Interview: Chelidon Frame
Luca Curci talks with Chelidon Frame during FUTURE LANDSCAPES, the third appointment of BORDERS ART FAIR 2021, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Chelidon Frame is an experimental electronic musician, a coder and a sound artist from Milano, Italy. He mainly works with drones, found objects, shortwave radio signals, prepared guitars, and processed sounds. His works span between sound installations, studio recordings, live performances, and audio for visuals. His installations are experienced-based and suggest a dialogue between the location (both virtual and physical) and the sounds proposed, aiming to deliver a message in the simpler yet most effective way. The use of code, data analysis, and data-driven sounds, allow information to be experienced anew and reconnects the listener to the original meaning behind numbers. In his studio works and live sets, he moves between electroacoustic improvisations and evolving ambient soundscapes where different layers of sounds – guitars, synthesizers, tape loops, and custom-made instruments – pile up and create unexpected new soundscapes.
Luca Curci – Which subject are you working on?
Chelidon Frame – I’m exploring the field of data sonification, and I’m concentrating most of my efforts on exploring it. Data sonification is when you turn a set of data into sound (and music): more a practice than a set of themes, but I’m interested in how data, which surrounds us every day, can be reinterpreted in a completely new way, giving them a new perspective and a different weight using sound. Apart from this, I’m working on some new music which will be released in the coming months.
LC – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
CF – I’m both a software developer and an electronic musician, and I always struggled to find a way to blend them artistically. At some point, the idea of converting data into music struck me like a revelation: I started writing small software that produced music from data, exploring real-time, interactive, and static scenarios; everything came so naturally that I decided to explore it more thoroughly. There’s a missing link in this kind of practice. There are both fine coders and good musicians, but a hybrid figure able to develop a project from the raw data to the final sound is quite rare. And I think I can explore this zone, sharing my work and my experience. “The List” – the installation I presented in ITSLIQUID’s space in Venice – was my first big project in the field. I took UNITED’s List of Deaths, a long list mapping all the deaths along the migratory fluxes towards Europe, and I wrote an algorithm that converted those numbers in sound, trying to give to silence, noise, and all the cluster of sounds their right place to make the listener feel, more than understand, the heaviness of the theme.
LC – Which is the role the artist plays in society? And contemporary art?
CF – I don’t think there’s a specific role the artist should or have to play in our society: art has changed so much in the last century – and it’s still changing, day after day – that each practice, each experience builds its own role. In my case, I try to give new light to overlooked themes by giving them a different way to feel them. I’m not the right person to say what’s the role of contemporary art today, but I’m sure that has to be there, exploring what feels right to explore.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
CF – I think it’s a meta-theme more than a theme: I’m interested in how data can be perceived anew using sound as a mean to reinterpret them. We are daily immersed in data – from the news, from our smartphones, from our jobs – and we grow accustomed to some of them, losing perspective and the ability to understand them. This was obvious during the first months of the pandemic, with the daily bulletins and charts and figures always present in the news: day after day, numbers became only numbers, losing their actual meaning. This was one of the themes I’ve explored in my web-audio installation COVID-19 Data Sonification (https://covid19-data-sonification.space/).
LC – Do visitors’ suggestions enrich yourself and your art?
CF – Yes, I’m always looking for feedback and opinions: they can enrich a future iteration of the experience and let me see things differently. When I work on a new sonification, I’m always focusing on the data, how I can organize them, what’s the best sound to give them the right weight, and so on. Sometimes I forgot that the mind and the ears of a visitor are different from mine and can perceive things in a completely different way. I sometimes “test” my work with a small group of friends and fellow musicians, to gather reactions in the earliest stage of developing a new project.
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as a part of preexisting works?
CF – “The List” was first conceived by the end of 2018 without having a specific place in mind. I imagined it as a modular sound sculpture, with four or eight speakers positioned around the listener surrounding him: the main part was the algorithm converting data into sound, how to arrange the speakers came second, according to the place that would host it. In 2019 I managed to present the first iteration in the main hall of the Bocconi University, in Milan. The iteration showcased in Venice was an updated and optimized version both in the data used and in the structuring of the installation and had to merge with the surrounding space.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
CF – The subject of the exhibit captured me immediately: the theme of borders resonated particularly with what I was exploring at the moment, and I immediately proposed my works. It’s a modern theme that can be declined in all the contemporary artist practices and can explore our world and our surroundings.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
CF – I’m still exploring it, but I enjoyed what I saw so far. I love its broad interests, how tells and present every experience, and all the opportunities given to all artists, both to emerging and established ones.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
CF – I felt at ease and welcomed, everyone from the staff was helpful and prepared: despite all the limitations we are facing for the pandemic, everything went well.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
CF – For sure! Everything is taken care of professionally and attentively.