Alex Proba, the founder of Studio Proba, is a multidisciplinary designer and artist and the winner of one of Miami Design District’s most anticipated installations during Art Week. In collaboration with the digital design studio Enjoy The Weather, Studio Proba lifts the veil Tomorrow Land in the Miami Design District at the entrance to Design Miami /. Proba began working on these surrealist sculptures and the 3D world in 2018. Getting them to come to life in more ways than one marks her return to human connection.
After studying graphic design and product design in Germany, Proba moved to New York and put his expertise to work through roles as art director at Kickstarter, design director at Mother New York and art director at Nike. During her time at Nike, she met her partner Ian Coyle, who consulted with the brand through her own agency.
When asked to create a piece for the Miami Design District to celebrate Miami Art Week, Proba, in collaboration with Coyle, used her multidisciplinary talents to create a range of colorful sculptures with an accompanying virtual reality experience. Here, Proba dives into his inspiration behind Tomorrow Land, sculptures become virtual and the collaborative process.
Cultural magazine: What experience does Tomorrow Land hope to bring to visitors this year?
Alex Proba: In my work, I always try to create moments of joy. I started working on these surrealistic sculptures and the 3D world around 2018, so it’s amazing to finally bring them to life. Although the pandemic is still very real, it somehow feels as if, for the first time, hope is up and everyone is back to being inspired and seeking human connection again. Visitors should expect to be transported into an unexpected world, think Alice in Wonderland. They will forget where they are for a moment. They will be surrounded by all these creatures in different colors.
CM: How does the combination of the physical sculptures, seating and ornamentation of Studio Proba in the context of the virtual game of Enjoy The Weather create the intended experience?
AP: There is another VR element Tomorrow Land accessed via an app. The app allows you to create your own totems and shapes out of the works, and users are able to change the colors and patterns and place them in their own Tomorrow Land– whether it’s around their neighborhood or in their living room. In addition, you are able to share the virtual reality experience with the wider world, and even my parents in Germany can create their own Tomorrow Land.
Before we created the experience, Ian and I brainstormed the proposal, thinking it would be really amazing if we could see a billion virtual reality sculptures spread across Miami. Ian immediately jumped at the idea and thought, ‘It would be so cool if we could do it; how do I build an app? ‘
He made the experience a reaction to the moment we live in. Since a lot of people have been at home and kept to a minimum, we thought it would be great to give people the opportunity to become artists themselves and experience art in their own homes and neighborhoods. I hope it also inspires people to go home and work on their own creative projects.
CM: With the neighborhood as your canvas, how did its existing design inspire your installation?
AP: I started working with living forms many years ago. The idea was always that my installations should be public sculptures in random places. When I started making them in 3D, a bit of a challenge arose. When I created them, I had always put them in the desert or in the ocean. Inside houses it is very different; it is much more challenging to design for interior because the surroundings are not as clean as a desert. I had to make the colors more intense so people could see them. Installing my art in an urban world was a really difficult but fun challenge.
CM: What does it take to create such a large scale and interactive installation? Where do you start?
AP: My background is everywhere and that was what I wanted it for. I studied interior design architecture and furniture at the graduate school as well as graphic design. I am most satisfied when I create in the 2D world.
My brain still works in the typical architectural-graphic design method when I work on a flat work of art. I usually start at the computer, take it from the computer to small models and then program them back into the computer. The same goes for creating patterns, some are brushstrokes, so I paint them and put them back in Adobe Illustrator.
I still think I’m a very graphic artist. Everything starts in the same place, whether the project is big or small. I just finished a massive mural in Pennsylvania, and for me it’s the same as an 8 x 11 inch project. I think it is my experience in furniture design and what I studied that helps me understand the object as a whole.
For this project, MDD paired me with a production person in Atlanta. He has been my right hand builder and has done an amazing job. The work is exactly like my reproductions. We used steel, a special coating and paint so that they are resistant to the outdoors.
CM: How did you collaborate with curators Anna Carnick and Wava Carpenter from Anava Projects on this project?
AP: The collaboration with Anna and Wava has been super fun. When they first contacted me, they were already excited about this project and gave me complete creative freedom. Everyone was on the same page from the start. When we were approved, they helped provide context and copy.
CM: How did you work to create a design that caters to the Miami Art Week experience as a whole?
AP: The art and design world continues to overlap more and more, and I’m right in the middle of it. Many people call me an artist and many people call me a designer. Many people call me both. Given the growing symbiosis between art and design, my identity as one sitting at the intersection of the two, I think fits well with Miami Art Week.
CM; Besides your own installation, what are you most looking forward to at Art Week?
AP: I look forward to all the human connection and meeting people I haven’t seen in a while, especially when they tell you which works and installations were their favorite and what they found most inspiring.
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