Art Making As Space Making
Audi combines digital technology and both traditional and new glass-making techniques, working with highly skilled craftsmen to carry out her distinctive shapes and colours. During the making process, Audi embraces accidents and new discoveries, which then become an integral part of her work. Audi melts glass and precious metals together to create colour through the resulting chemical reactions. Some of her shapes are not formed by blowing air into the glass, but rather by vacuuming the air out, thereby reversing the traditional, age-old technique of glass- blowing that can be traced back to the Phoenicians in 1st century BC and the Roman Empire.
Adding metal oxides to create unusual coloured glass, as Audi often does, is an even more ancient custom; during the late Bronze age in Egypt, around 1500 BC, there was rapid growth in glass making technology. Craftsman would wind thin threads of glass with admixtures of oxides which could then be drawn into the glass using metal making tools. Flavie Audi creates dazzled encounters with the sublime. In a dematerialised world where all is virtual and generic, her work seeks to define a new type of aesthetic and physical materiality. Her works translate the mechanism of life and light and resemble fragments of an ethereal landscape or geology. There are fragments of a utopian futuristic machine-made nature where gemmology aligns with geology. The work defines the invented term Cultural Geology: a science, which is linked to human processes; planetary bodies or substances grown or made to create synthetic materials that exhibit properties and behaviours not usually found in nature. The forms and gestures found in the works capture a fleeting, living energy and suggest a certain ambiguity, hovering between digital screen and celestial body Flavie has quickly become known for her ethereal, hand-blown glass creations. Her works have been exhibited in the UK and US alongside Ai Weiwei’s sculptures at Venus Over Manhattan, New York, in 2014 and most recently at Tristan Hoare in London.
For her first London solo exhibition entitled Cell-(estial), she has used photography, film and her signature glass-works to investigate the points at which the natural and artificial worlds meet. Often perceived as a natural material, glass is in fact a man-made element, a composite organic material. It both absorbs and reflects light, and exists on the border between absence and presence. Flavie’s glass works reflect this enigmatic quality. They are both scientific, as they are based on an understanding of how to manipulate glass, but are also open to chance, as a product of an almost alchemical process. Glass is omnipresent in the digital world, acting as the interface between the viewer and the virtual world. In Cell-(estial), the visitor passes from one world to the next in two gallery spaces; one room representing the man-made and the virtual; the other embodying the natural, chaotic state. Mirroring each other, two monumental wall installations are the focus of each environment. The first installation Cloudscape 8 follows the rational rules of Euclidean perspective, and counters the second installation Cloudscape 7, a scattered, explosive sea of galactic debris.
Her latest series of works Gemscape brings together synthetic and natural materials, including fake marble, semi-precious and synthetic stones and resin. This seamless combination invites the viewer to consider the relative merits of each material. In an era of technological innovation that has seen the creation of flawless, synthetic diamonds, undetectable by man or machine, the work questions the definition of ‘real.’
How and to what extent did your studies at the Architectural Association influence you?
The influence of 6 years spent studying at the Architectural Association definitely grew on me and the methods of working became intrinsically part of my practice. Each year you have the freedom to chose a unit and each of the unit transforms your mind in extremely different ways and enables you to multitask and jump around different approaches to design. It is only when I left the AA that I realised the impact it had on you. I learned to constantly crave for newness, broaden my imagination, believe in the power of experiments and define my own directions and identity. I also understood that a rebellious attitude is a necessity. However one of the most powerful thing I learned from the AA is to appreciate the comfort and potential of getting lost.
What lead you to explore and challenge the notion of ‘real’ in the digitalised age?
The atmosphere in which we live threatens the definition of reality and how we sense reality. There is the idea of reality as a physical matter that interests me. I wanted to return to a certain sense of physical reality, a certain materiality. The fear of the disappearance of physical objects and in parallel the active production of architectural transparencies and proliferations of realms of virtuality intrigue me. Nowadays people gather more and more material and objects while the world is becoming more and more virtual. In the future, reality might be reduced to glass…when the physical world disappears and all that remains will be liquid crystal screens of digital devices. Could glass be the last material we hold on to? What would be the next portal for the virtual world?
There are moments when it is impossible to distinguish if one is in the reality or in the virtuality. These moments of confusion are captivating. It often happens that while in reality I try to delete (cmd-Z) and realise that actually this action only works on a screen.
There is also the idea of reality as the authentic versus artificial and synthetic that appeals to me in regards to the technological progress. The growth and proliferation of machinery and technologies to create synthetic materials has reached such high level that it will be soon impossible to distinguish what is real from what is synthetic and values will shift. This is already happening in the diamond industry. Also, the tools we have today are so powerful in shaping our reality, and I think about their potential to create new forms and attribute new behaviours to future geologies and landscapes. How can these tools inform new contemporary aesthetics?
Our contemporary museum & gallery condition is one of whiteness- when constructing an exhibition where do you position yourself with respects to this? What dictated the use of the grey wall?
Contemporary art spaces are often white, naked and sterile in order to be neutral and not overpower the artworks. The paint on a wall is still an ornament whatever color it is that creates a context that is everything but neutral.
I actually enjoy working with space that have already a strong context and creating a dialogue with it. In the context of this particular show, “Cell-(estial)”, the reason for the grey wall in one of the rooms of the gallery was to create contrast between 2 rooms. The white room was about the man made, order and artifice, while the other room, painted grey, was about natural chaos.
How and to what extent does the space of the exhibition effect the way the work is perceived?
One could say that art making in itself is making space. The effect space can have on the perception of a work is infinite… Some materials absorb certain qualities of the space while others reject the space. The space can be in opposition or in harmony with the work. It is this tension that is interesting to control.
Although the production of my works contains processes that are uncontrollable, I am very in control with the composition of space. I choreograph the viewer’s experience of the artworks, by guiding and directing the visitor through the work in a precise way.
Without a context, the work cannot take its full existence and potential. Energy emanates around the objects, and the viewer needs to physically connect with the vibrations. It is during this interaction that the works become complete.
Have you ever thought about exhibiting in the dark and using specific light sources to explore the work from a different perspective?
I often think of creating a very spiritual installation in the dark, working with light. I imagine a space of interiority and contemplation. A new type of Japanese rock garden. Darkness sets the mind in very good conditions, for intuition to flash ideas in and out of the mind.
My ultimate dream would be to exhibit in the galactic darkness beyond the atmosphere. To create a series of artificial, man made planets, floating in dark matter somewhere between Venus and Saturn. My ultimate dream location.
From photography to sculptures, what defines the mediums through which you explore your concept? How does each one reveal a different aspect?
Each medium has its own level of ambiguity and each adds to the understanding and sense of the general concept and ideas. For example, the sense of the energy of time is felt differently in a video work than in a static photograph or sculpture.
I try to focus on the design, tools, and making processes inherent in a medium. For example, in my photography work, my focus was on the mechanisms of the analogue camera. I was more driven by experimenting with the chemical processes on photographic paper than on photographing as an act. Instead of using a camera, I used the power of light shining through glass onto photographic paper. I was interested in ways to make analogue photography look digital, and to make digital photography look analogue.
The combination of craft and digital techniques, as well as artificial and organic materials together help me to develop futuristic geologies.
Born in Paris in 1986, Audi moved to London in 2004, and graduated from the Architectural Association in 2010. She went on to complete her Master’s Degree at the Royal College of Arts in 2014, where she specialised in ceramics and glass.