Artist Statement

Digital film/animation/visual music, 2015, 4’15’’

“When Leaving Becomes Arriving” is a short digital film generated through analyzing music ‘inter-saxtive’ using Processing programming. It attempts to elicit the immensely upsetting yet anticipative feel at the ending of a chapter before moving on to our next journey towards the greater possibilities into the unknown. The synesthetic idea of this project has apparent ties to an art movement that commenced in early twentieth century, during which visual artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Georgia O’Keeffe, etc. were deeply interested in “the idea that music could be translated into something for the eye.” Yet, the creative development of this visual music project as a collaboration of a musician, a visual artist and a computer programmer reflects the present practice of today’s digital art domain. This work can be viewed as a dialogue among the three creators, and further more, with the computer as an important contributor as well. The music is from Nicolas Scherzinger’s ‘inter-saxtive’, a series of improvisational works for saxophone and interactive computer. It involves a variety of granular synthesis techniques and is produced by the computer and the musician/performer interact with one another in real time.
We then create abstract visual compositions that evolve over time and are linked with the musical riffs and patterns using Processing programming language. Through purposely emphasizing or neglecting certain aspects of music signals, the image arrives as the visual counterpoint of the music. The interplay of visual and music builds novel texture into the artistic rendering and adds extra dimensions to the conversation between artists. The work process is an interactive one rather than a linear one. Through frequent communication between the creative artists and the computer programmer, ideas are inspired, developed, reflected and built upon; and the project is completed only after many iterations of such workflow. Arguably, the computer also contributes to the idea chain via adding controlled randomness as well as materializing human designed algorithms to produce the visual/musical outcome that is not yet conceivable. To certain degree, the computer extends abilities of the artists and the programmer in reasoning and envisioning, thus plays an essential role in building the expressive power of the piece.
As a result of the above approach, this project is neither a direct visualization of the music, nor a simple combination of music and visual, but rather a dialogue where every party contributes but not dominates. The interplay of all elements is more important than any single aspect. And digital technology such as sound analysis and generative graphics programming made it achievable to construct this interplay. Comparing to artwork created in early twentieth century under the metaphor of synesthesia, this project offers a much more sophisticated audio-visual experience to the audience.

Rebecca Ruige Xu: Director, Computer Graphics. Sean Hongsheng Zhai: Computer Graphics.  Nicolas Scherzinger: Music.

  • REBECCA RUIGE XU (China/USA)’s current research focuses on creative practice derived from real data, particularly artistic data visualization and visual music, with a goal of communicating ideas rather than illustrating information. She believes the expressive power of this relatively new way of art making can be further explored, consequently provide alternate views on the original information. Typically produced in a generative approach working with computer programs, the visuals in Xu’s work range from inventive non-representational drawing to controlled constructions with highly studied shape, color and texture in 3D space. In the process of making, she explores the impact of artistic intention and influence on the final outcome, while trying to find the balance between artistic intervention and computer program’s autonomy as well as randomness and predictability contributing to each particular project. Xu draws her inspiration from her personal experience and culture background. Grown up in Confucius’ hometown, educated in both eastern and western schools, worked in professional fields (as an animator and designer) and academia (as an educator and practicing artist), Xu often observes a hybrid quality in her work that reflects those experiences. Visually, her creative practice is influenced by minimalism and traditional oriental artwork. To both, balance and contrast of color, space, texture, as well as light are essential means to improve visual aesthetics.  rebeccaxu.com

Full text and photo (PDF) p. 292-294