By Alaa Tarabzouni and Ellie Niblock

24 November 2020 - 11:45

Image of the sea
'It's important to challenge your practice, try new things and learn from peers.' Photo © Sean O. used under licence and adapted from the original.

Artists Alaa Tarabzouni and Ellie Niblock took part in a digital residency during the Covid-19 pandemic. They tell us how they created art together, virtually.    

How did the process start?

We both applied for the Making Marks: Connect ME Digital Residency, which pairs UK and Gulf artists to collaborate on work that uses digital tools to transcend borders.

It started with a Zoom meeting. We had about 30 minutes to get to know each other and explain our practices. 

We were a bit confused about why we got paired at first. The organisers explained that, though we do it in different ways, we both explore the built environment. 

Luckily we got on really well. Regular catchups became part of our daily routines. 

Tell us about what you created?

With Love: From Nowhere is a website designed for mobile devices. 

It consists of three imaginary cities or ‘non-places’. These are fictional spaces we created using our skills in different areas – sculpture, 3D scanning, drawing, mapping and audio recording. The idea is that imaginary spaces are brought to life through art and technology.  

We took a lot of inspiration from the novel Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, and from reading about fictional places. 

How did you ensure you both had equal input?

We used social media to communicate, mostly WhatsApp and Google Meet. 

Occasionally, we’d work together while on video call. It was like being in a studio. We’d chat as we worked and motivate each other. 

Ellie was doing a residency in England at the time, so she shared lots of images and recordings of her environment by the sea. Alaa sent a package of objects from her environment in the post. This gave us a shared physical experience. 

It helped that we both wanted the same thing: to keep up the momentum of our practices at such an unpredictable time. 

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What are the benefits of creating art in this way?

It was helpful to have a wider skillset for a project. Ellie hadn’t used 3D modelling software before, and Alaa hadn’t used 3D scanning software. It was a great way for us to learn new things. 

It’s important to challenge your practice, try new things and learn from peers. Residencies are a great way of doing this. You get to work with people who you might otherwise never meet. 

What have your learned from the experience, and what do you hope others take from your artwork?

It is valuable to talk an idea or process through with a partner, and to combine skills to create art.

It’s important to be flexible when faced with limitations. Flexibility often leads to creativity. 

We hope others feel inspired to make digital artwork, collaborate virtually and try new things.

Apply for the Making Marks: Connect ME Digital Residency Winter Edition.

Alaa Tarabzouni is an architect with a master’s degree from Pratt Institute, New York. Her work focusses on urban environments and using context as a medium. She has her own multidisciplinary art and design studio, Studio AF, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 

Follow atarabzo on Instagram. 

Ellie Niblock is a Northern Ireland artist with an MA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins, London. She has participated in solo and group exhibitions around the world. Her practice explores the relationship between the physical and digital worlds. 

Follow ellieniblockartist on Instagram.


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