Especially for the long-awaited autumn edition of Digital Spring, and in collaboration with Digital Spring Montreal, two collectives, Brussels group Alea(s) and Canadian collective susy.technology will be kicking off this special live event in October! In the meantime, follow the creative thought process, the setting up of the event and the artists here.
Technology and techniques
On the opening night of Digital Spring, a digital artwork will be unveiled. As such, it's high time to talk about the 'bits and bytes' behind the digital oeuvre of Canadian collective susy.technology and Belgians of ALEA(s).
What technology and tools do you work with?
susy.technology: We use primarily digital technology in our processes. We usually produce music with Ableton live and for video we use software such as Cinema 4D, Adobe Premiere, and so on. In recent years we've also used virtual and augmented reality for some projects.
ALEA(s): We combine different techniques and certainly not everything is digital. Pierre prefers to draw with charcoal. Charcoal is very fast to draw with and has a distinctive texture that goes against the usual minimal black and white aesthetic of digital art. François makes the modules for his synthesisers himself with his brand Shakmat. With the different modules, he creates different dimensions in the sounds and compositions. For the animation, Boris designed a special interface with VVVV, a software for nodal programming.
The creative process
Whether creation comes organically, or you carefully follow a step-by-step plan, every artist has a creative process to go through. But what happens when you work with different people? And does the working environment of digital artists only exist on the screen? We asked ALEA(s) and susy.technology.
How do you operate?
susy.technology: When we work together, we usually have long discussions in which we set out our ideas and visions for the project. These conversations include everything from conceptual frameworks to aesthetic direction and experimentation.
ALEA(s): We always work step by step. One of us proposes an idea, which can be a theme, an image, sound, movement or a technique. We then brainstorm for a while, after which we quickly test the idea.
Do you still work together?
susy.technology: Sometimes we work separately on certain aspects of a project and then bring those elements together, but most of the time we work closely together throughout the process. There is a mutual trust that comes from being friends and having worked together for many years, which has allowed us to develop a certain flow from which our work emerges.
ALEA(s): That trust is crucial! A large part of our live performances is pure improvisation. So we have to be able to rely on each other. Fortunately, it works quite well. Several times the improvisations from our live performances have served as a basis for new work.
Inspiration and influence
From concept over creation to a concrete product, there are several steps in the making of a (digital) work of art. This week, we ask Belgian collective ALEA(s) and Canadian artists susy.technology where they get their inspiration.
Who or what influenced you as artists?
ALEA(s): We're all fans of the animation work of Irish filmmaker Kevin McGloughlin, the rich and diverse oeuvre of painter Francis Bacon and the music of Berghain resident and synth maniac Errorsmith.
susy.technology: In essence, our human experiences, our political beliefs, our spirituality are all things that are reflected in our art and drive us to make the work we do.
Where do you find your inspiration?
susy.technology: Working as a collective is an inspiration in itself, in the sense that our inner worlds and ideas collide and flow into each other in a way that propels our work into something new.
ALEA(s): ALEA(s) was born out of the question of what the role of the artist is behind his or her laptop. Have you never noticed how cold digital performances or electro-performances can sometimes be?
What can we expect from you at Digital Spring in October?
susy.technology: For this project, we worked with various themes. Resilience, new beginnings and transformation were at the forefront of our creative process and are all addressed.
ALEA(s): We always try to make it a lively show. We prefer to play in the middle of the audience so that everyone can see and understand exactly what we are doing, live, without a safety net.
susy.technology: Yes, we also seek connection with others through the visceral act of making and performing. To connect, beyond language, to each other and to an audience.
ALEA(s): For the music, François only works with a sequencer and modular synthesiser. If he does nothing, the music does not change either. Pierre draws on the spot and the audience can see the drawings come to life and make a comparison with the projected images. The difference between the two is where Boris comes in as motion designer. So, you'll have to come down and see for yourselves.
On 15, 16 and 17 October during Digital Spring in Brussels!
Q&A - Meet the susy.technology team!
Who are susy.technology?
Our collective was established in 2015 and currently has four members. At its core, susy.technology functions as a unit where we each have creative input on the development of projects, and all members of the collective contribute and collaborate on conceptualization, music and sound. While this varies from project to project, Milo Reinhardt and Teo Zamudio collaborate on the visual elements of the work, such as video, 3D and design, and Xavier Arocha and Cat Lamoureux usually focus more on music and sound design.
What are the main themes you’re working on?
Evolution, processing, and reflection of self and connection to others through the visceral act of making and performing. The intent of connecting beyond language with each other and an audience.
What are your greatest inspirations?
Working as a collective in itself is an inspiration, in the sense that our inner worlds and ideas collide and mesh in ways that propel our work into something new. Essentially, our human experiences, our political convictions, our spirituality, are all things that are reflected in our art and drive us to make the work that we do.
What characterises your way of working the most?
When working collectively, we usually have many long discussions outlining our ideas and visions for the project, from conceptual frameworks to aesthetic direction and experimentation. We sometimes work separately on certain aspects of a project and then bring these elements together, but also often collaborate closely throughout the process. There is a mutual trust that comes from years of being friends and collaborators that has allowed us to develop a particular flow from which our work emerges.
How are the preparations for the performance going?
We use mostly digital technologies in our processes, seeing as we mostly produce music using Ableton Live and make video work with software like Cinema 4D, Premiere, etc. In recent years, we’ve also used VR and AR for certain projects.
To what extent does your environment (Montreal) inspire your work? What do you like the most about the city you’re living in?
Montreal is a fairly accessible city in terms of being an artist; the cost of living is fairly low and there are many spaces, such as DIY venues or studios, that allow young artists to experiment and develop their work in an environment where they can connect with their peers. There are many intersecting communities of artists and musicians that continually inspire us through the exchanges we have.
Q&A - Meet the ALEA(s) team!
What does the team look like? What are the team members’ roles?
ALEA(s) is an audiovisual collective based in Brussels, that’s made of three members: illustrator Pierre Coubeau (FSTN), musician and synthesiser technician François Gaspard (Shakmat) and visual artist Boris Wilmot.
Each member's role is clear: guided by the music and sound design created by François, Pierre draws graphic materials, which are then animated and placed in a 3D environment by Boris. The result is then projected, often on a screen but sometimes on other media.
How did you meet?
We met around 2010. The three of us were part of a large collective or label called "Boya", which organised alternative electronic parties in Brussels. That's where our initial ideas for "electronic" shows in the broadest sense of the word were born and that's what led us to start working together, under the name ALEA(s), from 2014.