PSFK talks to Boston-based installation artists, Sosolimited about performance, language, politics and TV remix boxes.
The three-day OFFF festival showcases top digital artists, web, print and interactive designers, motion graphics studios, musicians, and more.
PSFK was at OFFF Paris, and talked with Sosolimited to find out more about their process and work. Boston-based Sosolimited is an art and design consultancy formed in 2003. The group specializes in interactive installation and audiovisual performance. Formed by three MIT graduates with backgrounds in physics, computer science, architecture, and music, Sosolimited operates at the intersection of experience and information.
Who is Sosolimted and what is your vision?
We [Eric Gunther, Justin Manor, John Rothenberg] all met at MIT and worked at the same interactive design firm for years and, moonlighted as VJs at night doing these crazy performances in music – recently we quit our jobs and started Sosolimited, so now we spend a lot of time doing interactive and design work. The first piece we put our heads together was as re-mix of the presidential debates of 2004 and the idea was that we created this software that let us sample the television signal live as it was happening so we could get the video, the audio and the closed captioning for hearing impaired people so we know everything that people were saying – with this we built up these very complex transformations of language and video and audio and we could remove parts of it, we could add parts of it – statistics – we could change the sound of their voices and generally just change the way people watch television.
That developed over the past 6 years into what we do, which is a totally quantitative way to look at language and live television. We are trying to create installations that continuously watch TV. In the beginning we were performing with the software but now we want to condense the software into a piece of hardware and create these TV remix boxes.
For now, you have done plenty of these performances in the US with both political campaigns – do you see your work and have you done work like this outside of the US within politics? It’s such a great way to get a completely different message – like Hugo Chavez.
They [controversial political leaders] are the most interesting people to look at through these lenses because their message is so targeted and so different and they’re really trying to get a point across – it’s fun to cut in between and use their own words to alter they way the viewer is experiencing the debate. The big thing we do is never make them say something they don’t say – we will hide aspects of what they are saying or make it difficult and understand what they are saying or cross reference previous things they’ve said – but it’s a totally truthful system, in a way.
By the time you see it in TV it’s been deconstructed and reassembled so many times already – they all have speechwriters, they all have teams of people grilling them, they have make up on, there’s lighting, everything about it is produced – so who is to say that the thing they get on TV is the final say? You can actually take it, and take it apart on more time and put it back together again
Will you be doing anything in New York anytime soon?
We might be doing something for the Shanghai biennial. It’s a rehearsal for all the artists who are doing the show in Shanghai – show their art in front of the public.
We are planning an installation piece where we do a 2-day long television remix where people come and sit on the couch. There’s a TV and a huge screen behind them. The people interact and choose the channel to create the composition that we will show in Shanghai.
Can you briefly talk about your commercial work?
At our old firm, we did a little bit of commercial work and for museums; when we started our company last September the first big job we got was for HBO – we made their holiday window display in Times Square. When you walked past their window, there was a bunch of fake snow we had manufactured. It was really light and when you walked by, fans walked by and made a snowstorm so you could move the snow around and all this HBO merchandise like Sex In The City slippers and Soprano ornaments would fly around. It was a physically interactive piece.
We are interested in moving more to the physical realm and moving away from the screen, so we have collaborated with friends of ours who are also designers and artists for a piece for a science museum, a 3-story sculpture made of LCD glass so that each of the pixels can go from transparent to black and opaque. The piece is about patterns in nature. So you look up at this thing and see little black pixels swimming along the ribbon and you hear birds flocking all around you – this is going to be at the NC Museum of Science in Raleigh.
Why OFFF? What’s the connection?
We work on definite tangential stuff. We are not directors of motion graphics or defined designers. Our specialty is to take graphic design and animate it into real time to create interactive pieces; we are interactive designers, technologists. It’s a very cool opportunity to be exposed to.
We were invited once we got nominated for the Transmediale Award. We were then invited to other things; once the snowball gets turning in the festival world, it keeps going.
(Contributed by Juan Marin)