“Pixels seem to be unsatisfied with their binary existence and have decided to jump into the tangible universe.”
MARIEKE VERBIESEN, MAYHEM MACHINE (2014)
SONIC FICTION WORKS, NIKOLAJ KUNSTHAL, 2014
Interview by Anne Kølbæk Iversen
During a two-month residency at the Factory for Art and Design in Copenhagen, the Netherland-born, Norwegian-based media artist Marieke Verbiesen has been working on what she calls an ‘audiovisual instrument’ inspired by past visions of how future electronic musical instruments would look like and borrowing its aesthetic from arcade and flipper games.
In her installations Marieke Verbiesen combines the three- dimensional, architectural and physical space with the bits and operations of digital software. “I like to hide the computer”, she says, and instead she constructs machines and environments that the spectator can interact with or walk into and be part of.
Marieke Verbiesen: For a long time I have been working with making installations that are made up of sculptural, physical elements. In making these I have wanted to move away from the screen. To me it is interesting, how the physical installation gives the visitor or spectator a very different experience than the flat computer screen. I liked making animations but also always liked the interaction. Like the kind you find in games. I find it interesting that you can discover things when you move through the animation – that you add interaction to the story.
In some of my installations I used technology that people are already familiar with, for example a computer mouse or a joystick. But I also like to experiment with the interface; that people can for instance use their bodies or voice to activate the installation, and in this way make it spacious.
For the exhibition at Nikolaj Kunsthal this summer you are working on an installation piece called Mayhem Machine that integrates sound and animation in a three-dimensional game-like installation. Could you describe what this machine will be?
MV: The Mayhem Machine is what I would call an audiovisual instrument. Here the audience can experience pre-scripted scenes and set the sequences in motion by pressing buttons on the keyboard. The small scenes can be put together in different orders and the idea is to let people play with this order and create their own sequences of images and sound.
I like that it is a playful experience and that you can perhaps also be more advanced in your use of the installation. In Pole Position (an interactive game installation based on the first full colour race game PolePosition made for the Atari, AKI) I built in some tricks that you would only discover if you played the game for a while. For instance you could score extra points by moving the joystick quickly to each side. It is very common within computer games that there are some built-in tricks and ways to score extra points that you will only know after having played for a while. This is a way for the game developers to keep the gamers interested.
With the Mayhem Machine I want to challenge the audience to take part in creating the work. I have also considered making it coin operated because people then immediately understand the gaming element: is the time running out? What is my score? And so on. But if I make it coin operated for the exhibition in Denmark then it could only be used here.
You have talked about the Mayhem Machine as an instrument of the future. How does it correspond to this?
MV: For a while now I have found it interesting how we looked at the future lets say fifty years ago, imagining for instance people living in space ships or getting around by high-speed tubes that would bring you from A to B in seconds.
Also within electronic music there were a lot of ideas of how instruments would look like and how you could play them. Companies like Philips wanted to be on the frontier of development and anticipated what the development would result in. It is fun to see what people thought would be interactive, laser for instance. And that is a reality now; that they have anticipated. But people never expected video or film as a medium to become interactive.
So you could say that you build the machines of the future as it was anticipated fifty years ago?
MV: Yes, you could. I like that it is a little bit nostalgic and crappy also. But that is also a way to translate the humour of it. People often laugh at the installations and then I’m happy because I know that the humour of it is communicated. I like the analogue feel to the machines, to hide the computer and to hide the fact that you are using the latest technology. Everything is controlled by a computer but I like to make it look analogue.
What is the idea behind the translating of the digital to the physical space which is characteristic of your work?
MV: I like to give the visitors an experience. With Mayhem Machine I challenge the audience to create the work. In some of my other works I have made installations based on something that is actually digital but turned into an analogue installation. You have the digital versus the analogue in a way. I see my installations as something playful and inviting. And I like to include people, literally as well as mentally, to make them think about what they see.
Bio: Marieke Maria Verbiesen is a Bergen based animator and installation artist. She holds a BFA in Animation and a MFA in Interactive Media and Environments from Hanze Minerva Art Academy, Groningen, Netherlands.