Afterlife GLAM: Versa brings the Verbasizer to Life

Posted by Christine Vu, November 04, 2016
Monika + Alex

The Afterlife GLAM Halloween party officially took off on Saturday and with the help of the artist duo Versa, David Bowie's song writing app of the 90s became something more tangible. The Verbasizer, as it was called, took a larger-than-life form full of all things Bowie as well as key elements of Glam Rock's other biggest star, the Purple one himself. Paying tribute to the great ones in the Afterlife GLAM, Party-goers were able to step into the Verbasizer and get transported into another world. We talked to artists, Monika Hauck + Alex Ricci of Versa, to talk about the Afterlife GLAM activation.

Monika

How does the Verbasizer work?

We had participants randomly select words from a wide variety of Prince and Bowie personas, forming outrageous alter egos for their Halloween costume the night of the party. They would then make a name tag to wear around, and take a picture for instagram at our glam photobooth.

What did you picture when you dreamed up a larger-than-life Verbasizer?

The guiding aesthetic was GLAM as demonstrated by Bowie and Prince - that was our main inspiration. From there we took objects and ideas from Prince and Bowie lore, such as eyes, purple rain, lightning, black stars, and clouds (ie: afterlife) to create the components of the installation. We wanted to create a glamorous metaphorical mashup of the symbols and icons that are associated with their careers.

What was your favourite part about guiding people through the Verbasizer?

Alex: I thought it was hilarious seeing people wearing a nametag saying something like "Prince Davey The Regular Dude." I hope it was a good conversation starter for people at the party.

Monika: I thoroughly enjoyed the the reaction that participants had to their glam pseudonyms. We developed the idea for this installation around the generation of mashed-up names and I had a good idea of how it would work, but in practice the actual results were surprisingly effective and entertaining. It's always interesting/satisfying to see how an interactive project plays out in real space and time.

Alex

Were you fans of David Bowie and Prince before this project? How have they influenced you?

Yes, we were definitely fans of Bowie (more so) and Prince (a little less so), before starting this project. Through making the Verbasizer, my appreciation for both artists and their impact on pop culture in the 70s and 80s has definitely grown. It's so cool how both of them weren't afraid to explore androgyny, talk a little more overtly about drugs and sex (both in a glorifying way, and as a cry for help). They were also instrumental in bringing visual art and thoughtful design to the stage more so than the predecessors of their time.

What about was your own takeaway from the Verbasizer?

One thing that's important for us is the idea of not getting boxed in. Our artistic practice spans live music performance to visual projections, printmaking, and installation. We're not strictly installation artists, and we're not a band in the traditional sense either.

Both Prince and Bowie really stepped outside the box, and eschewed the expectations of a pop star. Whether it was Bowie's mime act with his Aladdin Sane character, or Prince's changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol, they both refused to let their creativity be limited to selling records and topping charts. They didn't want to be pegged as a certain gender. They didn't want to be known only as a singer or a musician. They constantly did things to shake things up, piss off their record labels, and effectively, push the boundaries of pop culture.

Versa Low

What do you think are Prince and Bowie’s most iconic moments?

For Prince it's the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, featuring the loudest of yellow costumes complete with an exposed butt. Highly recommend watching!
Bowie's is releasing Blackstar two days before his death, and having it be full of eerie allusions to him being gone. I think it's so powerful!

What is your favourite thing about working together?

It's so much easier to work on a creative project when you have someone to bounce ideas off of. We spend a lot of our time brainstorming, whittling down the less-great ideas, and getting super excited over the good ones. It's so much harder to get into an idea on your own. After we come up with an idea, we can then divide and conquer in a way that an individual can't. We each have strengths, and playing into them allows us to accomplish much more than we could on our own.

Posted in: Art

Tags: Alex Ricci  Art  David Bowie  Drake Halloween  Halloween  Monika Hauck  Music  Prince  Versa