Advanced technology, prophetic work and the mysterious meaning of life. Interview with 404.zero
In my opinion, 404.zero (media artist Kristina Karpysheva and audiovisual designer Sasha Letsius) is one of the most interesting and inspiring artistic groups. Indeed, last year they were invited to participate in the most important festivals around the world. Originally from Russia, they first met when Kristina was still studying at the British Higher School of Art and Design, and Sasha was already working in the famous art collective Tundra – a Russian multidisciplinary team of musicians, visual artists, sound engineers and programmers focused on creating experiences and space through the production of live performances and immersive audiovisual installations.
Kristina and Sasha started their collaboration by creating a laser installation at the Quartariata Residence in Peterhof, then proposed an audiovisual performance at the Moscow Planetarium for SoundUp, followed by a performance at LACMA and the Orpheum Theater in the USA. Since then, they have created various works that explore the possibilities of a multimedia language, especially using touchdesigner software. They are fantastic not only because of the advanced technology they use, but most of all because their work is mystical and prophetic and tries to explore the mysterious meanings of life. They are adorable and immediately agreed to an interview to talk about their art work, a job that “lives on its own – completely self-sufficient”, as they claimed.
Caterina Tomeo: My first impression was that your work focuses on the unknown, on the mysterious aspects of life, and at the same time there is a dreamy vision of life …
404.zero: Yes, you are right – somewhat. I would say categories of death and unknown. The unknown inspires to create and discover. Accepting death eliminates the fear of criticism and completely devalues all goals. A person who can devalue everything is absolutely free. In such a state, your talent reaches its peak.
404 zero is resignation. It’s “nothingness”. It is abandoning society and withdrawing from constant consumption – from everything that breaks this world. 404.zero conjures up a precise and clearly defined understanding of the concept of life.
The art project was born out of an attempt to establish a definition of gutting conventional dogmas and values. In 2016, two artists teamed up to create projects that could push the importance of clarity to the limits of contemporary generative art. For us, 404.zero is a foundation that gives a chance for infinite creativity.
Caterina Tomeo: You have produced various works: audiovisual, installations, video mapping… When did you start using Touch designer? What opportunities for discovery and creation does this software offer?
404.zero: We started eight years ago with TouchDesigner. 404 – like three years ago. We like the perfect balance in TouchDesigner. You can do whatever you want – patching, programming, connecting whatever devices you want – and it’s always at your fingertips. Need a new tool? please pack! The timeline from the birth of any idea to a successful prototype is minimal. Another approach is that you can randomly combine everything and be surprised to find something unexpected and new.
Caterina Tomeo: The sound dimension is very strong and is synchronized with the lights and lasers, creating a perceptual and multi-sensory slide of the audience…
404.zero: Yes. we make all materials for any installation in real time – no footage or samples. We create the sound using modular synthesizers: Buchla and Eurorack format.
Caterina TomeoA: I would describe your work more mathematically and scientifically, but it is also prophetic because you bring landscapes and imaginations of the future to life. Can I define you as art shamans?
404.zero: Hey, we don’t know. This is on your side. Generally yes – most often we think about the kind of mathematics physics chemistry. That is very interesting. sometimes we would like to delve into these things. Maybe one day we’ll leave everything behind and start something new.
Caterina Tomeo: What is the role of the audience?
404.zero: Good question, we don’t know.
Caterina Tomeo: I think you were inspired by nature in some of your work: do you get inspiration from traveling around the world or is it a journey of your mind?
404.zero:Both. We have no base or home; we just travel the world all the time. Two years ago, we came across an article about Elon Musk’s project to send eight artists on a trip around the moon in three years.
Caterina Tomeo: My favorite job is Arrivalcan you explain it? And what does that mean for you?
404.zero: Arrival the project started with an online presentation – a video posted on social media, which received more than half a million views within a month. Proposals for the implementation of the project began to come to 404.zero, but for a long time we could not find a suitable place. Location is extremely important for artists, because it is the synergy between space and works of art that creates the right environment in which the viewer can live a new experience.
Finally, we accepted the invitation of Avant Gardner club from New York, which hosted the opening of the installation in a new space of 1000m2.
From 27 to 29 December, visitors could witness the “arrival” of the so-called Arrival an installation that consists of custom metal squares, lights and sound. We chose not to speculate about complex conceptual meanings, instead we interact with space – a multidimensional space that exists beyond linear temporality, an artistic manifesto or any imposed vision. The 404.zero group does not pretend to anything with its works, allowing the viewers to find their own history and optics, their own way of perceiving the artists’ work. The Arrival the installation would generate form and time in the present moment, continuing its life during the show and breaking away from its creators. The process of detachment is an important part of our speech, as we think in memories of the future regime. At the present moment there is no time or space, only vast expanses of the inconceivable. These philosophical connections between the rational and the irrational, the imaginary and the visual, the tangible and the conceptual are at the heart of many of our designs, highlighting the fact that everything exists in space and its infinity cannot be comprehended. And about the constant w Arrival the project is precisely this: immersion in nothingness and dissolution in complete totality. Because everything in this universe consists of simple similarities that seem complicated only from the space of our perception.
Caterina Tomeo: You usually post renders of your projects. I am curious who is the recipient of your work, and whether you find a place in your life for commercial projects to finance your artistic work and research.
404.zeroA: Three years ago we didn’t publish any of our concepts – you know, it’s such a secret. We sent them to many people, such as managers, museum directors, producers, etc. And one day we started to find a lot of works similar to ours: from agencies, famous artists, lesser known artists, even from our friends HaHa – and we realized “ok, if someone wants to be brought up in this way, ok – let’s publish what we want.
Caterina Tomeo: What do you think about artificial intelligence and its creative experiments in the field of art – as you well know, Russia is a world leader …
404.zero: We don’t see any future because we expect humanity to wipe out the entire planet before the AI reaches a certain level of complexity to be useful in creating art.
Caterina Tomeo: Last year you were invited to some of the most important festivals. It would be nice if you would also come to Rome soon. Do you think it’s possible? I mean a special event.
404.zero: if so, there will be something interesting for sure.
404.zero – Kristina Karpysheva and Aleksandr Letsius
This talented and ever-ambitious duo of AV architects and toolmakers craft mind-changing generative arts experiences that require knowledge of math, coding and audio science. Creating mesmerizing digital matter with terrifyingly porous borders using only TouchDesigner and modular hardware, they push the boundaries of film material and sample-free language that is rich and breathtaking. Taking as their starting point their most unbridled fascinations with death, the unknown and the cosmos, they create an exciting, precise, painterly code art that raises grand philosophical questions and provides mesmerizing, if highly speculative, answers.
Together, Kristina and Aleksandr create modern generative art and innovative tools that raise the bar for the synergistic possibilities of image and sound. Media artist Kristina has been integrating multidimensional features, performers and theatrical acts into her audio-visual exploits since 2015. Aleksandr is a co-founder of the Tundra collective, which produces large-scale audio-video installations. Since meeting at Moscow’s Mars Center for Contemporary Art in 2016, they have collaborated on many immersive cases, always ready for the challenge of conjuring up new things – modular music, generative visuals and TouchDesigner tools.
Given their impeccable reputation for paradigm-shaking in contemporary generative art, it was only a matter of time before these digital soothsayers would bring their modular memories to a rich and disembodied future.
They participated in many international festivals and exhibitions in Russia, Germany, Indonesia, USA, Peru. Among the festivals MUTEK, GAMMA, Electric Castle, LACMA, Moscow Planetarium, Orpheum Theater LA, etc. The works of 404 were selected by Japan Media Arts Festival and awarded by Genius Loci Weimar Festival, IMAPP festival.