Overtoon is a new space for sound art, both physical and virtual. It is a location for residencies, based in Brussels at the heart of Europe, but also a sound art research, production and distribution platform, supported partially by the Flemish Government.

Overtoon has been running, from its inception in 2005, as a backbone to develop the artistic practice of Aernoudt Jacobs. Since 2012, the sound and media artist Christoph De Boeck has joined to co-direct the organization, after the running of the Deepblue project in Brussels. It now operates with Saartje Geertsaimed to develope the creative practice of the two artists, but also at producing other artists’ projects, through in house residencies, structure and material sharing and artistic support. Upcoming Overtoon’ shows will include the group exhibition “Artificial Nature” at the VIA Festival the next March in Maubeuge,  EXIT festival in April in Paris and Lille 3000 the next August.

In Overtoon project sound meets spatial and visual research, no so far from the creative practices of Christoph De Boeck and Aernoudt Jacobs themselves.  In order to better understand the mission of this new project, the aims, the structure and the activity in the field of sounds art, we met the two co-founders for an interview.

Silvia Bertolotti: First of all Christoph, why did the project Deepblue end?

Christoph De Boeck: Deepblue was a collaboration, on different levels, between some choreographers and me. We worked together in making performances or sometimes I did some sounds design for them. At a certain point, it happened that I was making more and more installations on my own, I started making bigger works and so did they and at the end there simply was less and less time to work together. I looked then for another partner. I work with sounds primarily, not really just musical performances, but I’m interested in the physical and spatial dimension of sound. This was the same research direction of Aernoudt. So we ended up teaming together. Actually we started working on that more than a year ago, since we had to formulate a proposal and organize the work, but now the project has officially started.

Silvia Bertolotti:  How did you get to the idea of creating a center like Overtoon and what is its history?

Aernoudt Jacobs / C.D.B.: We wanted to create a platform where the three aspects of research, production and distribution were all present. Overtoon is also a collaboration, because we not only produce our works, but we also realize other invited artists’ productions. In this way we want to create a dynamic space here, a platform to be shared with artists. We aimed at creating a sort of dialogue between artists, following the idea of a semi-open platform. We have our material, space and expertise, but we open this space to other artists: of course we make a selection, Overtoon it’s not open to anybody.

Silvia Bertolotti: What is the mission of Overtoon and what’s its goal?

A.J. / C.D.B.: The main activities of Overtoon are: research, production and distribution.  Research in particular is an important part of our activity and we also want to organize specific events in this sense, as evenings with lectures of guest professors, researchers and experts.

Silvia Bertolotti:  How will be the structured distribution? What will be the modalities and main channels?

A.J. / C.D.B. We have our own network of contacts and we use it in order to structure the distribution of works produced here. For instance, we currently have two productions in progress and we are already contacting places/locations where to present them. At the moment we are working on a local level only, but in the future we would like to work internationally as well. The places where we distribute our productions are mainly sound art institutions, media art organizations or festivals. For example, we are going to have a launch event and exhibition for Overtoon in April, during the Arts Brussels Week and we will work with other local centers, like Imal (http://www.imal.org/).

Silvia Bertolotti:  What is, in your opinion, the winning formula for arts centers: residencies, production, festivals or research?

A.J. / C.D.B.: The challenge is to find a combination to do good research, to share this research and to produce it. Production and research are the key words we think. We aim at maintaining this balance, we are not just focusing on research but also on production, because it is important to create outputs. Our residencies for example are long-term ones, not the usual 2 weeks or one month…

Silvia Bertolotti:  What is your relationship with public and private institutions?

A.J. / C.D.B.:  We currently have an amount of income coming from selling and presenting our works with co-producers (sounds art organizations, festivals) within our network. But we are also supported, on the public side, by the local government: in this sense, we would like to work also on European projects. In terms of private subjects, we have research partners like private centers or Universities and we also work with a gallery, which is presenting our works.

Silvia Bertolotti:  Could you briefly introduce the two artists who will be in residency at Overtoon in 2013, Jeroen Uyttendaele and Jeroen Vandesande?

A.J. / C.D.B.: Jeroen Uyttendaele works on installations where parts of aluminum or iron are producing different colors thanks to electricity. He will stay in our space for two periods of three months more ore less and for the launch exhibition of Overtoon we will present a prototype of this work. Jeroen Vandesande is working with a combination of sounds that are moved into the space, in a sort of rotating movement, and this action influences and affects the sound. It’s going to be an interactive installation, where the audience can also modify the sounds’ nature while moving around. He will start his residency in February and he’s going to stay here for a few months too.

Silvia Bertolotti:  What is the role of interaction and participation with the audience? Will you work on this aspect too?

A.J. / C.D.B.: What we have here is not a pure presentation space. This is more a research, production and distribution place as we previously said. So when we’ll have our exhibitions they’ll take place somewhere else, at external venues. The only public events taking place here will be the evening lectures with researches or prototypes presentations. On a general level, for public events, it will really depend on the partner organizations we’ll be working with.

Silvia Bertolotti:  What is the target and what kind of artists you would like to work with?

A.J. / C.D.B.: It’s important that their work speak to us or that they are in relation to our art. Sound art should have a physical manifestation and dimension, like in installation works. They can be young artists but not necessarily, but for sure we are focusing more on new emerging talents, at least for the next two years; also because big names and well known artists don’t really need a space for working, they already have their own. We also want to work first with local artists, but since there’s also the possibility to host and have residence we will certainly work with international artists as well.

Silvia Bertolotti:  How do you see the European scene for sound art?

A.J. / C.D.B.: There are more and more international collaborations in Sound Art, certainly more now than five or ten years ago. There’s if for sure an increasing attention to the field and I think this is partially related to the fact that it is a sort of antidote to the visual abandonacy of the current culture. This is a field that people are slowly discovering and in any case there’s a new openness now, also in terms of audience, that was not there 10 years ago.