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We would like to share an interview that was recently done with Ophelia Jacarini regarding digital art. Apart from digital art, we also covered her background, artistic evolution, cultural and geographical impact on her work.

  • How long have you been an artist compared to how long you have felt like an artist?

I’ve tried not to call myself an “artist”, as it still feels bizarre to me with certain connotations or expectations that go along with it. I don’t know if I fit the cliché prototype of an “artist”. I would say I’ve always felt artistic. I always drew as a child and I believe it was when a teacher noticed I had such skills this lead to my encouraging training in painting and illustration as I grew older. I even recall helping my brother with his Geography assignments by drawing maps for his presentations. So I don’t know if I really “discovered” it, I think it was something just always there. However, when I moved to Hong Kong and was employed as a waitress earning 30HKD per hour, I remember how I would walk to work would feel, it sounds morbid but depressed as I knew I wasn’t using my skills. I thought that I was trying to mould myself to be something simple or take a secure career path, but it didn’t feel right. I wanted to use more of what I know rather than continue to do something that wasn’t me. It was during that time I decided to try, to take the “unsecure” path and if it worked it worked, and if it didn’t well I tried.

  • What is your background?

My family is Corsican, but we moved to Detroit when I was very young and stayed there until I was 6 years old. This was a massive exposure to the world’s cultural differences. Even though Detroit city is so culturally diverse, I also moved with my Corsican family, my mother had broken English and even at a young age, it was obvious to me that we were different to our neighbours. We were “The French family”. Gaging the reaction from people in public by just communicating in my mother tongue would cause confusion or curiosity. We would eventually return to France, moving to Paris to finish my schooling, and after graduating I would pursue studies in fashion and textile design. It was also during this time I trained in Ballet for 17 years. I think this is apparent in my work as I originally used fabric to capture movement, and dance surely influenced my obsession with movement. I do think my dance background is probably the most obvious part of my background seen throughout my body of work.

  • With regards to your background, what element do you find is obviously “seen” in your work?

Haha, Dance! I have noticed how people see dance in my work and at times they believe my formal training and art practice has more so stemmed from Dance rather than Fine Arts. This is interesting to me, as although dance was a big part of my life, I don’t have a degree in it and it was not my initial focus in my practice. But I guess you cannot deny what comes to you naturally or what organically drives inspiration and creation. Although I had art classes throughout my life here and there and pursued studying Fine Arts professionally, how can something that defined 17 years of my life be disregarded? Of course, it will compete, the intended and unintended will always come through.

  • Your formal training is from France, but do you find your geographical location has an effect on your practice?

Of course, after spending 7 years in Hong Kong I do wonder how or even if my practice would have begun. I pretty much hit pause on my life as a textile designer in France to move abroad. I strongly believe that if I hadn’t moved here, and instead stayed in Paris, I would have certainly continued my projected career in fashion. I think I would have felt secure in my path back in Paris, which might not have pushed myself in the direction I inevitably took. Perhaps it can be perceived as a strength for some and a weakness for others, but I’ve also never really cared what people thought when making the decision I made. I know my parents expected me to take the obvious path after graduating and starting my career as a textile designer, but I didn’t feel the pressure to return home to continue what I started. My parents had the best intentions for me, and of course, wanted me to feel secure. But they also know that at the end of the day I will find my own way and they have supported my decision. I am pretty sure at first they were nervous! I could barely afford my food and rent at first. Early on my bed was a bent single mattress that didn’t even fit the too-small bed frame within this tiny run-down apartment I could stretch my arms across. But you know, in a way you need to let your child struggle, learn how to hustle, conquer life’s burdens. I’m sure it was hard on them, and there were times they really didn’t understand it, asking if I was sure I didn’t want to come home. Maybe I seemed crazy to a lot of people? I had the option to go home to my safe environment and continue the career I started. A lot of people would wish for this in fact! But having your life almost “pre-written” was my fear, I didn’t fear the unknown at all. I think my practice has grown from the un-planned, it’s something organic that has such an authentic feel to it than perhaps if I had approached it with a predetermined vision.

  • I have noticed your body of work always keeps to the core theme of body movement Why does body movement fascinate you more than anything else?

I don’t really know why, but indeed I’m so fascinated by body movement, but I am also fascinated by movement in general. When I am walking in the streets of Hong Kong I may notice the movement of a car, or the crosswalk light and its vibration of sound that is also a small movement. I try to focus on these things, forget a car is a car or a bird is a bird and just see the movement. I almost wish I had studied science so that I would have a greater understanding of the physics behind the movement. Can you imagine me as a quantum physician, haha? But seriously, even in the last few years, I’ve researched more about the properties of gravity, which I never imagined would be something that would interest me.

  • Are you a performance artist, visual artist or digital artist?

Good Question! I think that in the creative process obviously performance has a major role, but I don’t see myself as a performance artist as the end result is not the performance, but rather the visibility of what remains. From what is collected in the performance this is manipulated by digital technologies to create something visual from movement. I am not too concerned as to how my audience perceives me, and I do think this can be based on an individual interpretation because indeed my work is complex and contains so many elements. Labelling exactly what it is, or exactly who I am is not so important to me. I like to also discuss this with people who see my work, I hear the perspective of somebody that is objective. Sometimes it is those who experience it from a position not as close to mine to even have an idea of what it is and where it will go. I have actually gained inspiration from the way people perceive my work and I would hate to disrupt that.
Do you think you have changed as a person since started your practice?
I would say I am so much less frustrated. Of course, I have the regular frustrations; can I pay my bills, how can I produce my work, when do I have time to network, what will get me to the next step? But I am doing what I love which makes a massive difference. I am no longer frustrated by small things because I am not in an unhappy place. As I have chosen my path and because I am doing what I love I believe this has made me a more positive person and with a positive mindset I am more aware of opportunities or ways to grow. This influences everything!

  • Do you think your work could be produced by someone who was not “dance trained”?

Yeah, definitely! Because my work is about movement any type of movement could be applied. For me being that dance is my strongest tool it seemed like the obvious choice for me personally.

  • When I ask you what makes you different to other artists, what is the first thing that comes to mind?

That’s an intimidating question, I am not sure haha. I think I could answer it with what I have heard from other people, which is that my work breaks certain boundaries. There isn’t a separation between traditional fine arts with science & technology. This combination is still criticised. I think people don’t like the idea of artificial intelligence or digital technologies being a part of “Art”. But when they understand what I am trying to bring visibility to, the ephemeral moments in motion through dance, the way to do so seems to fall away. Because dance is an art form, using this to imagine the forms of our everyday movements is a creative concept that fits the traditional mould. When that is the focus, the means to make this possible become “less important” in a way. But I think it’s great for people to acknowledge how technologies can give us artistic capabilities to take certain concepts further than ever before.

  • Does your work try to tell or story, or deliver a message?

A bit of both, there are definitely elements of storytelling in the evolution of my work. As for delivering a message, I always have the hope that it does. As I aim to capture fleeting moments I have hope that it suggests to people to notice small moments in their day. By visualising these ephemeral moments, perhaps they will try to be more present in each moment rather than letting it slip by with no amount of truly living it. It really is human to focus on where that moment may lead. We tend to look forward, especially now in this era where we are so result driven and sadly this generation has become quite materialistic, maybe due to social pressure. It has become hard to live in the now when there is always this heavy expectation set by society and especially ourselves.

  • Does your work comment on any social or political issues?

Yeah, following what I just said; I do think that we are a part of the generation of mass consumption, driven by capitalism and social pressures. I think this hinders our “just being” as we are much rather focused on who we are “becoming”. Of course, I am not criticising this, it’s inevitable. With cost-push inflation, we are faced with general living costs increasing while salaries are stagnant. The ideal life is becoming a lot more difficult to achieve, although we crave it anyway. With new technologies bombarding us with work, information, expectations, social media etc. at all hours of the day, of course, our focus would be on our predetermined steps towards idealised happiness. I’m not denying that. We dream of “the calm someday” and make plans on how to get there and are obsessed with it. But we also have only one life. So as important as it is to have these goals it is also important to live.

  • What is your opinion on current social issues?

I mean it is funny because like I said before; people are so result-focused rather than enjoying the process. When I present my work most people actually find my creative process just as or sometimes even more fascinating than the results. I like that my practice makes both the process and results equally important. The message is so strongly intertwined in both. I don’t want my work to come across as pretentious, and I don’t pretend to have an answer as to how people can slow down and be in the moment. I consider “my role” I guess is to be a small reminder. I also want to add the fact that my work involves digital technologies which are also a currently debated issue in the art world. My opinion is that these technologies are not going anywhere, if anything they are becoming a part of our everyday lives. Rather than deny it, I would prefer to utilise its benefits for good. Without technology, I would not have been able to bring visibility to the invisible traces of our movements.

  • How have you developed your career?

Was the evolution of your work natural or did you seek information that drove its development? It’s interesting as when I started my focus was on the body and how the body moves. Initially, I used the skills in my repertoire I possessed at the time to portray this. Over time the drive to fine-tune my presentation and find new ways to bring visibility to the movement led to my researching and learning ways that were outside of the box of my formal fine art training. It honestly naturally evolved, or I guess my method took a new direction purely by my need to really suspend movement. I explored ways of painting, embroidery, textile illusion, photography, motion capture, virtual reality and now holograms not to move from a traditional method to something more futuristic, I just wanted to see movement. I wanted to reach out and grab it and was completely obsessed with finding ways to do so. Once I discovered one way it would be, ok how can this be better. You see, even I look ahead sometimes, haha.

  • If you could give yourself a piece of advice when you started, what would it be?

Sometimes I should just shut up and let the work speak for itself.

  • How do you seek opportunities?

HUSTLE! I am lucky enough that my practice has evolved in the direction that is “on trend” right now and led to the creation of my holographic sculpture. The interest the public has taken in the art that utilises new technologies in fact has helped open doors for me than I have ever received before. Most of the time I would say I hustle to seek opportunities, but it has been very nice that lately some opportunities have found me.

  • Do you work in the art industry?

Why? No, I don’t have experience in the art industry in the sense of working in a gallery or museum or art fairs. My first work experience in an artistic industry was actually in the fashion industry, more specifically fashion and textile design. My background in textiles has definitely enriched my practice. By not having seen the “behind the scenes” of the art industry I don’t have a blueprint or a deep understanding of that world. Perhaps it may have helped, who knows? It could have benefitted me or it could have kept me in an industry, rather than taking my path with less security that fed my drive to succeed.

  • Which current art world trends are you following at the moment?

I guess digital art and digital technology. It’s a funny coincidence to be with what is currently trending as I didn’t seek out to do so. But I am more than happy to ride the wave and keep up with advancing technologies, if it helps my vision then why not?

  • What is the hardest part of creating?

TIME! I don’t have time! People imagine that I must always be in my studio creating from day to day. I wish! I am hustling day to day! I am seeking opportunities or connecting with people that specialise in technologies that will improve my practice.

  • Are there negatives that hinder your creation, or do you utilise every feeling good or bad?

I like to say that I have no regrets, I strongly believe in the law of attraction that if we focus on the negative we will attract the negatives and if we focus on the positives then also we will, in turn, attract the positives. Maybe the “bad” is reflected in my creation, but if I am using it in my creative process I am turning it into something “good”. So for me, it wasn’t always a negative.

  • What is your favourite part of the job?

Presenting my work, there is nothing better! I love receiving feedback, good and bad. I like it if my work is well received and people get it, but I also actually crave constructive criticism. It’s incredibly hard for me to face criticism or receive a rejection, but it helps me grow as an “artist”. When I look at what I am producing now to where I started I feel really proud and think that those moments guided me. You may not need to care or take it to heart, but a separate perspective to your own is so valuable.

  • Are you worried about the detrimental environmental effects digital art has?

I definitely stay up to date with ways new technologies are being adapted to be less detrimental to the environment and I will continue to keep up with the importance of such developments that apply to my practice. Like I said before, technologies are here to stay whether we like it or not, but of course, we have a responsibility to make it as environmentally friendly as possible. • Which is more important, what looks good or what feels good? Feel good! • Which does your art prioritise, its look or its feeling? The way it is supposed to make you feel.

  • Does your art need explanation, or do you think people just get it?

From past exhibitions, I am surprised when people do just “get it” without an explanation. Now that it does involve technology and is more abstract when you do not explain that it is movement captured from a dance or how it is made people don’t necessarily “get it”. I think an explanation gives that “Ohh” moment of understanding, and I am fine with that. In this case, it is the creative process that is as important as the final result. So I want people to question how it’s created and what it is they’re seeing as much as their own first impression or interpretation.

  • How long does it take to create your holographic sculpture?

NINE MONTHS!! Once I found how to do so by meeting with people specialising in certain fields, as well as conducting my own independent research, it took me nine months. I had to teach myself how to use certain technologies, learn new software’s convert things from the tangible world to the digital world and back to something tangible. It was definitely a process! I didn’t have a concept and pass it to someone familiar with the software to produce and send it back to me, I wanted to learn how to do it entirely by myself. But now from start to finish, I can create the sculpture in maybe two hours.

  • Does being a self-motivator and a sole artist get lonely?

Yeah definitely, but luckily enough I really like to be alone, recently I took on the task of catsitting for a friend and I can’t help but think sometimes “ahhh I’m never alone now” haha. But I understand that some people hate being alone, but for me; I have always needed time to be separate from people. I need to zone out into my “mind-space” and gather up all my thoughts. Without the time to do that would distress me.