Cluster 1 – Experimental Relationships

In our cluster, we are exploring the nature of romantic relationships in their varied formats, their trials, and how they differ from other types of relationships. We are approaching this from our own personal experiences, and from the perspective of our present times and the times that lie ahead. We ask: how is technology shaping and mediating our romantic relationships and how might it do so in the future?

In our cluster we are: 

A curator – Sarah Rodrigues

Originally from Brazil, with an interest in existential questions relating to the self and the environment. She has an interdisciplinary background in Art, Philosophy, Film, Anthropology and Environmental Studies, and approaches curating as a way to discover and create new understandings of our place in the world. She is currently a student in the MA Curating Art program at Stockholm University.

A dancer – Tone Johannesen

Tone is currently finishing her BA in Dance Performance at Stockholm University of the Arts, where she has discovered dance as endless possibilities of relating to her surroundings. Dance as different ways of being in the world and as a way of questioning the strict social codes. Her work deals with montaging anything from abstract dance to pop culture references, where the attraction lies in the tension the polar opposites can create, often seen through a filter of irony.

A chemist – Alisa Gordeeva

Alisa holds a B.Sc in Materials Chemistry, an M.Sc in Computational Chemistry as well as a B.Sc in Computer Science. She is currently doing her PhD in Materials and Environmental Chemistry at Stockholm University. Working daily with light and diffraction of crystals she finds a lot of inspiration in making hidden symmetries visible. Her work connects real and reciprocal spaces – making it possible for us to see a shadow of a world we don’t live in. 

An artist – Tim Høibjerg

Tim Høibjerg (b. 1986, Kristiansand, Norway) holds a BFA from Oslo National Academy of the Arts and is currently studying an MFA at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm. His practice situates itself in between the virtual and the physical, moving between digital software, animation and sculpture. Tim’s work questions perceptions of fiction and reality in a hyper-technological age, and explores the queer potentiality of futurism and transhumanism.

An engineer – Konstantinos (Kostis) Saitas-Zarkias

Kostis holds a B.Sc in Computer Science from Aristotle University (Greece), a M.Sc in Machine Learning from KTH and has experience in academic research in Deep Learning (specifically in Reinforcement Learning and Meta-Learning). While studying, he was involved with organizing and leading seminars, hackathons and discussion groups around AI ethics, privacy and open-source software. Currently, he is a part-time student at Stockholm University while working as a freelancer, exploring interconnections of Artificial Intelligence with art, sustainability and societal fairness. Other interests include music, photography and activism.

Meetings & Activities

Meeting # 1 – Introductions

Participants: Sarah, Kostis and Tim

Where: Studio Pica

When: Thursday 4th March, 20:30

What we did: Introduced the project and ourselves, talked about our background and things we were interested in. The plan was to have no plan. No homework. To let our meetings and our interactions guide us into discovering what we were interested in exploring. Sarah had worked with Tim previously in an exhibition, and Sarah was in the Lappis student association with Kostis, but Kostis and Tim did not know each other before.

Meeting # 2 – Dinner & Talking

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, and Tim

Where: Kostis’ Place

When: Thursday 11th March, 18:00

What we did: Kostis’ hosted us for dinner and then drinks in his cozy student bedroom. We had a late night full of conversation, where we talked about our past/current relationships, the trials of long-distance, tindering, social media and all the complications regarding love. We also made a group drawing while discussing these things:

Meeting # 3 – Dinner & Movement Exercises (with guests)

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, Tim, Tone and Marie

Where: Studio Pica

When: Thursday 18th March, 18:00

What we did: In our last session, we also talked about the disembodied and virtual experience of relationships in today’s age, so we decided to invite the dancers, Tone and Marie from the Stockholm University of the Arts to help us engage with our bodies, talk about love and relationships, and eat dinner together. We danced, activated our energy, and explored ways to move together as partners.

Mirroring Exercise

Meeting # 4 – Exercises (with guests)

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, Tim, Tone, Marie, Cille and Alisa

Where: Studio Pica

When: Thursday 25th March, 18:00

What we did: We invited yet another dancer, Cille, to join us to do more exercises. Inspired by a workshop Sarah did with her class with Transit Kulturinkubator on “How do I approach my work?”, we sat together and drew “How do I approach relationships?” and then discussed our drawings in the group. We sound-recorded these explanations (see below). We also did an exercise where we looked into each other’s eyes for 3 minutes and then wrote down our thoughts throughout the experience. Later in the evening, Alisa joined in. Together we made music by touching our bodies in a closed circuit using the instrument Playtronica.

Drawings of “How do I approach relationships?”
Explanation of drawing
Trying the instrument “Playtronica”

Meeting # 5 – Dinner & Workshop w/ Kostis on Machine Learning

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, Tim, Tone and Alisa

Where: Studio Pica

When: Tuesday 30th March, 18:00

What we did: Tone and Alisa became permanent members of our group. We met for dinner and Kostis treated us to a wonderful presentation introducing us to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, its applications, its ethical problems, and its potential for creativity. We discussed the nature of consciousness and what differentiates humans from complex AI models such as GPT3.

Meeting # 6 – Workshop w/ Alisa on Crystallography

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, Tim, Alisa and Tone (online)

Where: Studio Pica

When: Thursday 8 April, 18:00

What we did: Alisa clarified the meaning of Crystallography to us – it is not only about making crystals and new substances – it is the scientific study of the structure of reality, the building blocks that make up everything in the universe. We discussed geometric structures, other dimensions beyond time-space, the aesthetics of symmetry, and philosophy (about the fabric of existence).

Meeting # 7 – Workshop w/ Tone on Dance & Watching Cronenberg’s Existenz (1999)

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, Alisa and Tone

Where: Studio Pica & Kostis’ Place

When: Friday 16 April, 18:00

What we did: Tone challenged us to move and coordinate our bodies with a series of exercises (including conducting our voices with body movement, writing our names in space with our anus…), and to imagine our bodies as other selves (with eyes in our elbows, to breath with our knees…). Afterwards, we moved to Kostis’ place for drinks and a cozy movie session, followed by a late night of conversation. The film is a sci-fi thriller blurring reality and fiction, where people are addicted to playing bio-technological virtual reality game consoles that plug into your body. (Unfortunately, Tim could not join us due to work for his final MA project).

Conducting voice with body movement
Writing your name with your anus
Making triangles and squares in space
Movie time!

Meeting # 8 – Mind-Mapping Directions for Exploration

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, Tone, Alisa and Tim

Where: Studio Pica

When: Wednesday 21 April, 18:30

What we did: In this session, we tried to organize our thoughts and write down all our associations around the headings “Technology” and “Relationships”. We talked about these umbrella terms in their most fundamental definitions, as well as their particulars, and tried to draw connections between them. We decided to lasso our broad discussions towards the question: How is technology affecting my relationships – in the past, now and in the future? We wanted to take our personal experiences as vantage point and we agreed to write a reflective paragraph about this in our own time and share this in the meeting after the next.

Meeting # 9 – Experiments in Materials Chemistry Lab

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, Tone, Alisa and Tim

Where: Arrhenius Laboratory at Stockholm University

When: Wednesday 21 April, 18:00

What we did: Alisa gave us a wonderful tour of MACAL – Department of Materials and Environmental Chemistry at Stockholm University, the place where she works. We had the opportunity to dress up as scientists, learn about different properties of chemicals, and conduct some simple experiments, such as setting solutions on fire, study patterns enabled by laser diffraction of different molecules, generate a crystal made from vitamin C and alcohol and observe the pattern under a microscope, freeze things with liquid nitrogen, and more!

The Forbidden Geometry
The 3 million euro microscope

Meeting # 10 – Artistic Experimentation w/ 2D Materials

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, Tone, and Marie

Where: Studio Pica

When: Wednesday 5 May, 18:00

What we did: We shared with each other the reflective paragraphs that we had written on our thoughts about technology and its influence on relationships. We discussed our personal experiences in long-distance (and short-distance) relationships and their virtual experience via our phones and computers. We discussed the use of dating apps and social media and their effect on our own behavior and view on relationships and “the other”. We discussed trends for the future and new technologies such as VR and robots.

We did this while playing with acrylic ink on A3 papers, by painting and blowing the ink using straws, and familiarizing ourselves with the reality of the Zine material: flat paper and visual imagery.

The process was therapeutic – painting allowed a fluid exploration of emotionally charged topics, while having fun with new materials and techniques.

Meeting # 11 – Sharing Ideas and Framing the Work

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, Tone, and Alisa

Where: Studio Pica

When: Thursday 13 May, 19:00

What we did: It was time to give shape to the project and find a way to sublimate our discussions into something visual.

Sarah proposed the following:

“In our discussions, I have ended up with the notion that our relationships are becoming more fluid, more scattered, and our choices for types of relationships more varied thanks to developments in technology. Most of all, the internet is enabling us to have different kinds of relationships. Access to information and people from different parts of the world is widening our possibilities. We are more mobile, more educated, and more aware of different realities. Traditional models that up to recently have been the “default” (hetero, monogamous, in your physical proximity, with intention to marry to build a family) are becoming less of the norm, while at the same time the frameworks for self-identity and development are becoming more loosely defined and negotiable (gender, ethnicity, study-get-a-job-get-a-house-work-retire).
Instead, we are increasingly being able to question these models and able to choose different ways of relating and being that are more in accordance to our personal orientations.
This personal orientation, I believe, is also in a constant flux, which changes depending on context and circumstance. There is no stable “essence” of the self that is then reflected on the choices that we make. Rather aspects of ourselves are reflected, which may also change with time/space.
My view is that this post-modern condition of pluralization and fragmentation will increase with the advancement of technology and the mobility and expansion it provides us.
More choices means more pressure on the individual to “choose” what is right for them. This sea of choices can be difficult to navigate and potentially disorienting. Yet, it also brings more freedom…. and perhaps more opportunities to live authentically?

So… I had the following ideas:
One was in connection to Tone’s workshop and the exercise to imagine parts of our bodies in different places in our bodies (breathe with our knees, eyes in our elbows, etc…) and when Tone shared with us how strange it was to experience her boyfriend on her phone as a small physical object she could carry with her, and then meeting him in person and realize his physical nature was much larger (change in dimension).
I thought we could draw or create a sculpture (perhaps 3D printed) of a fragmented body, that is flexible and changes shape depending on circumstance and connects and disconnects with other fragmented bodies.

The other idea relates to our visit to Alisa’s lab and our introduction to the light difractor, and seeing the example of the “forbidden geometry” (a molecular patterns that was thought to be impossible in nature), and the idea that one of the goals in science is to “discover” essentialisms – objective truths about the universe that explain the underlying order of things – but efforts to arrive at master theories of universal order are repeatedly challenged by outlier phenomena. Similarly, in relationships we strive to find perfect harmony but often struggle to align with a partner, but still insist on the pursuit. I thought we could create some kind of hanging sculpture that when aligned at the right angle and a light shines on it projects the shadow of a geometric molecular pattern for a brief instant, but is always constantly moving and fragmented.”

Sarah suggested to go with the first idea. Alisa introduced us to a 3D program that would enable us to create shapes which we could add a “texture” onto and then distort. The texture could be photographs of bodies. We agreed to try this. We divided the work into steps and delegated tasks. It includes the creation of 3D distorted bodies (ours) over a surreal AI generated background. These will be animated, and the Zine will feature frame stills of the animation.

Tone shared a poetic text she wrote of her previous long-distance relationship experiences which we decided to include as textual captions for the Zine, and as sound for the animation.

Eventually, we will print one or more of these bodies using a 3D printer.

Meeting # 12 – Photoshoot

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, and Tone

Where: Studio Pica

When: Saturday 15 May, 10:00

What we did: Sarah took photographs of Tone in “distorted” poses over a simple background that could be cropped out and later used as a “texture” for manipulation using 3D sofftware.

Meeting # 13 – Shooting the videos

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, Tone and Alisa

Where: Kostis’ Rooftop

When: Thursday 20 May, 18:00

What we did: Sarah came across a video in her Instagram feed made by the artist François Vogel which resembled the main idea (!) Alisa pointed out that it was made using a slit scan process and it was a simple procedure. We decided to abandon the idea of creating distorted bodies using 3D software, and instead, decided to make a film of our bodies in movement and then treating it with this method.
François Vogel –

Sarah and Kostis made some test videos in the forest in Lappis. We downloaded the Slit-Scan plugin to Adobe After Effects and made some experiments. It was clear that to achieve a “smoother” effect, we needed a tripod to stabilize the image, and move our bodies very slowly.

We decided to shoot the video of all of us at Kostis’ rooftop, with the view over Stockholm. We were lucky that the weather was beautiful -blue skies and warm sunlight. We all wore different colours (Sarah – purple, Kostis – brown, Tone – red, Alisa – green) to better differentiate between our bodies once the effect was added. We tried different things: the 4 of us dancing together, some duets, walking from side to side, picking each other up/falling in each others arms. All of it was improvised.

Meeting # 14 – Editing the videos

Participants: Sarah and Kostis

Where: Kostis’ Place

When: Monday 24 May, 13:00

Tim decided to officially leave the project due to clashes with his other commitments.

Kostis and Sarah rendered the videos using different settings and focused on finding the strongest still images for the printed Zine. The videos were to be uploaded to a website page, which could be accessed by scanning the QR code in the Zine. Here are some examples of still images that didn’t end up in the final version:

Meeting # 15 & 16 – Making the Zine

Participants: Sarah, Kostis and Tone

Where: Kostis’ Place

When: Wednesday 26 May, 10:00, and Thursday 27 May, 10:00

It was time to make the layout for the Zine and pick the best stills. We used Adobe Photoshop to do this. We decided on the title: “Shadows of a world we cannot touch”, from Alisa’s presentation, in our discussion of projections of molecular structures. We thought it resonated with the fleeting nature of romantic relationships in an increasingly virtual world. Tone wrote a poetic text of which some parts were included as captions. Here is the full text:

We edited the layout, and had some reservations about two spreads:

We wanted different viewpoints (making the reader turn the pages upside down/sideways) to direct towards a reading of different dimensions, but the result was messy, so we decided to change it by including less images.

Meeting # 17 – Finishing the Zine

Participants: Sarah, Kostis, Tone and Alisa

Where: Kostis’ Place

When: Monday 31 May, 15:00

Final deadline! We reviewed the last details before sending the PDF to the printers for a test print!

Test print: colours were too dark, and the edges too narrow. After some tweaking and test printing again, the final, final version was ready Friday, 4th June!

Here it is:

Meeting # 18 – Experimenting with Sound (Guitar)

Participants: Sarah and Kostis

Where: Kostis’ Place

When: Wednesday 2 June, 13:00

We wanted to make a sound score for the videos and tried by experimenting with guitar pedals for distorted effects. But the sound was too “guitarry”. Not quite digital enough. We decided to try producing something using software.

Meeting # 19 – Making the Website

Participants: Sarah

Where: Sarah’s Place

When: Monday 7 June, 18:00

Sarah made the website page with a few of the chosen videos and stills. However, it still needs to be edited to include more information, sound piece, captions, and the sculpture.

Meeting # 20 – Choosing Images for 3D-printed Sculpture

Participants: Sarah, Kostis and Alisa

Where: Kostis’ Place

When: Wednesday 9 June, 15:00

Alisa found a software called 3D Builder that transforms 2D images into 3D. We decided to test some images. The intention is to make a 3D sculpture of our distorted bodies that can be divided into sections and printed in parts that can then be assembled into a larger (much larger) piece that can fill the space in Studio Pica. Yet this is more difficult than we thought. We need to find someone with experience in 3D modelling to help us!

Meeting #21 – Zine Wrap up Party!

Participants: Sarah, Kostis and Alisa, and other participants from the other clusters

Where: Studio Pica

When: Saturday 12 June, 17:00

The clusters got together and met each other, talked about each other’s projects, and distributed the zines. Unfortunately, many couldn’t be there, but it was a lovely afternoon with fika and good conversation.

Alisa announced that she would, unfortunately, stop her further involvement in the group because of schedule restrictions.

Meeting #22 – Making the Sound

Participants: Sarah and André Baptista

Where: Call to Lisbon, Portugal

When: Tuesday 20 July, 17:30

Sarah called her friend André Baptista, sound designer, to invite him to participate in the project and create an experimental sound piece to be included in the final exhibition, together with a multi-channel installation of the videos, stills, and sculpture. The brief was simple: “something digital and distorted, maybe not too melodic, that can be looped”. We were very excited that he agreed to collaborate!

Meeting #23 – Making 3D Model for our Sculpture & Preparing for Exhibition

Participants: Sarah

Where: Online

When: Tuesday 20 and Wednesday 21 July

Sarah started to sketch out some ideas for the display of the exhibition and ways to create the sculpture. She thought of including 4 of the output videos projected on screens, the looping sound piece in the background, and either a very large sculpture that filled the room or 4 life-size sculptures of the group participants.

For the sculptures, Sarah took inspiration from these videos:

The idea was to make 3D representations of this image:

By making the legs “solid”, but from the hips make it so that they are “springos”, like in the tutorial above. The sculptures would stand on the ground of the exhibition space, and the torsos would be pulled out and attached to the ceiling.

She shared these drawings with Kostis and Tone:

The thinking process revolved around the idea of the extension, distortion and fluidity of the body, and using a 3D printer would mark the body as a virtual but downloadable thing, that exists in multiple dimensions.

Sarah reached out to her friends and contacts for help with creating the sculptures. It was necessary to find someone who could create the 3D model that could be printed using a 3D printer. But this proved to be difficult; not only was it highly ambitious to create life-size 3D printed sculptures with the time and budget available, but generating the models was technically challenging and she could not find anyone who could take up the task.

Sarah decided to abandon the idea of making sculptures. :'(

She focused on the exhibition itself.

Below is a Sketch Up model of the exhibition space of Studio Pica. Sarah thought it would be best to cover all the walls with floor-to-ceiling black curtains, and create partitions that blocked out the kitchen area and the back (also thereby creating storage for the furniture). This would generate a dark “black-box” atmosphere, highlighting the video projections. The lobby (not represented in the model), which is a side corridor (depicted in the drawings), would be painted in one solid colour – electric blue (because the following exhibition being held there would feature this colour prominently and the paint would be donated, and it matches the “primary colour” aesthetic of the videos/sculptures, and conceptually, this colour is used for digital erasure in film-making, accentuating a connection to virtual space). A small paragraph of text with the same font from the Zine would be printed on vinyl and glued to the wall before the entrance to introduce the exhibition. The Zines would be available on a mounted wall-shelf for visitors to take.

Soon after, Isabelle, the curator from Cluster 5 expressed her interest in joining us to display the dark room experiments she had created with her group! Sarah was very excited to have Isabelle on board to set up the exhibition! Sarah thought about creating a separate room for them with the curtains.

She was also able to secure 4 projectors, and was on the lookout for curtains at good price, screens, and media players – there was a budget of SEK2000 (+ SEK1000 from Isabelle). The sound system was already in place at Pica.

She was also thinking about whether Tone’s text would become part of the looping sound piece, or if it should be included in another way… as prints, projections?

An alternative idea: the floor, completely covered in prints of Whatsapp and Facebook chats with partners, maybe some photos/images of video calls. Or these messages flying around the room, with fans blowing them around.

Sarah, Tone and Kostis agreed to resume the project after returning from their respective holidays, on Tuesday 24 Aug.

Apart from preparing the space, they had to prepare for the presentation at Accelerator on Sep 1st:

And prepare the promotion and marketing of the show, which would last from 1-5 September.

But first, some much needed beach time.

Meeting #24 – Setting up the Exhibition

Meeting #25 – Final Exhibition