Respiro Magazine / December 2003
Interview with Kurt Ralske
by Paul Doru
PD: What is your statement as an artist?
KR: Briefly, I am thinking about time, and the way we perceive time. If something makes us experience time differently, it also changes our sense of self.
PD: Do you see yourself as a "cinematic thinker"? Is your work in a certain way an attempt to invent digital performance art?
KR: I am a musician who stopped working with music. Now I work with visual music, or audio-visual music.
PD: Which are the artists that inspire you?
KR: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Oliver Messiaen, JS Bach. Jean-Luc Goddard, Andrei Tarkovsky, Carl Dreyer. Sigmar Polke, Andreas Gursky, Hiroshi Sugimoto.
PD: Do you have a certain concept of the performance beforehand? Are all the images stored in a database that you surf during the performance? Are they randomly linked to music or they follow a certain "logic"?
KR: Image and sound files are stored on the hard drive, but in improvising they are combined and reprocessed in very complex ways, so sometimes the source material isn't even visible/audible in the final product.
When I perform with dancers or sometimes live musicians, I will use only images captured live with a camera as the source material, instead of stored files.
PD: Do you consider performance art more "genuine" than other forms of art? Why did you choose this way of expressing yourself?
KR: I don't know....I like to improvise, it forces you to be more honest...it forces you to remember that perfection is impossible. The impulse to attain perfection has always been a problem for me, like for many artists.
PD: What is the part of inspiration in the audio-visual performances? Do you see it like a kind of visual jazz?
KR: Yes, for me audio-visual performance has its roots in my experience working as an improvising musician and composer.
PD: What is your artistic "trajectoire"? Did you start creating your own software before being a composer or afterwards?
KR: I was a musician who began playing with computers, to see if they could make some tasks simpler. I developed some "tricks" or strategies for working with audio files, and then discovered that the same tricks could be applied to video files, or really, any type of data.
Previously I made many different kinds of music. I did some work as a composer of film scores. In that role, my task was to create audio to match and deepen the visual. In my work now, the role is often reversed: I have to create images to match and deepen the audio.
PD: Is your work "media is the message" kind of thing: can it exist outside the digital world?
KR: I think a lot about how my work will look in, say, 25 years, when there will be technological posssibilities that we can't even imagine now. I don't want my work to be just a document of how people were using technology to make art in 2003....it should have some quality that has nothing to do with the way it was created.
Computers are wonderful toys...I spend endless days programming, to push the machine further. But sometimes I think I would actually make more and better art with just a bit of charcol, or an acoustic guitar.
PD: What is music for you?
KR: Hmmm very nice question.
Music is a very powerful tool for the transmission of data. Language is like a bad 28k dial-up connection; music is like a huge fast T3 pipe.