‘The notion of The Subterranean for me is the ability and beauty of bringing an invisible or darkened layer into expression.’
In gearing up for the premiere of Zeno van den Broek’s AV performance Divergence (2015), we recently had a chat with the Netherlands-based artist. Below, you can read up on van den Broek’s background in architecture, his affinity for combining analog and digital technology, and his meditations on the synergy of sound, visuals, and space. Check out Divergence this Saturday 16 May at Radion as part of FIBER Festival’s AV performance programme.
Hi Zeno. It’s great to have a moment together to talk about your upcoming performance Divergence at our FIBER Festival on Saturday May 16. Without influencing the experience of readers or giving away the story of the performance, could you introduce your album and the new AV performance?
Hi, thanks for inviting me. I’m happy to be part of this exciting festival.
My new Divergence album and performance is based on the tension between space and sound induced by their manipulated representation: sounds which alter, calibrate and form space while simultaneously being formed and manipulated by the space they are placed in. The alteration of pure digital sounds and visual sources such as sine waves and vector lines is the foundation of the work.
You released your second album Convergence in 2012 as Machinist. Comparing this title with the new release, it feels like there has been a big change in your work. Is that right? If so, in what way is Divergence different?
Yes that is true, the Convergence album and related performances were based on more analytical methods, using drones and long lines to create shifting patterns of interference to analyse and sense spatial qualities. Divergence is far more agile and brutal, it is focused on altering and manipulating spatial awareness. Pulses and rhythms play an important role on this album which has resulted in an intensified sound world.
With this album you adopted your own name, instead of the artist name Machinist. What was the reason for this change?
I work in various mediums. The distinction between these various disciplines–created by the moniker Machinist for the albums and performances–felt more and more like an artificial and unneeded separation while [in fact] it’s all interconnected and related.
You graduated as an architect, you paint, make sound art installations and performances. How do these disciplines relate to each other in your work?
For me there is no separation between the disciplines, because the notion of spatiality I am working on is such a rich and complex subject it feels logical to shed light on it from various perspectives by working in different forms. I’m especially focused on findings forms of art where these disciplines overlap and interact with each other. For example, combining the time-based experience of a sound composition with the timelessness of a painting can result in new unprecedented insights. The interaction between the visuals and the sound in the Divergence performance is another form in which the visual component functions as a graphic score for the sound while being manipulated by the sound at the same time, resulting in a cyclical interconnectedness of sound and image.
What kind of aesthetics in sound, image and space are important for you as an artist?
Minimalism plays a big role in my work. My works have strong conceptual foundations which I try to implement on each layer of the work: from being an umbrella for the bigger picture to the smallest individual component of the work. I love it when these components are as clear and transparent as possible, resulting in using minimal means like sine waves, white noise, grids and vector lines.
What role does technology play in your work?
The sound of Divergence is based on pure digital sound sources such as sine waves and white noise. These sounds have been physically manipulated and destroyed by the use of (analog) tape in order to form pulses, interferences and new wave forms. These manipulations create a divergence between the perception of sound and space: real and digital space interacting with pure and altered sound sources. This combination of analog and digital technology is a recurrent pattern in my work.
‘I try to open up the layers of this landscape to immerse the audience in a newly uncovered and fluid spatiality.’
I know you’ve been working on this album and performance for a long time, but you performed the piece several times in various ways while working on it. Is performing an important part of the artistic process?
The performances play an essential part in the development of the work because the work is focused and based on the interaction with the space it is performed in. Each performance will be different due to varieties in venues, reacting to specific acoustic qualities of the architecture. I couldn’t have created Divergence by working in a single (studio) space. The experience and experiments of the sound in relation to various locations have shaped the album and the shows.
This year’s festival theme is The Subterranean. We think a theme should work like an umbrella and be – in a way – open for the interpretation of the artists we’re working with. Could you elaborate on what this theme means for you?
The notion of The Subterranean for me is the ability and beauty of bringing an invisible or darkened layer into expression. I see architecture and the built environment as fascinating forms of technology we have to interact with which shape our lives, perception and (social) behavior. With my audiovisual performance Divergence I try to open up the layers of this landscape to immerse the audience in a newly uncovered and fluid spatiality.
Thank you Zeno, we’re looking forward to the premiere of Divergence.
Divergence (2015) by Zeno van de Broek is part of the AV and Music performance night at Radion (21:00 – 23:00). We’re selling separate tickets for this part of the evening, which can be purchased here.