Digital Arts news everyday, and a full magazine every quarter
Tous les jours, l'actualité des arts numériques, et tous les trois mois, un magazine complet
View My Blog
Send me a message
Lire le dernier numéro
The latest Digitalarti Mag is coming soon in english.
Report at Scopitone festival, digital art & electronic music festival in Nantes, France
rAndom International @ Carpenters Workshop gallery, Paris
Innovations in Paris: Futur en Seine
Capture, by Gregory Chatonsky, presented in Paris
[Interview] Peter Weibel, director of ZKM
Ars Electronica Price 2013 : and the winners are...
[agenda] Nancy celebrates Renaissance
A trap made of light : Isotopes by Nonotak Studio
[exhibition] Digital Africa
[Exhibition] Water Light Graffiti @ Stereolux
[Festival] Parizone@dream 2013
[interview] GRÉGORY CHATONSKY image and flow…
[Interview] Robert Henke, Vanishing Lines
[Feedback] SOUND ART @ ZKM, MAC & 104
More blog entries
The Dutch artist and researcher Edwin van der Heide explores the combinatory fields of sound, light and spatiality. His interactive approach often places the viewer at the heart of his work to actively explore installations whose dimensions are just as voluminous as they are volumetric. Interview with the artist.
Edwin, your new piece, Sound Modulated Light 3, will be presented from March to August at the ZKM in Karlsruhe. It’s the latest in a series of works that was initiated a few years ago and presented at IFFR 2005 in Rotterdam and Voltage Festival 2008 in Courtray, among others. The concept is always based on the viewers moving along with a special box that makes light modulations structuring the spatiality of the room audible through headphones. What are the principles of this new version of the project?
Actually, Sound Modulated Light is a light and sound environment where the sound is not acoustically present. It’s transported by light. The space of the room is structured according to a network of multiple lights. The sound is modulated in intensity through these lights. Low audio frequencies come from a flicker, a visible blink of the lights. Higher frequencies are emitted by blinking so rapid that it’s imperceptible to the human eye. Each light source is assigned its own soundtrack. In earlier versions of Sound Modulated Light, I used the walls of the venue to give structure to the lights. For Sound Modulated Light 3, I suspend lights in the space in order to create several layers of light, one behind the other. This complex overlapping of lights results in a more complex entanglement of sound layers, which is more stimulating for the audience, who should expect more “unexpected” moments.
This “complexity” and multitude of directions can also be found in the media wall that you’re currently installing with the architect Lars Spuybroek on the front of the interdisciplinary art/media center of Rotterdam, the V2_. What is it exactly? Expressing your work through an even more architectural approach seems pretty logical…
To be precise, Overtone Façade—that’s the working title—is already my third collaboration with Lars Spuybroek. We first worked together on Water Pavilion, which opened in 1997, then we made Son-O-House in 2004, and now we’re working on this façade for the V2_. It’s true that the need to create and to structure space plays a big part in my work. But I also try to address the viewer’s “body” as a whole, not just the senses of hearing and sight. Viewers must actively engage with my pieces, confront them in a way. What I find particularly interesting in the work of Lars Spuybroek is that he’s not interested in functional architecture, but simply in questions of form. Like me, he likes to articulate that with an active audience. He likes to give a physical form to space, while I focus on structuring space using sound and light, at a level of intensity that becomes almost a tangible physical experience. It’s very interesting to combine these two approaches and play with their amplification, with the oppositions between material and immaterial. For Overtone Façade, I have fun separating—or should I say exploding?—sounds into “overtones”, partial frequencies, harmonics. These harmonics have their own autonomous and spatialized behavior, which circulates through 90 small speakers that are integrated into the façade. Each one of these harmonics is an independent entity that can dynamically engage, but also remain isolated or “in between”. By inversing the hierarchy between sound and harmonics, we can establish a level of control where “morphing”, the metamorphosis of sound, becomes a key aspect of the sound synthesis produced.
In all this structuring of space, the concept of interactivity between audience, sound, lights and space is fundamental to your work. This approach often gives viewers a very important role as the triggers or experimenters of a mechanism that no doubt becomes all the more meaningful because of it. Is this the essential element that you consider when conceiving an installation? Placing the viewers at the center of the work?
Yes, it’s the idea I mentioned earlier of stimulating the audience. They must create their own paths through the space. My works are often based on simple exploratory principles that I then “extrapolate” into the space. I see these space-structuring and interaction-structuring processes as augmented forms of composition. Whereas traditional compositions are relative to the finished pieces, my works structure possibilities that in a way reveal themselves to the audience.
In your piece Evolving Spark Network, which you presented recently in Montreal for Mois Multi 13, this interactive structuring involving the audience takes on an even larger physical dimension, materialized by the grid of electric spark bridges of light and sound suspended above the ground. This piece has a very “organic” feel to it, as if humans were coming into contact with a sort of artificial life?
I intentionally use this network of electric sparks for its supplementary physicality. It’s also a way of underlining that my works contain a customized combination of both virtual computer processes and real—in the sense of living—experiences. Things happen for real in the space, not on a screen or through a projection.
Speaking of experiences, another series that I find interesting, but more for its immersive nature, is DSLE, which you developed for Naut Humon’s project Cinechamber—10 screens surrounding the audience for particularly immersive live audiovisual shows—characterized by octophonic sound and more than a hundred LED lights. You presented a reworked version last autumn at the STRP festival in Eindhoven. What’s new? Is this project now independent from Cinechamber?
With DSLE, I’m heading toward three different realizations. At first I tried to use a customized LED control system, one that could be extremely quickly and precisely manipulated. But as I was working on this first installation, I became interested in exploring other possibilities for a more video-based version of Cinechamber. Video prjectors don’t give me the same speed and precision as LED lights, but they do offer a much greater resolution.
This opens many new possibilities without compromising the initial draft of the project. DSLE-2, which I presented at STRP, uses LED panels developed by Philips. These panels are great because they offer a beautiful diffused light. However, they don’t yet respond to true high-speed control. Right now I’m working on DSLE-3, which uses LED interfaces that I developed myself and allow me to do exactly what I had in mind from the beginning. This new mechanism gives me finer transitions in our perception of speed and movement, which greatly improves the content of the piece. DSLE-3 will premiere in June at the Panorama 2012 exhibition in the contemporary art studios of Le Fresnoy in Tourcoing.
What you just said sums up how variable your approach is. This is evident when you compare an intimate installation, heard only through headphones, such as Sound Modulated Light, and more buzzing pieces, such as Spatial Sounds (100dB at 100km/h). Can you talk about this installation, conceived with Marnix de Nijs and presented recently in the exhibition La Fabrique Sonore at Les Caves Pommery in Reims? It’s very radical in nature…
Spatial Sounds (100dB at 100km/h) is an interactive installation that focuses on the man-machine relationship and toys with the question of whether we control the machine or if it’s the machine that controls us. The installation opposes moments where the audience may feel that it has “chosen” to interact with them, where the audience pretty much controls the operations, and where a kind of fear results from the sudden motion of a speaker attached to a rapidly spinning robotic arm. This opposition leads to alternating sequences, where you can feel empathy, control things, but also be afraid of the installation! In some ways, Spatial Sounds (100dB at 100km/h) explores the limits of the idea of “who controls who”.
This “empathy”, this idea of “Who controls who?” must be a question that you ask yourself when you perform live in some of your pieces. There’s an older one that you still perform often, LSP – Laser Sound Performance, a sort of combined laser-sound show. Can you tell us about this performance? Does it feed your temptation of being more present on stage, like in the days of Sensorband with Atau Tanaka and Zbigniew Karkowski?
As you know, my background is in electronic music. Very early, I became interested in using interfaces with physical sensors, in order to control computer-generated sounds in real time. I did quite a few performances that way, either solo or with Sensorband. But over time, my interest shifted toward spatiality, and I realized that this conflicted a bit with the concept of performing on a stage. Even if I still enjoy performing live, I’m more interested now in everything that can be produced within a spatially designed installation. So LSP is a good example of this evolved process. Actually, in May I’m presenting an outside version of LSP at the Lichtströme festival in Koblenz, Germany. This is the first time I’ll be working with real fog, and not a smoke machine! I’m very impatient to see the results.
Music is still very important to you, as we can see from your piece Extended Atmospheres, presented last October at the Austrian Kontraste festival, and based on Atmospheres, composed by György Ligeti in 1961 (and reprised by Stanley Kubrick in his 2001, a Space Odyssey…
Yes, Atmospheres is a very interesting musical piece in the sense that it’s an orchestral composition that is carried primarily by texture and tone. It results from a collaboration with the composer Jan-Peter Sonntag, with whom I share the same fascination for the original piece. We always wondered how it would sound if it had been written today.
One interesting point: You were a visiting professor at TU (Technische Universitat) in Berlin in 2009, and you’re now a visiting artist at École du Fresnoy in Tourcoing. Is it important for you to be in contact with a whole generation of emerging digital and audiovisual artists?
Of course. I believe that teaching especially helps to structure your thoughts. And it’s a good way to stimulate dialogue.
interview by Laurent Catala
Published in Digitalarti Mag #9
Digitalarti Mag, the international magazine about art and digital innovation
Free and interactive magazine available online
anne cecile worms ARTIST, ARTWORK dm_artist Evolving Spark Network Lars Spuybroek LIEN DIRECT Make Musique digitale Naut Humon Technologie VideoEx gravity I. P. C. Jason Cook mathieu lehanneur Mur Water PCB Object Avatar by
More information about formatting options