While we're hoping 2014 is as filled with artistic surprises as 2013, one of the first delights has been To Begin Where, the latest work by Eva Papamargariti, a Greek artist who combines architecture and digital media in her practice. Teaming up with Paul Preston (AKA PBDY), a Los Angeles-based DJ, producer, and the driving force behind Brainfeeder and TAR, the two have brought together the best elements of their practices to produce 25 minutes of stunning audiovisual material, seen above.
The first audiovisual mix in this three-part series immerses us in 3D digital landscapes that meld into one epic mesh of electronic, hip-hop, and psychedelic sounds.
At first glance, this hybrid visual and auditory journey can seem destabilizing and confusing due to its loosely-composed, fragmented nature. However, Papamargariti and Preston weave a continuous rhythmic link between each track and graphic element, producing a strangely cohesive experience.
In keeping with her usual aesthetic, Papamargariti has worked within To Begin Where's rhythmic constraints, taking into account the atmosphere and lyrical element of each track. With characteristic brio, she translates the project's fragmented sonic dimensions into a visual space, a landscape that takes the viewer on a psychedelic, sci-fi journey.
Eva Papamargariti: I was talking with PBDY through the internet, and pretty soon he told me that he would be interested in me making something for him. He sent me the mix, and after I heard it found the idea of producing the visuals for it quite appealing--I'd done visuals or videos for live gigs but I'd never done something for a mix. I found his work and references really interesting, and also liked his mentality regarding the project. So that was it, we mutually agreed to do it.
PBDY made the mix, and you created the visuals. Can you explain how you collaborated together and what your practice was like?
Well first of all I have to say that this was a really cool collaboration because our aesthetics and expectations matched almost immediately. As we were discussing the project, Paul started telling me what things he liked, making references to all these cyber aesthetics and movies like Videodrome and Blade Runner, films that are inspirations for him that I also love. So this was a great start, because it's always good to know that you are communicating at the same level with the person you're collaborating with. Afterwards I got into the creation process, having all that info on my mind, but also trying to recode it, 'translate' it to something different. I was sending Paul some feedback via screen shots from the renders and he was very encouraging, so I continued working towards this direction.
How did the mix influence your choice of visuals?
The aesthetic character of my visual work is something that somehow already existed. I mean a few of the things that inspire me are already there, and it's just transforming itself through another prism each time, according to the different contexts that I have to impose my work. The sound of the mix was quite important to me because it created the path on which I had to step and produce the visual part. I created the video mostly based on the whole essence of the mix. Some songs of course had a more powerful impact on me, like those in the intro for example, which give a hint to the ambiance of the rest of the mix; also the raw, almost violent beat of Surkin's 'Tiger rhythm' at the end, or Dopplereffekt's “Gene silencing” which you can hear before and after the two more “happy” songs of the mix ("Over Your Shoulder (Mr. Oizo Remix) by Chromeo and "How Does it Feel?" by Pharrell). It also gave me a really eerie feeling, acting somehow like a 'pause' in this particular moment of the sound sequence.
Architectural elements have an almost systematic presence in your work. They're kind of a trademark of yours. Can you tell us more about your particular inspirations for this project?
Haha the architectural elements come out inevitably in my work I guess, even if I don't want them to sometimes!
Well actually it is a bit natural, because the way I think in terms of concepts and in terms of composing visuals, video, or even static images is affected partially by my studies in architecture (which thankfully also involved a quite interesting range of thematic fields like graphic design, visual arts, philosophy, and cinema). So my inspirations can be many diverse things simultaneously--an extract from a JG Ballard's book, or the uncanny installations of Paul McCarthy, a sci-fi movie, or even the work of some other digital or net artists.
The aesthetic of this video in particular is inspired partially by 60's utopian drawings and theories, dystopian scenes from 80's cyber fiction movies, but also the dreamy and weird aesthetics of some specific directors' work (like Jodorowsky for example). I think that there is a mechanism that connects all these elements, a mechanism which becomes less or more visible, depending on which way you'll look at it each time. Fragments from this kind of work were the first thing that came to my mind while listening to the audio mix, so they actually became the "data tank" from which I drew inspiration. I perceive the video as a dreamscape, the narration is a journey between 'floating islands' suspended somewhere in space.
The mix is a composition from diverse sound extracts, so I tried to create an analogy of this structure for the video too. As the mix is moving forward we have a parallel visual narration, in which we wander around different fragmented worlds and environments. Each world is inspired by the equivalent part of the mix, but the video doesn't always follow exactly each change on the fabric and beat of the mix. It is acting a bit independently--it takes the sound and recomposes/translates its qualities like atmospheric elements, speed, pauses etc. into moving images. It is mostly like rebuilding the structure of it.
About the technological aspect of this project. How did you obtain these kinds of visuals? Which software and tools did you use? Do you have a particular process?
I mainly used 3d Studio Max for modeling, textures and lighting, and some particular plug-ins to create certain motion and visual features. The whole animation came out from this software too. Afterwards I used a bit of After Effects and finally Premiere to unite the different video extracts. The process I follow has to do with the project, so there is no standard mode of working. Lately though, 3ds max along with Adobe's Suite has become my main tools of creation.
Have you already come up with some ideas for the next two pieces? What can we expect?
Hah I am not allowed to tell much info for the moment! The next two will be created from different artists who will create their interpretations of the mixes through their own visual style. I'm pretty sure they will be beautiful!
Last one: what is your favorite song on this mix, and why?
I think I will go for a song that I've already mentioned before, “Gene silencing” by Dopplereffekt. I was charmed by it immediately. I already knew and admired Dopplereffekt's work but this was a song from the last EP that I hadn't heard till I found it on the mix. The way that the melodic sequence is structured, the minimal but yet strong production of the song and the feeling it brings to me when I hear it, something like a futuristic but yet nostalgic vibe, made me love it. I really believe that this is a brilliant moment for the mix!
PBDY is a DJ/Producer living atop a mountain sharing a home with The Gaslamp Killer in Los Angeles, working with Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder label & running his own label TAR. He tends to explore dissonance in sounds & blends music unexpected.
You can learn more about Eva Papamargariti's work here.