The Polish-Hungarian duo, Elektro Moon Vision, creates innovative visual art based on digital technologies. Their previous artistic achievements include numerous international projects. Their latest project – an interactive installation named Waves – is being exhibited in the Platan Gallery in Budapest. Waves was strongly influenced by a happening by Tadeusz Kantor – who is without a doubt one of the most interesting and extraordinary Polish artists of the 20th century. This is just one of the many events dedicated to Tadeusz Kantor and organized by the Polish Institute in Budapest this year. The founders of Elektro Moon Vision tell us how Panoramic Sea Happening inspired Waves and share their thoughts on the major issues related to work with interactive media.
Patrycja Rup: The two of you have worked together as Elektro Moon Vision since 2004, and you are often called the pioneers of Polish VJ-ing. How did this collaboration begin? Were you familiar with this field before?
Elektro Moon Vision: We started our collaboration under the name Elektro Moon Vision eleven years ago as a VJ duo and presented our first live visualisation in Szimpla Kert in Budapest during a short film festival. There weren’t many people working on projects like ours then and the VJ-ing scene was just about to burst into the mainstream contemporary arts scene. Both of us had a large photographic portfolio because we’ve used analogue cameras to take pictures since we were kids, and animating them felt like a naturally fascinating adventure. That led to an exploration of camera capabilities, which in turn led us directly to the creation of future VJ project materials. During that initial period we also used a lot of found footage.
PR: You have participated in many musical and theatre collaborative projects and are actively exploring new spheres of visual art. What are your favourite media?
EMV: We do work with other artists quite often; musicians, directors or scenographers. We made a performance for The Helena Modrzejewska National Stary Theater and The Ludowy Theatr in Cracow, where we created multifarious interdisciplinary performances with significant visual components. At the same time, we try to apply interactive elements to our work based on our own software which is unique for each project. Our favourite technics are large format projections, mapping, and interactivity programming, and we use them all the time.
PR: How has your perception of new media art changed since both of you started Elektro Moon Vision? Was it a visual art project from the beginning or a possibility for technological exploration?
EMV: Since we created Elektro Moon Vision, technology has been developing rapidly and has been giving new opportunities for creation constantly: from the rapidly improving quality of video and graphics cards, faster computers, increasing screen resolution, to coding and open-source platforms. Creating live visuals and interactive installations is very closely connected to technology – we use cameras, computers with advanced graphic cards, a wide range of visual post-production programmes, mixers, controllers and a lot of other stuff. Because of this, an exploration of the latest technologies is a natural part of our work. We are always open to new opportunities offered by evolving technology and we benefit from it because it is a great tool for our work.
PR: What do you think about the new media art market? Would you agree with the statement that new media art in Poland has a marginal position in the contemporary art discourse?
EMV: Yes, we would say that there is some truth in that statement. Digital art in Poland functions on the side lines of contemporary art. It is difficult to explain the reason for this problem because the biggest new media art biennale takes place in Poland; the Wrocław-based Międzynarodowe Biennale Sztuki Mediów WRO. Maybe the problem is that this field has been classified as media studies and as a coming together of culture and technology – rather than digital art – in the discourse of contemporary art criticism. The other factor which undermines the interest of art critics and scholars might be the lack of structural and material homogeneity in digital art, and as a consequence, a transgression towards interdisciplinarity and transmediality. We have a feeling, however, that the younger generation of art critics tends to explore this issue and that the consensus is slowly changing.
Interactive art is sometimes blamed for trivializing art problems and offering a visualisation of simple technological mechanisms instead. What is your opinion on this?
This is an over-simplification of the problem. Of course the interaction isn’t the main theme of the work, but it is enriching the discourse between the author and audience. The most significant Polish new media art researcher, Ryszard W. Kluszczyński, defined interactivity very accurately. He underlined the emancipation of the receiver, who breaks the author’s monopoly for creating meanings and reclaiming his commission. Interactivity enables the viewer’s dialogue with the author and the work itself. Audiences can actively interpret the piece of art and create new meanings. It presents vast possibilities for designing new forms of communication to the artist.
What, in your opinion, is the main challenge for new media art? Is it hacking at social and political structures?
We think that virtual reality is still one of the most crucial issues being debated on. Looking back at the history of art, socially or politically engaged art trends have always been present in greater or lesser extent. Hacking at social life structures, it has been present and analysed, for example, during the transmediale festival in Berlin. We don’t engage politically in our works, but we try to focus on some aspects of social life. In our interactive installation, REC – Random Eye Check, we discuss surveillance in public space as much as the mindless collection and sharing of data on the Internet. Visitors interacting with this piece experience a kind of metamorphosis, from carefree amusement to a reflection on personal data being collected at that very moment. They start asking about that very quickly. During such moments our message is clear and readable.
In your latest work – Waves, presented in the Platan Gallery – you seem to put more emphasis on the analysis of the artistic gesture rather than on the notions of social reality. What is more important to you: exploring the nature of the medium or using the interactivity of the medium to elicit transition?
Waves is about accessing a new situation spontaneously, experiencing it, and becoming part of it. “Waves” refer to the visual part, they signify the waves of the sea; but at the same time they are also linked with the expanding disruption phenomena oscillating around the position of equilibrium, which are the basis of occurrences and lead to alterations. “Medium”, in this case, is only a tool which enables changes.
The enormous heritage of Tadeusz Kantor still inspires artists and leads viewers to experience one of the most significant trends of European art in the 20th century. Why did you decide to use Panoramic Sea Happening as a basis for your work? What was appealing about this piece?
Panoramic Sea Happening is based on an idea of conducting abstraction – the natural movement of the sea waves. We found it very attractive from a perspective of interactivity. Soon, the concept of subjugating the movement of the waves by maths – for example iterative algorithm – appeared to us. Anyway, one of the main goals of Waves is zooming into one of the most popular happenings of Tadeusz Kantor and enabling participation in it.
You are known as highly active producers and curators as well, as the founders of SHARE:Kraków andPATCHlab – a festival dedicated to digital art. What are the main goals of these projects?
Since 2009 we have organized a local Cracow-based edition of the global movement SHARE, which was born in New York. This initiative supports the development and the exchange of knowledge between creators and new media researchers. It is an interdisciplinary, experiment-friendly space which enables new and unique performances. We have also been running an international festival of digital art, PATCHlab (patchlab.pl), since 2012. PATCHlab is dedicated to the relations between new audio-visual art and technology. We present interactive art exhibitions in it, exhibitions where digital media were applied. We also conduct workshops, where artists are invited to teach how to use digital tools and techniques in art creation processes, and we present select performances and audio-visual live acts as well. Each edition has a unique supplement which changes every year – last time we had a conference co-organized by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, where we focussed on the state of contemporary research in new phenomena in art and design in a post-digital age. This year we invited interactive theatre troupes from Berlin which fuse dance with sound and visualisation. We aim to present as many possibilities as are available, thanks to the skilful use of digital media, and show the audience the extraordinary projects of appreciated artists. You’re welcome to witness that for yourself at our jubilee 5th edition next year.
Elwira Wojtunik and Popesz Csaba Lang are the Polish-Hungarian artistic duo known as Elektro Moon Vision. Established in 2004 in Budapest, they work with visual creations in the form of multimedia projects linked with video and audiovisual performances, interactive installations, large format multimedia projects including mapping, or set designs for theatrical performances. Often, they use their own technological configurations, including coding and programming. Their work was exhibited in Salon Projektionist and the Museums Quartier in Vienna, in Akarenga Soko in Yokohama in Japan and at the International Biennale of Media Art, WRO in 2011 and 2015. “Re-kreacja”, one of their interactive installations, is being presented in the Bunkier Sztuki, a contemporary art gallery in Cracow. They won the first prize in the “Choping” competition organized by the National Art Gallery “Zachęta” in Warsaw. They are laureates of Museums Quartier’s scholarship in Vienna. elektromoon.co.nr
Interview by: Patrycja Rup – Polish culture manager, film and theatrical event producer, journalist. Interested in film, media and art criticism. Lives and works in Budapest.
Editing: Mannika Mishra
WAVES – an interactive installation by Elektro Moon Vision, Exhibition opening: 7 p.m. 25 November 2015, more info here
Platan Gallery, Andrássy Street 32, Budapestm, Open till 14 January 2016
UNESCO has declared 2015 the Year of Tadeusz Kantor – and April 6th marked the 100th anniversary of his birth.