Reeps One Interview for AfterNyne Magazine

“Everything you think is possible with the human voice is not the limit. We are discovering more every day” – Reeps One

As a multi-disciplinary artist and producer, Harry Yeff (aka Reeps One) is more than a musician, he is a communicator; his language not one of words but of pure sound, using the voice as a medium for exploration and development. Free from the constraints of language, it taps into the universal, the sublime. Using his voice as a tool for innovation, Yeff pushes the limits on what can be achieved, subverting our expectation and blurring the lines between music, art and spoken word.

Yeff began his musical career almost by accident. As a practicing musician, he found that he would mimic the instruments he was learning, helping to remember the chord progression, the beat, the order in which he was to play each note. When it came to performance time, he realised that his voice was a far greater tool than the musical instruments he would play, eventually focusing his attention on developing this phonetic skill which he nurtured and grew, writing simple pieces for violin and drums until he could replicate entire musical genres such as grime and dubstep with ease. Building this into his dazzling career as a vocal percussionist, Yeff strives to push his voice further, taking the skills he has learnt to their very limits and combining a passion for relentless innovation with a desire to explore and teach about his experiences. Speaking at and working with various high profile academic institutions including Harvard University, University College London and Central Saint Martins, Yeff combines lectures on the power of the voice with synergetic visual and musical performances that encapsulate his teachings.

 

  1. Tell us about your interest in the human voice. Where do you see the limitations of the voice and what are you most excited about in your current vocal experimentations?

 

The human voice is arguably the oldest and most used communication tool. That’s also what makes it an incredible medium. Most people think of the voice in terms of speech but there is a huge amount of psychoacoustic influence that comes from the dynamics we associate with music. Like any instrument, the voice is a limited palette, so I think it’s astonishing that we are still finding innovations in something that, when considered, is as old as humanity itself. My role is to create work using new vocal ideas, physical innovations and, most importantly, technology.

 

  1. Since 2012, you’ve been the lead subject in a University College London neuroscientific study led by Professor Sophie Scott. Can you tell us more about this experience and some of the findings you’ve discovered so far?

 

I was part of a study trying to define expert behaviour on a neurological level. A more common description of this is ‘Flow State’ – They established that when I perform it’s a refined and localised process. When a beginner does anything, the mind begins to explore and experiment, making a less efficient connection between the intention and the action. I call this a ‘stammering of concept’ or ‘non-fluency’. When you achieve expertise in any given skill or expression there is an intuitive flow. Take note next time you are having a conversation; it’s amazing when you realise that you are creating structured ideas and sentences instantaneously. We are all designed to be experts with our voices, but this expertise mostly manifests itself as speech. It’s been a great asset defining my artform as an expert behaviour.

 

  1. Something you’ve expressed particular interest in and dedicated a lot of your time to has been the use of Cymatics as a medium. What is Cymatics and how are you seeking to use this as a tool for reinvention in what you do?

 

Cymatics is the study of vibration creating form. For some time now, I’ve been creating live shifting geometric structures that are formed using the vibration of my voice. I’ve wanted to visualise my voice from a very young age and find that the creative implications of doing so are always extremely powerful. Working with another artist, Zach Walker, and musician, Linden Jay, I designed and built modular structures that can resonate different materials. From Saatchi & Saatchi to Milan Design week, the Cymatics work has been sold as still photography and performed as part of live installations.

 

  1. Where do you draw inspiration from?

 

I’ve always had a love for critical thinking and formal debate. The attempt to rationalise abstract emotions and successfully manifest such feeling in a work is something that I have always revered in an artist. From Dali to Duchamp, Chris Cunningham to Aphex Twin; these artists, directors and musicians have all been masters of primal intuition and proficient practical production. The notion that deconstruction and pure visceral emotion are in some way contradictory, is something that I think is a dated idea. Artists should strive to understand as much as they feel.

 

  1. You’ve been working recently on creating unique sound sculptures through See Sound and delving into the relationships between man and machine. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

 

After speaking at SXSW with The Mill LA about composing in VR, I was very lucky to be introduced to The Mill team in New York. The project developed into the digital world through a collaboration with Rama Allen, Creative Director at The Mill NY with a project called See Sound. We created software that allowed us to create sculptures using my voice.

Both this and my work in Cymatics allowed me to take my voice and performances and transpose them into immediate visual compositions. It’s this immediacy of transposition that creates a very exciting feedback loop. As you perform, you are informed by this simultaneous multimedia and multi-sensory output.

I think it’s also worth noting developments in voice activated technology such as the boom in machine personal assistants. These innovations indicate that we will be seeing a lot of voice paired with tech in the near future. It’s an exciting time to be doing what I’m doing.

 

  1. You have been working recently with the renowned Bell Labs as part of their programme, Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), which has a long history of ongoing collaborations with artists and engineers, including notable artists such as Robert Rauschenberg. How does it feel to be a part of this exploration process and what excites you most about what Bell Labs do?

 

Nokia Bell Labs have been at the forefront of innovation for generations. Putting aside their industrial achievements you could argue they had a vital role in inventing the multimedia artist. In 1966 they held an event called ‘9 Evenings’ where artists and engineers from Bell Laboratories collaborated on what was to be the first event in a series of projects. Eventually, that became known as E.A.T. or Experiments in Art and Technology.

Taking the hyper-functional achievements of engineering and pairing them with the lateral attitudes of artists was surprisingly informative for both parties and has continued to inspire to the present day. Bell Labs are still profoundly interested in artistic innovation. Learning about their history and concepts for the future has changed my attitudes toward art. Cutting-edge technology is the artists most exciting new medium.

Many of the sounds I can make with my voice have never been seen before in language or music. I enjoy the intrigue I strike up with linguists and phoneticians, although I sit firmly on the art side of the spectrum. Making music with your mouth has a social impact on your surroundings, and the term para-language has been used to describe my tool of speech and music fusion. I think that is often quite fitting.

I can’t say too much now, but over the last year we’ve been filming a documentary about how the expressive capabilities of the voice have expanded. It’s incredible that in a tool as old as humanity itself, there is still space to innovate.

 

  1. Tell us a bit more about your exploration into the combination of man and machine. How do you see the future of technology being used in conjunction with the human voice?

 

Some of my recent work with the music and programming outfit Dadabots has used machine learning and style transfer to generate an A.I version of myself. It speaks and beatboxes using my identity but goes a little beyond by speaking phrases and making patterns I never have. It blurs the lines between being a tool and a collaborator.

It’s quite strange that I have spent over ten-thousand hours trying to make my voice sound like a machine, and now a machine is trying to sound like me, mimicking my voice. I find that juxtaposition rather beautiful.

Although the term A.I. is misused regularly, it’s been a cornerstone for the most celebrated science fiction narratives. Now life is imitating art, it’s time to explore grounded and un-sensationalised uses of A.I. and art. It’s far enough along now we no longer have to embellish.

The challenge of A.I. outthinking human beings strategically has largely been conquered. But the challenge of using A.I and its capabilities to create new echelons of artwork is still to be uncovered. I often wonder what the first machine created masterpiece will be.

Most importantly, this conversation kicks up fear, excitement and heated conversations on what it means to be human. These elements make for exciting art.

 

  1. Alongside artists such as Marcel Duchamp, you are interested in playing chess as a game and as a mental process. What is it about chess that inspires and energises you?

 

I grew up in East London. During the week I was very happy being challenged by what my local area threw at me, pushing my music and making me a stronger individual all round. But on the weekends, I was playing chess tournaments.

Chess taught me not only the power of a clear idea, it showed that you can only ever rely on yourself to manifest your vision. On the board there are no irrational variables or predetermined advantages. The board is a pure and true place.

I’m sure I owe chess my ability to compose and create in my head. I can pre-plan, rehearse and write anywhere at any time. As with many others before me, it was Marcel Duchamp’s love of chess that opened my mind up to the idea of concept in art. I felt a deep connection with the beauty of ideas, and from my experience of chess I also knew how much attitude, tactics, and strategy impact the outcome of your daily life.

I owe much to Duchamp, but I owe more to chess.

 

  1. The writer Hans Christian Anderson once said that, “Where words fail, music speaks”. In your experience as a performer and communicator, to what extent can music transcend language as a tool for communication?

Voice predates language. So does music, if we agree that music is the abstract use of sound to portray emotion. A scream, laughter and crying are all music. Speech and language have profoundly impacted the development of humankind, but speech without the music of voice has a lesser potency. Music of voice is the tool used to give empathetic meaning to words. Whether it’s the spoken word or the voice in your mind’s ear when reading, it’s a much older and more universally abundant expression, and that reach extends to other living things. It’s hard to say where music ends and speech begins but it will be forever exciting exploring the limits of that spectrum in the name of art and thought.

I’ll end with one of favourite quotes that was said to me by my collaborator and friend Professor Sophie Scott at UCL, and you are welcome to make of it what you want:

“Laughter is the closest space between two people”

I’m not going to explain it, but instead suggest you think about your voice beyond words and how it connects you with others and, more importantly, to yourself.

Alex Chinneck Interview for ROOMS Magazine

Alex Chinneck creates surrealist illusions on a large scale. His work seeks to provoke thought and make us look twice at the architectural environment that surrounds us. With a playful approach to sculpture, Chinneck is equally interested in exploring the possibilities of materials and innovative building practice, which often inspire his artwork and help spark ideas about future projects. Not only a brilliant artist, Chinneck also has a lot to say about the philosophical implications of his work and how the distortion of familiarity is an important factor in what he hopes to achieve. After the completion of his latest project at Covent Garden, we sat down with him to find out more about what goes into making a public sculpture possible and the artistic transformation of architectural practice.

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  1. Take me through the process of completing one of your large scale installations.

 

When conceiving an idea, there are so many elements that need to be considered. Most of those elements are contextually sensitive. For example, when developing an idea for Covent Garden piazza, it doesn’t just begin and end with the visual experience. Using that as a case study, I knew that I wanted to do something of significant scale and sculptural impact. I largely wanted to do that because I was conscious of the footfall through the piazza and the demographic that visits there. It is a place of recreation and holiday making. It is quite a fast place and not really one of contemplation, so the artwork had to be one of significant impact that meets an Instagram culture halfway. With those objectives in mind and the length of time it would be there for (1 month), I knew we would need temporary planning licenses from the council. You have to develop concepts with those logistical considerations in mind. I immediately knew that it made sense to develop an artwork that had a visual material synergy with the architecture in the square so therefore it acts as a celebration or integration rather than something that would deter or argue with the architecture of the district.

I also knew that I wanted to deliver an illusion because illusions are something that I’m excited by, but also they offer a kind of conceptual accessibility that any audience member could enjoy. That was really important because of the eclecticism of the visitors. When you are developing an idea, you think about who is visiting it, the mood and the pace at which they visit, the cultural identity and the visual language of the area, and finally the logistics such as building regulations because it has to pass those. It also has to integrate and you have to develop a structure and a system that considers access. Our footprint at the piazza is perfectly designed around three disabled cobbled ramps that lead into the market building, and the opening is the exact width so that when looking down the central avenue of the piazza, you don’t see the artwork. This was partly to pay homage to the architecture that was already there and not disrupt it in any way, but also to negotiate inevitable obstacles like planning.

When developing an idea, despite the playfulness and seeming simplicity of the concept, a lot of consideration goes into what would work and why it would work. For example, with the hovering building, it was an impact artwork for that kind of audience, whereas with the melting house, it is on a road where thousands of people go up and down the road to work each day as a commuter passage. In that way you can conceive an artwork that is about transformation and change and one that is about an evolution of a story, because people see it every single day.

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WINDOW LICKER: A CHAOTIC SENSORY SCULPTURE

 

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Founder of LeftHouse Films, Ben Mcguire is the writer, director and star of his latest film WiNdOw LiCkEr, which has its premiere at Raindance Film Festival at the end of this week.

 

A dizzying cacophony of visuals and sound, Brian Mcguire’s WiNdOw LiCkEr is often difficult to watch. In some ways, it is not proper to call this a film at all, as what has actually been crafted here is more of a sensory sculpture. The constant focus on a character’s features, as well as the discordant clash of visuals and sound, are enhanced by Mcguire’s stylistic choice to film the work primarily on an Android smart phone,  in part due to lack of budget. The plot of the film follows Ben Wild (played by the director) as he rapidly descends into a madness brought about by his manic depressive lifestyle of addiction to live camera girls, video games and self prescribed medication.

 

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A number of techniques are employed throughout the film, from slow motion to stop motion animation, the latter used to form disturbed dream sequences where bottles of pills perform a wild danse macabre that spills over into the waking world of Ben.  There is also an impressive use of symbolism present throughout the film, as Mcguire chooses to call upon external imagery to present to the audience Ben’s own internal struggle. One can’t help but notice the employment of Freud’s structural model of the psyche within the film; the ‘JoePop’ reality television programme representing the protagonist’s ego, the camera girls suggesting a drive towards the pleasure principle of the id, and the religious guidance teacher bringing the superego into play. When Ben’s sister arrives, we are immediately presented with a nonstop farcical dialogue reminiscent of the mouth in Beckett’s play, Not I. She, like the other supporting players, seems only to exist for Ben’s own mental anguish to be justified and expounded. Perhaps this all stretches the metaphor too far, but it’s all to play for in this wild journey through the mind of a man crashing toward his own bitter fate.

 

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About an hour in, the biggest challenge is presented to the audience, who must endure Ben’s sickness in full, gut churning, room spinning climax. After this ordeal, he attempts to redeem himself with a confessional that drastically changes the pace of the film. The atmosphere becomes more serene as he conducts himself with a sanity thus far hidden from view, but one that is perhaps a little misleading as the film takes another dark turn.

When Christo moves in, the audience is inclined to see this as Ben’s redemption, a literal Christ-like figure stepping in to provide salvation, but we begin to suspect that this is in fact a manifestation of his own mind cradling itself, a soothing action that in turn begins to strangle him. Mcguire has created a rich tapestry here that pulls a lot together for the viewer to examine and discuss, with a dénouement that generates an audience experience of sympathy and understanding toward the protagonist. The film is showing at Raindance Film Festival this October so make sure you get your tickets before they’re gone!

 

http://www.window-licker.com/

https://www.facebook.com/windowlickermovie

http://raindancefestival.org/features-2014/window-licker/

An installation of Biblical proportions: THE ARK

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With an exhibition that promises to be ‘as epic as the theme’, The Ark is an installation that seeks to challenge and provoke thought about the world’s most endangered species. Staying true to the gallery’s beliefs in more theatrical and alternative curation techniques, the space itself will be transformed into an impressive reimagining of Noah’s ark, creating an environment that merges with the overall theme of the show, one of preservation and awareness.

An artist collective from around the world were challenged to produce two pieces inspired by an endangered animal of their choosing, displayed ‘two by two’ in the space. Bringing together artists such as Chemical X, David Tracy, Snik and Laura Ball, the installation looks to be a promising exploration into our own understanding of the environment around us, using a variety of mediums to explore how we might perceive such issues.

The Ark opens its doors on September 26th and is already gaining a lot of passengers so make sure you head down before it sets sail on October 2nd.

THE ARK
Crypt on the Green

Clerkenwell Close
London, EC1R 0EA
United Kingdom

www.bearcubgallery.com

@BearCubGallery
arkdog