Geoff Lillemon came to the interactive world by way of painting and still alludes to artists like Jackson Pollock and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec to describe his work. Eight years ago, Lillemon created Oculart, an online art space to display animations of his paintings that allowed him to more intimately commune with his viewers than the traditional gallery. His distinctive aesthetic went on to attract commercial attention and ultimately landed him in the interactive research lab at Modernista, Boston in 2005. After working on clients like Napster, 27-year-old Lillemon and his longtime collaborator Anita Fontaine moved to Amsterdam, to Modernista's first international outpost. In January, the duo, who met at the Banff New Media Institute, left the shop to start Netherlands-based creative digital agency, Champagne Valentine. Like Oculart, CV started as an artistic endeavor but has gone on to create work for clients like Comedy Central, MTV and VH1 and has collaborated with agencies like The Barbarian Group and Wieden + Kennedy.
Tell me about your Net art. How have those skills influenced your agency work?
I started Oculart with the idea of having a mysterious entity online—I don't have any information on there; it doesn't have my full name. [I like] the idea of using the internet, Flash and the computer space as an intimate form of doing art, as opposed to a public gallery, where, in my opinion, you can't get yourself to be completely emotional and open up to it because there are other people walking around and you have to keep yourself composed. Experimentation is key. Modernista very much nurtured this idea of play and research and making things just to make them. That kind of stuff ends up becoming valuable in this industry. If you try to experiment with time-lapse HDR and then suddenly show it to Cadillac, that exact piece isn't going to work, but that sparks an idea that sparks the final spot. That definitely became my value.
What is Champagne Valentine's creative vision?
We're trying to pioneer digital out-of-home. The whole idea is to make use of all of the digital flat screens in public spaces. In the London Underground for example, there are hundreds of flat screens and we're positioning ourselves as the main people to do all the content for those screens and making partnerships with the media buyers. We're thinking about content as simple as animated motion posters to something reactive where you can walk up to an advert and make motion gestures to make things happen. For a client like Chanel, you could walk up to a screen, it takes your picture and suddenly you see yourself in a 1920s cocktail dress. We're also doing traditional online interactive experiences and thinking about interactive music videos. That's the idea of building video games that are modeled around a CD, maybe it's one song per level. You play with an interactive concept as you listen to the music. It's a way of taking the dying industry of just selling the music and adding a service and more value, so people will buy these things. The platforms could be mobile, iPhone or your computer.
How do you see digital agencies evolving?
We need to think about interconnecting media, like the idea that your mobile device can talk to a physical flat screen on a wall. And from that, people online at home or in the office can play with content that's affecting what's happening in public space. Have people dance in front of a flat screen, so what they're doing generates visuals that are happening at a live Massive Attack show at the same time. Connect everything. Connect the internet to digital out-of-home to mobile to visuals. Everything should work together.