Gabriel Shalom likes to describe himself as a “videomusician”, or an audiovisual artist working on manipulation of moving images to reach a rhythmic composition. The Tosso Variations, his last work, has just been exposed in the Space MU of Eindhoven (http://www.mu.nl/) during his first public exhibition, and it will remain there till March 4.
The work represents a 5 channel video installation starring Japanese musician Shingo Inao improvising while playing Tosso, an instrument himself created. Shalom gathered the sound material and rewrote it in 5 different audiovisual variations where jazz, hip-hop, glitch, chamber music and improvisation influences melt together. http://vimeo.com/35577861
As the author himself declares: “When I first encountered this sort of music I found it both fascinating and mysterious. The overwhelming impression was that the music conveyed a sense of time compression which spanned multiple dimensions; the number of tracks, the complexity of the voicings, the sheer speed of the tempo and rapidity of delivery. These were the sonic artifacts of a composition process that transcended the music of the body and embraced the music of the mind”
Given the fact that Shalom manipulates the very sound he recorded, he can avoid many restrictions of composition. He does this by drawing his inspiration from the first experiments of Concrete Music (a particular kind of music genre created by Pierre Schaeffer in 1948, consisting in a different approach to sound, taking into consideration each aspect of it, with not only abstract criteria).
In the organization of the recorded sound material, the artist created a special notation system, a sort of staff, where he registered every single movement using a particular pictograph, aimed at audiovisual recomposition. “When the composition worked, I often find myself dancing. When your works make you dance, you must follow your body!”
Even silence is important in a composition. In fact they are not considered as vacuums, but instead they contributed recreating the place’s atmosphere where the record has been done, that is the room. The same room that is presented again in the work, defines space quietness “by creating a hypercubist chamber where sound and image may play together.”
Alessandra Saviotti: Gabriel. let’s begin our conversation by starting from this statement of yours. What is hypercubism?
Gabriel Shalom: Hypercubism is a theory I have been developing for the last six years to try and explain what I see as a unique set of characteristic aesthetics of the contemporary moving image. I also call it a theory for object-oriented moving images. My approach is inspired by both a historical understanding of the conditions which gave rise to cubism as well as a desire to differentiate a certain set of aesthetics as being beyond the postmodern/poststructural. I am interested in the unique compositional compromises caused by the dimensional collapse inherent in moving images which contain multiple timelines. Film was a medium in which time was a constant imposed by the framerate of the physical constraints of celluloid. Although video inherited this celluloid-inspired time paradigm, digital media such as video games, web pages, and operating systems transcend this simplistic time-construct, allowing us to create and navigate multiple timelines within the same “frame”. Video however lacks this sense of simulated depth, forcing video artists to make compromises to achieve the illusion of this dimensional complexity. These set of compromises constitute hypercubist aesthetics. I have a pecha kucha manifesto (http://vimeo.com/14604303) for those who are interested, which gives some very accessible examples of hypercubist aesthetics. Of course this theory is a work in progress and I am always eager to get more input and critique.
Alessandra Saviotti: In your site there is a section where you state you feel the need for reinventing definitions and words. Where does this need come from?
Gabriel Shalom: Well first of all I don’t need it so much as I enjoy it. I’ve always loved language and when I studied media arts in Germany and learned German I really appreciated the flexibility of the language to invent terminology, especially in the context of kunstwissenschaft. While the English discourse on art may not be as forgiving of invented words I find myself compelled to do it anyway. I have a strong aversion to having my videomusical work described as postmodern, remix or mashup. This language feels like an archaic or nostalgic approach to describing the work. Terms like “glitch” or “manipulation” get closer, although they often lend an algorythmic or generative aura which doesn’t suit my work as my compositions are painstakingly edited by hand. At the beginning this glossary of terms came about to enable me to describe my own work. Over time and numerous blog posts its become a vernacular which I try to incorporate into whatever critical discourse I’m engaging in, whether in relation to my work or the works of others. You’re welcome to view it as serious theory or simply as a kind of linguistic/artistic play – I’m comfortable with both positions.
Alessandra Saviotti: Why do you consider yourself a “videomusician”?
Gabriel Shalom: Essentially videomusician could be seen as a sort of shorthand for “audiovisual composer”. Videomusic best describes my approach to working with audiovisual media. The video camera is a synaesthetic device, because unlike the film camera, it records picture and sound. This struck me as fundamental to the video medium and accounts for why I exhibit a strong synchronous tendency in my audiovisual works. As opposed to a “music video” – which usually features images synchronized to a song which is already recorded – videomusic captures the sound and image together at the time of shooting. The musical composition lives and breathes directly from the images. Videomusic is an approach to audiovisual recordings (and by extension performances) which values each sound-emitting player/object/instrument as an audiovisual object, with all the attendant cinematic potentialities. For my exhibition at MU – The Tosso Variations (http://www.gabrielshalom.com/portfolio/the-tosso-variations/) – I was interested in creating a focused body of work based on the improvisations of my good friend the musician Shingo Inao. Shingo plays his Tosso, a six-stringed sensor instrument of his own design. Each improvisation is performed with Shingo dressed in a different outfit. This series of pullovers are from The Story of Oswald 1848 – a collection created by fashion designer Nicole Roscher for her label Von Bardonitz. In this sense, Shingo-wearing-Oswald-playing-Tosso became one unified audiovisual object which underwent five transformations as per Shingo’s improvisations and the visual variations inherent between each pullover. In the future I’m looking forward to expand my approach and build up an ensemble of multiple players and perhaps also dancers.
Alessandra Saviotti: In Timeless video essay/design fiction, present at the exhibition, the relationship between nature and technology is discussed, and Markus Kaiser states: “I do not see future without technology, yet I do not see future without nature either. They will have to find a balance”. What do you think?
Gabriel Shalom: A future in which nature and technology are in harmony is ideal – I agree with Markus. For me the word which says the most about the near future is the word hybrid. Whether its a hybrid of cells and silicon, analog and digital or fact and fiction, I’m looking towards a near future in which we experience shifts which could be characterized as hybridizations. Short of fully post-human consciousness, we will always have to deal with the experience of embodiment. The question of whether we’ll choose to neglect our bodies or enhance or bodies – we’ll certainly have both; there’s no need to polarize our expectations. What I do believe is that if we avoid hybridization we’ll do so at our own peril. Technological developments and human evolution have become one continuum and the survival of our species (and its cyborg descendants) will be predicated on acknowledging our critical role in this ecosystem.
Alessandra Saviotti: Speaking of future, The Future of Money video has been produced in your KS12 studio in 2010, when economic crisis had not so heavily affect all Europe yet. According to you, what could be the future of money now?
Gabriel Shalom: In many ways The Future of Moneyproject exposed yet another sphere of our society undergoing this hybridization and diversification. The biggest lesson I learned from that project was that the economic ecosystems of the world are evolving beyond government-issued currencies. Many of the more valuable alternative currencies or complimentary currencies are hard to quantify as they exist in the more ephemeral contexts of trusting communities and close interpersonal relationships.
I believe that the biggest investments you can make in your future today – no matter who you are and how much money you have – are in developing connections to your local community while also using the incredible power of the internet to find likeminded people all over the world who share your interests, passions and vision. Aspire to live as a hybrid local/global citizen of the world and you will discover that it’s an incredible time to be alive, naysayers and doomsdayers notwithstanding. Personally, my biggest investment is in following my passion for my own creative work, which has both local and global implications.
Local in the video essay work created with members of different communities; global in the power of videomusic to transcend any one language and culture. In an interesting continuation of some of the ideas from The Future of Money, one of the interviewees (Joachim Stein) in our subsequent production at Transmediale 2011 – The Future of Art (http://vimeo.com/19670849) – spoke about the ability artists have to generate value based purely on conceptual aesthetics. He references the turn the art world took after Duchamp’s concept of the readymade became widely accepted and the mere declaration of the artist was all that was required to valorize something as artwork. During our work on The Future of Money project, gold and silver were often put in a similar position – mutual agreement on the value of precious metals is the primary thing which invests them with value; ie: you can’t eat gold. Much of the same thing can be said to be true about art. The primary difference being that gold is found in riverbeds and mines while art is made of the pure stuff of creative imagination.