Acusmograma, 2011. Photo by Matheus Parizi.
Though Fernando Visockis and Thiago Pariza, founders of the digital art group PirarucuDuo, take their name from a very common species of fish found in the North and West regions of Brazil, they’re more interested in the cheeky pun than in aquatic life. The “cu” sound of the fish’s name literally means “asshole,” so it’s no wonder that the brains behind this devious play on phonetics like to experiment with their extensive knowledge of music and sound art.
But like almost every artist working in digital arts and technology today, this duo does not restrict themselves to sound. Their projects also have visual, interactive and sensory references, which carry them across virtual, installation and performance platforms. We had a conversation with the artists about the state of digital art and the concepts behind their collaborative projects.
The Creators Project: You make use of many platforms, including video, installation and performance. How do you maintain a distinct identity and prodution standards?
PirarucuDuo: The idea of identity is complicated. In fact, it’s a recurring discussion between us, on the plurality of techniques. The diversity of techniques and mediums [we use] could work against our pieces, because in truth, they can’t be applied to a specific technique, but to a number of them, so you end up not being an expert in anything. We believe in the power of contemporary creation activation–the ability to break down the boundaries between the traditions of each technique in order to achieve (or at least try to achieve) a solid poetic speech without worrying about the means or instruments used. Our work cannot be classified by the mediums we use, but by the ability to move between them instead. Perhaps the unity of our production is just this constant transition.
Do you find it possible to maintain unification within contemporary, digital and experimental art?
Just looking at the current production as a whole, it’s very hard to see unification, even if some trends are observed. But we believe that artistic production grounded in digital media often becomes a technique like any other. The artist develops a technique, a resource, and its production completely underlies it, making several variations using the same resource. That sure [shows] some unity, for better or for worse, but it’s a technical unification; a unification of materials, which does not necessarily mean a unification of [dialogue].
Pure Data is a real-time graphical programming environment for audio and video that you use in Awkward_Lines, one of your most recent works. How did the program contribute to the project?
PD has been a very useful tool in that it allows for diversity. In the specific case of Awkward_Lines, it was essential because the whole project was developed on the program. We think that somehow PD ends up driving some aspects of the piece, such as the extremely simple choice for graphic animation, an almost elementary and poor choice in the era of mega 3D animations. If the intention was to do something graphically complex, we probably would not have used PD. But part of the interaction between sounds and visuals can only be designed with an intimate intersection software like this.
An excerpt from the Awkward_Lines installation.
Pure Data is an open-source application. There’s an ongoing debate about art licensing and the Creative Commons licenses, which affect the realm of digital art. What do you think about open-source applications and the process of licensing author’s works?
This discussion is in vogue because of the issues raised recently by our Minister of Culture, and it affects everybody who produces digital art around the globe today. We’re not very interested in the legislative part of this question, but in the production part instead, which is currently raising big questions regarding authorship.
We think that the idea of an “author” as it is still considered and legislated today doesn’t fit into the cyber world. We believe the concepts that diffuse authorship, the one’s which break with the intention of owning an idea, are the ones that should govern contemporary art production in the future, even if these concepts take a while to be accepted. It’s from this trend that solutions emerge, such as software patents on open-source [materials] and the Creative Commons concept. These are reflections and proposals for something that is inevitable, and also welcomed.
Your work is very much associated with both music and visual components. How do the two areas intersect?
This intersection appears almost as a line, a central conductor for our works. It happened quite naturally at first when we both realized that our language could say many things in common. From that point on we [started] looking for and finding different ways to develop [our work], addressing the issue of musical language as a visual piece, which generates visuals through sound.
Speaking on the issue of interaction, Acusmograma is an installation that covers the relationship between sound and image. What was the concept behind that work?
Acusmograma is a work that serves as a good example of these interaction proposals. In a simple way, Acusmograma may just seem like a poorly-made version of a spectrogram—a piece of equipment that [analyzes] graphics and sounds, transforming them into visual information—but, in addition to a sound frequency scanning element, this piece goes deep into techno-scientific references to focus on, say, the current production of technology.
The subversion of Acusmograma stands out due to its lack of practical application, revealing a spectacle of special effects, which have the ability to deceive and entertain, as well as the intention of demonstrating a series of energy transformations. Some of these transformations are of the kinetic realm, while others are from the electric realm and made from computer data. Yet the technological subject is the production of action, even if it doesn’t have a practical goal. It’s precisely this lack of objectivity that gives an installation like this a poetic opening, where the fine line between functionality and uselessness is disrupted, producing a moment of suspension and confusion, allowing a critical distance between technique, media and intention: the poetic speech.
The use of technology and digital tools is still a relatively new concept in contemporary art. How do you see these fields moving forward?
The arts have always incorporated the technologies of their times. This is inevitable. Now there is no reason to divide digital art, the so-called new media, from the others. Art exists as an intention, beyond its technical resources. It reflects the time it was conceived. Therefore, we believe that one of the most interesting roles when working with new technologies in art is the global nature it brings, because it’s present in all cultures and nations, to be recognized by people all over the globe.