Media artists Yevhen Vashchenko and Ostap Kostyuk on media art as a “door” to new impressions


Media art in Ukraine is a relatively young art field that is gradually growing and already has its ambassadors. Namely, Yevhen Vashchenko (alias v4w.enko) and Ostap Kostyuk are known to be media and sound artists. Yevhen creates audiovisual compositions and parametric architecture; Ostap works with electronic sound and circuit design. On November 14 within the Pandemic Media Space project, they will share practical knowledge on creating media installations in the lecture.

In this interview, the artists talk about their own path to media art, experience in this field, and what this art reveals to the audience — something that is not present in classical art forms and the real world.

You work with media art. Which part of your life is spent on it?

Yevhen Vashchenko: Yes, I work with various interesting components, such as sound, video, parametric structure. This combination can be called media art because different media are used. But I am an architect by education. I also have an education at a music school and an art school. Perhaps media art is also a virtual architecture, which combines sound, visual and form compositions.

Ostap Kostyuk: For me, media art is more like a hobby. I have a regular job where I go to make money and then spend it experimenting with sound — that’s my main goal. I just invent tools and use media technology to experiment. In fact, I never had a goal to do media art.

Ostap Kostyuk

And what is the main workplace?

Ostap: The work is on TV: live sound engineer.

It turns out that you both have an artistic background, which may have inspired you to do media art. When and how did it happen?

Yevhen: I did not have such an idea, such as “I will be a media artist”. I also, probably, like Ostap, began to do what interested me, began to get into it. And then, when it came time to apply it, this space turned out to be a media art space. So it was a clue to me what I was doing.

Where it came from: an interest in art or software technology?

Yevhen: I started with architecture, for me this area has always been very interesting. I wanted to complicate it for myself, namely the compositional part because in real architecture there is a lot of routine work when you need to go to meetings, communicate with builders. It’s also interesting, it can be called media cybernetics when you work in real-time with different processes that create a composition. I directed these skills to the abstract sphere, began to complicate in abstraction, because architecture can not be so complex. For a person, it is pleasant and functional when it is simple. And when we complicate it becomes a work of art in architecture. It was media art for me.

And the purpose of the complication? What can I do or what can art become?

Yevhen: Perhaps both: what my tool can create with me. And also for what: how it can be applied in comparison with what exists in the world today.

Understood. Ostap?

Ostap: Everything in my life happens by accident. Once my friend came home, opened Max/MSP and said: “In this program, Autechre (British electronic duo — L. S.) writes music”. A white screen, the fifth version, there was nothing on the sides — a brilliant interface. I really liked that there weren’t all the popped up icons. He started doing something. And in the late 2000s, I got to a concert by Marek Cholonewski at the Cinema Club. For me, it was such a shock, like a historic Sex Pistols concert, after which 30 new bands were formed.

For me, Cholonewski was like the Sex Pistols. The next week I started googling this whole thing, bought the first microcontroller. Within a week, I also began experimenting with photoresistors. At that time I loved (and still love) the Japanese noise scene, where an important element is not only music but also performance. At that concert of Cholonewski, it was perfectly combined.

Yevhen: Yes, by the way, I also got this Max/MSP software. While working in architecture, I had enough visual creativity but I lacked a bit of sound art. I played instruments: there was always a guitar (classical and electric) that I used differently. And then I thought it was time to work with electronic sound, started studying different programs, was looking for more flexible software, found Max/MSP, and started studying it.

All by yourself?

Yevhen: Yes, on my own. The program allows you to study yourself. Maybe I just had watched some basic tutorials, but I actually started to understand Max/MSP through Miller Pukette’s book named “The Theory and Technique of Electronic Music”. Later I shared his knowledge with Gosha Potopalskiy; with Alla Zagaykevich we did workshops.

Ostap: The friend who showed me the program did not delve into it. But I did. Although at first, I played the guitar. When you play in a group, for a rehearsal to take place, you need all the participants to come. And to use the technology you don’t need anything except you and a computer. It is enticing. Everything seems to be simple: you don’t have to carry a heavy guitar, a backpack with equipment, pay for studios. And as a result, it turns out even worse (laughs). You pull a heavy electric organ to get the sound. It doesn’t simplify life at all.

Yevhen Vashchenko

The ability to create only by yourself is tempting. Is it better than playing in a band, because you don’t have to adapt to anyone?

Ostap: Honestly, I like playing duet the most. A band is a lot of people, but two people are a kind of synergy, mysticism… It’s one nuance, and another is when you play the guitar or another instrument, you dedicate your whole life to it, you have to improve your skills all the time. I like the way Jimi Hendrix, Joe Pass play but I understand that I can’t play like that (smiles). That’s why I went into technology. Again, I thought it made life easier, but no. The problem is that now I am constantly switching from different areas and doing many things at once. I like it, I want it so much, but the main disadvantage is that I don’t invest time in improving the work skill with the tool. The more time you spend with him, the more you get to know him. It is very interesting to spend time with these tools, you can spend it indefinitely. It depends on what goal you set for yourself, because you can get lost.

By the way about the goal, about the purpose. It is interesting to first learn about the new possibilities of the tools, but do the ideas become leading later?

Yevhen: I would say that firstly creating a combination of different media is an experiment. It is interesting how it will work and learn what a virtual tool can Then it feels like two tools — audio and visual — are combined in something third, different. After that I start working with it, tracking and developing it. For example, if there are sound and motion tracking, the air substance turns into a controller, like it is a “global wind” that can touch the sound and create a visualization. Thus, I take the sound, the visual picture, and what happens in the middle — this combination is a composition of the abstract third component.

And what abstract components have already appeared?

Yevhen: For example, the form. The visual matrix can be transformed into various forms. When sound is added here, it brings another character. I begin to follow: “And what feeling would I like to give by these three components?”. Because of the basic composition in sound and visual, there is an abstract effect on the viewer appears: people begin to feel either some natural sound, material, or digital wind (in the sound), maybe some liquid or something heavy (in the image). He perceive a natural phenomenon through the abstract form of various media instruments. Through the sound, through the visual form, you can give a sense of material, texture.

Ostape, when your experiment turns into a semantic composition?

Ostap: You can start with the fact that when I’m a performer, I like everything I play. I just understand that I can’t make it public because people can’t stand it, it’s not interesting and it doesn’t make any sense. For me, of course, it always makes sense: it’s mostly based on feelings. When I play the guitar, a feeling when you pull the string, make a pitch band is very important. I break electronic instruments a bit, process them, and they play by themselves

such as “self-players”. But there are two approaches. I don’t use the approach of total control, because then I concentrate only on this control and all feelings disappear. That’s why it’s also important for me to prepare this process, the instruments in such a way that during a performance I can turn off my consciousness a bit and can play them as an author. On the other hand, you can allow these instruments to play what they want and what they play will be a piece of music, and it will make sense. This approach is very interesting to me, but in practice, I could not fully implement it, because these “machines” are very unpredictable.

When you play with a person, for example, a pianist is sitting next to you and wants you to emphasize with him. But you can’t! Because your synthesizer doesn’t want to play now, it has its own life. You need to treat tools well if you want them to reciprocate. So there are two moments: a moment of complete control and a moment of total chaos. And from total chaos, you can go back, cut the music into pieces, and build a composition.

And where does the idea of ​​composition come from?

Ostap: I like it when my role is just a medium, the operator of these creatures (reworked synthesizers). I just brought them, they played and I take them back (laughs). I try to listen to what they play, hear them, adjust. But before that, there is a very long process of engineering decisions: how to make me go on stage, and it all played itself. It turns out that this process goes until the moment of performance, and then everything happens at one moment. I can’t control much at this moment, so I try to come up with everything before that.

What is the place of the spectator, the listener in this system of technology, you, the final product? What should the recipient do during the media installation?

Yevhen: Enjoy a new way of perception, study yourself in communication. Sometimes the viewer can perceive a loud sound physically, or some optical effect, when the color changes quickly — this is not possible, for example, in classical art, the real world. And as long as the viewer is interested in what is happening, he will be in this media art space, or leave it. The viewer always feels whether it is music or a “destructive cell”. Art should be music that inspires the creation of something new and harmonious. Music can be embodied not only by sound instruments but also by visual ones. Music can be in color. We either perceive, feel how to play this instrument, passing through ourselves, or use the theoretical experience of the composition: what color, harmonies can “work”. I think the viewer should feel something interesting in that.

What then is music if it can be in color?

Yevhen: If we interpret music as a step-by-step change of the message… For example, in the sound: we perceive each subsequent sound in relation to the previous one. It can also be in a color that can change.

Any temporality?

Yevhen: Yes. The color can change nuanced (gradually), or vice versa. And if we combine the same dynamics in sound and color, we play both at once.

Ostape, how do you communicate with the viewer?

Ostap: If we talk about media installations, then there may be different options. It can be interactive, that’s why the viewer must interact with it. But in any case, it doesn’t matter what he does there, it matters what he comes out with. If the viewer comes out with new impressions — this is probably the best: when he sees, learns something new, rethinks for himself the constant concepts.

The word “new” sounded — what new can a viewer get from media art?

Ostap: Depending on the viewer, what he is ready for. For me, it can be a kind of optics that we have in our eyes, sensations in our fingertips by which you can see beauty. It is in everything: the question is how you look at things. Beauty can be hidden in whatever you want, just the key is not found yet. My goal should be to hang this key in a more or less visible place so that the viewer can find it for himself, see it and open the door by it, through which he came out different.

Media art is the key to finding new experiences?

Ostap: You could say that.

Yevhen: Yes, I’d say so.

Questions from the rubric ‘egg or chicken?”. Which comes first for you: sound or image?

Yevhen: I would say sound because I feel the sound as a wave and I think this wave may be in the sound and the image. But above all, the sound prevails.

And where do you start writing a new composition?

Yevhen: First comes the image, then I think how it can be reproduced in sound and how it can be reproduced in color and visual part. The image must sound, through the sound, it is transmitted the fastest.

Ostap: I also would say the sound, because I started as a musician. Also, I don’t work with the visual. My image is a performative element, and of course, I try to use it as well. For example, at a concert, I can sing not into a microphone but take a contact microphone, put it to my throat. It looks spectacular, and it is immediately clear where the sound comes from (such bodily practices).

Do you have enough platforms for self-realization as media artists in Ukraine?

Ostap: It is a difficult question… You have to be an enthusiast to do it, in a nutshell. You have to promote yourself, print posters, perform for free. Although in Ukraine it is the easiest to realize yourself as a media artist because we have little competition. If you go to the West, there are a lot of smart people, and here you are a “star” (laughs). I’m only kidding.

But do you also perform on international platforms?

Ostap: Our specificity is that we are just forming media art space, and they already have a well-established process. And how you get out is a very important artistic moment. It can help you. If you find a clever solution that is aesthetic, cool, cheap, fast it will help you, you will stand out.

Yevhen: Yes, you need to be able to do, as Ostap rightly says, your solo product: integrate, manage, organize. Since I do media art with many components, I have a lot of skills. That’s why creating a solo product is about 10% of what I have to do. For example, I use my skills to develop collaborative projects that are based in our field: I can be a visual artist somewhere or a sound designer. This is difficult, on the one hand, because you constantly have to collaborate, be on the move, move from project to project. Sometimes I think it would be easier to have one basic skill and develop it, to work in a permanent position.

However, realizing oneself through one professional skill is not always possible in our environment. For me, the depth of consciousness in one direction is not always enough, starting to develop in one direction, I move very quickly and find a “dead end of the maze” (if you can say so about our professional sphere). The sound allows you to develop endlessly, so you have to invent a hobby, or just apply yourself to various projects. And my solo product, although sometimes financially supported, is more a “showcase” of what I can do.

In the lecture, you will tell about your own experience of what you can do?

Yevhen: I will talk about the research that I have done during my work, the study of a discipline combination. This may be needed by someone as an answer to the question “what will happen if you combine sound with a visual component or vice versa, how to get a sound composition from an image”. I have done a lot of such work when the picture turns into a midi pattern. And a person will be able to build it at home and apply it in some other way, to develop it in his way.

Ostap, your lecture is called “Entry into electronics: the sound of frying chips”. Will we hear this incredible sound?

Ostap: Fried chips sound? Of course (laughs). I completely agree with Yevhen. I am engaged in circuit engineering, and I don’t understand much about theory, but mainly, I find out a lot by practice. Many people have a block that the circuitry — “Lord, I did not hold a soldering iron in my hands, it’s out of this world, I will never do it”. But once my friends came to me, I gave them the tools, they started soldering and liked it so much. It worked out right away! It would be cool if this lecture would encourage people that it’s easy to do. Then it will be the most successful, most productive lecture.

I am also fascinated by the moment of experience in various fields. Very interesting results are obtained when you take two areas that can’t be professionally related, but you somehow use the experience of one and the other, you find relationships in them. And if there are a lot of relationships, then it’s great. Therefore, it is interesting to collect an experience from each lecture, to look for these patterns.


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