JULIEN BAYLE, exploring audiovisual creativity in live performance and installations
Julien Bayle works through art and code. In the age of posthumanism, he deals with matters of interaction between human and technology, using this one for enhancing processes which he could not achieve without it. According to him, Post-humanism philosophies picture a very dark future. If I’m not that pessimistic, I’m kind of sceptic, and dubitative about the fact humanity could go back (…). I feel irreversibility. We have to ‘deal with what we did’. We are trapped. I know, that’s dark. The artist, composer and developer designs own programs for creating live AV performances and installations. The system he is designing now is quite complicated but powerful, where sounds and visuals in real-time influence each other.
Along with his most prolific live performances, there is MATTER (2017), which uses a system based on modular machines and a very advanced video player, with both systems connected.
Another impressive work is STRUCTURE (2018) an installation created at MIRA Festival, in collaboration with Intorno Labs. Itis an immersive installation created with sound, stroboscopic light and smoke where practices of embodiment and perceptual experiences, as well as psychoacoustics, are related to transcendence and the exploration of different sides of perception. Bayle appoints that Perception and limit of perceptions are concepts I’m trying to address in my whole art. Moreover, STRUCTURE is about the energy in the space and the atomic structures behind the things. Immersed and disoriented audiences experience sound dispersion in space through hyper-spatialized 3D sound installation. The result, a generative 3D sound and light installation of unbalanced experiences using different sound trajectories.
Julien Bayle currently works in a significant project named STRUCTURE.LIVE that will be his first project to be a real collision between human and inert things. The systems in which he is working are pre-programmed and coded but without using any sound or video samples pre-recorded. The project is developed at “Laboratoire de Mathématiques Jean Leray” of the Université de Nantes and has been selected as the “2019 Art & Science collaboration” between Université de Nantes and the Arts & Techs Labo “Stéréolux”.
His recent album, Violent Grains of Silence, is a post-cagean sound aesthetic approach, which results from the process of creating the album in the anechoic chamber of Laboratoire de Mécanique et Acoustique (LMA-CNRS). Interested in Curtis Roads’ Microsound (MIT Press) and granular synthesis, this happened in 2016, and he used composition techniques with Eurorack modular synthesiser only to amplify silence.
Julien Bayle’s work seems intense, vast and exhausting; as a composer, a sound designer, a digital signal processing (DSP) programmer, and a visual artist, the results of his design express the sensitive desire to explore the movement of the sound around the space.
Text by Laura Netz (@lauranetzzz)
You work through art and code. In the age of posthumanism, how you deal with matters of interaction between human and technology? Which is your approach?
I use technology for achieving processes that I couldn’t achieve without it. At first, I wanted technology and technique to be only tools. For instance, I need to illustrate a concept related to
Post-humanism philosophies picture a very dark future. If I’m not that pessimistic, I’m kind of sceptic and dubitative about the fact humanity could go back and choose another way that could drive it to be less fragmented than today. I feel irreversibility. We have to “deal with what we did”. I feel close to Mark Fisher when he wrote about Lost Futures. The critical limit point in the time-line (probably created by the fact technology accelerated so much that we couldn’t have been fast enough to think about it) marked a new stage in humanity: this is a kind of loop endpoint in which we will bump forever, trying to reproduce and live again (and forever) something we already lived. It reminds me the concept of infinite and inevitable loop. We are trapped. I know, that’s dark.
As someone who wants to transduce my feelings about this, about this infinite and painful wall bumping, I want to feel free to use technology or not, I want to enslave technology to me and not the opposite. It is my kind of resistance, probably a weak one. But I want to constrain technology to do specific tasks I choose. I don’t want to think about something I want to create through technology only. For instance, my current setup doesn’t really have a middle, a centre. Everything could be the centre. I don’t want to use one way, but many and I struggled for that because a lot of software (tools) bring us to use always the same way. I’m an Ableton Certified Trainer but I’m not using only Ableton Live. I’m using many frameworks even if Max8 (formerly Max MSP) is my main one, and I need meta-software like Max because it provides me with the way to create software ; it is a software development environment. So, it is like having
Your work Structure is an immersive installation created by sound, light and smoke. Are you interested in embodied experiences? Is your work related to transcendence? Are you exploring a different side of perception?
STRUCTURE.INSTALLATION is about the energy that populates and fill a space; the one that is in between, between humans, between humans and buildings, between atoms. I tried to create tensions in the space using both sound & light elements, smoke having created and represented the space filling. I wanted people to be immersed
Perception and limit of perceptions are concepts I’m trying to address in my whole art. As I with Laboratoire de Mécanique et Acoustique – CNRS in Marseille, I always have been interested in perception and psycho-acoustic. The limits. Which are the borders of things we can perceive and things we cannot. STRUCTURE.INSTALLATION is also about this. Some sounds are
The system by Intorno Labs I used for producing STRUCTURE.INSTALLATION provided me
You mention you are working on a new project STRUCTURE.LIVE. Are you creating an AV piece where dance and performance are integrated into sound and visuals? Which are these new elements included in your work? Can you develop the concept of a real collision between human & inert things?
Since the beginning and until about 2017, I was working with systems which were like “generating everything from scratch”. My programs made with Max8 or other programming frameworks like Processing, OpenFrameworks, were generating everything without using ANY sounds or elements from outside of the computer. During my lectures or discussion with the audience, I used to say that my computer (and I?) was like curled up on itself. Equations, algorithms inside the computer,
Progressively, I had to start to assume more what I was doing, what I was living in my personal life too and I started to choose and decide more easily and radically, I wanted to write more, to record final rendering even if I was still (and I am still) using algorithms for rendering this. I used to say that I started to assume the past deeper and also to assume the eventuality of “not being able to change some facts”. This is when I started to do a lot of field recording, and sound recording in the studio. This is the moment when I started my project
I think STRUCTURE.LIVE is the work in which I will inject more from physical realities, more from human into my systems. Dance is not directly a part of the project. As in all pieces, I seek for filling time & space. I often use graphical analogies for illustrating the concept of time: I talk about “space” for defining time intervals. My work is about populating space (and time) with elements; in that way, it is very related to architecture and design.
So, as dancers are populating space & time with movements, I started to work on prototypes that could involve them and capture their movements. I’m currently working on the computer system itself, the one that will spread and deploy the audio-visual matter, the core of the piece.
Production time will be divided into mainly 3 parts: sound composition, visual system programming and human movements captures. I’ll use Kinect & other kind of system that can capture the inner static structures of rooms and corridors. I want to inject reality inside the computer world. I want to show how systems can try to represent reality, how computer could frenetically try to imitate us. Sampling reality is still something new for me. I want to use it in my visuals here and to distort it on the screen as if the computer could show us how it could understand and feel about us. Imperfections, failures are part of us. Humans want computer to learn so much about us that they could imitate our own weaknesses. In STRUCTURE.LIVE, I want to show visuals that will be sometimes a real mayhem and chaos as if I wanted to show how much I feel human and how much I don’t want computer to feel anything. The only important experience for me is the sensitive experience. It is the thing that will keep us as humans.
Technology provides me with ways to keep the sensitive experience on a high level of
What are the biggest challenges of developing and producing
Structure . Live ?
The system I’m designing is quite complex. As visuals are based ONLY on real capture of the physical and tangible world, represented by a human moving, or standing or statically mimicking a statue, I need to design a system able to grab this matter on the fly, to process it on the way I want and to display it. It is like taking a piece of reality, and to twist it, to distort to make it more as I’d like it to be, or more as I think it is from my point of view. When I’m saying it is my most personal work to date, it is about that: processes and analogies related to my feelings to the final pieces are shorten, I’m like directly tweaking, changing the reality itself while I’m changing visuals.
I’m currently coding the part of it that will deal and display visuals. I’m using still Max8 for this part, because there is no software that could render exactly my feelings here. Already made softwares way too simple and not flexible enough for me. This is why I’m designing a system, again. It is hard at some point. Not because of underlying techniques, but more about the global design. The system has to be powerful for expanding territories of expression, but not too much complex because I need to be able to use it intuitively when I’m composing and designing with it. This is crazy to design a whole system then to start to create with it. Actually, some parts are so easy to code for me, now, that I have very intuitive habits and even on such advanced project, I’m now more focused on the final rendering and how it can match or can’t match my expression, my purpose.
The biggest challenge here is about doing everything in the global same process. I’m designing sounds, I’m assembling some of them as “almost pre-written sequences” but keeping flexibility to play them on many different ways; I’m designing the visuals system, and also the system that will analyse the sound in real-time and that will feed the visuals for influencing them. This is very involving, intense, huge and exhausting. It looks like if I had to keep the whole thing very consistent, coherent and dense, in order to keep the energy and the meaning of what I want to express very high. It is so important I can be involved in each part. I could code visuals without even knowing about the sound, about the feelings I want to express through the sound fields generated. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m a composer, a sound designer, a digital signal processing (
It seems that your noisy compositions are influenced by Xenakis granular synthesis. Does your recent album Violent Grains of Silence have a post-
cagean sound aesthetic approach? Can you tell me a little bit more about the process of creating the album in the Lab?
I have been interested by Granular synthesis and pulsar synthesis as soon as I have read about that. A book that also changed my approaches related to these fields is the Curtis Roads’ Microsound (MIT Press). It requires some engineering level in sound and acoustic, but it wasn’t an issue for me. It has illustrated a lot of concept that I could have had crossed intuitively. For instance, the idea of considering the sound as a space, as a territory I could explore. I can fly over the territory, stop, zoom, seek details in a particular place. Granular synthesis (or re-synthesis) is about using small bits, small elements of the sound and looping them more or less fast, spreading them into the stereo space, changing their pitches.
Sampling reality, real life sounds, ambient and environment sounds, machines sounds is now something very natural. I like to use these sounds previously recorded as raw material for further processes. Granular synthesis is one of them.
It is a way for me to zoom into sounds, to take some micro-fragments of sound (which represent some micro-fragments of time) and to stretch them, re-order them into another matter, we can cut, re-assemble, glue and spread, filter and enhance or degrade.
During 2016, I had some hard times in my personal life and I wanted to dump all these feelings outside of me, to plunge these into a different matter outside of my body. I choose to immerse me inside one of the quietest place in the world: the anechoic chamber of Laboratoire de Mécanique et Acoustique (LMA-CNRS). In that space, I feel something special. A friend of mine came with me but she couldn’t stay inside more than 20min. Actually, I felt comfortable during hours. One of my thoughts about how comfortable is the fact that I was keeping a lot of noises inside my mind for personal reasons and that these noises were like compensating the absence of any noise within the room.
I was there for recording things. I didn’t want to produce any sounds myself from my mouth or with my systems. I thought a lot there. And then I ended by recorded the silence, the void. I placed 2 Neumann microphones in the center of the room, I closed the door and I recorded that during 2 hours. I didn’t want specially to talk about the fact we cannot record the silence because when we are doing that we disturb the space itself in which we are recording, but it ended with that too. It was like being so involved in something that we couldn’t even distance ourselves with this. Like if there was no way for me to distance myself of the thing I wanted to understand the most and for which I needed distance. The result was a 2 hours WAV file of void. But not a random void. The void of this particular moment, the void of this end of July 2016. I processed this sound recording by normalizing it, brutally. It resulted into a full 2 hours noisy file. It was hard for me to consider it as a specific noise and not just noise. Then, I cut it into specific pieces with a specific duration representing specific moment of 2016 year (I basically translated date format day month year into a duration that gave me the duration I had to use for each track)
Then I started the releasing and relieving process of composition with my Eurorack modular synthesizer only. I needed to improvised my patching on the fly, to prepare something without any constraints, intuitively. It was a part of the discharging step of my process. And I did one patch for each track. I was using the slices of amplified silence sometimes directly in the sound chain and sometimes as a modulator. In the first case, it means that the noise itself can be heard, eventually heavily processed and modulated but it can be heard. In the second one, I generated some textures used as sound sources and I used some sample & hold techniques with my noise recorded to modulate these sources. The noise recorded as a sound source, or as a modulator.
In both pieces, it was this idea of using the environment (the anechoic room and the microphones and their preamps, or the reverberation effect) as something more important than the signal itself. Actually, there was no signal, there was the silence. I felt close to the lowercase musical genre with these 2 releases.
You have been collaborating with various labs, LMA, Intorno Labs. How do you think the labs are a transformative tool towards the transdisciplinary of arts and sciences?
I’m collaborating with Laboratoire de Mécanique et Acoustique since several years. I didn’t have real residencies there but I had in some other labs and it provided me a lot of discussion and ideas. Actually, researchers and artists have always been close. Both are researching, representing concepts, trying to translates the world into other languages that are more intelligible, trying to make abstract concepts and invisible things more concrete and understandable, or just more tangible for the others. These are already a lot in common.
If I often had collaborations related to tools and how we can design tools, the most interesting were and are: discussions. Discussing with researchers is inspiring in many ways. At first, these discussions are opening new doors of knowledge. This is the first level. It provides a lot of new ideas in our own creation practice. Then, at least in my case, these also drive me to make more bridge between concepts, to associate more nodes of ideas I already have, to make kind of cluster of items in my head and very often I feel more relieved after the discussion because I have my mind clearer.
Labs are proposing more and more art/science residence. I’m very interested in trying to work more with labs myself but in more long-term ways. This is currently hard to get into this kind of collaboration except if you do a PhD, which is also hard to fund.
I really thing collaboration with labs can drive into digging deeper my research but the collaboration has to keep a lot of room for freedom. In many propositions, there is something already planned from the beginning to the end and we, artists, need to have time and floating moments.
STRUCTURE.LIVE requires some science related to how we can display and visualize a set of points in 3D spaces. This is related to point cloud techniques and I have been invited by Stéréolux and Laboratoire de Mathématiques Jean Leray in Université de Nantes for proposing a workshop for students. I started to lead it with a mathematician researcher of the lab. The topic is related to the visual part of my incoming live performance. During the workshop time, I’ll have a specific residency there in Nantes and I’ll make all my captures that will result into meshes. These meshes will be the raw matter for my visual artwork for the piece. In this case, Stéréolux and University provide a lot of room for freedom. This is the perfect case in which I really feel comfortable working on a project I want to produce and teaching.
You have worked internationally with institutions such as SAT Montreal. What did you develop there? Do you have any future collaboration coming soon?
At Société des Arts Technologiques in Montréal, I designed a site-specific live performance improvisation system. It was based on my E
Visuals where based on cubemap technique and with my assistants, we aimed at “breaking the sphere” geometry by displaying grids, cubes with this technique. Results have been quite interesting but I didn’t enjoy the spherical environment. It forces us to build the whole piece for the center and I don’t really like this idea of being able to enjoy the piece only from one point (except proper and beautiful anamorphosis…). I’m not completely convinced by all these domes appearing everywhere. This is too much artificial compared to reality.
I love building, room, squared or not. And I’d prefer to make installation, live performance, even immersive ones, in real buildings. This is more me as an artist changing the reality, than me as an artist changing something that doesn’t exist except or my art. I need to bump into reality if I want to alter it.
I don’t have any collaboration currently running with any art centers. I’d need to have some as this can be a nice framework for me to produce art.
However, I’d really like to launch the next step of MATTER. MATTER was a so nice and deep project with my friend and artist Sebastian Sarti: We only played it one time, that’s a real shame. We built a system based on modular machines on my side and a very advanced video player I designed for Sebastian. Both systems were connected. His system was receiving some pulses from my system (clocks, voltage variation related to some sound modulators I was using) and my system was receiving some ‘pulses’ genially placed by Sebastian in specific frames of his video. We didn’t know when the other’s system would have emitted his pulse and each pulse was like an influencer for our system. So, when a bubble was exploding in a playing video, my modular system was receiving a pulse… It was up to me to use it here or there to change the sound. The best change was to connect it to my reverb module. The pulse was like “bumping” the reverberation space making a kind of VIUOUSSSSSHHHHHH resonating. It was VERY dark and deep. Sebastian’s videos have been shot by him with very DIY equipment. The video shown reflects quite well those concepts: We are currently looking for a residency program and some funds to make a new version.
Your chief enemy of creativity?
While I’m designing sounds, visuals, systems, sometimes I can’t choose, and it drives me to keep things opened and it kills me. Keeping everything opened means you don’t write, you don’t create. This is related to keep the system omnipotent. Omnipotent means that it can do everything, and it often equals to: it cannot do anything.
Flow of ideas, of images in my mind is so huge, big and sometimes violent that I need to sort, drop, cut, decide in order to write something, I mean, in order to deliver something, to render some pieces.
This is sometimes hard, but I want to leave a trace with my pieces so I have to do this to keep the creativity flowing until the rendered form.
You could’nt live without…
I could write a big list. And I’ll keep it to things because there are many humans without who I couldn’t live. I think I’ll only write my computer. It sounds weird and dependant, but with it, I can create. I can create. Of course, I’d miss my sound recorder, my machines, but If I had to keep only one thing, I’d choose this one. I can design visuals, write, use big memory storage.