Deborah Tchoudjinoff on Virtual Worlds and Fictions

Deborah’s work de-centres the human and engages with research on minerals and speculative fictions. We discuss a diverse range of projects involving mineral mapping, augmented reality and gaming engines

How do you choose your materials?

The materials that I choose depend on the project, budget, and studio setup. I normally begin with sketches of the piece I would like to make and look into the possible materials or fabrication processes that are involved in realising the work. Materials that I have chosen in the past have included metal, wood, found materials, and textiles for sculptures either made by hand or digitally fabricated.

Can you talk about the role of technology in your work?

In previous projects I had worked with like Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality, experimenting with what their limitations and strengths might be when it comes to viewing moving image or 3d works that have been digitally created in a software. I have always been interested in how software contributes to the art-making side of my practice like creating models in 3d programs, or gaming engines. Much of my work ends as an installation, and being able to negotiate how sculptures work alongside digital mediums is challenging but joyful if and when it works. I am currently showing two new moving image works built in Unreal of future fictional cities - The City of Gold, and The City of Copper - visualised from a text I had written about a future supercontinent. The cities are a remembrance to minerals that would no longer exist.

The word Baigala appears in your writing, I'd love to know more about this?

I learned this word through a collaboration with anthropologist Lauren Bonilla in 2018 for an exhibition called Five Heads (Tavan Tolgoi) Anthropology, Art, and Mongol Futurism. She introduced this word in her research paper on Extractive Atmospheres, which was referenced from the book ‘The End of Nomadism?’ by Humphrey and Sneath. Baigala, as I understand, is the description of nature made of beings, objects, forces, and spirits in an environment. What I like about this word is that it de-centers the human and speaks of the human in relation to all these other things.

Can you tell us about your work being about: 'the tension between what is natural and technological'?

I appreciate that both words are mega-big conceptually and depend on how you define each. I have a research practice that informs a lot of the ideas behind my work, and was reading a lot about ecology, for example how as a result of human activity we’ve left a geological mark. The books I read talked about a kind of time scale that felt very difficult to understand, but was and still is influencing the work that I make. I’ve been moving into fiction, world-building, and futures as part of my practice recently and I’ve been mapping when certain minerals were ‘born’ in this geological framework. Linking back to the project Baigala I about responding to extraction and minerals, which often end up in the commercial products most of us use. This strange cycle of the use of minerals is what I mean by the tension between what is natural and technological, and still trying to understand it.