David Kiers, Gideon Kiers and Lucas Van Der Velden are Telcosystems, a Dutch research group very well known and very respected internationally, for its aesthetic and important projects, from live performances or enviromental installations. For years they have been advancing on many levels: on an academic level (they studied at the Royal Conservatory of the Royal Academy of The Hague), on an editorial level ( Lucas Van Der Velden is one of the directors of the audio visual festival and Sonic Acts multimedia), on an artistic level, emotionally and prospetively in the sound-imagine relationship, related to the physical space and in relation to the audience.
They have a method of work concentrated on the use of software and insturments in audio visual digital production, Telcosystems has been able to create, in a little over five years an activity with a limited production, a road of research that has gone beyond pure representation of sounds and images. For Telcosystems, the tension comes from a possibile audio visual representation in complex systems starting from simple singular elements, in both sound and visual terms.
Speaking in terms of technical and formal terms, from the work done by Granular Synthesis (on perception, the relation with space, the work on elementary systems of sound and images) and that Alvs Noto ( the visualization of complex systems starting from infinite elements through evolutionary processes, the emotional dialogue with the audience, the tension that offers new possibilities tied to the relationship between man and technology), Telcosystems has developed an independent and mature argument, enriched if you like, by some strange elements in the field of contemporary audio visual. This is why I felt the urge to interview them, a little bit late seeing as they have been around for five years.
12_series is their latest project, developed in the Spatial Media Laboratories and in collaboration with Baltan Laboratories and exhibited in 2009 at the Wood Street Galleries of Pittsburgh, later on a little booklet written by Arie Altena, Joost Rekveld and a DVD. A centre , Baltan, infact works on the relation between art and science, or anyways between human and artificial. 12_series is based on this principle, on the difference between natural human expressions and expressions artificially created.
Exploring the sensorial boundries of the human vision, following a journey started before with the work of Mortal Electrics or Loudthings on their capacity of organizing themselves independently with auto-organization with complex networks of data and algorythmic processes, with 12_series Telecosystems has introduces the issue of generative behaviour, transformed by evolution theories and by biochemical science into more tipicale processes of imitation, mutation and recombination of the living subjects.
For 12_series the subjects in question are 12 machines, 12 Mini_Mac accompanied by 12 speakers, installaed in the space almost as a tribute to the 12 Tv Sets in the memory of Paik. The Korean master has the capability of changing under the influence of an external element (in this case not from a magnet but from the behaviour of a machine nearby) and to the emotional relationship between the work and the audience.
Complex decisive processes activated by each machine based on the collective behavior of the system for a new form of audiovisual production, perhaps for the first time ever in this area it is much closer to the language of films, video or sound. An introduction to some of the key issues of software art and generative art: despite an identical DNA track, the machine is able to manufacture beautiful audiovisual horizons, which could perhaps be a new frontier in creative production of a universe we know is certainly a “tired” moment.
Marco Mancuso:First of all I think readers would like to know more about the genesis of the project 12_series. The project was produced by Spatial Media Laboratories, in collaboration with Baltan Laboratories, and exhibited at Wood Street Galleries in Pittsburgh in 2009. To conclude the project you published a very elegant booklet and dvd.
So, when did the project start and how did you begin to develop the ideas behind 12_series, maybe also in relation to the space of the gallery?
Telcosystems: We began to develop the initial ideas of the project 12_series in 2006. At that time we were working with spatial multi-channel audio systems, but always using a single channel video. Another starting point was the idea of having a cloud of machines that could generate sounds and compositions based on simple principles of evolution. ” Each with its own voice, or character, but at the same time aware of the machine nearby. Nothing special, just imitation, mutation and recombination. Between 2007 and 2008 we made several versions of the test to study the operation of the compositional system.
We took a long time but we have finally devised a working model that meets our standards, a series of relatively dynamic audiovisual generators capable of producing interesting results over a longer period of time, the right combination of elementary instructions to create complex results and the right balance between autonomy and control to create a freedom of choice and, most importantly, a sense of harmony between individuals. At that time we were in contact with Murray Horne, editor of the Wood Street Galleries, who offered the space to us for the show, was an ideal project for producing a horizon with speakers and audiovisual displays.
Marco Mancuso: 12_series is inspired by evolutionary principles and acts as a single living body, which literally lives and breathes in the darkness and whose existence is the result of an evolutionary process of the 12 parties (sottocorpi) that it is formed by. At the same time the evolution of each part is closely linked to the outcome of the generative part around it. I found some similarities with your past project Meta_Epics. As 12_series, the computer generates and consists of real-time audio-visual models that affect each other. Do you consider 12_series as the next step in such research? And if so, what are the differences between the two projects?
Telcosystems: Indeed, with the project Meta_Epics we examined the basic principles of generative processes in relation to audiovisual feedback, 12_series emphasis is instead placed on the evolutionary principles of composition itself. If in Meta_Epics we focused on specific compositional ideas more restricted within a system of a single entity, with 12_series we orient our efforts towards creating a compositional concept which shows the general behavior of the group, from limited set rules, that would work for multiple entity that is a system based on the group.
In many ways the predecessor Meta_Epics is certainly logical, it was ME who turned 12_series in to our FFseries. In ME we have created an environment full of sound and a virtual sense of visual space. In several chapters we address the compositional relationships between these two spaces. With 12_series we witness the fusion of sound and image in an audiovisual horizontal space, a wall of sound and images.
Marco Mancuso:What most impressed me is one of the things I read in your booklet about the close links between composition and rhythm and their translation into code in order to generate sounds and images. In other words, the machine language instructions result from the pace and composition. So 12_series is also interesting as an application of audiovisual generated code, usually more territories explored by designers and composers.. Could you explain better how you have worked on this key point?
Telcosystems: To create audio-visual developments we tried, a device similar to the way in which languages work in our brain. With some bricks, like the letters of the alphabet, you can create a wide variety of words that can be used for the construction of sentences, etc. .. So we have created a wide compositional range of bricks to create a “language” rudimentary, that supports the creation of “dialects” distinguished by their rhythmic behavior
Marco Mancuso:What is rare and very interesting, but in my opinion not very clear and evident in the booklet, for example, is the participation in the project by Baltan Laboratories. They are interested in projects on the border between art and science, Baltan Laboratories had never been concerned before these audiovisual projects that involve an element of basic diving physics in space. According to you what in particular concerned them in your project? Perhaps the idea that audiovisual composition art retains its power, expressive, narrative, poetic and the translation of his message with scientific techniques and not only with the live media or video or installations with immersive interactive installations?
Telcosystems: Well, in the case of Baltan things are very simple. In fact, we ourselves have founded, with the collaboration of the Muarer United Architects and Geert Mul, visual artist, because we wanted to make this kind of complex large-scale artworks. We still can not understand why other laboratories are not interested in this type of work, but rather than “wasting” our time to convince them about the importance and genius of the project, we considered it more productive and to allow the base Baltan .
Marco Mancuso: In 12_series seems to be a strong dialogue between opposites, another key point of your aesthetic and technical research: while textures, shapes and sounds and rudimentary models, others wanted a complex display, interwoven, multi stratification of these elements. Even the ‘installation consists of 12 screens in the dark, which fill the space and push the public to challeng senses and sensations. So, how to handle this type of dualism, as work with complex physical and spatial pulse, starting from basic elements (tangible assets, such as sound and light) and which are also references to art audiovisual experimental the past?
Telcosystems: In our work, the complexity is not a starting point but the result of a process. There is no question of opposites, simplicity or complexity, but to find a significant audiovisual behavior by setting simple rules, and having the results in between perfect predictability and absolute noise. Starting with limited resources and rudimentary elements you have to compose and / or build the complex in order to create a meaning. Certainly helps to think of how our DNA consists of only four bases, which simply placed in a certain order makes possible many things.
Marco Mancuso: Aesthetics of man-machine aesthetics: another combination of the history of experimental arts that has always fascinated me and it has received a new impetus (in the sense discussed) some years ago with the development of art and generative software (development). How do you perceive this as Telcosystems dialogue? Have you ever considered the creators of your audio-visual systems, using machines and codes as an expression of your creativity and your appearance, or leave a certain autonomy to the machines as a small form of artificial intelligence, allowing them to create forms according to a sort of ‘inner beauty?
Telcosystems: We are always concerned about the dialogue between man and machine. Both are capable of making decisions, act independently, but always in relation to each other. Their role is determined by the nature of the project. During the live performance we ourselves have more direct influence on the generative processes and their outcome, while the work is for the installation of machines that determine the outcome. With 12_series we made a small change in dialogue including artificial machines themselves, adding an extra compositional dynamical layer.
Marco Mancuso: I want to finish talking about the possible interaction between emotional and public facilities, I believe is a focal point in your research and in your projects. As they did in the past, they are the minimalist (how can we forget The Flickr of Tony Conrad), the abstract expressionists (such as Mondrian or Le Witt), or the current audiovisual experimentation (as Granular Synthesis), you also work with audio-visual abstract patterns, and simply small to create a dialogue between machines and humans.
With 12_series we have now taken a further step in this direction, using “minimum” technologies offered by Mini_Macs. However, unlike what has been done by your “fathers” in the past, your approach to this dialogue is never too sharp, nor tended towards physical limits, or related audiovisual total immersion. Your search is more focused, its also open to feedback, and even sensitive to a possible understanding by the public itself about the history of your audio-visual work of art. What can you tell?
Telcosystems: One way to look at what we do is by seeing us as explorers and pioneers. But instead of going out in search of uncharted territory, coded new wilderness, uncharted digital territories. Our performances, films and installations can be seen as audiovisual shipments. Since our work is not based on known or recognizable things, the brains of listeners and viewers in front of our work, function as generators of models and stories. But since every human brain works differently, each will have a different take on the experience.