Category Archives: imal

The State of Things 2017: experiments in perception

Justin Bennett, Multiplicity, 2017. Photo via Justin Bennett

If you ever find yourself in or around Brussels and are interested in art that explores technology in a meaningful way, then do visit the exhibition The State of Things 2017 at iMal, the center for digital cultures and technology.

The art center has invited Werktank and Overtoon to take over its galleries and present four installations developed by artists who work or have worked in their studios. Overtoon shows ‘Multiplicity’ by Justin Bennett and ‘Polyhedra’ by Floris Vanhoof. Werktank shows ‘The White’ by Kurt d’Haeseleer and Franck Vigroux, as well as ‘Search for the frame’ and two new site specific works by Johannes Langkamp.

Overtoon is based in Brussels and is dedicated to the research and production of sound art. Werktank is based in Leuven and produces installation art that explores the relationship between technology and perception. While the two platforms have different concerns, they both value an experimental and sensory approach to image, light and sound.

I’ve always have a soft spot for sound art so i’ll kick off my walk around the exhibition with the sound installations:

Floris Vanhoof, Polyhedra, 2017. Image courtesy of iMal

Floris Vanhoof, Polyhedra, 2017. Image courtesy of iMal

Floris Vanhoof, Polyhedra, 2017. Image courtesy of iMal

While at Overtoon, Floris Vanhoof created a symphonic orchestra composed of 40 loudspeakers of various geometrical shapes. Because they have different sizes, shapes and spatial placement, each sculpture translates sounds in a specific way. The listening experience takes on an additional visual but also sensorial dimension as you walk around and inside this cloud of speakers and discover how the natural movements in the sounds seem to morph and move from one sculpture to another.

Justin Bennett, Multiplicity, 2017. Image courtesy of iMal

Justin Bennett, Multiplicity, 2017. Image courtesy of iMal

Justin Bennett, Multiplicity (Filters for listening to the city), 2017

Justin Bennett, Multiplicity, 2017

During his residency at Overtoon, Justin Bennett built an array of listening devices -like a miniature microphone inside a trumpet or a wooden stethoscope- to explore the acoustic territories of Brussels. He then went on to uncover and record the voices and narratives of people, the sounds of work environments, of the fauna, of underground tunnels and passageways, etc. The artist manipulated the sounds he encountered, traced out narrative paths across the Belgian capital and explored the visual and spatial forms of the city in drawings and sculptures.

The exhibition detailed Bennett’s research into the sirens of emergency vehicles whose presence in Brussels’ soundscape increases with each terrorist threat or attack. The sound of various types of sirens and signals weaves into the urban fabric as they move through it. Bennett observed how the siren sounds bounce off the large glass facade of office buildings, giving the impression that there are several emergency vehicles instead of just one. And as the vehicle recedes into the distance, its direct noise fades out and leaves more space for its reflections which will, eventually, be covered by more powerful urban sounds.

The first result of Bennett’s research is a multi-trumpet sculptural installation that evokes the distorted and multiplied echoes produced by emergency sirens in urban space.

Kurt d’Haeseleer & Franck Vigroux, The White, 2017. Image courtesy of iMal

Kurt d’Haeseleer & Franck Vigroux, The White, 2017. Image courtesy of iMal

Kurt d’Haeseleer & Franck Vigroux, The White, 2017. Image courtesy of iMal

Kurt d’Haeseleer & Franck Vigroux, The White, 2017. Image courtesy of iMal

Kurt d’Haeseleer & Franck Vigroux‘s audiovisual installation recreates a technique that first appeared as a stage illusion in the mid-19th century. The Pepper’s ghost used a glass plate placed between spectators and the scene to create a ghost apparition on stage. The ghost was in fact an actor kept invisible for the public. In other cases, ghostly objects were made to ‘materialize’ then fade out of existence or to magically transform into different objects. The technique is still used nowadays in theatre, amusement parks, museums, television, and concerts. Teleprompters are a modern implementation of Pepper’s ghost. The technique was also used recently for the appearance of Tupac Shakur onstage with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg at the 2012 Coachella Festival and Michael Jackson at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.

In ‘The White’, which was produced at Werktank, two white TV screens are reflected. The reflecting glass plate doesn’t show the expect white image but two eerie streams of moving images on each side of the plate.

The installation tries to poke into the dark subconscious part of our mind. It confronts us with both our fear and resistance for what is strange and unknown as our fascination and attraction to it. White, a color associated with positivity and goodness, seems to hide a more troubled and complex reality. The sensorial experience of ‘The White’ is somewhere between ecstasy and fear, like that of a child that hides his eyes from something horrible he sees, but still glimpses through his fingers to see what is happening.

Johannes Langkamp, Search for the frame, 2011-2016

Johannes Langkamp, Pyramid of Vision, 2017. Image courtesy of iMal

Johannes Langkamp, installation view at iMal. Image courtesy of iMal

Johannes Langkamp is fascinated by the way camera operates and the gap between reality and its representation. I think Langkamp’s research would deserves a proper interview. Until this happens, i’ll gaily copy/paste the press blurb: ‘Search for the frame’ is a selection of sixteen video sequences from Langkamp’s archive of video sketches from the past five years. The compilation is a cumulative view of his research in which he is experimenting with the possibilities of the framed look. By playing with the perspective, he shows how the camera can manipulate reality.

The artist also presents two new creations at iMAL, in which he continues his research: the video installation “Pyramid of Vision” and a spatial intervention, inspired by the location.

The State of Things 2017 is at iMal in Brussels until 15 October 2017.

Related stories: Experiments in sound and perception. An interview with Aernoudt Jacobs and Listen to the sounds from the deepest hole ever dug into the Earth crust.

Different Ways to Infinity and other artefacts of science fiction

Different Ways to Infinity

Different Ways to Infinity

Félix Luque Sánchez is one of those rare artists who quietly follows his own creative inquiry and vision, seemingly oblivious to trends and conventions. That’s probably what makes his work so singular and timeless.

Luque Sánchez uses matter and technology to seduce, puzzle and inspire viewers. His art installations, which double as science fiction works, materialize scientific concepts and theories that might seem arcane to most people: artificial intelligence, chaos theory, infinity.

I’ve discovered one of his latest artworks a couple of month ago at the KIKK festival in Namur (Belgium.) As usual, his pieces pulled me in because of their enigmatic elegance and sobriety but they also left me with more questions than i had bargained for.

Different Ways to Infinity, the work exhibited at the festival, is staged as a collection of instruments from an imaginary scientific laboratory.

First, two big, inverted pendulums attempt to fight gravity and achieve perfect balance. The system emulates human behaviors in order to reach an equilibrium that seems to elude them.

Another element of the installation is a synthesizer based on Chua’s circuit, one of the first physical demonstrations of chaos existence and of its behaviour. Each time chaos is reached, butterfly-like shapes known as Lorentz attractors appear on the oscilloscopes connected to the synthesizer.

Different Ways to Infinity

Different Ways to Infinity

The work also features large digital prints and 3D animations. Generated by software simulating experiments in computational fluid dynamics, they visulize the chaotic elements that can be found in nature.

Finally, ten rhombic dodecahedrons express complex reactive behaviours through light and can be combined together in potentially infinite geometrical arrangements.

Different Ways to Infinity

Different Ways to Infinity

Different Ways to Infinity

I caught up with the artist over emails to talk about complexity, abstraction and personal landscapes:

Hi Félix! I saw Different Ways to Infinity at the KIKK festival in Namur and found the work thought-provoking but it is also visually seducing. Do you think it is possible for a viewer to engage with the pieces without caring much about infinity and any scientific concept explored in the work?

Well that was pretty much the challenge, to make a series of artworks that explores the metaphysical aspects of science through a perceptual approach.

I wanted to generate a fiction where scientific theories are not presented for the knowledge they produce, but as human memories and therefor materialized in artifacts.
This process generates, I hope, a perceptual experience where scientific experiments meet a non recognized collective memory, abstraction and contemplation.

Different Ways to Infinity

Different Ways to Infinity

There seem to be an element of science fiction throughout your work. What is it about SciFi that interests you? Is it the speculation on the future? The way it engages with issues that surround science and ‘progress’? Or are you more inspired by some specific works from literature and cinema?

The speculation of the future is essential to question our relationship to science and technology, which are under the dogma of progress.

For me SF is a perfect artistic frame to work with technology. They have always coexisted in a very close relationship, influencing each other frequently.

What can a conceptual approach to science, like yours, bring to the way people understand science?

I see science as a way to comprehend or perceive the complexity of the world, instead of an objective knowledge to apply to the economic and useful world of humans. An artistic approach to science should bring the vision of the complexity and the non-tangible. The idea of science as an exploration tool, rather than a production tool.

Nihil Ex Nihilo

Nihil Ex Nihilo

Nihil Ex Nihilo

How do you think your work has evolved since it started meeting with success (back in 2009 with The Discovery if i remember correctly)?

I think that my working process is still quite basic in a way. I just look into ways of translating the real into a fictional dimension: Chapter I plays with the narrative codes of popular SF. Nihil Ex Nihilo takes an actual communication technology (Network & emails) and projects it to a SF far-near future. D.W.I brings real science to a fictional and perceptive level. Memory Lane uses scanning technology to digitalize our environment, creating a new way of visualizing matter and creating memories.

Memory Lane

Memory Lane

Memory Lane

Your latest work, Memory Lane was developed together with Iñigo Bilbao. It pays homage to places in Asturias which have shaped your ‘childhood and youth memories.’ What has the process to work on Memory Lane brought to the way you engage with these locations and the memories linked to it? Has it had any effect? Enabled you to see it under another light for example? Or discover elements you didn’t suspect?

Memory Lane is our tribute to our childhood and adolescence in Asturias. I emigrated to Belgium when I was a kid. When I go back it’s for holidays and we always meet. It’s a time for us where we have no worries and plenty of time to explore the land and the sea. I feel I have a deeper relationship to the land there than anywhere else.

We wanted to approach these personal landscapes with a set of technological tools, a kind of techno-safari. We focus on capturing its complexity by pushing the scanning technology to its maximum. We wanted the machine to expresses her-self; we chose the most chaotic and complex textures that have always amazed us from these lands.

We are very happy with the result. The machine has generated a cinematography that is unique. You can’t get more data of a landscape, but at the same time is not a human vision, it’s a machine vision. And as such is difficult for humans to recognize the locations, even for locals.

What i like about the work (apart from the fact that it engages with an area of Spain that i like so much) is that it doesn’t play with the ‘vintage’ aspect of memories. It doesn’t feel nostalgic and stuck in the past. Since most of us don’t have any childhood memories linked to Asturias, what do you think we can get from this work?

The aesthetics of the work are in great part due to the technology we used.
We rent a 3D laser scanner that is mainly used in topography. One scan have a range up to 330m. We combine several scans per scene. The result is 3D environments as a point cloud representation (The machine scans up to 976.000 points per second). It means that the geometries, the shapes, are recreated by millions of points distributed in the space. The subsequent images are extremely neutral, they have no basic attributes, light is not captured, nor color or depth of field.
But because of these lacks, they are unique; they have their own atmosphere, a representation of reality without sentiments. It’s the vision of a machine.

We think that this is why the specific locations becomes fictional and in a way universal.

Memory Lane

Could you talk about the installation setting? What is the rock, the structure that holds it, the screens all around? Why did you decide to show the piece like this way? Pau Waelder wrote a beautiful text about it (as he always does!) but i was hoping you could somehow condense it a bit?

Yes, Pau wrote a great text about the work. Basically the installation set-up is made out of a machine (custom-made cnc), that moves in space a fake rock in levitation. This replica is made from a precise 3D scan of a rock from a beach from Asturias. The idea was to displace it from its real location to an exhibition space and to make a fictional character out of it.
In the back of the machine diptych HD video display shows a 20 minutes film made from 3d animations of the landscapes we scanned. Basically coast sites we are connected to and the forest in the back of Iñigo’s house.

You are going to have a solo show at iMAL in April i think. Do you already know what we can expect to see there?

The exhibition will be about Memory Lane. It will show the main installation I just described with additional artworks like digital prints, 3D printed sculptures and a light sculpture. All connected with the landscapes we scanned and presence during our journeys in Asturias last year.

Any other upcoming show, field of research or project you could share with us?

Memory Lane will also been shown in Paris in March at La Villette during the first edition of the 100% festival.

And the next project we are working on is another collaboration with Iñigo and is related to cars.

Thanks Felix!

Memory Lane, opens at iMal, Brussels on 20 April and will run until 22 May 2016.

Previously: Nihil Ex Nihilo and Chapter 1, the Discovery.