Quantum Natives, an alliance of experimental artists, is often defined in relation to its video game aesthetics and digital world-building philosophy. The participants use avatars instead of the media-friendly portraits and its website resembles a map of an imaginary world, rather than a traditional distribution channel. In part, this ideology is what brought the UK-conceived collective international attention. In 2017, the group premiered in the US, where members of the group including Rosen, DeForrest Brown Jr., Brood Ma and Yearning Kru, presented an installation and software programme Grace Nexus. Later on, a second software performance was commissioned by the Netherlands’ avant-garde festival Rewire, featuring recsund, White Goblin, Yan Keen and Yeongrak. The group’s affiliates performed at such venues as the ICA in London and were featured on the cover of the Wire, receiving the stamp of approval from one of the most acclaimed gate-keepers there is.
With the recognition of such sort came a certain type of image: the collective seemed artsy, intellectual, intimidating. But it isn’t the impression I’m left with today. The clarity of what Quantum Natives represents as a project came with a realisation of the virtual realm being not an emulation, but an alternative. I’ve found it curiously suitable to think of Quantum Natives as being like another planet: a place we look to for something that offers another way of life.
As I think of this, NASA prepares for another Mars mission and the rendered image of their landing site, showing the possible signs of water, looks a bit like (ahem) the map of Quantum Natives. Similarly, Halil Altindere’s recent work ‘Space Refugee’ uses VR technology to imagine living on the Red Planet. As evident from its name, the piece shows a refugee camp in space, a place where people who are misplaced in this world can finally feel at home. Even though encapsulating the society’s hostility towards the Other, the concept is hopeful. It captures our human quest for belonging, the desire to find a place where we feel welcome, accepted and understood. To me, that’s what Quantum Natives is all about.
The collective is fluid and its peripheral concepts evolve with time. This finds reflection in the talent roster: there’s no prevailing genre or sound that unites the group, rather an aptitude for fostering and encouraging individual uniqueness. Instead of having any kind of rigid borders, the map of Quantum Natives’ world appears not to “load” at the edges, suggesting there will always be more to explore. Its geographically dispersed members are mentally connected, sharing the desire to find a home for their most weird creative expressions. Below, 15 members of the collective talk about what binds them, their anonymity and freedom, money and values, music and video games. Get comfy, because it’s a long, but revealing read.