Lucia Riffel

Why do you make the work that you do?

I make the work I do because there are things I want to express that there just aren’t words for. I’m fascinated by spaces and things that simultaneously exist infinitely and not at all. The sensation of space and especially digital space is invisible yet ever present in our everyday lives. The space between physical and digital is where I spend most of my time, and that’s a space that I am eager to keep exploring.

If you had to give an elevator pitch about your work, how would you describe it?

I make work that wavers between digital, physical, and psychological space. I’m interested in where we are when we are lost in our phones, and how we experience such real things every day that don’t physically exist. I use projections and looping animations to create experiences that physically exist temporarily, but cycle on forever in the digital realm.

It’s so absurd that so much of ourselves exists digitally but not physically. What kind of psychological effects do you think that can have on someone’s sense of self?

Probably more than I’d like to imagine, haha. I mean, it totally splits your sense of self! You have your ‘real’ self and your social media self which are generally at least a tiny bit different if not completely different. In my case I also have multiple types of social media because I host some accounts as personal and some as an artist so it becomes even a little more split. Social media gives me quite a bit of stress honestly. When I go on instagram it is either very inspiring or completely soul crushing because I follow almost 100% artists so seeing everyone making all the time is awesome and makes me so happy, but sometimes when I’m blocked it pushes me down even further because you don’t see that struggle in others even though they might be feeling it while they are looking too.

I think my social media self is a little cooler than me, but definitely holds back more. I thought about starting a personal instagram once, but I honestly don’t know what I would post if I wasn’t posting art so I kinda gave up on that dream of normalcy, haha.

How’s the MFA coming along? Do you feel like you’ve grown as an artist via your education? In what ways?

I’m starting my third (and final) year of my MFA in just a few weeks. It’s pretty bittersweet at the moment…

I have grown in every way and shape possible within my MFA! I went in fresh out of my undergraduate education so I have done most of my personal growth as an artist within my MFA. I’ve always had a pretty interdisciplinary approach to my art making which I continued here, but what I’ve really grown with is my approach to concept in my work. I used to have a lot of creative drive, but not really understand why I wanted to make the things I was making, and now (even though I still wouldn’t say I understand close to anything) I feel like I am making work that is getting at something bigger than myself and I think through making.

​Being involved in my MFA as well as the artistic community of Tallahassee have completely expanded my conception of art, process, and passion. The conversations I’ve had with other makers and seeing people show their most inner selves through their art have been the most inspiring part of my last few years.

So what is the art scene like in Tallahassee? How has it changed and developed since you’ve lived there? Coming from my San Francisco point of view, where there has been a tumult of displacement of prolific artists and a desperation to rebuild and support resurfacing artist bubbles, I’m always hungry to hear about how artists in other places communicate and churn out work in response to one another.

I’ve lived in Tallahassee for just over two years now. So I haven’t been here all too long. I think my background also heavily influences my perception of the arts scene here – I grew up in a town of 9,000 people, then moved to a town of 5,000 people, and then moved to Tallahassee. Tally is certainly the biggest city I have ever lived in. Growing up, I hated small town life, but a few years ago I had this big epiphany and everything changed. I remember I was in the car with one of my best friends after working at a large event called the Rural Arts and Culture Summit in Morris, MN. We were all inspired and whatnot from the talks, but both of us came to similar conclusions – living in a small town allows you to have more space for less money as well as form a community.

Community has become more and more important to me as I’ve grown up. I think I didn’t like living in a small town when I was a kid because I didn’t choose it. Now, Especially as an artist, living in a small town is kind of a dream I’m keeping on the back burner for a bit. Having the space to create and experiment as well as the space just to breathe and think sounds ideal. Yes, small towns are known for being conservative, staunchy, and quite frankly old, but I think things are changing. All of those creative kids who hated growing up in small towns might be coming around like me and wanting to go back and form the artistic communities of their dreams. Also, I am sure there was a flourishing creative community there that I was just too young and stubborn to open myself up to.

The internet allows for dialog in the art world still, and nowhere is really that far away from a city or airport. I know some people are inspired by the city, but I’m inspired by things that are a little more ethereal and open. On a more serious note the reason why I am ranting and more so raving about small towns is because I think you can ‘make it’ as an artist anywhere in the world. Tallahassee is not the largest city or art hub, but we have so much going on and I am immensely grateful to be a part of it.

The place that I feel closest to in the Tallahassee art scene is SOUP experimental. My roommate at the time Ashton Bird started SOUP in our second semester of our MFA. Living with him during this insanely busy and exciting time was wild! I’d always been around to help out at the gallery in the beginning, but for the last year I’ve worked as an Events Coordinator for SOUP. We work with musicians, performance artists, dancers, visual artists, and any other type of artist you can think of from FSU, the local community, and across the country at this point to foster a killer contemporary arts scene in Tallahassee.

I love that the crowd we attract is larger than just art students at FSU. One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most has been coordinating events with local musicians. They are all so mad inspiring!!  The music scene in Tallahassee seems to be thriving.

I think if I had to describe art events in Tallahassee intimate would be my word of choice. This isn’t necessarily to say the events are small, but it’s to describe the feeling of welcomeness and community present. I’ve gone to a number of events that are outside my normal taste and felt completely welcome by everyone around. Tallahassee is a pretty killer and inclusive place when you find the right events.

Could you describe your studio day-to-day? How do you develop a project from the ground up?

My work usually starts outside the studio with strange epiphany-like experiences. It can be an act of nature, a comment on a stupid TV show, memes, social media in general, etc.

For example, something that has currently been driving my work has been my own obsession with my phone and social media. I’ll find myself scrolling through instagram not even looking at anything, but just thinking internally while mindlessly scrolling the feed. This moment of realized submergence in technology and my own mind occurs often.

Then comes the start of the studio portion of my work. I write a lot before I start most projects. I keep this writing pretty secret – it’s just to let all of the thoughts out of my head so I can actually focus. I have a whiteboard in my studio that I also dedicate to laying out before I start the visual work. I like to write questions about process and concept, as well as make little flow charts of things I think are connected in my current thoughts on this whiteboard.

After all this is finally the visual part! Because most of my work right now is digital, my process of making in the studio just involves me sitting at my laptop for as many hours at a time as possible before my battery dies. I take breaks when I render animations, but when I really want to make something I usually just power through from start to finish. This usually means a week or two where I’m working more than I’m sleeping, not talking to anyone, and wearing my headphones without playing music just so no one will talk to me. I guess you could say my studio habits are always happening in the background, but only make themselves apparent when I disappear for a bit.

Same here. I find myself almost ritualistically scrolling through Instagram watching nail art videos and foundation contouring tutorials because they’re absolutely fascinating to watch, not because I will ever use any of that knowledge (I don’t even own foundation) but my eyes are glued. What are you IG guilty pleasures/weird fascinations? What are your favorite meme gold mines to use for inspiration?
IG guilty pleasures are hands down always makeup tutorials. I pretty ritualistically watch makeup tutorials every morning while I eat breakfast. I am obsessed with makeup and would say doing makeup is one of my true hobbies. I especially like people who do makeup in nontraditional ways or aesthetic ways rather than your basic nude eyeshadows, red lips, etc. (some good ones are kelseyannafkayteeellen, and poeticdrugs).

As for memes: I actually get really inspired by some memes to make art! Like, this whole completely apathetic nihilistic vaporwave thing that is going on is like my soul revealed. Also, funny artists that inspire the hell out of me are Chris (The Simpsons Artist) and Porous Walker.

One meme (that actually doesn’t fit either of the categories I just told you about) that gave me mad inspiration is the one where the raccoon loses this tiny piece of cotton candy it was holding in a pool of water. Like it just disappears into nothing! And nothing is what I’m all about. I am seriously considering using it as an opener in my thesis talk…   here’s a link to youtube version of it.
How do you come up with your super hypnotic animations? What goes into the process as a whole?

I’m obsessed with making things loop perfectly. A perfect loop to me is like a super direct tie to the infinite or sublime. Because of this, I’m usually testing out different motions that I can make loop. While planning out animations I test a lot of things within the program before I render anything. I’ll generally think of the material, transparency, and color I’d like to work with first, then make the shape, object, or whatever, and then ultimately test movements on the completed object.

I have been working with sine waves a lot because they are more challenging to loop, and looping something that looks like water is pretty fascinating to me. I also have been gravitating towards slow circular motions because they remind me of the spinning rainbow circle from hell on macs. Most of the movements I choose are because of what they loosely remind me of. I’d like to hope that maybe someone else would be reminded of something similar when they’re looking at them. ​It’s kind of interesting to think that someone designed that rainbow loader. It went through peer review and someone gave it the stamp of approval and now it’s such a ubiquitous piece of iconography that seeps into our psyche. It would be cool to see what the rejects looked like. Ever thought about making a series of cruel yet hypnotic loaders? (*half joking/half not)Haha kind of actually! When I was making the piece screensaver4 that I showed earlier this summer at Midtown Players Club in Atlanta loading icons and screensavers were my major inspiration. I made 4 different variations of rainbow loaders for this piece as well as other hypnotic spinning rooms and pieces of water that to some extent you could call loaders.

What is piquing your interest right now as an art maker? What are you interested in making at the moment?

VR and AR (virtual reality and augmented reality)! And honestly even those 180 degree photos you can look at by turning your phone from left to right on facebook. I love the idea of looking through a screen into another reality whether it’s real or fabricated.

Me too! I’m super fascinated by AR and just started tinkering around with it. Do you have a specific idea brewing already or just a tickle to try it out? It would be really amazing to be able to interact with some of your animations in a physical (yet not physical way) via VR or AR.

I have a kind of specific idea for AR at the moment actually! I want to make a ‘cloud’ (like The Cloud) out of wandering thoughts and existential dread in all my favorite pixelated fonts. Interacting in a physical yet not physical way is exactly why I’m more interested in AR than VR right now. I’m so ingrained on navigating that in between space at the moment that I feel like AR is the perfect way to get someone to see through their phone instead of looking at it. Literally navigating a space that only exists digitally, but overlays your physical existence. Perfection. I really need to start tinkering more so I can get cracking on that piece.
What tools do you use to create your digital animations?

I use a computer program called Blender for most of my animation currently. In this program I can 3D model, create and apply materials, light, and animate.Why Blender? What makes it a better tool to use than others on the market?

Honestly, Blender is free and that is a HUGE reason I use it. BUT, apart from cost, I like managing lighting and materials in it better than I like in other programs like Maya. You can get better mirror effects more easily in Blender. Modeling is also a lot easier in Blender. I don’t do complex modelling a whole lot, but I did a conch shell this summer and Blender was very easy to understand even when I did have to look things up it’s usually just a button I didn’t see or key command I forgot whereas in some other programs it’s going through like 2 pull out menus and then a button I didn’t even know existed.Digital work can be cumbersome to display in a 3-dimensional installation what challenges have you come across in this realm?

I have a love for space and the experience of space, and that’s why I am drawn to installation. Within the last year I have experimented with emulating a digital glow through black lighting and drawing with glowing materials to create a space, using sound and a completely blacked out space to create a spaceless sort of space, and using projectors to place the digital within the physical space.

Figuring out how to finesse projectors to display my work has become pretty crucial. I mean, there’s a pretty big conceptual roadblock with displaying digital work in a physical space which I am currently battling with internally. My work is currently revolving around our relationship to a space that exists only psychologically – between physical and digital space. Displaying my work in the physical realm makes some sense at the moment, but it is something I’m grappling with and considering changing.

This is something that has been on my mind for most of the summer (and last year), and I don’t have a solution worked out quite yet. I think the main challenge I face with installation is more conceptual than technical at this point. I’m pretty handy and can make things work out with a lot of different materials and equipment, but why I’m making it physically present is the more haunting part.

What do you have coming up that you’re particularly excited about? 

​I’m showing in Atlanta at the end of the month which I’m pretty stoked about! I am part of the FANTASY collective through SOUP experimental in Tallahassee, and this will be our second time showing as a collective out of state.
Oh, and there’s also that finishing up my MFA thing… (sarcasm, but also not sarcasm because I’m pretty excited)

What are you planning on pursuing next in your work?

​I’d like to tackle learning some programming and be able to make my work happen more within the digital realm than the physical. Creating an installation that exists 100% digitally is a dream of mine.

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