We couldn’t miss this retrospective exhibition about the father of Video Art and one of the main references in the history of art for Audiovisual experimentation.
More than 200 artworks ranging from TV screens, to robots, video walls and immersive installations. A must-go event meticulously curated by the Tate to give insight into the work of this game-changing artist and researcher.
The first thing that strikes in Paik’s work is his playfulness. No matter what device he uses, the outcome is always lighthearted and pervaded by a witty sense of humor.
His personal relationship with technology has always featured curiosity and optimism. In TV Garden he creates a surreal immersive environment where TV screens and plants aesthetically coexist harmoniously, although weirdly.
His attitude shows a deep connection with Buddhist philosophy. TV Buddha clearly states this. With Buddha watching the TV and watching himself at the same time, he helps us to realise that our body merges with the nature in the same way it merges with technology. One is all and all is one.
Paik embraces chaos and technology all together in his Zen driven artistic experimentation. In his Robots, wires, pins, knobs, every component is well exposed in his fascinating ironic mess. Paik’s playful approach intends to humanize technology bringing it closer to the people, easier to grasp and easier to intervene.
Paik manipulates analog technology not only for aesthetic purposes but also as a political act. His anarchist artistic experimentation counteracts the consumerism driven by the mass manipulation through the TV.
Audiovisual City top picks of Paik’s expo are undoubtedly the two spectacularly immersive installations: Video Wall and Sistine Chapel.
Video Wall is a mesmerizing live collage of multiple video feeds. It strongly communicates the instability of perception and lack of focus in the mass media world.
Our eyes restlessly bounce within the video space from one feed to the other. Only after thorough observation we realize each image is linked up with its surrounding revealing the artistic and rhythmic pattern of the artwork. Only going through these steps we manage to embrace the multiple inputs as one video totem.
The Sistine Chapel is a stunningly sumptuous Audiovisual feast. It’s a large-scale installation made by 40 video projectors exhibited in plain sight in the centre of the room as if they were musical instruments.
This baroque multi-projection is a pioneering experiment of video mapping. As it’s really hard to focus on the single video feeds, the viewer is lead to appreciate the overall immersive AVscape created by this chaotically symphonic orchestra.
Artistic expression and technological experimentation bound together and filled with Nam June Paik’s refined sense of humor. Art that speaks to everyone that has ears and eyes for it!
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After seeing Shoeg’s project Infiltrate at LEV Matadero, we decided to catch up with him in Barcelona to find out more about his work, and to try and decipher the fascinating performance we saw that intrigued us to discover what technologies he uses to create his live AV shows.
Primarily I understand, you would consider yourself to be a musician, am I right? Or how would you label yourself? When did you decide to experiment with the A/V side of your show?
In the last years I’ve changed that way of seeing myself, so I would say I’m an artist. It’s not only sound anymore, I feel really that I am trying to express myself also through my code, my visual stuff, even my movements. I’m also collaborating with dance companies, where it is quite important to know how you move on stage, and this made me aware of that. So, for example I try to play without the table and computer blocking the visual line to the audience. I have also changed my relationship with sound, focusing more on textured layers instead of pitch.
I started as a “musician”, but my visual side has been always there. I’ve been working for 15 years as a video editor, and I always had this fascination about image and sound synchronicity and feedback.
Have you created the visual part of the show yourself or collaborated with a visual artist? (If so, who and why?) If not, tell us about how you developed the project and any challenges you faced in dealing with both elements of the performance.
I almost always create my own stuff. I’m not closed to collaborating with other people, but I tried to involve other artists in the past and for a reason it almost never happened, except for when I worked at the very beginning on the project with Ana Drucker, but after that I spent 2-3 years without a visual show, and I was really missing it. At some point, I wanted it back and I decided I had to refresh my coding knowledge to achieve what I wanted. I studied Computer Science for a couple of years, so at least I had a starting point – more or less.
I wanted to build a real time reactive visual system, that could be completely autonomous in a live set. The idea was to set up a bunch of rules, and do something sound reactive that could last 45 minutes in a live set without getting boring. So first challenge in this process was choosing which tools suited my needs the better. I tried, for example, Open Frameworks, which was a bit too complicated for my coding skills. Later, I knew about game engines like Unreal or Unity, which are free and you can do a lot of things scripting, easier to code. It’s also great to have this good amount of documentation and works done by other people online. I’m curious now about what Touch Designer can do, but for the moment Unity allows me to have a precise control of what I need.
On the other hand, I wanted to work with objects from the real world in 3D aesthetics. I could model them with Blender, but I have no idea. So I learned some 3D techniques, like photogrammetry or 3D scanning. I remember wanting something more “perfect”, but discovered almost by accident the beautiful imperfections this techniques introduce in the models.
We recently saw your performance of your latest project ‘Infiltrate’ at LEV Matadero. What tools and set up are you using for the show?
All the sound was generated using a couple of Etee sensors that the guys at Tangi0 lent me for a couple of months. These devices capture my hand and finger motion, as well as pressure data, and that is converted into MIDI signal through a Max MSP patch. Finally, MIDI is sent to the Virus and Digitakt. I had to bring hardware synths to the live sets, because I need a lot of polyphony to build these big layers of sound, and I couldn’t achieve it in virtual synths. Then, the visual stuff is a Unity app reacts to the sound mix.
How does the use of this technology improve, or add to the quality and experience of your show for you, as an artist?
It allows to express myself in ways I could’ve never imagined. I’ve never performed as comfortable and with wide palette of possibilities with an instrument until I discovered motion sensors combined with the computer. The ability to map any behaviour to any response allows you to optimize your abilities in order to get what you want. This can’t ever happen with “traditional” instruments, you have to adapt to the instrument rigidness and background. I also see the coding process as a prosthesis, an extension able to repeat mechanical operations while you pierce through them.
What does the future hold for Shoeg in the world of live performance?
In the near future, I have to improve a lot of things: I want to make my hands more prominent on stage and be less computer dependent. People keep asking what is happening with the sensors, and I want to make it a bit more understandable. I also have this long list of ideas to code which don’t have time to make, and I would also like to collaborate with other people. But before that, I want to record a new album. I hope I’ll be able to work on it in the next months.
You can find out more about Shoeg’s work through his artist page.
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Earlier this month, we met with Marta Verde to find out about her performance with Tensal at LEV Matadero, and to pick her brains about all those niggling little questions we had after following her career for the last few years.
Who are the artists that you are most looking forward to seeing at LEV Matadero?
Myriam Bleau and Ryoichi Kurokawa.
How were you contacted about the project at LEV Festival?
They called me and proposed that I collaborate with Tensal for their edition at Matadero in Madrid. I had never worked with him before.
Do you ever find that some genres of music just don’t inspire your work?
Absolutely. In general I don’t work on the clubbing, or nightlife scene, so related styles of music wouldn’t be my first choice of project. I actually started doing visuals with traditional Galician music.
Do friends often come to see your performances?
Yes, it depends on the performance. These days they tend to film me in vertical, so I rarely have content that I can use other than for Instagram [she laughs]
How do you feel about being on stage as a visual artist?
I don’t really like that part at all, but of course it’s part of the job. I’m quit shy, really. My show at LEV Matadero is quite different from what I usually do – in terms of music genre, as well as the time of the performance – pretty late, since I’m on at 1am.
What is the most unusual project are you’ve worked on in your career so far?
A few years ago I worked on a project with a musician called Julián Elvira who built a flute that played different frequencies (I had no idea that this wasn’t already the case with flutes!) It was really interesting, because I learnt a lot about music and we were able to work very closely together for the collaboration. We premiered the show in Martin E. Segal Theatre, New York.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now, I’m working on a live performance with Madrid-based composer, José Venditti. He plays saxophone, and works on deconstructing sound through classical patterns.
What set-up will you be using for your performance tonight?
A couple of months ago I bought an analogue video synthesizer from LZX Industries. It’s really fun. There’s no preview, so anything can happen, and I also can’t save any presets. I also won’t be using any code for this show, which is very unusual for me. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of analogue video techniques, and don’t really understand why people go to great lengths to copy the aesthetic digitally, when they could just try to get a real one.
Do you use social media a lot to promote your work?
You can follow me if you like, my instagram account is mainly dominated by photos of my cat and screenshots of my work. I don’t really get work through social media channels, people tend to contact me directly. The work is really interesting and every project is completely different. Usually I’m presented with some kind of problem and I find ways to solve it.
Apart from doing visual performances, you are currently working at a Fab Lab, right?
It’s very common for freelancers to supplement their work through teaching, which I love. I find it really motivational and inspiring to work with young people and their ideas. I used to work as a coordinator in a Fab Lab, and I still give classes on programming and digital manufacturing there, but not on a regular basis anymore. I tend to work in different locations and on a more ad-hoc basis, that way I can combine teaching with my own projects.
If you want to read more about Marta’s work, you can check her artist profile page here.
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Marta is a Creative Coder and Digital Artists from Galicia, based in Madrid.
Originally, she studied Fine Arts, and now she is specialised in new media arts and digital technologies applied to the performance arts. She also teaches at the Fab Academy, as an expert in digital fabrication.
Marta develops visuals, interactive and generative graphics, as well as dynamic/interactive content for lighting design, custom electronic devices and wearables, interactive installations for musicians, dance and theatre companies, artists, designers and arts institutions.
Her work is constructed through the use of custom built software and hardware specific to each visual set, allowing her to manipulate all the content in real time and to explore the limits of visual noise, repetition and the link between the organic and the electronic.
She works primarily in Spain and Portugal on a wide variety of projects, from theatre to festivals. Marta has also performed at festivals such as Primavera Sound, LEV Matadero, Sonic Arts Festival, MIRA and WOS Festival.
She also has taught about technology and interactivity at: IED Madrid, Ephemereal Architecture Masters Degree at ETSAM Madrid, Medialab-Prado, La Casa Encendida ,Fundación Telefónica, BAU, UOC, and has mentored Hackatons at Makers of Barcelona with Ciclo.io.