Interview: NONOTAK

Interview: NONOTAK

Paris-based creative duo NONOTAK aka Noemi Schipfer and Takami Nakamoto constructs light and sound installations that create hypnotic, immersive and dreamlike experiences & environments. “We want people to get hypnotised and find their own meaning in our creations.” Nakamoto says about the impact they intend to make on their audience. 

To coincide with the launch of their new work Moon, Sedition interviewed NONOTAK. Below, Noemi Schipfer and Takami Nakamoto provide insight into the recently launched work on Sedition, the early years of their creative practice, their formation as NONOTAK and the process of taking their work to live performances.

"The sky is the main inspiration for this piece. The sky is the most powerful light screen. It’s hard to perceive all the complexity of it but the longer we look at it, more we are able to perceive elements in it.It’s also the playground of the MOON which is a really mysterious and elegant graphic element of it. We wanted to make a tribute to the Moon."


Moon, NONOTAK, 2022

Sedition: You both come from different disciplines of art, illustration and architecture. How did the shift from these disciplines to digital art occur? And how did your paths cross? 

Noemi Schipfer: Our first project was a mural painting for a lobby in a building in Paris. At that time Takami was working in an architecture studio and I was freelancing as an illustrator. We worked together on that project and it inspired us to go further in our collaboration and merge our different backgrounds in a deeper level. Takami was also playing in a metal band, and we wanted to create pieces that mix space, sound and visuals. The installation format emerged pretty natural in order to achieve that will. The concept of our first installation was to create an immaterial space that will change shapes through visuals and sound.

Takami Nakamoto: I think it is all linked indirectly. We also don’t necessarily consider being digital artists, even if we get associated with it often but we don’t see it as an issue. What we have been trying to do is to create environments that reflect spatial ideas that would be too abstract to present as an architectural project, even for a small scale one. In order to achieve that we use light, sound and visuals and combine them together into installations and experiences. Scale and proportion become an important parameter, as long as how audience is going to explore it, and this reminds me of the process of working in a bigger architecture project as well, but with much more fantasies and creative freedom added to it.


Working as a duo, what do you think is the essence that shapes you and keeps you together as NONOTAK? How have you benefited personally and what disccoveries have you made as a result of your collaborative work?

Schipfer: I feel like one of the main reasons that lead us to work together is the chemistry we had in our aesthetic taste. It feels pretty easy and natural to discuss and decide on an art concept together. As a visual artist most of my work was 2D based, and when I start to spend time with Takami I really opened up to the world of architecture and it makes me fascinated about spatiality.

Another aspect that bring us together I think is the love we have for photography and video capture. We document all our installations ourselves.

Takami Nakamoto: We inspire each other and have the same visual goals, which has kept that collaboration going in a pretty organic way. We have also kept this artistic collaboration as an exclusive one, so we could continue using the NONOTAK aesthetic in every project we decide to challenge ourselves with. It isn’t easy to push your visual identity and staying together as NONOTAK throughout the years seemed more than a necessity to achieve that.

I personally consider NONOTAK as a life changing project, that made me open up perspective about the world and humans in general, through all the touring we did, connecting with people around the world and working with them in order to deliver a piece of our work. I realized that art was such a powerful language that connects people together and it gave my work another purpose. The fact that NONOTAK is a collaboration makes things that are bigger than me become possible, projects that are not possible to achieve alone.

Signals, NONOTAK

Can you talk a bit about your approach in your compositions? Does the sound design often follow Noemi’s visual compositions or vice versa; or does it enfold spontaneously for each work?

Schipfer: The nice aspect about NONOTAK is that we do everything ourselves, so we can change the sounds or/and the visuals anytime during the programming. We can be really flexible during the process.

When we discuss about the concept of an installation, it immediately gives us directions of what we want to achieve in terms of programming. Then when we are in front of the set up, we connect our computers and start programming and create the narration of the piece. The visual aspect of the piece is the leader and the sound give the emotions to the installation. However, when we work on a performance, the music become the leader and the visuals are there in order to complete the impact of the sound. 

Nakamoto: The compositions are occasionally spontaneous even though we also like to develop personal techniques on our own before trying to combine them together. It is always hard to do everything at the same time but the approach is to stay as connected as possible in order to give ourselves the maximum amount of creative freedom, even after we consider the piece is finished. That way we have control over the sound and visual aspect at the same time, and this makes it possible to program on site, in front of the piece.

Are there any works/figures in the history of art that you see as reference points aesthetically or conceptually?

Schipfer: I love the work of Jesùs Raphael Soto, Bridget Riley, Julio Leparc. I also love the work of Ryoji Ikeda and Ryoichi Kurokawa.

Nakamoto: The Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visual have been a strong inspiration. Even if you can find lot of links between optical art from the 60’ and the work we release today, it was not just about the visual aspect of it.

It was more about their whole approach of what an art exhibition experience was; based on letting audiences explore the work and enjoy a visual effect and connecting with the piece. It all felt different from many artworks displayed in a museum with a cartel that you need to read and understand in order to get the meaning of the piece. Instead I feel like their creations call for interaction in such an organic way, since it plays with the different human senses. 

Daydream V.4, NONOTAK

Experimenting with light and space is the root of your work. What do you intend your audience to experience?

Schipfer: We want the audience to feel the piece. The direct contact between the piece and the people are really important for us and we want to get their attention at the first sight.

Nakamoto: I personally want the audience to experience a vision that both Noemi and I imagined, but couldn’t really translate into words. It usually starts that way. We start talking about different visual effects in relation to how the audience would feel when confronted with these ideas. It is hard to explain but since we are not good writers or good at speaking, we find the mixture of space, context, sound and light such a good platform in which to express ourselves in order for the audience to experience a timeless, dreamlike experience.

We usually talk about meditative states, contemplation and self reflection. We almost want the audience to feel so lonely that these states allow them to connect with themselves again.  We want people to get hypnotised and find their own meaning in our creations. 

Eclipse, NONOTAK

Can you talk a bit about your work 'Moon' that is recently launched on Sedition. What ideas did you intend to explore in this work?

Schipfer: The piece we are launching for Sedition is inspired by our installations called MOON v.1.

MOON v.1 was created as a site specific installation for the Opening of Aranya Art Center by the Architect Neri&Hu in Qinhuangdao, China.

The sky is the main inspiration for this piece. The sky is the most powerful light screen. It’s hard to perceive all the complexity of it but the longer we look at it, more we are able to perceive elements in it. It’s also the playground of the MOON which is a really mysterious and elegant graphic element of it. We wanted to make a tribute to the Moon.

Nakamoto: The idea of collaborating with Sedition is to work on series of pieces that translate part of the experiences we create in site specific installations. It was also created so that it is possible to project it onto a wall, to be part of a space. These are experiments that are really similar to when we prepare installations in order to test in real scale. We wanted people to be able to see that process.

What inspires you or your workflow? Do you work at a studio?

Schipfer: I’m really sensitive about visuals and the complexity of what eyes can see. Perception is a big inspiration for me. It could come by accident when you are working and try to create something or randomly when you are walking outside. Emotions are a really powerful inspiration as well.

People reaction is really inspiring too. We are really lucky to have been able to present our work in so many places, in so many different countries and every time to see people react and enjoy our art piece is a really grateful feelings and give a lot of strength to do more. 

Nakamoto: Yes, we do have a studio which has everything we need to prototype installations in small scale, developing them and producing music. Machine and lathe turn little parts, laser cuts and many tools at our disposal. We don’t have a typical day, we just spend a lot of time there since it is our favourite place to be.

Are there any books that changed the way you perceive sound, light or space? 

Nakamoto: Architectural books my mother used to buy me as presents. I think deep in her heart she always wanted me to become an architect, which I did since I am fascinated by space, but these books made me make installations more than architecture in the end. I liked the fact I could look at the pictures of architectural projects I enjoy and consider them as art pieces you could live in. I sensed endless possibilities to explore it, it made me feel dreamful, making me want to design my own dream space. Lot of the projects I liked involved a lot of attention to light. How it was reshaping that space in such a dramatic and narrative way.

This is what I gave attention to the most. Through these images I could imagine how these places could sound and this is how I started associating architecture with sound as well. A space that looks interesting should sound interesting. A great architectural project is a piece of architecture that sounds great, that how I perceived architecture as a kid. 

Could you tell us about your process of taking your works to live performances?

Schipfer: Takami was actively performing as a musician and he wanted to bring a more live performance aspect to NONOTAK. Also, when we were documenting our first installation at the Mapping Festival, we realised that it was really interesting to see people silhouettes inside of it. We wanted to create a stage set up where our silhouettes would be part of the visual effect and trick the audience perception.

Nakamoto: For me, it feels like a continuation of my process as music producer. The context changes radically though. Instead of showing a work that could exist without our presence once it is made, a live performance is centred around the moment, and we like that approach a lot. I used to play guitar in post hardcore band and used to tour often, by doing more and more installations, I started to miss the feeling of playing live and feel connected to my work on a different level. The stage has always been a space that felt safe and enveloping. Despite the fact that many people have their eyes on you, it is a place where I feel focused and connected to myself. Each time I play live, the feeling of releasing all the feelings I have been keeping during the rest of the time seems overwhelming, and this is addictive.

Could you talk about your future projects? What are you looking forward to the most in presenting to the audience this coming year? What ideas or concepts are you experimenting with in your future projects?

Nakamoto: We are preparing a lot of projects, especially since this worldwide situation gave us the opportunity to spend more time at the studio. We usually like to keep our new projects to ourselves until they are ready to be presented or premiered somewhere. It would be easy to make render images of them and release them as new projects, but we are against that idea. We like to see we were able to translate an idea into reality and usually we discover much more things about it by fabricating it in real life.

Materiality is so important when working with light and this is not something we want to simulate since our work is based on that. But we can say we are working with a lot more kinetic installations, like the one we presented recently in Barcelona. (Coordinates v.1) and much more permanent installations.

Schipfer: We are working on permanent installations which is a pretty different workflow. The constrains are more heavy but it’s really interesting to think about an art piece that will stay for years and accompany people everyday life.

We are also more and more interested to work on a solo exhibition. Constructing not only one art piece but considering how to link few of them together, at the same time is something we're working on.

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