Ruben Frosali, also known as RubenFro, is a self-taught digital artist based in Japan. He combines his passion for technology and art to create pieces that freeze moments of daily life in urban areas. In this interview, RubenFro talks about his most recent work, “Dissolving Realities,” a series of artworks based on photogrammetry, and his interest in documenting reality and deconstructing it into a series of coordinates. He also talks about his influences and inspiration and how he feels when creating new art. RubenFro also shares his plans for upcoming projects, including his work with Jadu AR in creating a next-generation web 3 AR fighting game.
NFT Granny: “Dear Ruben or as most people in the NFT space know you rubenfro, thank you very much for taking your precious time. Being a VFX Artist by profession – was it a no-brainer for you to mint some of your Art as NFTs?”
Ruben Frosali: Thank you for having me! In addition to my commercial work, I had been creating videos for Instagram for several years before I learned about NFTs. I was already familiar with cryptocurrencies, so when I first heard about NFTs, I was immediately intrigued, even though I initially didn’t fully understand their potential.
However, after some reflection, everything fell into place in my mind and it all made so much sense. Digital ownership, decentralization, and monetization for artists – it was an incredible revolution, especially in the early days of the movement.
How did you first become interested in art, and how did you get started with it yourself?
Ruben Frosali: Although I don’t have any formal art training, I’ve always been drawn to the creative world. As a child, I played music and then explored photography and videomaking. My interest in technology was also present from an early age, and I started learning to code when I was young.
It wasn’t until later that I discovered a way to combine my passion for coding with my love for art.
Yet, I only started to see myself as a full-time artist in the last couple of years.
In 2019, I collaborated with other artists on a series of interactive art installations called Future Cities. The series was exhibited in Japan, Taiwan, and New Zealand. Then in January 2020, just before the pandemic hit, I released a series of artworks based on photogrammetry called Dissolving Realities. These pieces froze moments of daily life in Hanoi, and the series went viral, being featured on Vimeo, festivals, and events like Mutek. This exposure allowed me to connect with other creatives and further explore the world of digital art.
In June 2021, I made the decision to leave my career in IT and open a studio to focus on visual effects, digital art, and video production. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to create music videos and commercials for well-known artists like Pussy Riot, A$AP Ferg ft. Pharrell Williams, Rezz Deathpact, and for brands like Virgin, Acronym, and McLaren.
Currently, I’m Head of Cinematics for Jadu AR, curating the video production for the launch of the first multiplayer AR fighting game. With so many innovative features and technologies involved, it’s been a pleasure to work with such a talented team to create an immersive and engaging experience for players.
Could you tell us more about the story of your most recent work “Dissolving Realities – HANOI 1”?
Ruben Frosali: “Dissolving Realities – HANOI 1” is part of a larger series called “Dissolving Realities,” which I began in 2020. In this series, I capture 3D scans of real places and deconstruct them with real-time visual effects. Unlike traditional 3D art, my scans come from raw recordings of the real world, instead of carefully crafted 3D models.
To capture the scans, I use techniques that I’ve developed, which allow me to scan large urban scenes in a matter of seconds, freezing time and preserving slices of daily life. I then use the scans as building blocks for my animated artworks.
Rather than aiming for photorealism, I embrace the fuzzy and imprecise nature of raw, untreated point cloud data, particularly when capturing people. This approach creates an aesthetic that is closer to how we remember things, with fading memories that you can almost touch but that disintegrate as you get too close. This theme is present in “Dissolving Realities – HANOI 1,” where the chaotic streets of Vietnam are suddenly frozen in time and falling apart as the camera moves through.
The ability of this technology to document reality and deconstruct it into a series of coordinates is fascinating. I see those 3D points as atoms that I can fluidly rearrange in different combinations. The patterns and shapes of the real world often interact with the algorithms to create unexpected results. Additionally, I integrate audio field recordings with generative samples to compose the soundscape in my artworks
Which of your artworks are you most proud of?
Ruben Frosali: I’m always experimenting with different themes and exploring new ideas, which can be challenging in a field where a cohesive personal brand is important. However, I believe that in the long term, it’s the best way to grow as an artist and a person. So, typically, I’m most proud of my latest works. That being said, I have a soft spot for one of my earliest and longest pieces, a 20-minute short film called “Descent”.
Is there an artist you would like to work with? Like a collaboration?
Ruben Frosali: A.L. Crego and I have been talking about collaborating for quite a long time, and I hope we can make it happen sometime in the coming months. However, my dream to collaborate with the director Chris Cunningham would be impossible since he’s no longer active.
We are curious 🙂 Would you be willing to share any plans of upcoming projects?
Ruben Frosali: Besides my art, I’m excited about the future with Jadu AR in creating a next-generation web 3 AR fighting game. We’re working hard to make something really special. On a personal level, since last year I’ve mostly taken a break from releasing new pieces because I’m experimenting with new technologies and ideas. I’m still not ready to share what I’m working on but hope to finalize those ideas later this year and release a new series of works. My upcoming pieces will involve more complex and longer cinematic conceptual themes.
Who or what are your biggest influences or sources of inspiration?
Ruben Frosali: I draw inspiration from my explorations and wanderings, particularly during the early mornings or late evenings. I’m fascinated by the emotions that certain places can evoke during these unusual times of the day. Some places are seemingly mundane, such as a railway underpass at dawn when no one is around or an old bridge in an industrial area that’s usually devoid of pedestrians. Other times, I stumble upon more remarkable finds, like an abandoned shrine while hiking the wilderness of Mongolia.
What do you feel when you are creating new art?
Ruben Frosali: The process of creating art can sometimes feel like a struggle, as you try to give shape to something that is not yet fully formed. It’s like trying to express a concept that you know but can’t quite put into words. However, art is also a way of tapping into our subconscious and bringing to life ideas that have always been within us. That moment of realization and creation is truly cathartic.
Which tools do you use to create your art?
Ruben Frosali: For the majority of my artworks, I utilize 3D scans of actual locations as my primary source material. During my travels, I always carry my cameras with me to quickly capture photogrammetry recordings. Once I’m back in my studio, all my computer work is carried out in real-time in Unity, with custom point cloud shaders I’ve coded over the years. I’m constantly exploring new techniques and writing new code depending on the artwork I’m working on. In addition, I also enjoy writing soundtracks for my pieces, usually mixing field recording with original compositions.
Do you remember the first time you heard about NFT Art?
Ruben Frosali: In late 2020, I first learned about NFT art. At first, I couldn’t quite grasp the concept, but everything finally clicked a few months later when I got the opportunity to participate with Pussy Riot in the NFT drop for the Panic Attack music video that I had previously worked on. It was a particularly fulfilling experience, and a portion of the sales went to support victims of domestic abuse. This experience made me realize the potential of NFTs and crypto to make a positive impact in the world.
How do you enjoy the NFT art you have collected? Do you have a way to display it, for example, at home?
Ruben Frosali: I do have beautiful physical pieces by Tim Maxwell, Nishe Ink and Patrick Tresset in my living room, and enjoy them very much. But still looking for a good way to show digital art 🙂
What is the most disturbing thing when it comes to NFTs and cryptoart in your opinion?
Ruben Frosali: The emergence of NFTs has brought forth unprecedented financial opportunities for artists, transforming the art industry in ways that were previously unimaginable. However, it is important to recognize that economics has always played a significant role in shaping the art world. The constant demand for something new, whether it be the latest trend or up-and-coming artists, is sometimes driven by financial motives. While this evolution is exciting to witness, it is also important to acknowledge that there are still significant advantages to being in certain locations and having access to specific networks. Private conversations and exclusive gatekeeping can also create new barriers to entry for artists. In this fast and ever-changing environment, I feel there’s the danger that larger players may seek to dominate and control the movement, steering it towards centralization and away from the decentralized nature of web3. This has the potential to create power dynamics that may not always serve the best interests of artists and their creative expression.
What does a typical day for you look like, and what do you like to do when you’re not busy with NFT Art?
Ruben Frosali: I like to alternate between more technical and creative phases. In my technical phases, I write code, test new features, and research. While in my creative phases, it’s all about playing with the things I’ve built or discovered. I’ve realized when I push more on one side I’m way less productive.
In my spare time, I love cooking (love all kinds of cuisines but I’m very addicted to Thai) and traveling when possible.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Ruben Frosali: You can receive amazing pieces of advice in your life, but sometimes they may not be the best choice for you, because they may lead you in directions you don’t want to go. It’s always important to follow what you think is right for you, rather than what others think is best.
- Full Name: Ruben Frosali
- Date of Birth: January 1980
- Current hometown: Tokyo, Japan
- Languages he speaks: Italian, English, Japanese
- What did you want to be when you were a child: Astronaut 🙂
- Your first Job: Part-Time at a computer shop