DigitalFruit is an interview series from Adafruit showcasing some of our favorite digital fine artists from around the world. As we begin this new decade with its rapidly changing landscape, we must envision our path through a different lens. Over the next few weeks we’ll feature many innovative perspectives and techniques that will inspire our maker community to construct a bold creative frontier. The only way is forward.
1. Where are you based?
At the moment I am living in Bucharest, Romania, but that could change.
2. Tell us about your background?
I was born in 1992 in Verona, Italy, my real name is Andrea Allegri. I studied popular music at the CPM Music institute in Milan, more precisely guitar and singing, and after that I moved to Melbourne for a couple of years where I started busking.
Since 2015, I have been living as a traveling musician in various European countries, but that started to change in late 2018, when I first came to Bucharest. I was work-awaying here and for a short time I hung out in a creative space where I got in contact with freelancers specialized in projects involving programming, open-source micro-controllers and 3D printing. I was instantly hooked. I started experimenting with single boards like Arduino and Teensy and programming in Pure Data to create my own musical instruments/effects. Since then my passion for technology never stopped growing and now I am in the process of learning web-development and starting a career path in IT.
3. What inspires your work?
Mostly trying to make something new, or at the very least something that is new for me. I think art today, in its every form, is about pushing frontiers, connecting dots from different fields and creating the possibility for divergent things to somehow work together.
I try to open myself to new things all the time, be it musical genres that I’ve never listened to before, books that explain concepts I am not familiar with or seeing different places and meeting new people.
At the moment, algorithms and generative art is what is driving me the most in terms of learning, but also discovering so many great digital artists and audio-visual creators on social media is a huge part of the picture.
And of course I would not do what I do if it wasn’t for some great musicians and bands. Some of my favorites at the moment are Animals As Leaders, Full Of Hell, Max Cooper, Floating Points, Fleet Foxes and the other-worldly Onyx Ashanti.
4. What are you currently working on?
Right now I am diving deeper into Pure Data and one of its libraries called GEM, which focuses on visuals reacting to live music.
The ending point is to create some environment that will give me the possibility to play guitar and sing live while mangling audio and video without relying on pre-made backing tracks.
I’ve also just started using OpenFrameWorks.
5. Describe your process and which tools you like to use.
The digital art you see here is made mainly in mobile apps. I use Mirror Lab and Glitch Lab a lot, but also Pixlr, JWildfireMini, Frax HD and when needed Gimp and Blender.
When I work on something visual, most of my process is trial and error. I create some fractals, take some pictures or ask for some raw materials from friends who are really good at photography, and then just try to effect everything in any way possible. I start ideas on my phone in the metro or while waiting somewhere, pick them up later and repeat this process until something catches me and I feel like it doesn’t need any further processing.
Musically speaking I have tried tons of different softwares/devices and my approach is kind of twofold. In the first part, I get the idea of what I’d like to achieve and I focus as much as I can to actually create the virtual “space” I want or program the patches I need. In the second part, I let it go. I put together different things and try to only enjoy the listening experience of what I am playing, which I usually find unexpected, because of some complexities I worried about before.
Tool wise, I used to mangle sample myself playing stringed instruments and vst synthesizers into an Octatrack or in an app called Samplr. For the drums, I used Korg Gadgets and Patterning on the iPad.
Now I am working more with open-source linux programs like Hydrogen Drum Machine and Helm synthesizer, Pure Data patches loaded into a Raspberry Pi equipped with a hat called PiSound and sometimes a little board called Axoloti Core. For recording and mixing, I use Bitwig.
6. What does your workplace or studio look like? Do you work in silence or listen to music while you work?
I don’t really have a studio.
Because of my traveling lifestyle, I got used to working on stuff anywhere and, especially for the digital art shown here, I actually enjoy creating while I am out and about, or just chilling. In those cases I always have headphones on. You know that confident feeling when you walk around town listening to some band you love? I want to be in that zone… or alternatively in the super relaxed state when I am watching some funny Netflix series, scrolling Instagram and I see something that makes me ask “How did he/she do that?” and it gives me the creative kick. So I try to have distractions you can say. I think in this way I am less worried about the outcome and my choices are more instinct driven.
For the musical part it’s quite different. I usually go find a quiet corner somewhere and try to have silence in order to work things through and have the best listening experience possible for the sound design process.
7. How has technology shaped your creative vision?
It has revolutionized it. Until I got into programming and open-source, I didn’t realize how much is possible with the devices that we use everyday. Some things that I would see in expositions and installations were like magic to me! (Some still are).
Getting my hands dirty with programming really changed my mind and sparked so much creativity. It made me see that I can do my own version of exactly what I want, or at least try! It definitely takes more time than just buying a bunch of plug-ins or using pre-made tools, but who cares! The learning experience is beautiful in itself and eventually it puts you in the position to do way more of what you were expecting.
8. Any tips for someone interested in getting started in the digital art form?
Don’t be scared if some things from the outside look complicated!
There are already tools you can mock around with and people teaching you stuff online for free, and in a really short time you can make amazing things. Just try different softwares and frameworks and see what works for you, chances are you will find something that intrigues you.
9. Where do you see generative and digital art heading in the future?
Probably we will see more and more interdisciplinary art and people striving to add dimensions to installations and expositions. 360 degree cameras and audio recorders are already on the market, Virtual Reality is out and soon we will probably see some bio-technology available for mass-consumption.
Surely all of these things will open up new doors for artists, create new challenges and inspire things we don’t even consider possible right now.
Also “Generative” could move from algorithmic to even living materials.
Eric Klarenbeek for example makes 3D printed chairs using fungi, and they grow! How cool is that?
I hope collaborations will spark up from every sector to blend the difference between art, science and everyday objects.
There will be a lot to see in the coming decades.
DigitalFruit is curated by Adafruit lead photographer- Andrew Tingle