WERC: connecting digital and physical through awesome visuals


Awesome visuals, lights and installations, made by the collective brain called WERC. The four artists have had their work featured at pretty much all the biggest festivals in the Netherlands and even the Great Wall of China.

Visual art collective WERC consists of Joachim Rumke, Olav Huizer, Jelle Valk and Joachim de Vries. Their work ranges from video or projection mapping on buildings and sculptures, to VJ shows and the autonomously working collection of lights in the forest, called Pixi, which was recently featured on the Verge. “We love to experiment with new techniques and new media and our shared fascination is the connection that bridges the digital and physical world”, Olav explains.


From Simplon to Lowlands and the Great Wall

The collective has been working together for almost 8 years. “We all have our own different qualities and perspective, and we started out by doing simple VJ shows in Simplon, which became more and more elaborate”, Jelle says. “You know, things like, let’s make sculptures to project the visuals on, instead of just using the walls. An coming up with visuals on the fly, working on something backstage and running back with a USB stick.” 

“Just by experimenting and fooling around, we developed a really efficient working method and a unique combination”, Jelle continues. “And that’s when things suddenly took off. We did visuals for shows at Trouw, Awakenings Festival at the Melkweg and before we knew it, we were at venues across the country and were asked by Lowlands.”

WERC also provided the legendary sculpture and visuals for the 2016 edition of the Zwarte Cross festival. They made a 3D model of Aunt Rikie’s face (the festival’s mascot and living legend), and turned it into a giant sculpture/DJ stage with stunning visuals projected on it. That same year WERC video mapped the Great Wall of China for the Yin Yang music festival. The guys were invited to VJ one night during the festival and jumped on the opportunity to be the first to video map the wall.


Crossing over with Club Guy & Roni

For the 400 year anniversary of the University of Groningen, WERC collaborated with the Noord Nederlands Orkest and Club Guy & Roni, mapping the Academy Building while the orchestra played. “It was really great to work together and push the creative boundaries”, Jelle says. “We went on to work with Club Guy & Roni for their show My Private Odyssey and went from dance to theater. It’s really awesome to be able to do so many different things and have enormous creative freedom in the process.”

“Creatively speaking, it’s all about what you want to accomplish visually”, Olav explains. “It’s essentially storytelling, whether you use 2 lights or 20 projectors. I studied graphic design, which was just print in the old days. But in the digital age, there’s so many ways to tell a story visually, so I just love exploring different media, find new challenges and just experiment. We’re all like that and we like to constantly develop ourselves and do new things.”


Pixies lead the way

For the Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival, WERC has been creating cool things for over 6 years. ‘’Ever since we pasted tape on their program wal, as a guerrilla stunt, we were asked back to do more cool stuff.’’ Jelle laughs “One thing we did were those floating lights on the water, which eventually led to Pixi, our latest work, a few years later.”

“We were fascinated by how you can make patterns with a group of lights, kind of like trying to mimic nature”, Olav adds. “We controlled the lights and patterns for Noorderzon, but I was interested in leaving us, the designers, out of that process.” 

The following year Welcome to the Village festival invited WERC to light up the path from the festival ground to the campside. “That was pretty much a continuation of what we did for Noorderzon and I’m fascinated by the idea of creating this sort of symbiosis between nature and art.”


Lighting up the forest

Recently, the collective made international headlines with Pixi, a collection of pulsating lights in the forest of northern Drenthe, acting like a set digital organisms with group intelligence and imitating a swarm of fireflies, a flock of sparrows or shoals of fish. 

“What’s also cool,” Olav says, “is that the pixies also respond to things like temperature and they only light up when visitors are around. We took care of trying to really minimize the impact Pixi has on its natural surroundings, using the right light intensity and things like that.”

The Pixi forest exhibition will go on for a couple of years, but the guys from WERC are not the people who like to sit around and do nothing. So what’s next? “Well, that’s the question we ask ourselves all the time.” Olav smiles. “Whatever we do, we just want to continue to develop ourselves and grow as artists and as a collective. And just make cool shit! Ultimately, you’re only as good as your last work.”