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Philip Lüschen

Philip Lüschen is a visual artist and scenographer. He earned a bachelor's degree in design at the Design Academy Eindhoven and completed his research master's in Scenography at the University of the Arts Utrecht (HKU).

Lüschen's work reflects his ambiguous relationship with the built environment. Through film, photography and scenographic strategies he explores the potentiality of our urban building blocks, reclaims the malleability of homogenized urban landscapes, and investigates forms of open-ended speculation and the crucial nature of fictional layers in human-constructed environments.

Lüschen's work has been exhibited internationally, including the Museum of Contemporary Art (Taipei, TW) and the New Renaissance Film Festival (London, UK), and in various venues in the Netherlands, among them the Over het IJ Festival (Amsterdam), Het Nieuwe Instituut (Rotterdam) and Museum het Vrijthof (Maastricht) as well as several public spaces such as a jail, a church and a village square.

His film Walkers was a finalist in the Best Experimental Abstraction category at Experimental Brasil 2024.


1-Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background in the world of filmmaking?


I am a visual artist and scenographer with a background in design and recently graduated from the research master Scenography. I have a keen interest in various aspects of world-building, including scale models, 3D simulations, game engines, and sets for film and theatre. Film is one of the various media I use to reflect on my ambiguous relationship with human-constructed environments.


2-What inspired you to pursue a career in cinema, and how did your journey as a filmmaker begin?


I first started using film when I was building scale models of fictional spaces, each with a specific atmosphere and operational state. My aim was to capture their presence, questioning to what extent modeled spaces are performative. The recordings of the scale models were shown on security monitors in a formerly prison giving new meaning to the video works and the screening location.


3-Could you share with us the creative process behind your film "Walkers"? What inspired the concept and visual style of the film?


One of my field trips led to the creation of 'Walkers'. I visited a curious terrain under the runway extension of the international airport of Madeira, in Funchal, Portugal. Here, 180 concrete pillars pierce the natural landscape of the island. I stumbled upon two persons walking, seemingly animated, up and down the road of this newly constructed area. I started filming their motion through space. It felt like they were operated by the ‘snap to motion’, function from the ‘behaviors’ panel in my 3d modelling software: A function to align objects to the motion of another object. To enhance the scripted presence of these walkers and the qualities of the décor-like environment, I brought the recorded fragments into dialogue with world-building techniques of 3D modeling environments.


4-The interplay between constructions of the built environment and digital manipulations in "Walkers" is quite intriguing. How do you approach the integration of these elements to convey deeper meanings or themes?


In the film 'Walkers', many modes of world-building interchange. We witness a newly constructed terrain, construction noises in the background, the interface of 3D modeling software, the studio of a director— or is it my studio? What is staged and what is not is deliberately kept on the horizon. Through combining and interchanging real captured fragments and look-alike animations, I aim to convey an understanding of how our built environment is constructed and how it constructs us, the walkers within.


5-In "Walkers," you aim to provoke an awareness of the constructs that define our lives. Could you elaborate on how the themes of constructed environments and authenticity intertwine in the film?


To me, the title 'Walkers' carries a claustrophobic connotation. We see environments that are in construction or just finished, ready for us humans to inhabit. Yet, their new inhabitants seem to be diminished by their environment to 'just' walkers, performing synchronized movements seemingly without authentic movements through space. This theme is highlighted at the end of the film, where the walkers appear as hollow as 3D models in computer space.


6-Your work often explores the malleability of urban landscapes and the fictional layers within human- constructed environments. How do these themes manifest in "Walkers," and what messages do you hope viewers take away from the film?


I believe it is crucial to perceive ourselves as inhabitants of our everyday environments, the stages upon which we perform our lives. Understanding the fabric of the world we live in, truly seeing the decor that guides us, can empower us to find ways to intervene with dominant structures, and customize spaces according to our needs and desires. My aim is that one could feel challenged and encouraged to

rearrange the order of the world, akin to the freedom experienced within scale models or open world simulation games such as Minecraft, Animal Crossing or Super Mario Maker.


7-As a visual artist and scenographer, how do you balance your creative pursuits between different mediums such as film, photography, and scenography?


As a scenographer, I find it important to be able to work with different media. Every work or aim I have through a work asks for its own medium or combination of media. Therefore, I don't necessarily seek a balance between mediums such as film, photography, and scenography, but rather, I choose the medium that best serves the specific project.


8-Could you share some insights into your creative process when approaching new projects or exhibitions?


Most of my work arises from a dialogue with a space, whether it's a predetermined location within an art institution or a terrain I stumble upon in public space. From there, the outcome of the work could range from a site-specific theatre performance, where spectators engage in a ritual surrounding a sidewalk tile, to an installation where the space is deconstructed and reshuffled, utilizing a guide designed for a baking professional.


9-What are some of the challenges you've faced in your artistic career, and how have you overcome them?


One of the challenges I often face is my fear that audiences, conditioned to encounter an artwork, may have their experience diminished by its announcement as artwork. Therefore, when creating works, I deliberately blur the lines between what is staged and what is not. My ideal artwork would be one where there is no distinct separation between the artwork and the experience itself.


10-How do you see the role of cinema and visual art in addressing contemporary social or environmental issues?


To me, making work never starts with an aim to address social or environmental issues. However, after some years of working, I've come to realize that there is always a red thread in my work which aims to destabilize the homogeneity of public space. I think 'Walkers' is an example of pushing this homogeneity to the extreme, suggesting that we live in a fully scripted reality that determines all our behavior.

However, in other works, I tend to intervene more directly, trying to facilitate alternative and more bodily encounters with our environment


11-Are there any upcoming projects or artistic endeavors you're particularly excited about?


Yes, lately I've been working on a project titled 'Rehearsing the City,' which involves full-scale modeled environments where citizens rehearse their later emergence in the city. I recently returned from filming the last bits and pieces in Japan, and for the next few months, I'll be working on incorporating the photo and video material into a new work.

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