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How the pandemic inspired two sisters from Kazakhstan to create MABLAB and its metaversal landscape NFTs

Navigating terrain yet unchartered.

TEXT MARK LEAN

IMAGES MABLAB

Behind MABLAB is a pair of sisters, Madina and Ainura Bissenova, who began collaborating professionally when they were both home in Kazakhstan at the height of COVID. During that time, they discovered that NFTs are the ideal medium in which to virtually bridge closed borders, and to develop MABLAB’s signature landscape NFTs that give imagined forms and geographical terrain to the metaverse. The duo speak to Brytehall about their processes and discoveries that led to their career-shaping “artistic metamorphosis”.

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In the ‘Metaverse Big Bang’ series, would it be correct to say there are cosmic inspirations? How would you apply this concept to a ‘place’ with no physicality?

Our work is focused around the idea of architectural space. [It’s about] enhancing the experience of space and perception of space within the concept of architecture and spatial design. We create architectural space and bring it into abstract dimension. This abstract dimension in many senses, for us, resembles the idea of cosmic space, a space with no gravity, no point of reference, and helps us to push the boundaries of perception of architectural space. [We come] from professional backgrounds in architecture and [the] arts. We joined the NFT space last year and were greatly inspired by the Web3 environment [in which] to create our new concept collection ‘Metaverse Big Bang’. Through this concept, we wanted to explore and visualise the landscape of expansion and creation of metaverse.



When did the both of you decide to professionally collaborate?

Both of us have been involved in the arts from an early age. We have spent most of our lives practising and mastering our skills in various fields of artistic expression. Coming from Kazakhstan, we spent a big part of our lives studying and building academic careers in art schools in different countries—the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany. Although being involved in traditional art from a young age, professionally we trained in the fields of architecture and photography, mostly based in digital practices. All our mature academic and artistic practices were based on experimentations in the digital field. This was before NFTs [came into the picture]. We share the same aesthetic preferences, so it has always come naturally for us to collaborate.

 

We always wanted to have a studio together, and this finally came to life during the pandemic. After Madina’s second master’s degree, she planned on continuing her PhD studies. But the pandemic came, and we both were home and were looking for ways to continue our artistic practices. So we created a studio on a basis of Madina’s body of work—it was the only solution we had at that moment. Collaborating as a studio producing NFTs in 2021 was a life-changing experience for us. We were able to connect with the global art community, even though we were not based [in countries where there are dynamic art scenes]. [As MABLAB] our genesis project ‘Chimera’ was, in many ways, a symbol of our artistic metamorphosis.

How would you describe your working partnership?

We have experienced space and distance in our lives, [so] we transform our experiences into unique artworks that push the boundaries of the perception of space. In our different ways, we both share the ‘experience of the space’ as the main focus of our artistic expression. Madina during her younger years practising classical drawing, and later in her professional academic career as an architect; Ainura through her career in choreography, through dance and movement, and later through photography. [So] building our body of work, based on Madina’s extensive research in architecture, has become a natural evolution for our art practices.



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As MABLAB,  in what ways is it different from how you’d interact as sisters?

It is not very different. [We] explore themes of architectural space, proximity and tension to create different dynamics and landscapes in our work. It is an outlet to express the themes that are important in our lives as individuals and as an artistic duo.



The NFT artworks MABLAB creates would actually look pretty cool IRL. Why did MABLAB decide to work in the NFT space?

[We are] natively digital. We never used the software in a conventional way, and were always looking for unique ways of expressing our classical background and skills through a digital media. This has a big impact on our style. The digital world provides many opportunities to explore the main focus of our work without being attached to a tangible idea. It’s the same with NFTs. After becoming NFT artists, and not coming from the western world, we were finally able to connect with the global art community and to make a living without the need to spend enormous amounts of energy and finances to travel away from friends and family, away from our chain of natural support in order to be present physically, and to go through a myriad of paperwork including letters from bank, obtaining visas and such. So the freedom that digital media and Web3 provides for creatives is a very important element for our lives.



There are many intricacies involved with your art. What is the primary message contained in them?

Architectural space. We explore architectural space through our work, and we want to push the boundaries of the perception of space. Much like in Web3, the digital revolution will redesign the usual perception of space around us. Our artworks are based on years of exploration of architectural space in-depth. We want to share our experience with the world and let the viewer explore the space and the landscapes we create without physical constraints.



What are you currently working on? Why does it matter?




Since joining the NFT space, the idea of Web3 technology continues to fascinate us. With our own experience of space, in our work and in our lives, we feel a great connection with the digital revolution and the opportunities that technology of Web3 brings to artists and creatives from around the world. We are currently focused on a concept that explores the landscape of metaverse. We are exploring architectural space, and we want to focus on visualising different stages of its creation and expansion.