Robert Atwell

interview with: robert atwell (2005/08/30)
tags: soundtoys, artist, journal, interview, text
journal contents

Robert Atwell Interview.

What is you project and your work about?

My work is about daily visual and audio interpretations.
These interpretations are developed into abstract drawings, paintings, and digital work. I am constantly aware of the interconnectedness of audio and visual patterns in our environment. This project is an extension of some of my paintings and allowed me to animate my paintings. Using my experience in environment I create a new environment.

On a personal level, why do you make this work?

It has allowed me to see how my paintings can be animated, and gives me the opportunity to allow the viewers to create multiple solutions to the work.

How do you define "soundtoys"? Could your work be classified in this area?

When I was a kid a 'soundtoy' could be the incessant tapping of a butter knife on a kitchen countertop as I waited for my toast to pop, or any other device that I could create a beat or rhythm with. As I am older now, but still feeling much like a kid, I have discovered 'soundtoys' can be a good many things. My current interactive piece is one type of 'soundtoy'.

How long have you been working in this area?

I first started doing animations frame by frame using Adobe PhotoShop and a promo copy of Adobe Premier in 1997. That was to much work and I quickly abandoned the idea of frame by frame animation. When I stumbled upon Flash in 2000-2001 I was hooked. So I am relatively new to the Flash field.

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?

The computer presented itself as being a useful art making tool for what I have been doing for the last six years. I use it for both flat work and animated work.

What/ who has influenced you in your work? (themes, other artists etc)

My work has largely been influenced by contemporary artists and musicians. Abstract painters Sean Scully, Jonathan Lasker and David Reed, as well as many others. have all had influence on me. Musicians would include Tortoise, Stereo Lab, Japancakes and DJ Shadow. Also influential is Flash artist James P at and other unknown folks that I have stumbled across in my daily internet surfing.

Are there any other artists covering the same field as you?

Yes there are many now experimenting and developing works based on sound and visual that allow the viewer to have some of the authoring choices.

Do you see this work as art?

I do see this work as art. It was developed with that in mind, not that this makes it art for others, but that is the reason for its completion.

With regard to 'soundtoys' especially, why do you think the audio visual form is so key to the net?

It allows each user to have a unique experience, at there own convenience. Many of these 'soundtoys' can be turned down, viewed at anytime of day, and often alterable by the viewer.
What defines the aesthetics of new interactive art?

I think that the aesthetics are always being changed and altered as the area develops. So defining them is difficult. It's sort of like, "I know it when I see it".

How important is the visual aspect in the 'new' relationship of the audio visual?

Visuals for me are as important if not more important than the audio. For as much as audio has influenced me, the visuals are the controlling aspect, if they are poor, the viewer will quit watching. If they are non existent then it is only audio. Many times I can check out an interactive work and leave the sound off, so visuals are very important.

Does the net promote visual awareness that is unique to it?

Yes. The idea that twenty different viewers can all be at the same website and each creating a different visual experience for themselves means that it is unique for this reason alone. Many works only exist online and can only be experienced through a browser on a personal computer.

How novel do you feel generative music and interactivity is?

I don't view it as novel, but rather as having its place in the history of art. The development of web-based art projects will continue to develop and change, and the use of interactive ideas in both virtual and physical environments is also going to continue. The viewing public benefits from being able to interact with work and create meaning for themselves rather than just looking at something static and then moving on.

Do you think there is a history to audio visual work?

Yes, I believe there is a history. From early DADA performance to later Fluxus and John Cage work to MTV. There is a distinct history for audio visual work. But more and more it is being influenced by other areas of art production and vise versa.

Would you describe yourself as a multimedia artist, a net.artist, programmer, or none of the above?

I usually consider myself a painter first and foremost. Though multimedia or new media are becoming more and more prevalent in my work. I am straddling the two modes right now.

What software do you use most and why?

The programs that I use mostly are Macromedia Flash and Adobe PhotoShop. They offer the best solutions for my working style.

Can you recommend three urls to soundtoys?

Robert D. Atwell


I walk. As I walk, I see. I am conscious of patterns. I carve an imaginary line into the space I pass through, navigating my way among other lines, dots, dashes, and grids. Weaving my way to work, through people, to my destination, I am a dot on a walk. The path I walk is the line. The pace I set is the rhythm.
I see the interconnectedness, the relationships between all things. I find relations in the Cheerios in my breakfast bowl, leafless autumn trees, the graphical interface of my laptop, and the linked hypertext buttons of the Internet. It is this connection, this relationship between natural and unnatural, between living and nonliving that influences me in creating the imagery used in my work.
Thumbnail sketches are drawn over and over again, interpreting and reinterpreting, scanning, digitizing, printing, I build a visual dialog. The dialog is reinterpreted again, where it is composed, edited and recomposed to create a finished painting, print, or digital animation.