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Doing the future thang with Vicki Dang

Vietnam-based artist and designer Vicki Dang’s cinematic artwork integrates fashion and shōjo manga in other worldly meditations on technology and the female form.

Vicki, also known by her moniker “wii-ki” is a poetic cyber-net-art force pushing new disciplines in 3D art and design. Since completing her Masters in Art Direction at Manchester Metropolitan University, and relocating to Vietnam, Vicki has forged an aesthetic that broaches technology as both a subject and creative tool.

With recent exhibitions at P3D3 at Chaosdowntown, Inurscreen (Vietnam), tres_W (Spain), and upcoming shows at SIGGRAPH Asia and DiMoDa (Digital Museum of Digital Art), Vicki is facilitating a creative conversation which is mutable and international, and which firmly denotes a female figure at the forefront.

Before studying animation and 3d design you were pursuing fashion business—what made you make that switch? Do you think that your interest in fashion was formative at all for your art practice?

I quit as soon as I realized the fashion business was not what I imagined it was supposed to be. I was exposed to the “not-so-glamorous” side of the business, which was mostly concerned with supply chain and worker treatment. I loved the creativity but I couldn’t deal with the unfair treatment in the fast fashion business which is so globally accepted.

But my interest in fashion is still strong and very influential in my work. I use human figures, especially women’s bodies, as the main element to tell the story. I care about the scenery, the feel, the props, the movement of the model, almost as if I am on a fashion shoot and I have all these checklists in my head.

Yeah, I’ve noticed that the female form figures a lot in your work. Is that an intentional design motif for you or more of an aesthetic inclination?

I think it’s both. When I was a kid, I learned to draw the female form and figures from Sailor Moon manga. I copied the curves and explored the feminine aesthetics; it was a fascinating process but I didn’t realize until 2 years ago that what I did as a kid could influence me and my work a lot. And it happens to collide with the international design trend right now, which is very exciting to see how other artists are exploring similar aesthetics.

You seem to have established a very specific visual language. Flowers, isolated figures, sparse landscapes, reflective surfaces, pastel tones, and early web 2.0 references are a just a few of many motifs in your work. How did you arrive at this particular aesthetic? Who and what inspires you?

It started with shōjo mangas such as Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura…where I learned to trace female figures.

One day, I was given a fashion photography book and saw Nick Knight’s fashion photography. I was taken away by his surreal, alien style and floral vision and was mesmerized by his melting floral photo manipulations

The last person who has inspired me to do a lot of what I’m doing is Kim Laughton; he’s one of the pioneers in 3D design. His work is very cinematic, realistic as well as futuristic, and I adore his skills and vision.

You are currently working on a music video which integrates 3d art and “human-like footages”. Tell me about that process—what’s it like working commercially with musicians? Do you think that your aesthetic differs greatly when you are working with a client?

The process is very brand new to me. I have to try to optimize my design work across a lot of different softwares and plan out a very efficient work flow so that me and the parties involved will be clear about what, and how, we do things. It’s challenging, yet also exciting since I get to play with a lot of tools.

Musicians are creative people, so when they come to me and ask me to work with them directly, they tend to be sure about the collaboration and more open-minded. I mean—they did their homework, they decided to choose me, and since they are also creative people compromising is less complicated.

Usually when I do art, I don’t plan and the visuals and aesthetics turn out very differently. But when I work with people, I have to respect their view and manage expectations. That keeps me focused on the goal.

Net art? Post-internet? Post digital? New media? Cyber art? There are so many words to describe your practice! How do you situate yourself? And on that note; how do you see contemporary 3d art and design in the future?

It is all of that right now. I would call it cyber-net-art in a post internet and digital era…I am trying to mimic the seeming reality of humans and the environment, injecting the role of technology in my cyber art in an attempt to envision the future.

The future of 3D art and design will be getting more commercialized and becoming normative as software and computers will, and are, getting stronger and smarter—which allows people to generate and create designs within minutes.

That, in turn, leads to vast opportunities to enhance physical experiences and for easily overcoming physical challenges with digital practices through the use of technology such as AR, VR, and 3D prints. The distinction of digital and physical realities barely even exists anymore; we are already cyborgs walking on this planet.

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