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5 Experiential Artists to Elevate Your Consciousness in 2016

On the horizon: meditative installations, jarring VR stunts and illuminating public art.

From large-scale immersive experiences, to mind-bending virtual reality exhibitions, experiential art is an open invitation to step outside of your own reality, tune in to other worlds, and reach higher planes. Artists and design studios Liz West, Rachel Rossin, Jeremy Couillard, NONOTAK, and Moment Factory have all been hard at work in recent years, pushing themselves creatively with unrelenting energy. We've been following their upward trajectories for some time, through collaborations with Jamie xx, to pioneering VR gallery show extravaganzas, out-of-body experiences, and more, and recently checked in with them to hear what kind of magic is in store for 2016.

NONOTAK

2015 was a nonstop year for NONOTAK, the Paris-based design duo whose immersive, ethereal light and sound installations are commissioned internationally. Artist/illustrator Noemi Schipfer and architect/musician Takami Nakamoto can barely process their windfall: "We didn't have time to digest what happened in 2015," they reflect. "At some point we realized we were writing music and working on new content in different hotel rooms, in different continents, on a daily basis. Feeling like a band recording their new album on the road is great and inspiring. You get rid of all the comfort you get at home, and do something radical and spontaneous." This year is already off to a busy start—with two installations at the Sugar Mountain festival, presented in collaboration with The Creators Project—and promises more experimentation: "[We'll be] more focused on reflections and movements," they say. Experience the first iteration of their new concept, PLUME, above.

Liz West in An Additive Mix, 2015. Photo by Stephen Iles, © National Media Museum

UK artist Liz West seems to be heading in a similar direction; she writes to The Creators Project in an email, we can expect "more mirrors and reflective surfaces" in her upcoming work, while her signature rainbow hues are here to stay. "I aim to focus more attention on investigations and works that demonstrate the science of light and color as well as placing importance on the relevance of sensory perception and natural phenomena (such as the sun)," she explains, adding that "placing the viewer at the centre of the phenomena encourages them to question their surroundings and visual perceptions." Her installation Your Color Perception, completed early last year and pictured above, "acted as a huge platform" for her work and made her ambitions clear. The art world has responded with open arms; several major commissions and exhibitions in the UK and beyond are slated for 2016.

In the lab at Moment Factory

New media and entertainment studio Moment Factory celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Headquartered in Montreal (now in a brand new studio with "more toys to play with"), the factory has since opened satellite offices in Los Angeles, Paris and London—and has its sights on Asia next. "The world is getting smaller and we need to feel the pulse of different cities in the world," says co-founder and creative director Sakchin Bessette. This year, they've already presented their most ambitious concert experience to date for Muse's Drones World Tour, and are working on a long-term installation that will illuminate the Jacques Cartier Bridge in their hometown for ten years. The latter, according to Bessette, is "one of the next big things coming."

Installation view, Lossy, by Rachel Rossin. Courtesy of the artist

New York artist Rachel Rossin started off 2015 with a virtual reality space set up at Signal Gallery; by the fall, she was installing her show Lossy at Zieher Smith & Horton, bridging the traditional and the digital with a series of oil paintings and VR simulations that explored the concept of entropy. For 2016, she is busy programming and location scouting for a major VR piece, developed as part of her fellowship at The New Museum's incubator NEW INC. "It talks about solipsism and good intentions," she comments, before listing her other projects: "I have three new series of oil paintings, some lenticular holograms that I'll finish this year... The next year will be a lot of work about intimate time, and I know I need to talk to Charlie Kaufman."

TOGETHER from Jeremy Couillard on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Couillard, who gifted us with an Oculus Rift-powered refuge from reality and an out-of-body experience in 2015, just presented a new version of his latest Art Basel Miami Beach installation, this time at Art Los Angeles Contemporary. "You can interact with a plant that builds a totem in a video game space. The totem gets blasted through a portal and falls through a vortex in a VR simulation where five AI characters interact with the pieces and tell the viewer quick sci-fi stories," he explains of the project. This year, in addition to new VR, animation, video game and other simulation projects, as well as continuing to work with real-time engines, Couillard hopes to get better at programming AI—we can expect more mind-bending absurdity from him in 2016.

Which experimental artists are you looking forward to this year? Let us know @CreatorsProject or in the comments below. 

Related:

I Had an Out-of-Body Experience at an Oculus Rift Art Show

This Mirrored Rainbow Room Is a Playground for Light

Artists-in-Residence: Nonotak Studio Take Montreal's Satosphere Dome