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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The past week, 5th – 9th November, MIRA FESTIVAL celebrated its 9th Edition and Audiovisual City were present to enjoy the program that featured audiovisual shows, 360-degree experiences in DOME format, installations, workshops and conferences.
This edition rethought the combination of art and technology as tools of protest, to turn thinking into action, and invited us to interfere in a personal transformation to trigger a change in the future. In addition to this ingenious theme, the festival opened a new stage at Fabra i Coats, dedicated to multidimensional sound: the 3D Sound Room by Estrella Galicia.
For the live AV shows, we want to highlight some well-known artists that MIRA festival brought this year. Thursday Sam Shepert (AKA Floating Points) played accompanied by the visuals of Hammill Industries. Friday’s Av highlight was CLARK feat. Evelyn Bencicova and her show of a wide gamma of textures along with his characteristic techno. Alessandro Cortini also produced some emotional content through electronic sounds, with his warm and human visuals. On Saturday Biosphere performed a series of recordings and improvisations captured outdoors on the island of Senja, and Vessel and Pedro Maia presented the dualities of the human condition. But these are just some of the many artists who participated in this edition.
Some of the artists that surprised us at Audiovisual City were, on Friday, the Nihiloxica band, with their intercultural experiment, fusing the indigenous Bugandina percussion with dark European club music. Also, on Saturday, the duet of 700 Bliss, with who you clearly see a relationship with the theme of the festival, sounds and words are embodied in suffering and social alignment in an unfair world. And finally, Curl, on Saturday, where we could see an unexpected turn in the style of the band, showing a previous experimental work. The originality and strength of these artists left us astonished.
We show you some of the magical moments that we captured at the festival.
Carlos Martorell is a sound and visual artist based in a small Catalan town called Torelló, near Girona. His work focuses on the symbiotic relationship between humans and technology. He uses his programming skills and knowledge of new technologies to explore the visual and audio through the creation of experimental music and live AV.
He creates sumptious virtual worlds through programming language such as Unity, as well as with 3D scans. It’s not uncommon to see him performing with non-traditional MIDI equipment, using apparatus such as gloves and hand-held technology, which as an adds a peculiar physical dimension to his live shows.
Header photo © Hayley Cantor
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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