VJ culture is something I really know nothing about. I only know it exists from dancing all night long at raves and nightclubs back in the day when my body could handle that sort of thing. This type of work doesn’t really fit into to the commercial world we know, so it’s a challenge to look at it from that perspective and ponder all the why’s and what if’s. All I do know is that the A/V world has been evolving along with everything else, and with today’s software and hardware the possibilities are pretty much as endless as creativity allows.
After recently discovering a very talented visual artist from Roma (Italy) known as Quayola, I decided to ask him a few questions to help gain a better understanding of his work and the A/V world in general.
Tell us a little bit about your background, like where you are from and what it is you do?
My name is Davide Quagliola aka Quayola, I am Italian (from Roma) and I live and work in London (and sometimes around Europe). I guess I could say that I am a Multimedia Artist / Graphic Designerâ€¦ When someone asks me, I usually tend to answer different things depending to whom I am talking to. This because I do a variety of things that are likely to be perceived as separate fieldsâ€¦ For me they are not.
As a Artist I do Videos, Installations, A/V Performances and Prints. These works are mainly screened, performed or exhibited in festivals and events, or in galleries. I would say this is what I do the most.
As a Graphic Designer I deal with Video, Motion Graphics / Compositing, Web and Print. I bring forward this kind of stuff as a freelance working for a couple of agencies, production companies and some other clients between UK and Italy.
As a Director (just starting) I do music videos.
In general, I like to work with people from different backgrounds, especially with musicians, architects and programmers.
Your work is different from most A/V work I’ve seen, probably owing to your sense of design. Were you rocking design before you got into programming, or was it the other way around?
I am definitely more a designer than a programmer, but I am fascinated and inspired by the aesthetics of coding and digital art in general. I try to bring together these two languages to create some sort of hybrid work in betweenâ€¦
I’d like to talk a little about a project you did for D-Fuse called Architectural Density, since it feels closer to the motion graphics we see today created with After Effects. Explain the process and what you used to create these intricate sound driven compositions.
This is work is all done using AE (for the animation) and Shake (for the grading)â€¦ As I said before, I am very intrigued by the aesthetics of generative art, and I try to create videos that reflect this, either if they are created just with AE or with a combination of generative and keyframe-animated stuff. This piece has been commissioned by D-Fuse and supported by the Art Council of England as part of the cross-cultural art project Undercurrent. Iâ€™ve been given a huge database of audio-visual material (panoramic photos, videos and field recordings) from which I had to create a video for a 2-screen installation. Iâ€™ve then commissioned a musician myself, Ultre, to deal with the audio part of the database and create the actual sound design for the video.
For me, an interesting thing about this project is the way Iâ€™ve collaborated with the sound designer and the fact that both the video and the sound were created in a very similar way (selecting data from the given archive and reinterpreting them). As I am based in London and Ultre in Sheffield, weâ€™ve mostly worked over the Internet; a password-protected directory was created on my server where I started uploading lots of bits and pieces of animation. These were downloaded from Ultre as references for him to build a soundtrack. I wanted the music to reflect those animations but also to be something on its own. The final audio track was then used for the final edit of the animations. This video is Uncompressed HD 1080p.
From the artist’s statement: This video is a visual interpretation of Chinaâ€™s irresistible process of growth through urban development. Series of photographs, computer-generated graphics and sounds are amalgamated together in a 3D virtual environment. Here a process of metamorphosis transforms the existing architectural matter into a fleeting two-dimensional skin, revealing its precariousness. The fragmented reality achieved in the video is a metaphor for the collision of two opposing worlds: one related to contemporary urban development and the other representing Chinaâ€™s traditions and spirituality.
Its obvious that sound is a driving force behind this type of work. The musicians you collaborate with seem to all have a similar style. It’s also interesting to see how you visually break down these compositions into carefully composed technical bits of motion graphics and video, and how you integrate nature. Would you say this has been a major influence on your approach and style?
I started playing as a DJ at the same time that I started playing with graphicsâ€¦ Electronic music has always had a big impact on my visual imagery and sometimes it can be the main source of inspiration for a project. With my ongoing A/V work, “Path to Abstraction,â€? I explore the relationships I see between sound and image, taking inspiration by the true representation of sound itself: the waveform. I combine together two different ways of interpreting the music: the analytical way of computers with the intuitive and personal way of human beings.
Iâ€™ve been collaborating with different musicians whose music I believe could fit with my vision of the project. Iâ€™ve been given the tracks at a certain beat-per-minute (which is 126), and with all the separate audio layers; Iâ€™ve then divided them into loops and into specific sounds. Iâ€™ve associated a certain animation with a certain sound, and then repeated those in relation to the structure of the musicâ€¦ It is literally “how I see the music.” The fact that I like integrating organic kinds of sounds into abstract electronic music gave me the idea of using organic elements in the videos. Iâ€™ve built a little green-screen setup in my warehouse and Iâ€™ve created a little database of live footage elements to be associated with certain kind of sounds. All the videos are uncompressed HD 1080p (the live show is SD PAL).
At the moment I am working with some musicians on a different level, basically the other way around. Iâ€™ve created a library of silent video loops that they are synced to imagery beats on a 4/4 grid at 126 bpm. This database is on a password-protected directory on my server. A musician can request a password and download the whole library. He can then develop a track by adding sounds to the video loops and combine them as he wish. (If youâ€™re a musician and you think you could interested in collaborating with me, just drop me an email.)
At the following link it is possible to see all the work in progress about this project together with a sample of a 30â€™ A/V show: www.quayola.com/126
You also have some beautiful graphic stills on your site. Are these prints created using the same process? And do you sell any of them?
Producing still images is another part of my work. The images on my site are all large, hi-res prints that have been or will be exhibited (and eventually soldâ€¦ I hopeâ€¦.. actually, if you wanna buy one just drop me an email). Iâ€™ve been using mainly Photoshop and Illustrator to create these work.
At the moment I am working on two new still projects. The first will be a series of large-scale prints that are made with the still-frames from my “Path to Abstractionâ€? videos. These consist of a series of printed patterns that are made with all the frames of the relevant video, a sort of massive fingerprint for each video. To do this, I am working out some Photoshop actions.
The other project is in collaboration with an architect friend of mine called Tommaso Franzolini. It consists of a series of abstract images that are designed on a grid structure (like most of contemporary graphic design). The thing is that these grids are not standard orthogonal ones but intricate patterns generated by algorithms using a software called “Math Cad.â€? (Iâ€™ve recently been using this process for a commercial job where I had to design a series of 10 DVD sleeves). These two projects will be online on my site sometime during summer.
What type of A/V magic sorcery can we expect to see from you in the near future?
There are a few interesting video projects in the pipeline at the moment:
1 â€“ “Roma,â€? a video about Roman renaissance architecture and its dissolution. Part of the Bloom competition, supported by Onedotzero and MTV
2 â€“ “Roma-Installation,â€? a site-specific architectural installation about Roman renaissance architecture and its dissolution. In collaboration with Mira Calix (Warp Records), curated by Ilaria Gianni. Some info here: www.quayola.com/roma
3 â€“ “Natures,â€? a video project based on capturing and reinterpreting motion-tracking data from the movement of plants. In collaboration with Mira Calix (Warp Records). Some info and animation tests here: www.quayola.com/natures
4 â€“ “VIDOS DVD,â€? a music promo for Michael Fakesch (Funkstorung, K7 Records)
5 â€“ An A/V DVD that will be a collaboration between D-Fuse (UK), Quayola (UK), Actop (Spain) and Powergraphixx (Japan).
Name some other activities you enjoy that donâ€™t require clicking a mouse or pushing a button.
Fortunately, I am not a nerd who only lives with his computer (even if I spend very long time in front of it)â€¦ I like DJing, snowboarding, scuba diving, eating and drinking, cooking, traveling, partying, fucking, etcâ€¦
Where do you see the A/V world in the next few years? Are there any new hardware / software technologies to get excited about?
I am already struggling to find out what is possible with the technology that we already haveâ€¦ I have to say that for me more than computers (that are already quite powerful), what interests me much are all the new innovations in displays: e-paper, organic LED and lots of other stuff that can be implemented at an architectural level. I believe what is going to be an interesting ground for visual art in near future will be its relationships with architecture and in general with physical space.
Another thing that is going to happen in the next years, I think, will be a much stronger interaction between scientific fields and artistic disciplinesâ€¦ Something that is already happening a lot and that I think is going to be stronger and stronger.
For those of us interested in doing this type of work, but donâ€™t know where to begin. Are there any resources (links) you can share?
There is a lot of interesting work out there and discover new things everyday myselfâ€¦ Here are a few links to some interesting stuff:
New Media Portal (here youâ€™ll find lots of things, just choose English in the home page)
Some cool festivals and organizations
and of course: www.quayola.com
Interview by Babe Elliott Baker