This is our interview to Paco Gramaje, art director of the Paco Gramaje Studio in Barcelona.
The studio creates immersive multidisciplinary AV shows, especially focusing on the fusion between projection mapping and dance performance.
We asked Paco a few questions about his background and creative career and also about the new projects he has been cooking up during the quarantine period.
1. When did you start working on the interaction between audiovisual and dance performance, and how did you get involved? What are the aspects that are more appealing to you about working in this interdisciplinary field?
It all begun in 2009. After quitting my job as an engineer I moved to Madrid to study a Master in Motion Graphics while making my first experiences in the world of video art.
In 2010 I started up several collaborations with art organizations in Madrid and they proposed to me to shoot a dance performance by the choreographer Iratche Ansa.
The performance was going to be held at the Matadero in Madrid. From that recording I put together my first video dance “Comunicación Interpretación Automática” which had a very good reception.
I had discovered the potential of dance from an audiovisual perspective and the inner revelation of what I wanted to do in the next few years.
A few months later I made my first dance pieces with live visuals with choreographer Barbara Fritsche.
Thanks to those projects I was able to work on the musical “Hoy No Me Puedo Levantar” in 2013. In 2014 I directed my first proper theatre show: “Girasomnis”.
2. You are the creator of “Girasomnis”, an itinerant project that has been traveling around the world. Can you tell us about the creative process behind the inception of this innovative project?
I try to “connect” the visuals with the dancers. Sometimes I encourage the dancers to “connect” or follow my visuals.
In this project I also composed the music. This is very useful as I have better control of the creative process. With this project I tried to evoke feelings in the audience without words: just images, dance and instrumental music.
3. Paco Gramaje Studio recently launched the “Dance Mapping Virtual Tour 2020” which it’s fundraising on Gumroad. This is in preparation for a new cutting-edge AV dance project in 2021 involving a 360 immersive environment . Can you give us some insights about the whole project?
This quarantine caused an abrupt stop in my job, but also gave me time to start imagining something new.
The idea was born during the first week of confinement. At the start, It was simple: I just wanted to publish some of our best projects and make them public. But I also felt a need for a change.
The last 3 years I was quite disconnected from my artistic side due to working mostly on commercial projects.
I was just focusing on making money to pay my bills and trying to have a stable team for audiovisual production. The outbreak of the Covid-19 has been an absolute shift in our work. We started questioning the possibility of doing our shows as we did before.
Therefore I needed to devise another type of format for the new normal awaiting us: a fully immersive virtual Dance Mapping Show.
As my previous theatre production, without the pressure of a client and using the Girasomnis music.
So, in April I started to visualize and write a synopsis of this new project. I then decided to publish “Dance Mapping Virtual Tour 2020” as a memorandum of all these years of physical shows.
Now it’s time to go further. I want to gather all the knowledge I gained during the last 10 years and apply it to a virtual reality show, where I can break the limits and make an immersive 360º visual performance with dancers.
This new production is planned to be released in VR and physical 360 projection format in late 2021.
4. When working on a project how do you pick your collaborators? What are the main roles you look for in your team?
When I have the budget I can work with some powerful audiovisual freelancers from my network of collaborators. Failing that I work alone.
I also work with very talented dancers/choreographers from Barcelona. During the years they started to understand my ideas and transform them in beautiful choreographies.
5. Can you describe your general creative approach when starting on a new project?
I have mostly 2 ways of work. I compose a music draft and then I work on the visuals and choreography or vice versa: I make a draft of visual content with a draft choreography and I try to match the sounds and music.
Sometimes I give leeway to the dancer, so they can create their own choreography and then I create the visual content following their movements.
In the last few years I also worked with some talented musicians for a faster audiovisual production.
6. In 2015, Paco Gramaje Studio won an award at the International Mapping Festival in Girona for the Micro-mapping category. Could you share with us your thoughts about the concept of “Micro-mapping”?
This was a concept from Roman Torre. In 2015 I shared a space with him and we collaborated together on a video mapping of a rotating stone. It was a nice project called Liquid Series.
In the video mapping area I also tried to develop innovative concepts, differing from the typical big projection on a building facade. 2 Years ago I started to develop the concept of “Holomapping”. I am planning to finish it next year as well.
7. We are aware you regularly teach courses and masterclasses of video mapping applied to performing arts, in Spain and Latin America.
What specific training would you recommend for digital artists who have just started their career and why? Which are the countries with more opportunities for audiovisual arts, in your opinion?
Nowadays, it is possible to learn a lot following digital online courses, but it is always better if somebody guides you. As with everything in life the best way to learn is practice, making mistakes and improving.
Spain is not the best country for arts, I would say. As far as I know French artists or from other European countries have more grants and support from their governments, but everything is possible if you are passionate about your work.