Digital/Physical

Words by Veronica Mike Solheim


While some people refuse to acknowledge the fact that our world is getting more and more digitalized every second, others embrace every bit of it. No matter where you are on that scale, the future is digital, and we are truly starting to see and experience all the wonderful design that’s a result of this evolution. Tim Söderström and Anny Wang, a Copenhagen based studio, are striving to create mind-tickling and unexpected experiences through materiality and technology. Some of their work is far beyond imaginable, where physical forces meet surreal platforms. There is no doubt that Wang & Söderström contributes in the shaping of tomorrow’s visual and spatial experiences. 

Photography by Andreas Omvik

Photography by Andreas Omvik

You have a background in architecture and spatial design—how did you end up in the world of digital / physical design?
We both used 3D software for architectural purposes, but started to experiment more and more. Anny has always been fascinated by creating materials and colour combinations and Tim by scale, light and creating something unexpected. It started out as a small thing we did after school and during weekends. After a while we also collaborated with each other on projects. The whole thing elaborated naturally and we fell in love with the limitless feeling of what the 3D software gave us. 

You say that you like to implement physical forces from the real world in your otherwise surreal platforms. What’s your fascination with this contrast?
It’s the borderline we love to explore. Creating something with references from the real world, like wind or a squeeze, with surreal materials and warped physical rules ripples your brain in a certain way. Recreate that feeling that you get when you think what is going to happen because you have seen it so many times before but suddenly something behaves in a whole different way and alerts your brain. What the fuck is going on, I like it.

You are digitizing something thatmight as well be a photograph of something physical, or even organic like plants and flowers, etc. What are your thoughts on handcraft? Do you think everybody should surrender to the digitalization?
Ha-ha, no. We definitely don't see the two [handcraft and digitalization] as something that competes with each other. We strongly believe they enhance oneanother and that they can work very neatly parallel to each other. The section between physical and digital is not only a big inspiration source for us but also a field we believe has a lot of unexplored potential. When we think about handcraft we think of it as uniqueness and that is something that many times gets lost in the digital world where copy/paste and shortcuts are standard tools. We want to try to recreate a sense of handcraft in our digital work and therefore avoid too many of the software shortcuts and copy/paste methods. It takes time but it is hopefully something that shows in the end result. The goal is to not look digital but not real either. Somewhere in-between.

Just to get a brief sense of what you do. How is a typical work process for you?
Well, it all depends on if we are doing a project for a client or a personal project. The typical process with a client would be that we get a brief from them. We work together with the client to determine the creative goal. Sometimes we are in charge of the concept from its start, at other times the concept is already made from the client. Then we have feedback rounds, around 2-3 times upon final delivery. Timelines, usually too short. Since we are working in multidisciplinary fields the timeline could be anything from 3 days for an illustration to several months for animations or a couple of weeks for an installation. 

Please tell me about the series Treasures. How important are self-initiated projects for you? 
The Treasures series manifests an ongoing research into materials and objects. The hyper-real still lifes show the value of diverse appearances as well as balance and
control. They explore the relation between beloved matters and the phenomena of collecting precious things. A ritual that can be based on obsessions, memories or the goal to create a complete collection. 

Self-initiated projects and works are very important for us. It is a way for us to explore around the uncertain or try out ideas that never otherwise would have been realised. 

Please tell me about your personal favourite project (from your portfolio).
It is so hard to pick only one! We are often in different mood states towards a project. As with most creative processes we tend to love it in the beginning, but when you have worked with it for a long time you start to get tired of it and don't want to look at it anymore. One of our favourites must have been a triptych work we made for a group exhibition with a great theme. What if we could send a message into space, what would your message be for this future alien receiver? Our contribution was 'Sample Pack from Earth'. We really love to play with materials in a digital space and almost place them in order. Which is a weird act, because why ritually place something in order when it’s all digital? What we really want to show is the effect of many objects / things collected––what relation you get towards the objects when they are presented in that way. How the objects speak with each other. It is something we want to explore more and it will be one of our ways of working for our upcoming solo exhibition in Stockholm, Sweden this autumn. The exhibition willhave both physicaland digital works by us. We can see how much we have missed working in the physical world as well. At the moment, we are doing an art installation for Space10 in Copenhagen, and we are loving it!

How would you describe Swedish design?
It's a tough question, since we believe it evolves and transforms all the time, even as we speak. But the Swedish design culture of course has traces of the past. From design classics, modernism, functionalism and the strong connection to craftsmanship and local materials.

Something we really like and get inspired by with the Swedish design legacy is the combination of serious rationality and soft values. A touch of fun and weird, a colourful pattern, an unexpected detail. Good examples of this can be found in the churches and in the landscape of 'Skogskyrkogården' in Stockholm (designed by famous architects Sigurd Lewerentz and Gunnar Asplund almost a hundred years ago).  

It’s a fine balance between smart, serious and fun in all good design, we believe. 


Published in Volume Eleven.