Interview with MONOCOLOR

To celebrate the coming of Entangled Structures, the new immersive piece presented in the Satosphere, Hakeem Lapointe, cultural mediator at SAT, had the chance to interview the Austrian artist, Marian Essl, best known by the moniker MONOCOLOR. Throughout an already very prolific career despite being an emerging artist, with praise by the Japan Media Arts Festival and Ars Electronica, MONOCOLOR was stopping by SAT for a second time, after touring the fulldomes around the globe.

The Society of Arts and Technology would like to thank MONOCOLOR for allowing us this interview, in the context of his new piece, Entangled Structures, presented in October and November 2022 in the Satosphere, the 360º audiovisual immersive environment.


SAT: Entangled Structures is your third fulldome piece; can you tell us about your approach to this project in that regard? Have you come back to it with a new set of technical challenges or conceptual perspective?


Entangled Structures is a continuation of my research in the fulldome medium. The goal to create abstract and dynamic spaces that dissolve the physical structure of the dome is still at the core of this work, just like in Latent Space and Transient Topologies.

The conceptual framework of this piece was to generate an ever-changing audiovisual sculpture that blurs the line between the physical and the digital, both aesthetically and conceptually.

On a technical level this work is a lot more complex than my previous works as I tried to develop a framework that allows me to quickly and easily compose both image and sound. Developing this framework required a lot more work up front but now allows me to freely work with the material and quickly change parts of the performance.

SAT: Considering the haptic qualities of your works, is there any specific feeling you wish to provoke within the audience for Entangled Structures?


Entangled Structures deals with questions of entanglement between our virtual and physical selfs. I hope that my work allows this abstract idea to be experienced in a physical way. I don’t try to invoke specific feelings within the audience but I do seek out a certain sense of fragility and instability. I think in terms of compositional ideas like tension and release and more abstract concepts like the sense of haziness or clarity, density and sparseness. Hearing about the way the public thinks and feels about my work is always the most exciting part of the process for me. I try to leave space for interpretation and really enjoy the varied reactions from the audience.

SAT: Can you explain your process of using generative code for your piece? e.g. Do you seek specific ‘evolutionary traits’ out of the piece?


It is very important for me to create a fluid, ever-changing structure. The whole visual part of the piece is generated from the same procedural system, so there is no fade to black or scene change, every state morphs into the next. The material I chose for the work is quite limited, but this limitation is what inspires me and gets me to think differently on how to create a multitude of spatial configurations. I do seek out the generative nature of my works and let myself get surprised by the results the processes produce.

SAT: When working on an A/V piece, do you start with the audio or the visual part? Do you follow the same process with each piece or do you diversify your approach?


It is a completely audiovisual process, where one part informs decisions of the other part. When working on the image layer, I am constantly thinking about ways to incorporate sound and vice versa. For this work, I started developing the visual system first but after some rough sketches quickly began to add sound. The goal is to create an audiovisual unit, trying to treat both layers as the same material.

SAT: During the visual development process, is there a period of manually sketching out the desired visuals or do you let the code guide you and refine the visuals from there?


[… ] I do have certain aesthetics in mind that I try to achieve using the tools I have built for the work. Given the constraints of my generative system, I often fail at realizing my exact goals but then get led into a different direction. I really enjoy this way of working and try not to be too fixated on the original idea but let myself get guided by the process.

SAT: What are your biggest current influences, visually and musically?


I am very inspired by things outside of digital or media art like sculpture and abstract painting. I feel like nature and life in an urban environment and the push and pull between those two poles also plays into my works. The book New Dark Age by James Bridle was also a big influence for this work.

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