Let’s go back to Villa Tittoni Traversi and turn the spotlight on Kernel Festival again, kermesse that has opened the fierce festival season just ended, and of which “Digimag” immediately gave a cross-section in the July-August 66th issue. The latest postcard I’m sending you from Desio concerns one of the most appreciated artists in this festival edition: Alex Posada, a figure who was able to satisfy both the most sophisticated taste on interactivity and the simple spectators who took part in the 3-day Kernel festival.
Spanish passport, degree in electronic engineering, Alex Posada is artist, digital creator, researcher in the field of interactivity, academic in new media for master and post-graduate courses and workshops. He took up the artistic career when, settled in Barcelona, started to cooperate with musicians and local artists in 2002. Since 2006 he’s been working as director and coordinator of the Hangar interactive lab, nerve centre of media art production in Barcelona, he’s co-founder of MID: Media Interactive Design, and apart from projects as independent artist, he also collaborates with teams like Neuronoise and Dorktbot Barcellona.
Alex Posada’s activity at Kernel was very intense: a workshop entitled “Open Hardware Lab”, focused on the planning, production and prototyping of electronic devices, besides the exhibition – alongside personalities such as Quayola and Angelo Plessas – of his latest hard work “The Particle” (2009), a multimedia installation that tests the sculptural possibilities of light in relation to speed, colour and sound. “The Particle” explores also the possibilities of POV, better known as the persistence of vision phenomenon, according to which an afterimage persists for a few seconds on the retina by giving its vision back. In this particular case it’s used as optical effect in order to define a different space in which it’s possible to plunge spectators, by giving them a sensory and kinaesthetic experience.
Alex Posada’s work draws inspiration from the universe creation processes and even from the birth of life. It’s technically made up with a heron-shaped iron structure, equipped with a light and sound system that can be operated in three different ways: by means of parameters entered by the artist, of sensors that pick visitors’ movements through the show floor up, or by means of a touch interface. For all those people who wish to know something more about the artist, his website is: http://alexposada.net/blog/. Here you can find video extracts with the making of his work, and an English Pdf file with a very detailed description of his piece. I met Alex in Desio and called him back while he was returning from Ars Electronica, in order to offer him an interview that has immediately revealed to be a pleasant talk at distance.
Alessandra Coretti: let’s break the ice talking about Kernel Festival. How did you find it? Not bad for being its first edition, don’t you think? Was it your first time in Italy?
Alex Posada: Kernel Festival was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect the organizers to be able to coordinate such a rich timetable and to set an already well-tested machine up for their first edition. I liked very much the idea of associating music with video mapping, it’s something I’ve never seen before. The exhibition was edited in an interesting way too, and the space, Villa Tittoni, revealed to be a really charming place to organize a festival like that. Moreover, for me it represented a significant stage, because it was actually the first time I’ve had the opportunity to present my work to the Italian audience.
Alessandra Coretti: at Kernel you hold a workshop. Complementing the festival timetable with moments of active involvement by the audience, isn’t always a winning formula, but now it’s more common and allows to force the outdated logic festivals are tied to – sometimes aesthetic showcases, in which only the inner circle of experts has the exclusive privilege to take part – in order to give birth to comparison, exchange and free circulation of knowledge places where it’s possible to confront oneself with each other, exchange one’s ideas and let the knowledge freely circulate. Then, for you the role as academic is nothing new, you’re often in touch with those who could be the future artists. I’d know what you think on the whole about this and how you live this role, if there are some messages you’re anxious to get across and what kind of feedback you receive.
Alex Posada: I think it’s of the greatest importance to complement the festival timetable with moments that also highlight the methodologies and the processes which underlie the artistic practice, and not only its final result. This is a trend that I think isn’t very widespread throughout the most festivals than it should be. The participants would be more motivated, and for their experience, it would become more gratifying if the artist who performs or exhibits during the kermesse, shortens the distances between work and public through practical workshops which allow spectators to enter into the process of things. Obviously, it’s not some sort of one-way growth, there’s some significant feedback for the academic too. Personally, I’m very proud when one of my students takes the artistic career up and produces a work of art. I feel somewhat responsible for them.
Alessandra Coretti: in an interview recently released to a Spanish magazine you stated that you don’t feel to be an artist, but to prefer the definition of multidisciplinary creator, perhaps because of your education, which isn’t literally artistic. But if I asked you to trace an artistic genealogy in which you can insert your works, that is to say some possible degree of kinship with artists you feel – apart from the aesthetic results got – to share an artistic conception, an approach method with, whose heir would you want to be? And, which are the present-day artists who are similar to your view?
Alex Posada: this is a question I’ve never asked myself yet, I believe that this hard task will be entrusted to some art expert’s new reading. I like what I’m doing and I do it without thinking too much. I’ve got some guidelines which I follow depending on my own needs. At the present moment, however, I prefer to pour my energies into training new talents and contributing my work to the development of other Hangar artists’ projects.
Alessandra Coretti: when did you start to apply your technical-scientific education to the artistic field? Which is in your opinion the bridge between these two sectors?
Alex Posada: digital art, new media, technologies in general stress the strong link that binds art to science. We’re living a period in which anything can’t be taken into consideration as watertight compartments any more, and in which everything mutually feeds. This is very exciting because the period we’re living in, reminds me of the Renaissance when art and science lived well together. Artists were also scientists and vice versa, suffice is to say that Leonardo Da Vinci proved how these two branches can, or rather, must go hand in hand.
Alessandra Coretti: let’s talk about your latest work: “The Particle”, it’s an example of generative art, could you explain how it works from a technical point of view?
Alex Posada: in “The Particle” everything we see and listen is the result of a complex system that generates real time information. Its processes are similar to pieces of visual generative art, where shapes come into life, evolve, die and then regenerate without interruption. In this case, the system works in the same manner, but what we see is the product of a kinetic structure, equipped with four coloured concentric spheres generated from four pieces of pixel information. So the result is a work that explores the 3d light potential, starting from a device which is very simple at a visual level, i.e., made up with a heron-shaped structure with a central shaft around which four semicircular rings (respectively 30, 60, 90 and 120 centimetres in diameter) rotate at different speeds. Every single light ring is composed by a high number of RGB LEDs and controlled by some specific hardware.
Alessandra Coretti: “The Particle” appears as some impressive machine with an inner resonance of its own, which kind of relationship do light and sound establish between each other? And, which one with spectators?
Alex Posada: the visual processes are perfectly synchronized with the surround sound by means of the programmed software by using the MaxMSP platform: it’s the software that manages all the real time information, by using parameters extracted from mathematical sequences and functions. As a consequence, it’s the creation of tridimensional shapes and lights that sparks an overwhelming, synesthetic and sometimes hypnotic experience. The goal consists in leading spectators to live a contemplative experience, which seems to be different from one person to another. The most important thing is not to be afraid of letting yourself go and enjoying it to the full. Obviously, there are some people who don’t like this kind of experience and consequently the work doesn’t transmit anything to them. Personally, despite I’ve been travelling the world by exhibiting “The Particle” for two years, I’ve still been enraptured by its hypnotic charge as it was the first time.
Alessandra Coretti: which were the stages of the creative process for the realization of “The Particle”? And on the whole, in order to develop your works, did you elaborate a sort of “Posada’s method”? Or maybe are your processes devised every time all over again?
Alex Posada: I don’t devise a specific method, a codified one applicable to all my works doesn’t exist at all. Every project is the result of my creative need of a particular moment and of its arising exhibition chances. I was commissioned to produce “The Particle” from Strobe Festival in Amposta. In that period my friend Mesa Blai was curator of an expo with local artists on the origin of life theme. I was asked to plan an installation on this subject and since I’d already tested the use of leds in my previous works, for me it was natural to use them even in “The Particle” again. This is my work’s genesis.
Alessandra Coretti: you’re not only a soloist, but you work also with teams like for example Neuronoise and Dorkbot Barcellona. What kind of collectives are they?
Alex Posada: as soon as I moved to Barcelona, I started working with collectives as Riereta.net,Telenoika, Neuronoise or Dorkbot Barcellona. We’re essentially a group of friends with common interests and taste. We started to organize courses, workshops and even entertainment events. Our relationship has always been focused on sharing, comparison and reciprocal exchange of knowledge.
Alessandra Coretti: you’ve just been in Linz, as Ars Electronica’s guest, in general you’re exhibiting your works in all of the most important European festivals, basing on this I’d like to ask you which is in your opinion the current state of health of interactive art? Have we reached an impasse, where technologies are often used somewhat as skeleton key to actually bridge an inventive gap? If you believe that, from where do you think it’s possible to draw new creative nourishment today?
Alex Posada: I asked often myself about interactive art, it’s for all the world to see that in the interactive field people are less inclined to experimentation, so results tend to be less interesting and innovative. From my point of view, the last decade experienced a creative explosion that now is living its settlement moment. This is comparable to what happened to electronic music in the ‘90s: it reached its creative peak and then fell asleep on its results and became repetitive. The real revolution under way is that which regards means and not contents. The democratized access to new technologies and the increase of free hardware and software are allowing to create things that some years ago would have been unthinkable. Now everyone, not only who studied as electronics engineer, is able to develop apps more or less complete by training oneself for a couple of weeks. Open source platforms such as Arduino, Processing, PureData, and OpenFrameWorks are literally developing new work tools for digital artists. I think this is the field where art should fight its decisive battle for the future.
Alessandra Coretti: I know that “The Particle” tour hasn’t finished yet, so I can’t say goodbye to you without asking where will we meet you next time and which are your forthcoming engagements?
Alex Posada: On 29th and 30th October I’ll be at Lincoln in England for Frequency Festival’s opening. At the moment, I’m devoting myself – almost full-time – to the creation of an interactive design studio in Barcelona, by means of which developing artistic projects. Its name is MID: Media Interactive Design, a centre specialized in the production of multimedia interactive projects, like for example interaction design, installations, performances…