Ever since video killed the radio star, music and visuals have been inseparable. To give us a trailblazing perspective on their relationship we invited artist Tarik Barri in for a guest session.
Tarik Barri: A maker of worlds
For those of us unfamiliar with the work of this groundbreaking audio-visual artist, he has collaborated with the likes of Thom Yorke, Nicolas Jaar and Monolake. Always a musician, Tarik initially became interested in making visuals for audio. Shortly thereafter, he began to engineer processes that would allow him to compose live visuals.
The truly revolutionary thing about Tarik’s work is how he has insisted on inverting the paradigm between audio and visual media. In a traditional sense, most of us think that the music informs the design, narrative and feel of the visuals. But for Tarik, a more compelling exploration was to have the visuals be created and improvised as spontaneously as the music; making them separate but equal in a sense.
A 2D visual composer
In the first stage of this adventure, he created a 2D audio visual composer he called Matseq.
If you can’t tell from the clip above, the balls are controlling the sounds that are being created by bumping into objects in the plane. This project illustrates nicely just how direct the relationship between sound and visuals are in our brains. It takes us into the realm of questions of what happens if we reverse the inputs and make visuals trigger sounds.
A 3D world of sound and image
The next stage, and the one he is still currently engaged in, is the creation of an entire alternate world. It began as the premise for his graduation project at Utrecht School of the Arts. But he has remained dedicated to it since then. It’s a 3D space that he has constructed from scratch and can literally fly through using a joystick for navigation. The visuals and the music are independent from each other. He moves through the space and explores it, sometimes not knowing what to expect. Using this 3D Space Navigator he shows audiences that both the visuals and the sounds are being produced live. As the location changes in this alternate universe, so too does the nature of the music.
“It all ends up in human eyes and human brains, and that is where it has to make sense” really highlights what Tarik focuses on in his process. His emphasis on using intuition to inform the design of what he makes translates into an experience that tests the boundaries of traditional sensory input while at the same time remaining oddly familiar. Concepts like “applying gravity to sound” come off as incredibly complex and disjointed from what we encounter in the natural world. But his process remains true to how it feels and chances are, more often than not, the things he stumbles upon resonant with a lot of us.
Thanks very much to Tarik for joining us and sharing an incredible demonstration as well as some deep insights into the relationship between audio and visual. If you’re hankering for more feel free to listen to the entire session: