Ape5 is an old digimag acquaintance that we were pleased to “meet” in various moments during the past few years so that he could tell us about his videomaking and his VJing (Interview “Ape5 and Miki Ry”, by Bertram Niessen, Digimag 02, http://www.digicult.it/digimag/article.asp?id=115) as well as his research as a producer with the netlabel Vidaux, that contains many of the more interesting names of the live media scene in Italy (“Vidaux, Netlabels for watching and listening”, by Bertram Niessen, Digimag 08, http://www.digicult.it/digimag/article.asp?id=221) .
We interviewed Ape5 again, this time with EraSer, so that they could present their new audiovisual live project Future Sounds Like Past Toys. The project was developed in 2009 with the purpose of establishing a synergy between fluxes of corrupt pixers by Ape5 and the sound art of circuit bending practiced by EraSer on various toys from the past.
The live that results from it, which is always different, finds a perfect meeting point between the two authors’ research, in the research of error, in the recycling of instruments and the tampering of the functioning of technology: Ape5, for years has been facing an aesthetical and conceptual investigation on errors, on waste, the corruption of visual digital data, whereas EraSer concentrates his work as a musician on the creative tampering of hardware circuits from old toys, to whom he gives unexpected voices.
A détournement of the technological instrument, which is precious to all media art, but that by using the toy as an element gives it a fundamental aspect: that of memory. The memory of childish and carefree play with technology is rooted in the memory of a generation and is reawakened, while at the same time being distorted into new sounds and visions, in a short circuit between past and future, in our audiovisual perception.
Claudia D’Alonzo: I would like to begin by talking about your project Future Sounds Like Past Toys, how did this project and your collaboration begin?
Ape5: Personally when I heard Matteo live (EraSer), I immediately “felt” that I had to do a project with him, that my videos could be a perfect complement to his project dedicated to circuit bending and that his music could be the soundtrack of my visual imagination. I believe that the glitch aesthetic, the malfunction, the error is blended perfectly with the sounds that come from the art of circuit bending.
EraSer: Our collaboration began precisely on New Year’s Eve 2009 when we were able to do a video/audio performance for the first time. We immediately clicked and this collaboration matured, after a few months, into the current project, where we’re working on synergies between music and visuals created by Emanuele (Ape5).
Claudia D’Alonzo: In the concept of the project you say that “contemporary music sounds like toys from the past”, can you tell me about this aspect, the reference to memory, a shared memory like that of children’s toys and the kind of détournement you are looking to create regarding these audiovisual memories?
Ape5: The title of the project Future sounds like past toys is also a game, a play on words. We like to read it and translate it to “Future Sounds Like Past Toys” or “Sounds of the Future are like Toys from the Past” or “Future Sounds Enjoy Toys from the Past”, and in all three versions we want to underline how contemporary music echoes sounds from the past, “sounds like…”, it “tastes like…”. The sound of a toy from the past and its memory as a shared memory, takes on new life and new shape through its modification, its glitch, its error. A retro sound that hits memory, but is projected toward the future in a dynamic process. Our experimentation is also a research for the audio-visualisation of these sounds
EraSer: The toys from the past stay in our memory as pure and unforgettable instruments, which develop a memory. a musical use and therefore a justification in music of such toys, make the memory present and becomes a projection toward a future where sounds that accompanied us through the past, become current. The surprise of hearing someone play (or, why not, to play) a memorable toy like the talking grasshopper by Texas Instruments reawakens a distant memory that is also made present and alive in a performance. To make sounds from the past become contemporary, with their errors and randomness, is the idea behind the project and more generally speaking, of circuit bending..
Claudia D’Alonzo: What cultural value do you think that the fact of using common instruments and readapting them to your creative needs can have? The restoration and re-adaptation of instruments is a kind of practice that crosses the history of the arts but that right now takes on a particular value for the fact that now the manipulation of technology can also mean the manipulation of a memory we have of its use…
Ape5: This aspect of art connected to new media has always fascinated me. In one project, Scarti, developed in 2004, I began to research this aspect: the use of waste/erroneous materials, in the software and hardware field, in order to create audiovisual projects. In my opinion I keep on living through that research and even in EraSer’s circuit bending art a see a research of “recycling” of objects/toys from the past that, as I said before, Take on new life, new shapes and new sounds.
EraSer: The manipulation done through the use of circuit bending is based on a sort of “anti-theory” that in practice expresses itself as an alteration in the way a circuit works. This process gives life to unknown and fascinating sounds that surely create curiosity and mystery in those people who remember those sounds of those toys from the past, their “normal” sounds. The “added bonus” that can be given to an instrument that has not been created in order to make music gives circuit bending the importance of being a creative electronic art form, that develops into an objective and aesthetic act of recycling that transforms toys and musical instruments, that have been abandoned, into surprising sound generators and original musical instruments.
Claudia D’Alonzo: What does your set look like, what instruments do you use?
Ape5: Basically we put EraSer in front, the performer, who plays with his instruments/toys and we put the visuals on the background. I believe that in this project the performer and the act of playing are an integral part of the work and the aesthetics of the project. The use of my instruments varies depending on the live set, on software for video-synthesis and DIY controllers….
EraSer: My live set is made up exclusively of electronica instruments that have been circuit bent (toys, keyboards, drum machines, effects… are all modified). There is a lot of interaction between us during the performance and everything becomes more interesting and mysterious when we decide to improvise: that is the moment where we have the most fun because those are the moments when ideas and combinations of audio and visuals are surprising.
Claudia D’Alonzo: How did you work on the errors as a characteristic part of your live set and a fundamental poetic element for the audio as well as the video parts? What kind of connection is there, if there is one, between the concept of error and the practice of play?
EraSer: The error, or glitch, is a fundamental component of the project and, as such, is necessary for the de-structuring of the normal reproduction of sound or video. In my case musical melody of a modified toy can become a random sequence of notes; or the voice of a doll (like Furby) can transform into pure noise.
Ape5: As EraSer says, circuit bending is the “bending” of a circuit in order to find an error: putting the audio that comes out of this with a vision made up of visualisations of malfunctions in software and hardware, was the natural process. In my opinion the research of a glitch aesthetic in a fundamental poetic element in this project but also a fundamental poetic element of my personal research. The following and creating of a bug, a short circuit, is a new game in order to make new “toys” from instruments that were created for different toys and uses. The game begins with the title of the project and is present in all our work.
Claudia D’Alonzo: What kind of interaction do you think is created with the audience in a live act like yours, where you work hands-on with technology? What differences do you think there are for example with live sets where the artist sits behind his or her laptop?
EraSer: Our audio/video performance definitely makes the audience take part visually and emotionally. They are torn between the hypnotic images, glitched and dreamy, the videos created by Ape5, and my continuous movement between switches and knobs. The spectator is definitely fascinated in trying to understand what’s happening on stage. Sometimes we have involved people directly, creating an improvisation with my instruments, so that they could feel the emotion of playing a toy. I feel that the use of such unique machines, because of their “unpredictability”, makes everything more intense and direct and involves and stimulates the audience greatly, in contrast to a laptop that, I think, can make everything more static.
Ape5: Because the play aspect has a fundamental role in people’s lives, I believe that most of the audience needs to see a performer who manipulates, who plays with his or her toys. I think that the performance aspect of a live set is fundamental, because most people get bored watching a person sat behind a computer who just uses a mouse. Just the fact that in the past 10 years controllers and audio-video hardware are evermore laden with led lights and knobs, you realise that this is a necessity for the performer and for the audience. As I said earlier, the body movement of a performer and his or her physical rapport with instruments is an integral part of our project and is part of the aesthetic that we wish to present… as they say, “The medium is the message”…
Claudia D’Alonzo: Ape5, Vidauxs is also present among your projects, a netlabel that is also a network for artists and creatives dedicated to interactive live projects between audio and video. Founded in 2005, it is now in its fourth year. Can you trace the evolution and developments of the project over the years?
Ape5: The netlabel project was a risk to create something that did not exist, that is, a free netlabel dedicated specifically to audiovisuals, which distributed the work of video artists and traced the history and state of art. In reality what came out of it was a network of artists and a “collection” of what is happening in Italy today. The idea right now is to give new life to the project by making Vidauxs a kind of aggregator of experimental audiovisual projects, that are already present on various social networks, blogs and specific websites, uploaded automatically on vidauxs.net. The name of this project will be Vidauxs Revolution and is still in development.
Claudia D’Alonzo: Talking of parallel projects, a question for EraSer: you created circuitbend.it, the first Italian website entirely dedicated to circuit bending. What is its content and what objectives have you worked on for its development? The “bent” sections seems interesting to me, the presence of a forum and glossary, it’s very popular, putting together knowledge and experiences….
EraSer: the website was created as a popular platform for the creative art of circuit bending ( an art that consists in creating short circuits in the circuits of toys and electronic musical instruments in order to give new life to generators of sound), principally in the Italian artistic/musical panorama. The site has become a reference point for musicians, artists, circuit benders who have just started out and who want to get into this world that for many is dark, mysterious but also fascinating. I believe that circuit bending is an art form done by everyone for everyone and so it is right to share experiences, creations and allow anyone to put their hands on the circuit of a toy for the first time.