On November 29, at 4:00 pm the Pandemic Media Space Project will provide a lecture “Interactivity (un)limited” by Polish artist Piotr Madej. The day before, he shared his story of combining several occupations and even several styles of art. His example confirms the main issue and at the same time the title of the lecture. So, is the interactivity limited?
I want to start from the interpretation of your profession. You are an intermedia artist, composer and sound engineer. What is first? Tell about your way of choosing it.
My first occupation is connected with sound engineering. But I’ve finished a primary music school in the class of violin, so I feel the music and think about the world in the category of sounding music. Last year I’ve finished the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków on the faculty of Intermedia Art, in an Audiosphere Lab. As you see, my life always spins circles around the sound.
So you didn’t do outing from so-called notated music, and just wanted to be surrounded by these kinds of art?
Mostly if I compose using the concrete music strategy, I record some sounds and manipulate it in a digital audio program. I’ve had a work with live musicians but it was a few years ago and I think that named way of composing music is more effective in my conditions. I compose in my home studio – it’s convenient, I can make any sound here.
I assume that pandemic time didn’t deject you very much – it wasn’t unusual working from home. Actually how it felt for you?
It was a funny coincidence because I was on my way to finishing diploma project and everything was prepared to the term when the exam was going to pass. And the lockdown was announced. But it felt like having a lot of time to improve things.
Oh, finally I see the advantages of a pandemic.
The sad thing, I was planning to make a live performance and my presentation inside the Salt Mine, Wieliczka (near the Kraków) – it’s a beautiful place. And I was confused because the pandemic ruined everything I tried to build inside. But the time was on my side, so I decided to rebuild the fragments of Mine in the virtual reality. It’s now an art work made into the 3D space, it presents all the material I’ve been making for months. It was a great virtual exhibition, in the rules of computer games, with some sophisticated mechanics game like, and finally I was really happy. Because doing it was really an adventure.
And the name of the project?
“The Salt of the Earth”.
Where the ideas of future works come from to you?
In most of my artistic works, beside of the sound, it is also about interaction. In my research I focus on the wide range of it. While composing I still use a number of controllers, as many composers and musicians, or making my own to provide a kind of interaction. It’s superb to arrange an improvisation, in this way I try to apply this strategy in my art works. I catch the video game methods or even installation art work.
So where do you take your inspiration?
I still look for good strategies that can catch the spectators and make them participants of art work. It’s different in regular music than in art work, where I am the only one who is interacting with the objects. The rest is just listening thus it’s a bit easier in a gallery where everyone can touch things and interact with the conditions I’ve prepared. Most of my inspiration is from conditions I can provide and stand opposite to it trying to play, explore, observe it. It’s both in my musical and visual experience.
I see behind you some lamps and batteries or bulbs… Is it a part of some of your performances?
It’s from my diploma – salt solution in the water where I try to examine what salt can do in different conditions, make simple batteries, Volta cell based on salt solution and electrodes that can make a current power from it, and measuring it are making sound by sonificated flown parameters. It’s a part of installation.
Often when I see an installation or performances of media art, I feel curious and surprised because it’s always about some difficulties, even danger, disadvantages working with electric devices and in the concerts sometimes it does not work properly. So what a temper or character should have a media artist in your opinion?
I think you’re right, media artist should be patient and stress-resistant also. It’s really stressful and disaster is really a part of the art work. But I found these things regular to the sound engineering. You’re taking microphones, setting things up, people are waiting for the concert but something always can go wrong, not everything works properly. Musicians become nervous, you try to catch things and make it work. For me, it’s a regular situation, so I just accept it.
Lucky to have this experience. Do you work now on it?
I’m working as a freelancer, taking every job which is on my horizon. Last month I focused on short animation movies, working as an artist producing a sound from all strange things, making a noise, recording it and having a fun. Also, I compose the music: on the next Saturday it will be an electroacoustic concert so now I’m up to finish my piece.
All these possibilities you’ve talked about are really unlimited as it’s said in your lecture, so can you tell more about “interactivity (un)limited”?
This is a first thing I found about interactivity: something which is unlimited in everything. You can measure or examine it, take some parameters from it, then digitalize it, then totally alter it to what you want. We can make a picture from a sound, sound from a picture, even a smell from a taste. Not exactly but it seems to be. The computer seems to be a really powerful mixing console. Data processes it and makes everything we want. For example, I’m really curious about it in terms of algorhythmic composition. In my visual art I take part in parameters and try to make a specific composition to feel fully the whole art work. Therefore, the abilities seem to be unlimited, but new conditions and the pandemic cut down most of them. That’s the point why I want to make a review, critical review of interactive strategies.
Is it about what intermedia art can do, but couldn’t during pandemic?
And about what else is left for us, what we can do due to new circumstances, trying to find some solutions. The final approach I want to summarize is strategies.
Are you going to speak about the technical schemes, maybe something philosophical up to it, or will you show some programs to work with?
I focus mostly on the technical, the philosophical part is difficult and sensitive. I like a kind of engineering. A bit more safe to focus on the technical part. Mostly I’m focused on the connections between natural sciences and art. In my works I try to reach the source of observed phenomenas and its meaning.
And it may be more effective, many students could come to your lecture. What do you want to tell your listeners before it?
I will talk about the strategies and show the examples of my work. In fact, I’m going to talk about the things I know well. Review is based on my works, and as I started few new projects, my future work is based on these conditions. I will share my experience to another artists.
Let’s try to imagine a situation. In some decades or even years Artificial Intelligence will be improved and able to generate music for some person according to his psychological state, or to the parameters this person will be able to give. How do you think, where will the music which is also controlled by algorhythms or another things come ?
In regular situation if I think about algorhythmic composition, the author is the same person who made an algorhythm, even if the music depends on some rules, but someone made this structure to catch a process. Even when someone else will alter these conditions. But I’m not sure about Artificial Intelligence, because there are few levels – when we design AI, which is making something, we’re still always are creators of this AI. Even if it can make something creative, it’s still our work, but if we think about AI which is making another AI and another and another, it’s starting to be strange.
I saw on some website in Poland another Piotr Madej, pop musician, keyboardist and guitarist…
I know him personally. It’s very funny thing, because I know the third Piotr Madej, who is from my Academy of Fine Arts, a graduated student of Departament of Industry Design. So this Piotr you’ve mentioned, has a nickname, Patrick the Pan, he’s working as a composer in Juliusz Słowacki Theater. We met and I hope, in some day, we can make a collaboration. It’s a kind of my future artistic dreams to make a collab – three of us, that can be a great team. Ten years ago I was composing pop music songs, until I studied intermedia. At the beginning of my work as an engineer I was an assistant of the famous music producer, Guy Sigsworth.
This Patrick the Pan has pseudonym. Do you have one (I know that many media artists do)? And talking about electroacoustic music, don’t you think that now it’s not so much in demand due to popular music?
I don’t have official or unofficial pseudonym… Sometimes I use a different version of my name, like the part of my email – “madejus”.
It’s like Amadeus.
I never thought about it, brilliant. Sometimes I make such light forms of music, of electronics – songs, but not classical, like pop. It’s more like my hobby, not something official, and sharing it at Number1Music. It’s where I share my music with the pseudonym.
So you really are on the border of these kinds of art, even styles.
Yes, and I think I’m not fully comfortable which kind of art is more serious. As you see, I make a lot of different things, each of it is a part of me. It’s not very popular for an artist who builds his own image to make a lot of things. If you think about someone as a John Williams, a composer who makes movie music, he’s great in it, everybody knows him, but I don’t think that he makes graphic, for example. Even maybe I’m not sure if the rest of people can treat seriously that kind of activity.
I’m sure that an artist can deal with some kinds of art better than somebody who takes part in only one of it. And your life looks like a motto of unlimited interactivity.
There is a general opinion if someone is good at one thing, he can’t be at another. In my whole life I fight with it, because I can’t totally focus on one thing and forget about the rest. It can be totally boring. I try to be careful with it. About people who see the artist, that’s why I try to separate these activities, it’s not one kind of scene. If you are classical or electroacoustic composer, you have a community which is focuses on it, and electronic dance music making requires another community, they never met. But when someone writes to me that he listened some of my song and found it pleasant, that makes me really glad.