has also disconnected us. Sometimes, we stare at the screen, disconnected from our body, you know, if you are on the zoom meeting or sitting all day… So how do we use this digital technology to make us move in different ways and make us engage physically within our spaces?

Physical sculptures designed by Tin&Ed
Kaleidoscopic Homes: physical sculptures by Tin&Ed. Courtesy of Space 10. Photo: Seth Nicolas.

Is it possible to use the app?

I would love for this to be made. The app will continue to develop and, at some point, it could be available for people to use and download from the app store. When it comes to physical objects, I think it would be nice to make them as a product.

Where does the inspiration for your distinctive aesthetic come from?

Our work is always somehow inspired by nature. It’s funny, when thinking about nature most people think about some sort of greens and earthy tones. For us, when we think about nature, we think about colors. Because if you think about biodiversity and all the different creatures we live with, they are luminescent, iridescent; they are like the rainbow with all these amazing colors. So for us, nature is very, very colorful. And our work is always very colorful because of that.

These forms specifically [referring to the physical sculptures – Ed.] are very organic. And what we were thinking the most when creating this was more of a practical aspect: how do we create forms that encourage people to move through space in different ways? They are sort of creating obstacles and playscapes within your home. And these ones [chair-like ones], when you sit on them, they are omnidirectional, which means you can sit in any way. They are all odd and encourage you to play with them in different ways all the time. They are singular forms and they can not change like a digital object, but they still continue to evolve and a person can explore different ways to engage with them. 

Installation view of Kaleidoscopic Homes at Space 10 Gallery
Kaleidoscopic Homes by Tin&Ed at Space 10, Copenhagen. Courtesy of Space 10. Photo: Seth Nicolas.

How do you see the merge of technology and creativity in the future?

As I mentioned, I think we live in a world that is as much digital as it is physical, and in the last couple of years we’ve been pushed further into the digital space, but I think that the two sorts of worlds – physical and digital – are very much one world. We think about what is possible in the digital world that is not possible in the physical. In the physical one, there is a different kind of engagement with experiencing art physically, which I think is very important. We always encourage people to come and see exhibitions physically. At the same time, with the digital presentation of the work, many more people can access it. Even though it can’t be experienced in the same way as the physical experience, it reaches so many more people and the message is spread even further. And, I think, if the two realities can work together in unity, there is no this or that anymore. We are thinking about how will people in the future download this app and experience it in their own homes. It’s a multilayered thought process and it’s really interesting to see more artists thinking about how the experience of their work is in different spaces. It’s exciting when they work together in a hybrid world.

Did the pandemic have any influence on your work?

The lockdown has really changed the way people see digital. We always worked with physical sculptures and physical installations. The work we were doing before Covid was really about encouraging people to be together in the space. Obviously, since the pandemic started there hasn’t been much of that, so it really pushed our work and experimentation element further into AR. It has fast-forwarded things a little bit. It’s been good and bad things obviously, with everything that happened in the past 2 years. But one of the things is that people are seeing possibilities in digital experiences. 

What projects do you have coming up?

We have a new installation at the Rockefeller Centre this year that is also going to the Barbican Centre next year, so that is exciting. That would be the part of an exhibition about the climate crisis. It’s really exciting for us to have this work to remind ourselves or rethink our relationship with the natural world that we are very much part of it and not separate from it. We are really proud of our work and to be a part of that show is very exciting. We have quite a few things coming up, but after Copenhagen, we’ll go back to New York and spend a little time there.  

Tin&Ed’s installation at the Rockefeller Centre.
Digital Dioramas by Tin&Ed at the Rockefeller Centre. Courtesy of Rockefeller Centre.

What Innovative technologies are you looking to use?

In terms of technology, we’ll continue to work with Augmented Reality, which is always something that is really interesting to us. Also, we are playing with motion capture technology with the Rokoko suit. The inflatable sculptures that we are doing will be more kinetic. There is a company that we are working with, they have developed this technology that controls airflow and air pressure in large-scale inflatable sculptures, so essentially it’s possible to create large-scale inflatable robots. We are starting to explore with them how is it possible to make these forms more alive – inflatable robotics. Also, we are thinking about the materials we are going to use, how they can be less permanent. A friend of ours is working with bioplastic so, with her, we want to figure out how to use large sheets of that material instead of plastic. So we’re not just exploring the production aspect, but also technical aspects to make more advanced things, always blending some sort of physical element with AR. Ed and I are complete nerds, whenever there is some new technology we are like: “how do we use that?”. There is a lot of playing around and a lot of youtube tutorials.  

Relevant sources to learn more

Kaleidoscopic Homes is currently displayed at Space 10 Gallery, in Copenhagen, until 30th April 2022.
Tin & Ed’s website
Everyday Experiments

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Bottle Tops, Toothpicks and Tar: the Conceptual Sculptures of Chris Soal
Art and Technology That Connect Us: In Conversation With Artist-Curator Yuge Zhou