Living through a global pandemic has brought disruption and isolation to most people’s lives. But it’s also brought opportunities to reimagine how things might work differently. So when Z by HP—the tech titan’s line of high performance, professional grade laptops, desktops, displays, and solutions—asked its global ambassadors to make a video together, they jumped at the chance to join a new kind of creative community. The ambassadors signed on for similar reasons, each seeking to push against artistic boundaries and explore their crafts collaboratively. The ensuing two-minute film, The Living System, features artwork from Nidia Dias, Orlando Arocena, GMUNK, Jody MacDonald, Alex Trochut, Rik Oostenbroek, and Shane Griffin. Through the film, this multidisciplinary collective examines themes of energy, creation, and adaptation. True to its name, The Living System evokes a community functioning in harmony, just like an actual thriving ecosystem.
Indeed, a sense of boundary-breaking cooperation undergirds everything about The Living System. The short is packed with mind-bending visuals and bursts with a sense of freedom. It plays off the interaction between the natural world and civilization, urging viewers to question their positions in both environments, while implying that perhaps they’re not so separate after all. And there is vital creative tension in this work too, as each artist pursues creative freedom in their own section of the film, all within the bounds of collaborative work. That push and pull between each individual and the community of ambassadors produces a unique short punctuated by a triumphant, invigorating finale.
Watch The Living System below, then scroll through to see what each artist had to say about the project, their inspirations, and what it was like to work together during the COVID-19 pandemic. And for more on the collaborative aspects of this project, hit the Z by HP site to watch CoCreated, a documentary on the process of making The Living System from each ambassador’s perspective.
Nidia Dias: Art Director, Portugal
As an art director, Nidia Dias focuses on the art direction, style, and design of visual projects, ensuring that they stay intact from start to finish. As an individual, however, the Portuguese artist likes to create from an abstract perspective to keep the significance and personal meaning of her work open to interpretation. She prefers to start projects with realistic, nature-inspired elements and then allow the pieces to evolve from there, letting viewers interpret her art in their own unique ways.
Dias On the Importance of Representation:
There’s not many girls doing 3D. So for me, I try to get rid of the nerves and just think if I’m up there on the stage and showing that I’m doing some cool work in 3D in art direction. I’m hoping that I inspire other girls so they can see that there’s actually women in the industry and they’re doing great and they’re doing amazing work. Since I’ve been doing talks, I’ve got more girls and women being like, “Hey, it’s a super, super nice thing that you are where you are and doing what you do. And it’s really inspiring.” So, I think that’s what keeps pushing me.
Dias On What Makes ‘The Living System’ Interesting:
They saw what we [the ambassadors] already had, which was this friendship, and just pushed it to create something beautiful. I don’t think if Z was in between it... I don’t think I’d be able to work with all these amazing artists. In the past, I would work with people in the same industry, and here everyone has such diverse backgrounds and I think that’s what made it so interesting.
Dias on Coheasive Collaboration:
We really wanted to feel from start to end that it’s one full piece. Almost like you’re working in a studio, right, and for the clients, like you have one specific thing rather than, “Here’s some random stuff that we all did and we just put it together.” We didn’t want it to feel like just an edit thing. We wanted for it to be a story. And we hope that people see that and understand this whole idea of starting from, like, the microorganisms, going from all the little things that you have in nature to then having that full at the end of, “What if nature becomes a part of us as well and part of our living system?” Rather than becoming this kind of urban jungle, right, but in a very literal sense.
Orlando Arocena: Vector Artist, Columbia
Orlando Arocena, known as Mexifunk, is a Colombia-based vector artist, creative director, and brand strategist with roots in Mexico, Cuba, and the United States. With extensive experience in the design industry, he’s developed a sense of agency over his own work as well confidence in collaboration. Arocena maintains the perspective that group work is a true democracy that deserves respect across the board. Because of that, he and his fellow ambassadors were able to seamlessly become a unified creative voice.
Arocena On the Pandemic and Art:
I think it would have been totally different if we would have been entertained by Z by HP to take up this collaboration back in 2019. A majority of us wouldn’t be at the level that we’re at today. We are at the top of our games. This past year allowed us to explore some of the areas that we wanted to at least play with and add to our arsenal of tricks and unique styles. A lot of it was exploring to become a bit more proficient. And I don’t think that we would have been able to manifest or at least create this collaboration to the level that we’re going to reveal it to you.
Arocena On His Creative Process:
My goal with a movie poster is to totally become a beneficial part of the personality of that property. You have the actors, you have the directors, you have the screenwriters, you have the musicians and the choreographers for the audio. But when you’re having to grab all of that and use it within a level of inspiration, I end up creating more than just one avenue of visual results.
Arocena On Vector Art:
If it wasn’t for me teaming up and collaborating with Z by HP, I don’t think I would’ve had the confidence level to be able to fly and do my freestyle vectors the way that I do without any type of pinwheeling or hiccups or slowdowns. I’m really impressed with the level of proficiency and technology that I have bestowed upon me to play with. With my vector freestyles, I’m able to just open up vector and start playing in real time—open up shapes, start drawing, start throwing down some paint brushes, and really have a lot of fun with a program that majority of the world tends to use to build logos or to do page layouts. I’m glad to really push it in such a manner that it’s untraditional.
GMUNK: Designer and Director, United States
Bradley G. Munkowitz, who goes by GMUNK, is a designer and art director extraordinaire. The Berkeley, California, artist has more than two decades of industry experience under his belt and performs best when he’s able to move between genres, easily working on art, film, installations, holograms, motion design, and virtual reality. GMUNK finds inspiration in feeling uncomfortable, challenging himself to push past the safety of the known to be better, to learn more, and to stay inspired.
GMUNK On ‘The Living System’:
I think the best possible outcome for this film would be that it translates the concept clearly—where people understand that we as creators sought to create worlds. By harnessing the current nature’s field, we created this world and told a story of that creation myth. And we all love and respect each other. It’s seven individuals taking all of our styles and merging them into this through line by embracing a concept which is something really fun to see.
GMUNK On the Magic of the Unexpected:
As an artist, seeing the unseen is always really interesting because it’s unexpected. And the infrared spectrum of light to me is magic, because it’s all around us, but we can’t see it, so to tap into that is very psychedelic because it allows me to tap into something that we can’t detect with our eyes. The whole impetus for us was to do something we haven’t done before. All the ambassadors basically went in and learned new techniques for this project, and that was the point—to be uncomfortable and to go in and just find our way.
GMUNK On Creative Empowerment:
We as ambassadors have been enabled by Z, and that’s through hardware and support, but also just through the idea that you’re representing a technology. When you’re representing a creative platform, it’s really empowering in a lot of ways and it pushes you to innovate. It pushes you to go outside of your comfort zone and to really express powerfully. You’re pushing yourself and you’re also pushing the hardware and have that responsibility to push the medium. I knew that it was going to be a dance with really powerful hardware.
Jody MacDonald: Documentary Photographer, United States
Jody MacDonald’s work thrives at the intersection of her two passions: travel and photography. Growing up in Saudi Arabia, MacDonald developed an interest in capturing her adventures at an early age. Now, as a celebrated documentary photographer with work in publications like National Geographic and Outside, she finds gratification sharing her unique adventures with others through her art.
MacDonald On Her Favorite Work Trip:
My favorite project to date has been train-hopping through the Sahara Desert. I love the rawness of it. I love the desolation, the landscape, and the beauty. It was a real, true adventure to me. I spent two days on an iron ore train moving through the desert. The simplicity and the beauty, the lighting—it was all such a raw, incredible experience. And it was just a fun experience to photograph.
MacDonald On Her Fellow Ambassadors:
I constantly learn. I learned so many things from the other ambassadors. The main thing is how big of thinkers a lot of the other ambassadors are in terms of their own creativity. They really throw abstract ideas out there and I’m less of an abstract thinker, so it’s really eye opening to me and really inspiring. I’m just like, “Wow, I’m not thinking big enough.” So that’s constantly inspiring to me.
MacDonald On the Z by HP DreamColor Monitor:
I’m excited to work on an HP DreamColor Monitor display because auto-calibration, color correction, and color accuracy are critical in my workflow. So when I’m out in the field and I take pictures, I want what I see to be accurately portrayed on screen, color-wise, so it is just critical to my process. When I’m more accurate, I’m more efficient, and I have a more streamlined editing process, which gives me more time to create and get excited about creating. That efficiency just helps me be a better photographer.
Alex Trochut: Graphic Designer, United States
Alex Trochut is a Brooklyn artist who was born in Barcelona, Spain. He sees technology’s role in art as one half of an endless conversation, in which each side is continuously influencing the other. That perspective allows Trochut to commit to a fluid creative process in his work, often finding that he makes his best art when he’s able to abandon logic to uncover something new and unexpected.
Trochut On Community:
We were all individually in our little bubbles in our apartments. We are very different individuals, so we just found a nice framework for everybody to express in their own ways but still have it connected. That’s what makes it very different from a very coherent, unique piece of video that comes from an animation studio. This is like all different ambassadors doing something together with the same concept. And it was very nice to connect over Zoom and share this process.
Trochut On Creating in Virtual Reality:
Creating in VR as an experience is super fun because you are in this spiritual world and you are able to just have a complete control over scale of whatever you’re building and so much detail. And it feels very natural. It’s nice to see a tool that is trying to really get closer to a human rather than make the human get closer to a machine. So, I feel like that’s a nice thing for technology. It’s more natural to human behavior, and that itself as an experience is super refreshing.
Trochut On Using Powerful Tools:
I’ve been working on the new ZBook for the last month. And I’ve been working on Cinema 4D, After Effects, and I’ve been working with Marvelous Designer using Substance. Everything that I use with the Z4, I’m using on the new ZBook. I only have one GPU less, but in terms of muscle, it’s a pretty strong machine. It allows you to have your studio in a suitcase.
Rik Oostenbroek: Artist and Designer, The Netherlands
Rik Oostenbroek hails from the Netherlands and describes his work simply as, “creating colorful stuff.” With a background in digital art, and experience working in 3D, photography, and design, his work boasts unmatched breadth. Oostenbroek says staying open to inspiration helps him freely create whimsical work. Whether showing a dazzling sunset, a conversation with friends, or a quirky-looking slot machine in a casino, Oostenbroek uses his sometimes mundane surroundings to make special work time and again.
Oostenbroek on the Collaboration:
It’s a challenge in general to collaborate for me personally, because everybody has a different taste, everybody has different opinions, and everybody has different ambitions. I think that’s the main challenge. And we’re not in the same room. And we can’t communicate that easily. And you can’t really fuel each other with that energy, so I’m so blown away with the result that everybody learned something, everybody achieved something, and everybody can be really proud of their part. Which is amazing.
Oostenbroek On Overcoming Obstacles As a Team:
My biggest challenge of the project was definitely the animation part. I’m not an animator. I don’t know how to move a camera. I don’t know how to switch focus. I don’t know how to let stuff grow in 3D. So that was definitely my biggest takeaway from this project: to think like an animator, which I’m totally not. But I learned so many great things that I can definitely use in the future.
Oostenbroek On Reliable Technology:
I kicked off this project on my new Z4 on my DreamColor Monitor, but I have my ZBook Create right now, which is super stable and well-designed. The DreamColor Monitor is a reliable machine that got me through this heavy 3D animation process in the end. It was definitely impossible the amount of power in a laptop. Your laptop would always be your secondary machine, especially if you’re working in 3D, but it didn’t really feel like a secondary machine working on this particular project. The ZBook Create felt pretty premium to me. And that felt really good. And to be able to work from home while your girlfriend is here and taking care of your kid—it’s a win-win situation for me.
Shane Griffin: Visual Artist, Ireland
Dublin visual artist Shane Griffin values the power of engagement and connectivity in his work, using it to scrutinize the relationship between art and audience. By creating living spaces in his pieces, Griffin elicits raw, physical emotion from viewers, which is why he remains adamant that his projects pull inspiration from the real-world experiences around him.
Griffin On Technology and Art:
From a technology standpoint, there’s always some inspiration that comes out in new technology. Whether that’s new 3D rendering capabilities or whether that’s AI, there’s all these new levels and doors, and it opens up this whole new world of possibilities creatively. And opening those doors just leads to more ideas. For instance, if I have a concept that works really well with 3D, or a concept that I want to explore in 3D, then exploring that in a new medium with new technology, that same concept can give that body of work a whole new lease of life. So that really keeps me going.
Griffin On ‘The Living System’:
The “living system” for everyone is completely unique, and I think that’s what the great thing about this project was. Everyone had a unique point of view. And my “living system” came from a place of this year being really challenging for everyone, and there’s this longing for nature and to get out of the four walls that you’re stuck within and to kind of break free a bit. I wanted to create this sense of this hollow scene or this overgrown garden of Eden that consumes the city where we’re all indoors. And there was an interest in duality between the concrete nature of Manhattan and Mother Nature coming in to reset things in a way. I just kind of let my imagination run a bit wild with it.
Griffin’s Advice for Young Creatives:
If there’s anything to take away from it, it’s just to keep going. I think that that’s the best thing for any young artist to hear is that people are out there making a living doing cool stuff. And you can go and do that too. There is a path out there for people who feel like they don’t belong in whatever industries that they’re in.
To hear more from these artists, make sure to register for the Z by HP CoCreated Webinar for an inside look at this breakthrough collaboration.