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Interview → Andrea Möller – director of LUNA festival

30. 1. 2024 → Signal Spotlight

1. Who are you and what do you do?

I am Andrea Möller, director of Media Art Friesland Foundation, the organization behind quite some media art projects. Our main event, the annual LUNA festival for media arts in Leeuwarden/NL, features the 17-day-long Young Masters exhibition of international emerging makers in media arts, the 3-day LUNA Nights with big and amazing, but also smaller and experimental projects in the public space of our city, and the LUNA Currents – a series of lectures, workshops, and other educational and reflective activities where artists, scientists, and audience come together to deepen the discussion about themes we touch with our program.

2. If you had to attract visitors to something in the LUNA festival program this year, what would it be and why?

Ooh, difficult. I never like to answer this question, because I believe in all parts of the program. If you want to have a pleasant, yet exciting, first experience of light- and media art, you should come and visit the LUNA Nights. Stroll across town, and encounter cool artworks in all kinds of places – the former prison, a parking garage, the Palace of Justice, the county hall, a former cinema, a Jeu de Boules center in a charming former theater – and so on and on.
If it’s cold, gray, and rainy outside, or if you are simply curious about new artists with the urge to experiment and play, and if you want to experience artworks that work with a.o. sand, soil, ice, and fire, then come to see our Young Masters exhibition.
But most of all: if the works we present have touched you, and you want to learn more, get active yourself, and engage in discussions: make sure you join our theme nights.

3. This year’s theme is ‘Nothing Changes’, which reflects, among other things, the current political and social situation in the world and what it makes us as humans. Is there any lightness in the programme’s dramaturgy, or do you want to leave visitors with a sense of reflection on the theme?

‘Nothing Changes’ was actually the theme of 2023. But to answer the question anyway: it was a perfect motto for evoking immediate reactions from the audience. Only hearing the slogan makes people reflect and come up with examples of many things that have changed in the recent future. In last year’s theme nights, there was definitely some lightness, e.g. in the shape of a participative exercise of a group of students of Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and a lecture by game developer Tim Laning of Grendel Games about gaming nostalgia.
The main theme of LUNA 2024 is ‘Moving Heads’. We use the bright, flexible stage lights that are often used in our projects as a metaphor for our attempt to move people/the audience into new directions. In a philosophical way, discussing about the world as it is, the light that artists cast on it, and the perspectives they add. But also, we want to turn the heads and feet of the public in Leeuwarden in another direction: away from the city center, right into a new urban development area that starts at the doorstep of the LUNA headquarters. Not instead of, but next to the nightly LUNA Nights adventure downtown, we also create an exciting experience in the building area, where we present our visitors a range of interactive projections and other projects, in the middle of n bulldozers, cranes, and fields of rubble.

4. A popular topic and one that is being increasingly discussed in the art field is artificial intelligence. How do you feel about the use of artificial intelligence in art and is it represented in any way in this year’s festival programme?

This is funny, I answered the same question in an interview with a Romanian magazine recently – it must be in the air. (Here is my answer that I have not edited since November 2023 – which is special, as I usually like working in media art so much as the work field, the possibilities, and issues in focus change at a fast pace. Working in media art to me means never to get bored and always be ready to be surprised by new means, options, and perspectives. So it is remarkable that my idea about AI is reasonably stable – probably because it is so simple:)
AI is perfectly capable of replicating and further generating works in the individual style of an artist. However, any work that reproduces and extrapolates is not an artwork to me, but a copy or a model. Of course, AI can also mix and make new connections, and integrate unexpected themes and approaches. But we should rely on the power of creative minds, of putting emotions into artworks, no matter whether that’s hand-drawn or digitally designed. We should not be afraid of AI to compete with us, but use the amazing possibilities it offers for making artistic work easier and speed up design processes.
There will be some AI-supported work in our programme this year, but that is not new. For example our local star Anne Fie Salverda has been using AI in her animations for a while. And her work is a perfect example of what I’m saying above all her works start with unique hand-drawn pictures. Once the story and style have been elaborated, Anne Fie lets AI do the work and generate sequences of animated pictures. When the video is ready, she adds an analog crystal ball that amplifies and multiplies her projections – all in all a nice, creative, and productive liaison of homemade, analog techniques and artificial intelligence.

5. How does your activity in ILO influence the concept or dramaturgy of the festival?

Honestly? Not very much. Me and my team are quite hard-headed and convinced of our relatively unique approach to light and media arts. For us, talent development, active discourse, and encounters between artists of different backgrounds, the audience, business people, scientists, and other experts, are key to making our LUNA festivals and other projects. Having said this, I want to praise ILO at the same time as a wonderful, fast, profound, inspiring, and supportive network of colleagues that is always there for discussion, opinions, trends, and good advice.
However, our concept is really ours. It has grown from the specific situation in the city and the social surroundings it offers, the network we are part of. I think we were lucky only starting the large-scale outdoor LUNA Nights in 2016, after years of experimenting with media arts. At that point, the first generation of light festivals in the world had already grown up. And, if you ask me, many have grown too big. The carrying capacity of cities is overly stressed. Artworks – smaller and more vulnerable ones, but even the bigger ones as well – tend to be overrun by masses of people. We were lucky to observe this when starting to attract a mass audience in our city, and from the start tried to protect the charms of our festival, the city, its architecture, and the special experience of an art project that completely changes the perception of a place. This can only be done by protecting a healthy balance between welcoming many curious people who visit LUNA, and at the same time limiting promotion to an extent that still makes city marketeers, sponsors, and local business life happy and willing to keep supporting LUNA.
One thing that surely helps a lot is that we sturdily programme arts. We are often approached for light events, putting up decorations in cities, and delivering easy content for marketing campaigns. That is a legitimate, and currently very popular business. But it is not what Media Art Friesland and LUNA stand for: we present carefully selected artworks at special locations. We coach and connect artists. We passionately encourage artistic experimentation. We share our ideas and concepts with international colleagues in the media art niche and through that keep developing our team, the artistic climate in our region, and the artists who are connected to us for the longer run, and through that also create options for artists and other professionals in production and PR.
Please don’t get me wrong: it is wonderful to move through town on a LUNA Night and realize that all those people in the streets of a dark February night have come for our projects. Or to arrive at our indoor exhibition on an average weekday morning to see and hear groups of enthusiastic school kids totally enjoy our show and the hands-on workshops. It is the heartwarming reward for all the complex work we do. But the general public is ‘only’ one of the many groups that altogether make a durable event. Especially in times of political changes and challenges – here in the Netherlands, and in many other countries – experimental art forms are endangered. We do not want to feel threatened and easily removable or replaceable. That’s why we believe in building our programme together with different partners, rather than serving one straight commission or goal and being at stake when fashion changes.

6. What do you think is the place of light as media and light art in contemporary art and how do you think people understand it?

I think media and light art are the art forms that represent the age we live in. They challenge contemporary technological possibilities, put forward new sounds, visuals, and sensations, and reflect the world we live in in a suitable way. We still see that the broad audience usually has no clear picture or definition of ‘media art’. But visiting our festival should not be an academic exercise but an exciting multisensory experience. Luckily, light art is very often media art as well, making use of high-end projection technology, and often interactive applications. Light art in public spaces is a very friendly way of helping many people over the threshold of more experimental forms of media arts. I do not really mind so much how people understand, as I am convinced that everybody who steps into an artwork easily, fearlessly, and without fixed expectation, has the greatest chance to fully enjoy a project and grasp it in full width.

7. Do you have a dream artist that you would like to collaborate with in the future?

Not one, but many. There are still a lot of very interesting makers around that we have not invited to our projects yet. But we also love working with artists we already know. I think this goes for many other festivals as well: you want to follow artists in their careers, challenge them to further develop their works, invite them to make new site-specific art, and also deepen the artistic discourse that plays a role alongside the preparations and the presentations during festivals. And why not work with artists again if they have shown to be great?