When Marlene Kager and Maximilian Prag looked for a location for their planned festival, nothing felt quite right. Instead of sticking to their original idea, the two designers decided without hesitation to shift it to a digital space. By creating a virtual location that can never be entered physically, the duo turns the usual concept of a festival completely upside down and offers the perfect alternative for all the festival-lovers and club-goers out there that are stuck at home during the lockdown. “We started our virtual space from scratch and filled it throughout countless zoom meetings. So the not actually coming together in a physical space until close before launching definitely affected how it came together”, the duo tells Collide24. The title of the festival, Yanchi, originates from a mix of spelling varieties of eastern languages and can be loosely translated as “feast”, but also “again and again” or “lagging” in technical terms. “We liked the sound of it, as well as its letter shapes, and decided to go with it”, Marlene and Maximilian add on this matter.
“Yanchi works like a video game, where you can run through a world, but instead of chasing something, your goal is to listen and see great work from cute people”, the designers explain, “The experience aims for its audience to get to know new music in a new different context, as a new form of a club environment.” After inviting different artists and musicians to be part of the festival, they began to form the virtual world, structuring it into four stages. The first edition of Yanchi features only local artists from Vienna, including fauna, idklang, Tony Renaissance and bushra. As each stage represents the work of the presented artists, the duo decided to shape the virtual environment based on their visuals or sound. “We asked them how they want their environments to be, since working in a virtual 3d space gives you lots of new possibilities”, the duo explains. For the assets and objects in the space, they created and re-used 3d scans by making some configurations and putting them into a new contexts. The result is a trippy, magnificent world full of bright colors, mystic figures and science fiction inspired objects. Visiting the surreal landscape of Yanchi feels like exploring a hidden island far away from anyone, a paradise that waits to be discovered.
What feels like a scene out of a science fiction movie, certainly raises an important question about the future of events and their possible transfer into the virtual world. “What will become really interesting, is when real and virtual events start to intertwine and a real and virtual audience of the same event can interact with each other and both have their own, but connected experiences”, the two designers conclude, “We don’t think that the virtual world will replace real life events. It’s cool to get to know the intersection where virtual meets real and also experiencing what is possible in the virtual world, as there will be much more thrilling things getting released in our future soon. But at the end of the day nothing compares to meeting people in a physically shared space, you feel comfortable to be yourself in and can let you go.”
The two designers met during their studies at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and soon started collaborating together on different projects. “We teamed up, because we were super inspired by each other’s fields of interest and wanted to bring them together. Also because we worship the crazy ideas the both of us have. We always manage to surprise each other during our work sessions with fresh perspectives”, the duo reflects. As both of them have specialized in different fields, they complement each other very well when it comes to work. “That also very much fits to the philosophy of Marlene that, as a designer, you don’t have to be good at everything. It is way better to focus on one or a few things you really enjoy doing and improve your skills, than trying to do everything mediocre, because you know, what are teams for?” Needless to say collaboration seems to be at the core of Marlene and Maximilian’s practice, who both agree that “communication and speaking about things clearly” is what makes a fruitful collaboration in the end. “Never forget to take the mental state of the other into account. It neither helps you nor your partner to stress when someone is overwhelmed already”, they state.
Before she started her studies in graphic design, Marlene has always been inspired by magazines, hoarding them as a collection of inspirational sources. By focusing on experimental type, she has constantly worked on evolving her own style in the last years, describing it as “a little bit trashy, but clean at the same time”. “I like to work with shapes and forms and I think this is the point where my love for letters comes to light. All in all I’d say that i like to have fun and that I don’t take myself too serious”, she tells us.
Immersing himself in experimentation with extended and digital realities, Maximilian has tried and tested the ways of working that best suit him. “I like experimenting with failure, testing new things and seeing the unpredictable outcome. Most of the time, I accept the result with pleasure”, the designer says, “Playing with a strong contrast between natural and artificial or computer-generated imagery in a still somewhat intertwined manner really fascinates me.”
In the future, Marlene and Maximilian would like to build upon the first edition of Yanchi, by constantly including new acts, installations and interactions. In the meantime, the two designers are currently working together with two other colleagues on the design of the show “Angewandte Festival”, which presents projects from students at the University in Vienna, using experimental typefaces from Charlotte Rohde, Leonhard Laupichler, Laura Csocsán and many more. As a result from their work on Yanchi, the duo also got invited by sound:frame, an international festival for audiovisual and immersive art to create the design of their upcoming physical x digital festival format and to conceptualize a new online platform for immersive art. “We are super excited to be involved and to work towards new virtual projects and spaces with inspiring people.”