Meet Ines Alpha, the artist who is shaping the future of beauty
Augmented reality is now an essential part of our digitalized lives. Filters, avatars, clothes, and fictional environments are the new trappings of the 21st century.
With her virtual makeup, Ines Marzat, aka @InesAlpha – a Parisian artist and former advertising art director – is leading this technological revolution that keeps on blurring the boundaries between reality and virtual worlds.
We had a « no filter » conversation with the woman who is shaping the future of beauty and digital identity.
How would you define your art today ?
Ines Alpha : Before anything, I usually define myself as a digital artist in what I like to call 3D makeup. What I like to do above all is to add 3D elements on faces, in order to create unexpected, surprising things, that people can relate to.
We tend to oppose 3D environments and the physical world, whereas the latter is also basically in 3 dimensions. I like this word, 3D, because it rings a digital bell and immediately reminds us of visual effects, and movies like Avatar. When we use the word 3D, we envision a physical object, which occupies space with a volume. It is this important notion that allows me to sit with my creations at the border of two worlds.
What does make-up mean to you ?
IA : Both on social networks and in real life, the face is the first thing we see in a person. It helps us to identify ourselves, define ourselves and also differentiate ourselves.
Makeup can be anything as long as it enables to transform faces. For example, we can totally use objects, insects, plants, or food as makeup… It is a tool that allows everyone to express themselves and convey a personal emotion with their face. In the digital world, it can turn into very surprising things. By using these tools, we can go beyond the boundaries of the physical world and create our own reality.
It’s actually quite magical.
Where does this desire to transform faces come from?
IA : When I first started Instagram, I started following RuPaul’s Drag Race. At that time, I was discovering quite a few people who were part of the Drag culture. I was fascinated by the creativity that was coming out of this scene. Beyond transforming themselves into beautiful women, these artists were creating very different styles of faces and beauty that we weren’t used to see in magazines. It really triggered my curiosity, it was a real inspiration. It was around that time that I got the idea of adding 3D elements to faces and doing 3D makeup.
What made you think that people could be open to this?
IA : It’s really something that is directly related to social media. The boom of social media has given everyone the opportunity to express their personalities. We also live in a time that is allowing people to find places where they feel safe, within communities that understand them, where they can be proud of their differences, and even openly display them. They were able to thrive and live their identities in new ways. I realized at that moment that people also wanted to be able to express themselves aesthetically by playing with their faces.
What are you trying to convey through your art ?
IA : At the beginning 3D makeup was really just about having fun, and trying a lot of different things. I really wanted to do weird stuff, that you couldn’t see anywhere else. When I got deeper into my work, I asked myself if all this facial transformation could bring anything at all, and also why I naturally had this desire to transform faces. I think that what I want to convey in my work is this feeling of being tired of always seeing the same things, the same faces. It’s the idea of rejecting the strict standards that tells us what is beautiful or not. Women have always been very exposed to this. But the reality is that beauty is something extremely subjective and emotional. For too long we have been locked into our imperfections because we do not correspond to what we should be.
I know that things are changing, men are wearing makeup, the different genders come out and assume themselves more « easily ». We also really want those who have been quiet to speak up.
"If my work should be useful, I would like it to help people to accept themselves better, to offer them a creative tool to freely express their beauty, and to challenge the idea that people have of what a beautiful face is."
You work with many brands and artists, how do you approach your collaborations?
IA : For my personal projects, I need to have an artistic connection to the people that I work with.
These are people who inspire me, because I find them already very beautiful, or because I like their work, or because I am sensitive to their face.
For example, I really enjoyed working with Salvia. She is an artist who has a very, very strange beauty that she enhances with prosthetics and makeup. She has a particular relationship with the body, it is extremely touching.
On the other hand, when I design a filter in augmented reality, I will be able to speak more easily about make-up and create something that is meant to everyone and that everyone can adopt. It’s very important for me that people take ownership of my work. They should be able to play with it, the design shouldn’t be frozen. At the moment I’m working on a project where people will be able to choose and place 3D elements on their faces. I think that in the near future it will be possible to do this with your fingers or with digital brushes. We will be able to paint our faces and play with different textures. Eventually everyone will be able to create their own digital makeup.
What are your views on the evolution of our digital identity and the place it is taking in our lives?
IA : We all have different personalities and we all wear different masks depending on the situation we are in. Our digital identity gives us the opportunity to express a side of our personality that we do not show elsewhere. Today we have all the tools at our disposal to express what we want to be, in terms that we have decided. I am not surprised that some people consider their digital identity as their real identity. It also shows us the violence of the physical world.
Today, you can’t go out in the street the way you want to. If you are a woman, if your skirt is too short, if your hair is blue, you are exposed to a lot of violence. I totally understand that there are people who just feel way more comfortable and more themselves with their digital identity.
Even if you’re always somehow playing a part, the most important thing is that everyone now has a space where they can freely express their creativity and their personality.
Does the future of beauty lie in virtual worlds?
IA : I don’t think that we’ll all be wearing nano lenses just tomorrow, but it’s true that technology is developing fast. I have the feeling that, soon, our daily lives will growingly be filled with mixed reality. There have already been attempts with Google Glass for instance, but it was too early and too much to handle. Moreover, it is a very expensive technology and thus accessible only to a certain part of the population. Maybe we’ll be wearing filters and digital makeup in the street, but it’s still a bit early in my opinion.
What is certain is that all those virtual gimmicks will not solve the existing problems of acceptance. People will have to learn sooner or later to love the body they were born in.
Social media, because they can be used freely, have at least this ability to democratize tools like filters or 3D makeup that allow people to express themselves.
"The future of beauty lies more certainly in the end of the standards that our society conveys and in a creative and varied approach to self expression."
Will we all be buying virtual clothes in the future ?
IA : This is something I’ve always liked a lot. As a teenager, I used to play video games and I loved customizing characters. At that time, there were already a lot of sexist clichés in the representation of women. Today it’s true that the phenomenon has grown a lot, with tailor-made digital clothes for our avatars or limited editions in Fortnite for example. It’s often very expensive but it’s just the logical consequence of things. We will certainly all have digital dressing rooms tomorrow.
It still raises the issue of the value we want to give to things, especially if we consider the carbon footprint of a complete digital collection of a ready-to-wear brand.
What do you think about the emergence of virtual influencers?
IA : I think it’s something we have to be very careful about. Being an influencer is not a job, it’s not something that you just create, that you decide. So creating a fictional character with the objective of developing his influence on people is probably a little too ambitious and a little dangerous.
There have been several attempts, like Miquela for instance, with a real industry behind it. It shows that it’s a lot of work and extremely expensive to create a personality that doesn’t actually exist.
There are also some nice examples. When Louis Vuitton borrows the characters from Final Fantasy, it works because there is a story behind it, a personality that has been built, but if it’s just about representing a human being who is not really a human being, who doesn’t have a personality, I don’t see the point.
What’s important to keep in mind is that 3D and digital tools allow us to do things that don’t exist, to do things that we can’t do in the physical world. Today we are making influencers who look like human beings. I feel like we’re missing out on something, I’d like to see a T-Rex or an alien influencer…
Virtual events and experiences are developing more and more, how do you imagine people will meet in the future?
IA : Personally, since I have a computer, I have met as many people on the internet than in real life, and maybe even more. But then again, if we talk about human experience, there is a moment when you have to feel the energy of the person, the smell, the chemistry, whether it is during a love or friendship encounter, or a professional encounter… There is an imperceptible feeling, that the virtual world does not allow, and that I think would drive us crazy if we could not feel it anymore. And honestly, VR events are not quite there yet.
The interest of the virtual world is to be able to meet people like you, to find out which community you belong to. It doesn’t replace the physical world but it coexists with it. It’s a tool that allows you to connect people who are similar and who have things to share.
That’s already something fantastic.
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