Sound and Vision
Recent Arts is a duo comprising of German electronic musician Tobias Freund and Chilean visual artist Valentina Berthelon.
Freund is known to most as a veteran of steely, minimal techno, however his earliest experiments span back as far as the early 1980’s, pre-dating the genre. In his lengthy career, he has released three full-length LPs under his own name, along with countless singles, EPs and remixes. On top of this, he has worked with Martin Schopf, AKA Dandy Jack as the duo Sieg Über die Sonne, and has long been affiliated with lynchpins of German electronic experimental music such as Uwe Schmidt (best known under his Atom Heart moniker) and Max Loderbauer, with whom he created the duo NSI.
Berthelon’s multidisciplinary work includes experimental film, music videos and record sleeve artwork and often explores concepts drawn from science, nature and the human body. She has also worked as a producer at the Contemporary Art Museum of Chile between 2010 and 2012.
Together they create live audio-visual shows involving experimental improvisations where sound and image are manipulated in real time. The music is produced by an application described as a “Loop Based Computer Controlled Engine” where repetitions of sound are constantly being modulated and analog synthesisers are brought into the mix to achieve a broad range of frequencies. The duo will bring their A/V show to at Berlin Atonal this week, live at the main stage on Wednesday 24, and as the main video installation at the Projektionsraum on Saturday 27.
We spoke to the pair via email to shine some light on the inner workings of their creative processes, and the goals and outcomes of their collaborations.
How did you meet and begin working together?
Tobias: We met 1997 in Santiago de Chile through a mutual friend. Valentina was already working on paintings that caught my attention. It took us till 2010 to start working together after connecting again in Chile. The first collaboration was a Recent Arts live show at the Video Biennial in Santiago, from then on we worked constantly together and produced many audio-visual pieces. She also worked on my solo live show.
How does the collaborative process work? Do you have visuals in mind while creating the sounds or does one come before the other?
Tobias: Sometimes the visuals are first and sometimes its the music, but most of the time we are working independently on our parts with the knowledge that it will be completed by the work of the other. Later on we find a way to connect those parts and during this creative process we have a constant exchange of ideas.
Have your individual creative practices been influenced by working with each other?
Valentina: Of course we have influenced each other. I believe that I have influenced Tobias with the need I have to connect my work with the world of science and Tobias has influenced me in the musical aspect for many years. His music has accompanied me and many of my friends for the last 15 years.
How are the visuals produced?
Valentina: The visual work is based on photographs, drawings and diagrams of the cosmos taken from old astronomy books. The A/V show highlights the beauty and simplicity of low-fidelity material by using images created without the technological tools available nowadays. These images are then animated in realtime with the VJ software VDMX. Using different audio-reactive techniques, complex behaviours and interactions, the visual effects are generated.
What kind of atmosphere or feelings does the work aim to create?
Valentina. It is part of the human nature to try to understand the world and its driving forces. The History of Darkness talks about this process, how mankind have represented the cosmos via signs and how these signs have the power to show stages of our evolving self awareness as a species. Starting form this idea, I guess we are trying to represent the feeling of wonder that we experience when we think about how beautiful, infinite and complex the universe is.
Do you have any forthcoming projects or pieces you’re currently working on?
Valentina: We will definitely produce more audio-visual pieces as Recent Arts. On my side I´m working on a personal art exhibition related to the same theme of The History of Darkness but materialised not only in videos but also on big format prints.