Andrew Bucksbarg interview
How do you define "soundtoys" ?
'Soundtoys' are interactive, playful works that create sound when the user manipulates them. 'Soundtoys' is a reference to the brightly colored plastic, often abstract toys of babies or toddlers that produce sound. This is coupled with notions of experimental/electronic music and the sound and visual interface design proliferated on the internet. The visual element of 'Soundtoys' is often to create the experience of interacting with a real object, like an audio-visual instrument.
On a personal level, why do you make this work?
I am compelled to make work in order to construct my experience in a meaningful way.
What is your project and your work about?
I think there is a certain amount of abstraction in terms of the meaning. I would consider my work successful if it initiated particular references for the user, but remained challenging in a holistic sense. Perhaps an analogy is the sound of garbled speech. One can understand that there is meaning there, if not specifically what is being said. I recently ate at my favorite Thai restaurant, Mai Ploy in Los Angeles (Silverlake.) My fortune cookie said, "You are able to sense new forms of beauty which deviate from the traditional." I was very pleased with this, although I would change it to, "You are able to design new forms of pleasure which deviate from the traditional." What is so great about the Net technology is that it is a new form, and it is spins off new forms as well. All this gets people supercharged with ideas and activities. And even after the big internet bust, artists and designers are still excited and still plugging away with their projects.
How long have you been working in this area?
Were you an artist/ musician first who got into using computers/the net, or did you respond to the net as a medium in an artistic way?
I think I slowly migrated to the computer as a tool in artistic production from my interest in perceptive forms and ideas. I have always used computers as a creative tool. As a kid, I would program my own games and visual elements.
What/ who has influenced you in your work? (themes, other artists etc)
I cannot say who specifically has influenced my work. This is always evolving. Of course everything we do is built upon the knowledge of men and women who have come before us, many of whom are invisible to us. Just try to think about all the objects around you and whose thought went into creating them. And think about how many times those creations have been reworked and refined by others. I am interested by work that seems to challenge standard practice and ideas and utilizes technology in a playful and striking way. I have worked with Jennifer Steinkamp on some projects. Her mode of working was great for me to be around, her attention to detail. I am interested in video art and installation, work that uses light, performance, net art, sound art/work etc. I appreciate when forms synthesize audio and visual elements in a tight,sophisticated way. This has led me to experiment with the music video concept. Right now, I am interested in the spectacle of special effects, sci-fi notions of person hood (or not), technology and utopianism, the success of corporate profit and its primacy in business and how that has effected politics and culture, pleasure, and design.
Are there any other artists covering the same field as you?
I think my interests are broad enough to intersect with many other artists.
Do you see this work as art?
This question makes me uncomfortable. In some ways I want to distance myself from traditional distinctions like art or music. Mainly because of the short-sightedness people have in these realms. I have been thinking of myself as a creative technologist, someone who designs perceptive forms to create experience and meaning. I do not think I personally am interested in defining what is or is not art. I would like to leave this question to those who are interested in constructing histories and hierarchies.
With regard to 'soundtoys' especially, why do you think the audio visual form is so key to the net?
The audio-visual form is so important, because at this time we only have the pixels on the monitor and 2 channels of audio and the interaction of a keyboard and mouse with which to work. Although people are experimenting with other forms of sensation (tactile or odor) and technologies that break from this form, but sight and sound are our prime means of communication as humans.
What defines the aesthetics of new interactive art.?
I think technology defines the aesthetics of interactive art. In this case the software and programming languages that relate to the internet and the browsers that host the work.
How important is the visual aspect in the 'new' relationship of the audio visual.?
Either the auditory or the visual elements can be emphasized more or less in any particular form. Think of video for instance. There are many forms that video can take that emphasize either the audio or the visual element. I think it is this interaction that interests me. I really like the way objects and actions and their sounds play off of one another. Sound designers for film know how important sound is in relation to the image for telling the story (dialogue), relating actions and objects (special effects), atmosphere or environment, and emotion (music.) Still, film is largely (with some exceptions) conceptualized as a visual medium.
Does the net promote visual awareness that is unique to it?
I think the net promotes the benefits and the limitations of the technology. I really love the information relationships created by hypermedia, although there is a lack of hierarchy, or organization of the users movement through the information and media. (Of course this problem has inspired many artists, designers and programmers.) The visual awareness you speak of must come from the interaction with the mouse, keyboard and screen. These are the physical tools with which the user interacts with the visual elements. Beyond that is the actual design of the visual space, the pixels on the monitor and two channels of sound. I think it is pretty obvious how this differs from similar interactions with the screen, such as television or film. We call people TV 'viewers' or an 'audience' in this realm, whereas an individual who experiences the Net is called a 'user,' which implies interaction or media manipulation.
How novel do you feel generative music and interactivity is?
I think it is great that we can be excited about these ideas, but isn't a waterfall or bird song generative? And aren't musical instruments interactive?
Do you think there is a history to audio visual work?
I think there is a history, but I also think that disciplinary separations exist which work against the close relationship the audio and visual have and have had together. This really gets to the core of the idea of genius, the individual, the pioneer in opposition to collaboration, community and the historical connectivities of peoples and ideological movements.
Would you describe yourself as a multimedia artist, a net.artist, programmer, or none of the above?
I think Multimedia artist is closest to defining my practice. I have been referring to myself as a creative technologist or a designer and producer of digital media experiences and modalities. I tend to want to flee some solidified label for myself and just lurk quietly, working in the shadows.
What software do you use most and why?
The software tends to be Flash. I even use it for video work. I have worked with Flash professionally and I think it becomes habitual to use certain tools. I use Adobe products as well as shareware like SoundHack and Virtual Drummer. It is great to exploit these products for their idiosyncrasies as well as what they are meant to perform.
Can you recommend three urls to soundtoys?
Let me get back to you on this one...
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