We’re excited to introduce a new artist coming to Sedition, cc2, an artist duo hailing from Berlin, Germany. Over the past 12 years, they have been showcasing their audiovisual live performances at festivals and public events around the world. All of cc2's studio art works are rooted in the content of their live exhibitions.
Q: Can you provide an overview of your artistic practice and how you approach your work?
cc2: We at cc2 create sonic projections. We combine light and sound to develop an immersive environment for the event and the audience where we perform. Basically, we wrap the “location“ (buildings, nature, people, rooms, etc) with frequencies and try to change the original character of the place for a given moment in time. We never use screens, we try to work with the entire space. This is a very site-specific process.
We do a lot of research about the location itself and the subject of the event. We take photographs and measurements of the architecture, do audio field recordings, read about the history and so on. It's sort of an artistic-empirical research that enables us to learn about the space itself. After having collected enough material, we will sit down and try to come up with a storyline that will serve us as a red line for composing the visuals and the soundscape.
Beside the technical aspects (number and size of projectors, type of sound system, external light conditions), at this stage we will focus heavily on the type of mood that we want to achieve with our installation. What kind of sound can live in this room or in this location? What type of visuals should be presented to the audience? Not everything is possible everywhere.
In the end, we aim to shape our visual and acoustic concept in a way that allows us to produce the maximum fit between our work and the location. Since we are performing live, we also have the possibility to make real-time changes to the original concept on the fly.
We apply this process not only to our live events, but also when we do our studio productions. It's the live interplay between sound and light frequencies recorded directly into the “box“ with all the errors that occur – we like the human “touch“ and try to minimize post-production.
Q: How has your creative process evolved over time?
cc2: Over the last twenty years, there have been quite a few changes. We started out as "LiCHTPiRATEN" performing in electronic clubs and festivals using software called Modul 8, as well as the computer's microphone input for the sound. Today, we work with visual software called Touchdesigner, a lot of Python/GLSL coding, Madmapper, and four multichannel sound inputs directly from our audio instruments.
In between, we developed an open-source visual program called "Omnido.me" that allows users to project into a 360-degree fulldome environment or create projections with 3D models. We also learned how to master projections on a huge wall of water haze and built some interactive "instruments" that enabled the audience to manipulate the audiovisual scenery themselves.
Broadening our spectrum of audiovisual transmissions has had a direct impact on the possibilities to perform. And with each performance, you learn something new about yourself, your work, and how the audience reacts. By itself, this will enhance your creative potential for the future.
Due to the changing nature of our events, we also feel that the conceptual part of our work has become more important. A lot of the creative process now involves figuring out the compositional aspect for an event. Over time we have definitely learned that the overall form is a strong factor in our work. It will determine how much the audience remembers after they leave.
Last but not least, over the years, our interest in interactive technologies and their creative possibilities has increased. It's nice when moving humans, be it performers or the audience, are part of the audiovisual scenery and play a role in the setup. You can get very creative with these kinds of possibilities. For example, if you pair projection mapping with body tracking and an Ambisonics sound system, you can develop very special audiovisual situations. In the end, aesthetic decisions will decide the quality, but we already have ideas and see a lot of creative potential in developing our work with interactive technologies.
Q: What inspires you to create and continue working in your chosen medium?
cc2: Our world is determined by a great deal of frequencies - that's just a physical fact. If you work with sound and light waves, there are all kinds of situations from which you can draw inspiration. But perhaps the most important source for our creativity is the location where a performance or installation takes place.
Over the years, we have learned that the more we can connect to a place or site, the more creative we can get. Sometimes it's only certain aspects of a place or performance that we find particularly fascinating. This can be special architecture or nature, specific history, type of audience, or even unusual situations in society. For example, when we displayed our work "Prison Break" in the former prison Tai Kwun in Hong Kong in 2019, the demonstrations were at full peak right across the street. The activists' surveillance signs, the smoke of the tear gas, and other elements of the scenery became part of our design for the audiovisual concept.
On a more general level, we feel that we can still learn a lot about the feedback situations of light and sound frequencies and how to shape them for our purposes. To us, the combination of audiovisual elements influences visual and acoustic perception simultaneously - you never see the same thing when you also listen, you never hear the same thing when you also see. Your brain creates something new - something like an area of resonance between image and sound, a very unreliable sensual territory.
We want to continue to identify these areas and further explore the possibilities of using them as our own form of communication. It's not about stating explicit messages, but rather finding out what the language of light and sound can express, especially if these two "materials" are starting to interact with each other in an interesting space and impose themselves on human perception.
Q: Can you give us some insight into your upcoming collection FUSION? What themes and ideas are you exploring in this new work?
cc2: Our new work FUSION is based on a collaboration with the Max Planck Institute in Munich, specifically their Institute of Plasma Physics (IPP). The word "fusion" refers to nuclear fusion, which is the process the sun uses to produce energy: the sun and other stars constantly join two hydrogen atomic nuclei to make one larger one. During this process, hydrogen gas becomes plasma, the fourth state of matter. In contrast to nuclear fission, only minimal radioactive waste is produced and can be recycled or reused within 100 years. Due to the global energy situation and environmental problems, there is currently a lot of scientific activity devoted to this technology. In our view, it's one of the most promising routes to solve our energy problem.
When we did research on this subject, we asked ourselves how nuclear fusion sounds and how it looks. After we visited the nuclear reactor in Munich, the scientists gave us a data set from one of their experiments: No. 41417, which measures the magnetic field strength that contains the plasma stream within the reactor. The experiment lasts only 7 seconds but produces gigabytes of data. We transformed the data from 2M Hertz into the human listening range (20-20K), extracting certain elements like pitch, rhythm, and dynamics. This unique blend offers an audible and visual interpretation of a scientific process usually imperceptible to human senses.
The visual landscape is crafted through TouchDesigner, Python, and GLSL, while the auditory experience is shaped using Supercollider, Granular Synthesis, and Analog synthesizers. We are currently working on putting together a 60-minute live installation from this material. In October 2022, we presented a prototype version at the ArtPrize Grand Rapids and received the first jury prize in the time-based category. After we got back to Europe, we started to fine-tune the concept and incorporated more data elements.
The FUSION collection for Sedition contains three video loops and six stills from this work. We think it's fascinating to sonify and visualize physical processes on subatomic dimensions that are usually not audible or visible to human ears and eyes.
Q: As an artist, how do you stay engaged with the ever-changing contemporary landscape?
cc2: Honestly, as far as the art landscape is concerned, we try to stay away from hypes or external changes as much as we can. The world changes every day, what can we do about it? We both feel that it's best for us to follow our chosen path and concentrate on our work.
We have been thinking about a cooperation with an online gallery like Sedition for a long time. This idea was born out of the simple fact that we produce a lot of quality content when we prepare for a live installation, and in the end, we just present a fraction of it when performing in the real world. So, why not shape it up for a high-resolution screen display and make it accessible to a broader audience?
The work with studio productions also has a technical advantage: it can overcome the resolution and frame rate limits of a live installation using projectors. In a certain way, it is a tradeoff: you lose the connection to the physical space but gain control over the final production quality. But since we process only material that we prepared for live installations, we feel that we can live in both worlds.
Q: In your opinion, what are some key developments or trends in the contemporary art world that have influenced your work?
cc2: We work with sound and light and explore the interaction of these media in a live environment. We have often asked ourselves how our work can be classified in a single term. Is it digital art, video art, performance art, sound art?
We use software coding for visuals, develop the acoustic scenery with both digital and analog instruments while applying compositional principles that have been around for many years. That makes it kind of difficult to identify single points of influence. Of course, being able to use platforms like Touchdesigner, Madmapper, Blender, Ableton Live, etc. has had a dramatic impact on the quality and style of presentation of our works.
But on the other hand, we are following a path that certain artists have walked already almost 100 years ago. Take, for example, Oskar Fischinger. This guy from Germany experimented with moving images and live sound in the 1920s. He achieved incredible results considering the technical limitations he had to face at that time.
Having said this, our knowledge of contemporary art trends is really limited. Compositional digital and video art have been around for a long time and are constantly evolving. But in the end, it's all about aesthetic decisions that an artist has to make, and these decisions are determined by the experience of his or her entire lifespan.
On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how much new technology will impact the actual reception of art. The possibilities of (live) streaming have increased tremendously in recent years, and we feel that this development may have an impact on our work as well. LED screens and multichannel sound systems for home usage have improved considerably, so video art will be more accessible to people who are interested in this subject.
To us, physical live installations will always be the focus of our work. However, today's possibilities of streaming into the public sphere sounds and looks definitely interesting to us.
Q: What are your thoughts on the role of digital art and technology within the contemporary landscape, and how do you incorporate or respond to these elements in your work?
cc2: It really depends on the definition of digital art. Working in the field of wide area projection mapping and the interplay of light and sound, we use several tools and instruments that have a microprocessor inside, so we are definitely working with digital devices. In our case, we have designed a pretty unique setup that uses two multichannel sound cards. Three or four channels of audio are being fed separately into the sound card of the visual computer and trigger the visual elements. This would not be possible without digital technology.
We have always placed a strong emphasis on experimentation and the development of tools that are able to invoke emotional responses while providing a unique experience to the viewer and listener. Sometimes the setup is more digital, sometimes it's more analog. For example, you can create an unusual audiovisual atmosphere by placing a simple 2 euro contact microphone on the floor that picks up the vibrations of footsteps. If you then transfer these sounds into the visual domain and let them trigger projection mapped visual elements, you can achieve very interesting situations from the point of view of the audience. So, all in all, we use a nice mixture of analog and digital technology, depending on the specific situation.
As far as our studio productions are concerned, we definitely stay more on the digital side since resolution and details play a stronger role. For example, when we looked at the creation of the nuclei in the FUSION video, we were surprised by how many details became visible due to the high-resolution data from the experiment. The nuclei seemed almost to take on a life of their own, like electrified creatures that cannot escape the immense force resulting from the energy of the plasma. The particles in the magnetic field reminded us of a flock of birds chasing insects in the evening sky.
Another technology that we are interested in is the use of Ambisonics. With this technology, spatial considerations in our audiovisual compositions become more important. Being able to direct the soundscape not only to the right and left side but also up and down, basically to any given point in the auditory scenery, is really fascinating and opens up a lot of compositional possibilities. Especially when you pair the Ambisonics sound to the visuals and create feedback situations. We have done this at the “Chaos Computer Congress“ and at “ZKM Karlsruhe“ and were really happy with the results.
In December 2022, we performed FUSION for a small circle of friends and used an Ambisonics system with 8 speakers from Sweet Audio, Berlin. It was a lot of work to adjust a stereo setup to an eight-channel Ambisonics system, but the final result was worth it. Unfortunately, the use and reception of Ambisonics requires a corresponding sound system with several speakers, and not everybody can afford this. But whenever we can get the opportunity, we will pursue exploring this direction.
Q: How do you envision the future of your artistic practice and its place in the broader art world?
cc2: As we have pointed out before, the various aspects of setting up a live installation and adapting to the specific requirements of the space and the audience will remain the most important part of our work. It is the creative foundation that directs our approach to digital studio productions. We will also continue to work on digital formats since we feel that it expands our artistic range and also overcomes some of the restrictions of a physical live event.
At this stage, we have not really thought about the role of our artistic practice in the future. We view our audiovisual works as a form of communication and as long as we have something to say, we believe there will be people to connect with. And we are not afraid of the growing use of AI in the art world.
Q: What advice do you have for emerging artists looking to make their mark in today's dynamic artistic landscape?
cc2: Follow your inner voice and don't listen to external advice.