Co-Founders of AΦE Aoi Nakamura and Esteban Lecoq talk about creating social token $AEON (AE Coin) available on digital platform Rally and their latest digital project ‘@Lilith.Aeon-Genesis’ available to access on ‘Discord’

Courtesy of Pippa Samaya.

Cryptocurrency has ignited the imaginations of many, a form of digital currency created online with transactions stored on a blockchain (a database recording transactions made), the currency was introduced in 2009, Bitcoin the pioneering brand of coin and perhaps most well known of its kind. Years on from the currency’s creation, Non-Fungible Tokens have also gone onto encourage curiosity – a non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain and one that can be sold and traded at the owner’s discretion. Inspired by this recent development within the tech world, dance company AΦE (AE), comprising of founders Aoi Nakamura and Esteban Lecoq combine their technological and choreographic know-how to introduce the initial stage of @Lilith.Aeon – a story based NFT (Non-fungible token) comprising of seven videos exploring concepts of life, death and what lies beyond this. In order to access the project, viewers are asked to purchase $Aeon (AE Coin), AΦE’s brand of social token that can then be traded to access it. Aoi and Esteban tell us more about exploring the project’s existential themes, exploring NFTs and the metaverse and what it means to be apart of this pioneering project.

Hi Aoi and Esteban, you have recently launched @Lilith.Aeon – Genesis. How are you both feeling?

Every detail is unique and the result of our 5 years intense desk research and R&D which took place before and during the pandemic. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our numerous collaborators who have been inspiring us to work with and mature the ideas.

Also, every detail of Lilith has been thought through, created from top to bottom, inside out – to tell you just a small amount about the level of detail we went to, even the skins have been carefully created. Obviously, this is just the Genesis – there are a lot of new possibilities are opening to us.

@Lilith.Aeon – Genesis is a story based NFT (Non-fungible token) comprising of seven videos. What inspired you both to explore the presentation of a story in this manner?

Long story short: Lilith is a mix of inspiration from a true story, existing fictions and our own imaginations.

The story of Lilith is based on the true tale of Matheryn Naovaratpong, who at the age of 3 years old passed away due to a severe brain cancer. Her parents, who are Buddhist from confession, which does matter in their story and goes against traditional belief, decided to cryonise her with the hope to revive her in the future. Being of confession buddhists signifies a real dilemma here, as in this religion it is important to release spirit from body for reincarnation.

We actually met with Matheryn’s older brother, and discussed it over a long online meeting. They wanted to share her story. A Thai journalist even made a documentary about Matheryn and her family, which we were then made aware of and which came out little while after we met.

For us, since we came to know the story of Matheryn, the most important thing in our new creation was to take care of her, her story and her possible future. Even though we were only inspired by the little we know, we feel responsible now for something bigger than us.

@Lilith.Aeon will be a series of work, Hybrid, Online and Physical, in the past, present and future, a kind of time capsule for Matheryn – hoping one day in aeon years later, she may be able to see our thoughts and know that she wasn’t alone all this time.

This new creation’s starting point is about a “simple” question: what is life, what is death and what is in between?

And this question came because of personal events in our life. And we thought we wanted to talk about it to 2 distinct audiences but with the same story and characters. Exploring death with a young and family audience was a challenge we wanted to take. How can we talk about it in the most honest, truthful and beautiful way? And what is in between life and death to a more mature audience?

Technically we felt the need to come back to physical work, a visceral experience where the audience doesn’t need to wear a VR headset or watch through a tablet screen.

And yet still an experience using new technologies.

It is a really challenging task but somehow the evolution of technology has been able to offer us some tools such as the Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs), social tokens and the metaverse. Not only the virtual production technique that we have been trying to achieve on our side with old technology equipment, but then suddenly also the virtual LED wall came up in about 4 years time in our development and research. When we were trying to explain what we wanted to achieve on stage, everyone was talking about the Mandalorian, which was shot using virtual production technique.

Lilith is also a symbolic name from the bible. The first wife on earth. For us this is the first reincarnate human being into a new form.

And the 7 loops are also symbolic, although the loop came by the fact that we didn’t have the possibilities to create the original 20 min video works we originally wanted to. We instead concentrated our story into the essential and crucial – 7 loops where we see the reincarnation of Lilith into her new form.

We came across the fact that 7 years is the length of time it takes for our body to regenerate its cells – so that we have new sets of cells, almost like a new body. So we imagined 7 transformations of Lilith, for her to become a celestial beauty.

The meaning behind ‘Aeon’ perhaps is a bit more obvious. And we thought it would be a good name for someone we hope to be revived in the far future from today. Because we really hope she will eventually!

Those NFTs are unique – every frame has been filled with hours and months of work, development and creations. We wanted the audience to have the chance to have our work with them and also this could be the way to fundraise in order for us to create more with Lilith in coming years.

It also gave us the opportunity to create a physical installation that will also go on tour, creating an experience that bridges the real and digital, where the audience is the crucial input of the experience (as we always do in all our creations).

It will be the genesis of a new series of creations. And now that Lilith has the capacity to “speak” text on her own through an algorithm that can generate text, this means we can now co-create the work with her.

Her body and face are fully rigged, which means she has the opportunity to express with her body as much as we do. And as a physical performer, it was crucial that Lilith has those capabilities for us to work with her like almost any other performer we might work with.

You’re the first dance company to create a story based NFT, the work you typically create contributing greatly to the digital theatre genre. What does it mean to be a part of such an innovative project such as this?

To be honest we don’t see it, at least not in the moment. Maybe later on, after a couple of years – when the tech is more widely democratized, available and adopted by others – we then might realise.

But in our day to day, we are really head down and focused on what we are doing right now. We must be, otherwise we lose our time. Things take time to mature, develop and take shape. Collaborators that are unique and inspiring to us, and who have the skills to create and see what’s in our head, are really rare. It is a human based relationship after all and sometimes we click together, sometimes we don’t. But we think now we are slowly gaining the ability to quickly spot the people we really want to work with. There are many artists from different fields who inspire us and with whom we want to collaborate. And we are scared we won’t have enough time to create with them all.

So we decided to create our own A+E Lab, where we offer residency space to those artists we love this way, we can somehow be involved, contribute in some way for their creations and be part of a moment of their life – and most of the time become friends.

How have you both worked together to realise the project?

Aoi usually does the cooking and I do the washing. No I am joking of course! I don’t do the washing! Or just sometimes. No, joking again.

Between us is really varied research. But somehow all of it is meaningful. It’s like I would look at the huge mountains, rocks, cloud above it and she will be able to spot that tiny little detail in between that mountain, that rock and cloud.

And then suddenly everything aligns and becomes the thing we were looking for.

Or maybe you can imagine a ping pong of ideas and thoughts between us.

It’s also a processing of things we look back at in our personal life and professional experience.

But mainly it is a question of motivation at the end. As it is really easy to give up, especially when it comes to playing around with new stuff that doesn’t really exist yet.

What have you learned/taken away from working on the project?

Nothing yet. We are just at the beginning of it. Realisation usually comes a couple years after we finish and tour the work.

But of course we learned and gained a lot of technical information and we are also slowly finding out what we want to create. The creation of Lilith.Aeon is just the beginning. Everything is yet to be created – or just as I say gathered and assembled.

I don’t have the feeling of creating from past experience. I feel more like we are finding things and putting them together: shapes, objects, ideas, thoughts, stories, emotions, movements, colors, collaborators working together…

What can audiences expect from the project?

From Lilith.Aeon – Genesis, audiences can expect to encounter new ways of combining art and new technology. They will find a mix of AI chatbot, 3D movie and character art that will give a feeling of a living being in digital world. We hope the audience can accept Lilith.Aeon to exist, believing in her but also evoking questions around our future and life. We hope we can take the audience on a discovery of the evolution of Lilith through different phases of the project to come.

We create work to be accessible for all audiences. And we truly believe if there is a story, it is possible for anyone to grasp even with upcoming new technologies with their own knowledge, meaning and personal experiences.

What would you like for audiences to take away from the project?

We cannot define what the audience will take away from it as everyone has a different point of view and experience in life. But we usually start with the creation by thinking how we want the audience to feel, and then we try to find interesting and meaningful ways for the audience to take something back with them.

Also in this case, we are creating NFTs which means that the audience actually owns our work, and they can display it at their own home. We are digging into this concept as well so that the audience can actually take one of Lilith’s artwork away to be able to keep with them as long as they wish.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

To find out more about @Lilith.Aeon, visit here…

To find out more about digital platform Rally helping communities build their own independent economies and the, $Aeon (AE Coin), visit here…

To find out more about Discord, visit here…

Their latest production WHIST will show from Thursday 4th until Sunday 8th May 2022 ‘at the Gulbenkian Arts Centre. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop