Tarik Barri performs at the first edition of Mental Force festival in Minsk with his long-time collaborator Robert Henke on the 22nd of May 2015. He will also give a talk on the software he develops for making his audio-visual art. Before the festival we’ve discussed Tarik’s working methods, tools, views and collaborative projects.
You’ve been studying architecture, psychology, audio design. To what extent is all this knowledge important for your work? Is there a common idea / impulse that permeates your work – some ‘fundamental constant’ that exists in most of your projects?
I’m not fully aware which knowledge I use in my work. What I do know is that there’s obvious common themes there. In my work I very literally take an architectural, spatial approach to creating musical structures. Music becomes architecture through my 3D approach to its creation, and vice versa.
Psychologically, I’m interested in how different sorts of perception are connected. I’m fascinated by how our brain connects the information from our senses into one bigger perspective, as it enters our ‘consciousness’.
My work is partially a research in this area: how do the senses combine to make an experience? What kind of experiences can I create through the combinations of sounds and visuals?
My projects often start out with a curiosity, an almost scientifically fundamental question what would happen if I apply some rules, some algorithms, and combine them in unusual ways. For instance what happens if I create a law of gravity that works in completely different ways than in nature? What would seeing and hearing the effects subjectively feel like?
As I experiment to explore such questions, I don’t think of any specific things that I want to communicate to my audience. My goal is to enter an area that is unknown and where experiences or emotions can be strongly felt, but not easily defined.
For how long have you been using your software? How important is for the artists to develop their own tools?
It’s been 7 years now since I’m mainly using my own software. In general, all software is created with some assumptions, with some rules within which the user must work. For instance Resolume is based on certain ideas of what visuals are, how they should be treated, how they could interact with midi data, etc. No matter how flexible the software, it always forces the user to work within certain frameworks. I want to question and change those frameworks. So I need to be able to step outside the software and create my own rules.
I think every artist develops their own ways to explore their fields. For me that means building my own tools, but for another artist this can take a completely different form.
You and Robert Henke have been working together for several years already. What is the most interesting for you in this collaboration, how this interaction enriches each of you?
I was first introduced to Robert’s “Studies for Thunder” by a friend of mine. I loved the sonic richness and the vast landscapes I saw in front of me as I closed my eyes. Later I saw Robert performing ‘Atlantic Waves’, which was a big inspiration to me.
I recognized a similarity in our ways of thinking about visuals, sound and the use of technology to create our own tools. In our work together we still recognize these similarities in each other and we understand each other’s processes. At the same time we have very different opinions sometimes, which often inspires me to step even further outside of my comfort zone and create visuals that are different from what I would create on my own.
Do you have any sentiments for the ‘obsolete \ vintage’ technologies and aesthetics – or prefer to be as cutting edge as possible?
Sure, I think everybody likes the ‘good old days’, whatever they may be. But every ‘good old day’ was a very new day when it actually happened. The only way to feel the same sort of excitement that pioneers back in the day felt is by being a pioneer in THIS day, it’s a tradition of breaking traditions. And at the same time, all breaking of traditions can only happen in relationship to these traditions, sometimes by creating something similar, with a ‘twist’, or something that is a very intentional opposite.
Who’s your favorite artists working in your field? Besides Robert, working with what artists were the most inspiring or challenging?
I find Anton Marini (Vade) very inspiring in both the content of his work and the way he’s been making his own tools for years now. Rainer Kohlberger also makes great works which make for wonderful hypnotizing viewing experiences.
There’s also the Pipslab crew whose sense of fun and technology were a big inspiration back when I first started venturing into this audiovisual world.
In my collaborations with others I’ve always enjoyed the vastly different perspectives on my own tools that others would give me. Thom Yorke inspired me to explore possibilities in 2D compositions. Nicolas Jaar helped me appreciate many of the ‘errors’ in my visuals as beautiful in themselves. And Lea Fabrikant took my audiovisual compositions into a wholly new direction by adding a human touch, stepping away from the digital aesthetic, with a sense of musicality that is uniquely hers.
As I understand, you’re not one of those artists who shut away in an ‘ivory tower of art for art’s sake’ and ignore the sore current issues? To what extent can contemporary (digital) art combine aesthetic search and tech experiments, self-expression – and social \ political activism? What’s the most interesting for you? Do such combinations of art & activism really work?
Well, sometimes I express opinions about what’s going on in the world, and people may hear about those because they know about my art. But for me personally those opinions and my art aren’t explicitly connected.
In general though, I think combinations of art & activism are very natural and necessary. Both art and activism are often very much about changing the ways we see the world. Perhaps my art is also activist in some abstract way because it seeks to broaden our range of experiences, to let go of conservatism and explore the unknown. But I find it annoying to hear people say that artists should be activists, or the opposite, that artists should stick to their art and shut up about their political opinions. We’re all obviously too diverse to make general statements like that.
What would you like to talk about at your artist talk in Minsk?
I’ll show my ‘Versum’ software, which was originally developed as a 3D audiovisual sequencer for the purpose of creating music by flying through melodies within a virtual space. During my work with Robert Henke I adapted it to work also as a purely visual tool to work with any kind of existing music. During the talk I’ll explain the thoughts and technical steps I went through on his journey, to hopefully also inspire the visitors with some new perspectives on sound, music, and visuals.
What is your special ‘mental force’, your super power?
I don’t have a third nipple but I know who does.