Interview With NONOTAK
Your ethereal audiovisual installations are an intrinsic fusion of technology and art. How does this collaborative project between an illustrator and an architect musician start and coexist?
Tak: I'm a former Architect. While studying architecture in Paris, France I was deeply interested in the relationship between sound and space. Focusing on how sound could affect the feeling of a place, how it could define a certain level of comfort, how it could merge to the architecture's narrative just like being part of the sound design of an immersive experience was an interesting way to approach a project. Another architectural element which is inevitably important to me is Light. It is such a playful matter we can sculpt, reflect, absorb, contain or project but most importantly it is the element which ultimately defines a space and acts as a starting point of a project which also gives an orientation to the project according to the geographical context. Most of the projects I've been working on as an architecture student had something to do with that important link between light, sound, and space. I used to play guitar and produced music at the same time so it didn't help my obsession with it. I already knew I was particularly attracted by creating spaces that are almost experiential installations you can explore with your body and mind.
When I saw Noemi's illustrations it really made me want to try experiment on immersive light installations, which represented to me something really close to a smaller scale architecture project. Instead of focusing on the functionality of the space, we would be able to think about the immersivity of it. The "moiré effects she was able to create within a 2d space through illustration/books represented to me a huge potential if put into a 3d environment with a unique soundscape produced by us. That's how we imagined NONOTAK and how we created our first art installation in 2013. We don't usually separate tasks as long as we never studied digital art or new technologies. It is a constant learning experience. Not knowing to know how to do something technically could be a positive thing sometimes when you consider the fact it allows you to actually question what the most important point you are trying to solve and give you a clear picture of what you are trying to create. Sometimes it is so easy to get lost within all the technological possibilities that you can also forget what was the main point of using tech. We feel like technology justifies some artistic ideas nowadays, but we personally use technology as a solution, and not as the main point of the installation, nor the medium. In fact, we usually try to hide it.
Noemi: I love to draw since I’m a child and was interested in visual in general including illustration, painting, pictures and later also motion images like animations, videos or cinema. After school, I focus my artwork on Lines graphic and was experimenting different way to draw with only lines and stripes. I just fell in love with lines and was fascinated how elegant is this shape and also how it could trick your eyes when there is several of them or play with their direction, how you can create depth when you play with the thickness of them. At this same period, I cross path again with Tak (we first met when we were 15 years old) and he was studying Architecture. He kind of open my mind into the strength of Space through Architecture. We first collaborate on a phosphorescent painting for a building in Paris by an Architecture studio he was working for at this time and it was pretty fun to work together. After this first project, Tak wanted to add his musical background as well (he was playing in a metal band) and link music with visuals. The notion of Space was also something really important and that how the installation format came naturally to mix Space, Visuals, and Sound.
You develop immersive and dreamlike environments by connecting light, space, and sound. Transposing all these sensorial elements you bring the audience to a new level of storytelling perception. Which aspects about activating senses of your public fascinate you most?
Tak: I think connecting Light, Sound, and Space together allows us to develop our art within a universal language that can be understood by anyone, of any age or any culture, and this is something we witnessed throughout our numerous tours around the world. This is actually the result that keeps us going and motivated about creating new experiences. I like the fact there is no wall nor separation between our pieces and the audience's experience: there is no cartel to read needed, there is no text dictating how the piece should be enjoyed. The fact we use light and sound as a matter allows us to dramatically disrupt the perception of space, and this is something human eyes can not be sensitive to or ignore; Space is literally shifting around and you are in the middle of it. I hope that we can make more people realize how powerful light is through our pieces and look at it differently, even in their daily lives, because this is also where the ideas come from: By observing light.
Noemi: What I see is the most important for me. And when it comes to art it the same. I don’t make art to be intellectual (because I’m not really) but because I’m sensitive to beauty. I think perception is something really complex, the range of what you can see is huge and fascinating. Sound is really a link to emotions and releases a lot of feelings. What is important for us is the direct contact between the art piece and the audience. I like when people are touched, intrigued, shocked right away.
Give us a personal definition of illusion.
Tak: I think it is connected to belief and sight to me. Looking at something gives a certain level of reality, so we believe it is there when it could not exist. I think it is possible to tweak someone's visual or mental perception by playing with elements or approaches that person knows already, and then disrupt it. In our case perspective is a big one. Within our abstract visual approach, one element people could refer to most of the time is perspective and we like to use it as a source of illusion. In my opinion, illusion is a belief, generated by our own personal visual experience and culture. We think geometry is a universal culture and we felt like it was a playful and strong way to create illusions.
Noemi: When you take time to understand what’s happening.
Nowadays technology became a medium and an instrument, which facilitates artists to explore new artificial horizons. What do computer tools allow you to express that conventional art fails?
Tak: I actually don't make a difference between what you would call a conventional art and technology art. I think this is also a personal resistance against a certain community of artist who justifies art by the way it is made possible through technology. It is like using technology became part of the art instead of having technology serve the visual/artistic possibilities. I'm not against that; however, it is an important point I want to make. A lot of people like to ask me which software I used to make this or that installation and I mostly get a bit sad about it, because I feel like we don't talk about the art enough. Some project would get more respect because it was made through a custom software instead of a ready to play software, and I think this is just a trend but what's important to me is that mission dictates gear: What's important is what's I am trying to achieve visually and how easy it could be to connect sound and light in order to focus on the art and narration itself. I just like to be in a position where I have a ton to tell about art and so few to tell about tech. Technology became so advanced that sometimes we get the saddest proposals like ‘Are you interested to show an interpretation of this real installation into VR?'. I'm afraid of having to live in an art community without materiality, to be honest.
Noemi: Computer tools allow us to play with more immaterial matters. It allows to on and off something in a specific Time.
Could you please bring us into your studio and describe its atmosphere?
Tak: It is pretty much the opposite of the spaces I would design as an artist or architect: It is super messy. The most redundant elements would be pelican cases, cables, screens, laptop, and cables again. But there is a weird feeling of well being. Things are hard to find but always where they should be. We are also located in a really busy street with a lot of noise during the day and night in Paris. We like to open the window and hear the mess outside while working with lights and experiential art in a dark studio. Because it is really noisy outside, no one will complain about me producing music, or even testing an infinite number of loud kicks on the speakers, which is almost a miracle in Paris. We occupied the same space since the beginning of Nonotak. This place is occupied 24/24 since I usually live during the night time and Noemi lives like a normal person during day time. The studio is a 3 century-old apartment with visible wood beams and high ceiling, located in the center of Paris. It is a really Parisian studio but I don't think this is particularly inspiring to me. Being a night creature inspires me tho.
Noemi: Messy. Looks like a children room but with adult objects.
During the creative process, from the concept to the final work, the artists pass through a wide range of feelings. What creating makes you prove? What stimulates your creativity?
Tak: We are constantly creating and I think the rhythm of it stimulates our creativity. We don't really ourselves to go back to a normal life after a project is finished. During the making of the previous project, we already have discussed other new ideas, and we can't just wait to try new things. If we allowed ourselves to digest our projects, then we would be maybe scared to go back to "work" because we will get ourselves in front of a "blank" paper again. It is always harder to make the first artistic decision again because this is the decision that kills and destroys the other potential possibilities and you need to commit to it. It shouldn't be hard and it doesn't sound hard but it actually is. There is always a time where you are convinced you need to come up with the "best" idea when the whole thing is to do the best you can to preserve the first idea until the final work. Have the same vibe as you originally imagined it. They are so many elements that can shift you from your original goals while going through the creative process. Being loyal to your first idea/desire is what I am trying to prove myself when starting a project. Death, seasons and having no time zones stimulates my creativity.
Noemi: Art is related to ego but also sharing as well. First, you create something because you believe in it and you want to make it a reality. But then you want to show it to people as well, and when people reaction is welcoming it gives you more strength in what you believed in and make you an external reason to keep going and do better.
What changes in the art scene are you eager to see in the next ten years?
Tak: I just hope this society values art more. I believe there is an actual potential for Art to get people together through emotions. Traveling through Nonotak made me realize that appreciation for art can be universal and this must be the most valuable thing we felt since we started Nonotak.
Noemi: I hope art will still exist to give emotions to people, be enjoyed and not be valued as a Photo Booth set up for Instagram.
Send a codified message to your future self.
Tak: "Don't mess that up"
Noemi: good luck
Ask us a question.
Tak: What value would Art and Artists have in a collapsed society?
Noemi: What makes you believe in Art?