The collection of works showcased at the exhibition represents the diversity of the artist’s approaches to non-human learning experience arrangements. Any substance is an active agent capable of shaping events-to-be. We come to know and transform the world in the course of spontaneous and intended research, interpreting signs and emotions, as well as interacting with many others – people, rocks, animals or algorithms.
The range of measurements that ::vtol::’s machines can do isn’t equaling them, and the data they collect can’t be brought to a single value specter. They rather resemble an agile matrix of subjective and (to a certain extent) excessive observations. Nobody needs them. Values fixed and transmitted by ::vtol::’s mechanisms are incomparable with one another – and neither they can be compared with the useful knowledge production ambition. Technologies designed by the artist care not about himself or his needs, as they see no difference between living and nonliving matters, the examinable and non-examinable. Some of them react to our movement and voices, but barely any of them require close contact to prove themselves in the register selected by the artist, be it sound, visual or kinetic.
All of the showcased works dimension things, but the only thing bringing together their objects of exploration is their belonging to the same reality. Works by ::vtol:: are equally zealous in studying human and non-human substances, processes, narrations, events, and artefacts – either clamshells, radiation particles, actinotes, poetry, stories of meteoric impact, breathing or sexual intercourse. The machines transform the data registered into sound or light signals that we can see but won’t use apart from for aesthetic experience.
::vtol::’s objects show the audience a different life and a different order of relations, inviting to enjoy individual rhythms of non-productive technologies, their unearthly beauty and relative unapprehensiveness. Perceiving and measuring various operation parameters of organic, non-organic and sign systems, these mechanisms exist at the intersection of the process we see and can’t see. They don’t intend to help or hurt us, and they don’t take sides. They simply recall us that human and nonhuman agents have the same influence grounds. There are no options for separate evolution of people and machines – there are just different perception settings sensitive to these or those layers of the world.
As Adorno and Horkheimer said, industrialism makes souls into things and deprives them of inspiring people. After getting a closer look at works by ::vtol:: you can’t help apprehending that machines, although counterproductive in the capitalistic dimension, can help people get their soles back.
independent curator, researcher, art historian
Phase Adventures series
The series embraces the works that merge motion, sound, and light elements into a single holistic image.
A phase is a thermodynamically equilibrium state of a matter that is fundamentally different from its other equilibrium states (as far as its properties are regarded). Here, transition from one phase to another is implied. Different states of the matter can have a demarcation line inbetween.
Phase transition is the matter changing its state driven by outer alteration.
If we check the equilibrium diagram of the system its transition takes place whenever its intensive parameters like temperature, pressure etc. change and when the system crosses the line between two phases.
metaphase sound machine IISound installation
The Metaphase Sound Machine is a tribute to the ideas of the American physicist Nick Herbert, who in the 1970s created both the Metaphase Typewriter and the Quantum Metaphone (a speech synthesizer). These were some of the first attempts to put quantum entanglement in practice. In order to achieve a quantum entangled state, Herbert used in his devices radioactive thallium, which was controlled by a Geiger sound objectradiation counter. The time interval between pulses was chosen as conversion code. Several psychics had participated in the experiments, they were trying to regulate the endless stream of random anagrams arising from a typewriter or produce “the ghost voice” from inside the metaphone. By the end of the XX century no substantial progress in this direction was observed. Herbert’s inventions and articles quite seriously compromised the ideas of quantum communication in the eyes of potential researchers.
The Metaphase Sound Machine is an object with 6 rotating disks. Each of the discs is equipped with acoustic sound source (a speaker) and a microphone. Each of the microphones is connected via computer and the rotary axis to the speakers on the disks. Also in the center of installation a Geiger-Mueller counter is set, that detects ionizing radiation in the surrounding area. The intervals between these particles influence rotation velocity of each of the disks. Essentially the object is an audio- and kinetic installation in which a sound is synthesized based on feedbacks, produced by microphones and speakers on rotating discs. Feedback whistles are used as triggers for more complex sound synthesis. Additional harmonic signal processing, as well as the volatility of the dynamic system, lead to the endless variations of sound.
attractor 2mKinetic sound object
The system longs to achieve a state of the permanence of sound, but can not save its state. More precisely, this dynamical system is defined by a solid torus, and for each iteration its angular coordinate doubles its value; thus the exponential divergence of trajectories and chaotic dynamics automatically arises from that. It is arranged as an (uncountable) massive of "threads" that reel around the solid torus.
Hotspot poetsInteractive network object
Set of autonomous micro-devices which create fake Wi-Fi networks, visible with any gadget such as a smartphone or a laptop. The devices automatically rename the networks every 10 seconds, taking as its names various lines of poems by famous poets. There are 4 objects in the set, each of them contains poems of one of the poets: Basho, Goethe, Pasternak and Petrarca.
Ra is a sound object/synthesizer which uses laser for scanning the irregularities of the surface of a pyrite disc and further transforms this data to produce sound. A pyrite disc is a rare form of pyrite which is crystallised in radial shape (as unusual disc spherulites) which also was named ‘pyrite suns’ or ‘pyrite dollars’. The only deposit where pyrites of such morphology are found is in Illinois (USA). Pyrite suns were formed around 300 million years ago.
"I consider this object to be a landmark for me, as it united several practices and technical skills as well as the new resources and ideas which I approach for the first time, such as the creation of the synthesizers and sound objects, collecting minerals, topic of rotation, Pure Data programming, Arduino and Python, working with servo and stepper motors, raspberry pi and lasers, etc.
What is also important for me in this project is addressing the topic of occult futurology as a concept which corresponds in the best way with my own artistic practices. In the first place, it can be seen in how Ra works with the perception of time — having prehistoric «unearthly» mineral as its base, it addresses medieval times through the notion of alchemy. It also sometimes carries Bach organ motives and brings the echoes of the electronic instruments of the midlle XX century, underlining all of this with lasers, code, noise and autonomy, all brought up in handicraft conditions."
black boxMultimedia installation
Black Box is a hybrid robotised object that uses data recorded during the “act of love”. When the robot was being created, a portable system was developed with “sensors” used during the “process” and a “home porno” video was also recorded and subsequently transferred to a super-low resolution (4x4 pixels). Then this information served as the input for the control algorithm of the robotic device.
This project was prompted by several ideas at once. I was driven primarily by a desire to depict love in its most physical embodiment, while at the same time using this process to generate a new object, which is as close as possible to the direct and figurative meaning of the word “procreate”. Another thought was based on the wish to create an object embodying the inevitable desire of devices of the future vested with artificial intelligence to try and understand the nature of the entity that procreated them — human beings.
Black Box is a term used to designate a system, whose internal structures and operating principle are very complex, unknown or unimportant within the framework of this task. The black box approach is a form of research of such systems when the reaction of the system as a whole to a changing environment is studied, but not its structures and the interaction of component parts of the system.
The project is based on the use of so-called ‘cellular automata’ to create audio and video images in real time.
A cellular automaton is a discrete model studied in mathematics, computational theory, physics, theoretical biology and micromechanics. It includes a regular grid of cells, each of which can be in one of a finite set of states, such as 1 and 0. The grid can be of any number dimension. Each cell is determined by a set of cells, called neighbourhood. A neighbourhood is defined by all the cells at a distance of no more than 2 from a certain one. To operate a cellular automaton, it is required to determine the initial state of all the cells and the rules of transition of cells from one state to another. At each iteration, a new state for each cell is determined by the transition rules and the state of the adjacent cells.
In famous book 'A New Kind of Science', the mathematician Stephen Wolfram shows that in nature one of the most convincing examples of cellular automata is the pattern on the shells of small tropical mollusks of the Conus family (in particular, Conus Textile and Conus Gloriamaris). This mollusk is extremely dangerous to humans and for a long time was considered one of the rarest types of seashells.
For the Conus installation artist selected 5 shells with the most complex and expressive patterns. Each shell is constantly scanned by home-made digital microscopes. A specially written computer algorithm transforms the images into control signals for the synthesis of sound (music) and visual images.
Failures of code reading may occur - the patterns on the shells are not correct and accurate as the graphic expression of a mathematical algorithm. A specially calculated digital failures (glitch) allows to level up both systems as both 'correct' and having a margin for error (mutation).
Created for an exhibition at LABORATORIA Art & Science Space, Moscow.
mayakInteractive network object
Ever since I was a child, I adored the display of information through light-emitting diodes, green ones especially (above all in telecommunications systems). For many years I would observe with wonder the behaviour of LEDs in network devices. One day my Wi-Fi router appeared to be particularly active in the display of data packet transmission. This led me to come up with the idea of transforming this flashing flow into something different, using the most primitive possible method of implementing it directly in the router’s hardware. I started selecting Wi-Fi routers with the most interesting data transmission interpretation algorithm, which could react rapidly and sensitively and display all developments on the network.
This is how the Mayak [Lighthouse] project was born — an interactive sound installation consisting of four modems connected to four Wi-Fi routers. The LED responsible for the display of the Wi-Fi-based data packet transmission from each of the routers is physically connected (by wire) to an Arduino board. Arduino formats and analyses the "flashing", issuing orders to the synthesizer generating sounds. The installation represents four open Wi-Fi Internet access points. By connecting to these points, visitors to the exhibition influence directly, through their network activity, a rhythmic sound generation process. When they check their e-mails or Instagram, send a notice by messenger, or simply load webpages, the user instantly receives feedback in the form of a change in the activity of the installation. As the routers I use have very rapid-response LEDs, I decided to focus on programming the “shortest” possible percussion sounds, forming a polyrhythmic structure for four voices. As a result, you end up with a kind of “voice of the Internet” – an orchestra of mad routers composing machine- based network techno.
Last breathWearable object
In 2019 I have been actively developing the concept of “passive instruments”. I understand passive instruments to be different multimedia objects that do not require management so much as co-existence with them based on relations born of a mutual “hybrid” symbiosis. “Last breath” is an example of such an instrument. The operating principle of the object is fairly simple — the exhaled air (its pressure and flow rate) activates the generative process, which depends on the exhalation parameters and is managed by the air movement in the organ. The object does not require any special playing technique, although any change in the breathing (either premeditated or caused by physiological factors) is directly influencing the play dynamics and also all the other parameters used to generate the sonic flow.
The idea of this project came to me during an emotional upheaval and concerns about my health that occurred all of a sudden. It is not as I had real grounds to worry about my life. On the other hand, however, the outcome is well-known and could happen at any moment. I don’t feel any existential fear of death. On the contrary the “transition” is a wonderful topic for studies as part of art practice. I consider this object to constitute a deathbed mask — a r itual instrument of dying that can be played with when I no longer have any strength to use any other instrument. Until my last breath. And the final representation of the object was formed on this basis: sterile cyber-gothic, new rituals, the organs that support the functioning of the organ.
Post code installation converts barcodes as a symbol of consumerism and the digital, virtual communications age into a device that encourages personal communication.
If you put any packing with a barcode to scanner, it will print postal glitch cards with the image generated from the digits encoded in and play sounds also generated from code.
СollectorInteractive sound installation
The machine records sounds from the surrounding space, selecting only the loudest ones (those which exceed a certain level). Then, the machine puts together a composition consisting of these sounds organized in the order they were recorded. The machine excludes silence and composes the music from the surrounding sounds, while compressing time. The voices, music, city sounds and other random noise are shaped into complex algorithmic compositions, which can be played after the recording device has collected enough of them. It is a kind of reality re-mixer.
The process has two phases, recording and playback. In the first phase, the machine records the surrounding sounds until it has gathered 100 samples. In the second phase, the object plays the resulting compositions in a loop through speakers for 1 minute, so that the compositions can be heard by everyone around. When in playback mode, the recording stops. After that, all sounds are erased and a new search begins.
Geological Trilogy is a series of three works, united by a common design principle and their method of development and implementation. Each of the projects can be defined as artistic research, whereby the installation is just one (key) element in the implementation of a complex project. Each of the projects was conceived and realized according to the following formula: creation of an installation; traveling with the object to the territory / place which the project explores; shooting a film / documentation covering the travel and exhibition processes; collecting materials and artifacts that complement the project. The result of each project is the installation’s final display together with the film, artifacts, and all other additional items: a one-work exhibition with the most expanded context possible.
The trilogy bears the name Geological because each of the projects explores a major natural or anthropogenic planetary / geological phenomenon: 12 262 looks at the superdeep Kola borehole; Guest — to the fall of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite; Takir — to the drying up of the Aral Sea.
Each of these projects also refers to the notion of deep media. Researcher and curator Dmitry Bulatov defines deep media as follows: “A very actively evolving area of research today, which is being developed at the intersection of contemporary art, philosophy and science. Deep media focus on the encounter with the impact of the earth’s physical components, water, and atmosphere (in particular magnetic, electric, and gravitational fields), as well as the substrate elements of modern technology (metals, salts, crystals, etc.). Compared to traditional media art that works with screen technologies, deep media art appears before us as a new type of vision, allowing a deeper technological mediation of matter. For example, whereas media art dealt with the production of computer images, deep media art considers these images from the point of view of the geological elements that make up the hardware, such as gold, copper, lead, and barium.”
The multimedia installation 12 262 is a tribute to the legendary Soviet project SG-3 (СГ-3), the Kola Superdeep Borehole, located a few kilometers away from the city of Zapolyarny in Murmansk region, inside the Arctic Circle. At the point when the Soviet Union collapsed, this purely research-oriented borehole was the deepest in the world at 12,262 meters. Like many other monumental projects of that time, after work stopped it was abandoned and plundered. Its ruins became a dicult-to-access place of pilgrimage for occasional tourists.
The borehole was shrouded in legend, mystery, and fabrications. Some speculated that it was part of a seismic weapon project of superior destructive capacity, while others believed that the Soviet Union wanted to drill a hole right down to hell. In the 1990s, an audio file allegedly recorded at the borehole appeared on the web, featuring noises like a horror film soundtrack. A great deal of acoustic research really was conducted at the borehole — earth wobble and wave propagation attracted researchers no less than geology did. This is why sound is the main element of this work.
The project is a sound installation that uses data decoded from a punched tape in real time. It is unclear what exactly is recorded on the tape. It could be research data, a program for controlling equipment, a report on research work completed. Today, it is impossible to find a system supporting punched tapes adapted for modern computers. I have designed a digital optical system capable of reading coded information. In addition, computer punched tapes are similar to early-20th-century pianola punched tapes or musical boxes, which was another reason for converting the data into sound.
Some years ago, the artist visited the borehole and found a roll of punched tape in rusty water inside the wrecked laboratories. This roll, extracted from a computer at the scientific station, was the starting point for the creation of this work.
The installation’s master controller uses a special algorithm to gradually decipher the tape and give commands to five kinetic sound generators, which are miniature drilling mechanisms. After receiving the command, each of them begins drilling small samples of stones taken from the core of the borehole. When the research station was operational, tons of core samples were extracted to be used for research. For several years I have bought such samples at auctions and from collectors. They became a trophy for geology lovers after the station closed.
The drilling sound from small fragments split away from such core stones is amplified, processed, and thereby becomes the base for the infinite sound composition created by the machine. It can be said that the whole installation is a kind of a drilling rig model, an artwork combining media archeology and geology, kinetic art and myths of a collapsed empire, sounds of mechanisms and darkness of deep depths.
In July 2018, the artist went to visit station SG-3 to resume the drilling process after 28 years of inactivity.
Created as a part of the Open Lab project for the exhibition TECHNE. Prologue at the National Center for Contemporary Arts (ROSIZO), Moscow.
The main element of the work is a system of three robotic mechanisms which interact with small iron meteorites (fragments and individual specimens). The interaction can be summed up as follows: at the start of the cycle, an automatic manipulator with a small passive magnet, to which the meteorites are magnetized, slides toward a powerful alternating magnetic field created by an induction coil. As a result, the meteorites become red hot within a short period of time (not more than a minute), attaining the approximate temperature of a falling meteorite that has entered the upper atmosphere. After attaining a temperature of around 750 degrees Celsius, the meteorites lose their magnetic properties (reach the Curie point) and become uncoupled from the manipulator, ending up in a special container. An infrared camera in the container holding the red-hot meteorite transforms the thermal radiation into a picture. The cameras are connected to a small computer which analyzes the temperature of the gradually cooling meteorites. The temperature data are pegged to the height of pitch of a simple sinusoidal generator, which reveals that the cooling of the meteorites leads to a gradual and modulated reduction of the sound pitch of the generator. After reaching ambient temperature, the meteorites are again hooked up to the magnetic manipulator (the meteorites recover their magnetic properties on cooling) and again ascend to the heating coil, launching the cycle anew.
As several meteorites diering in mass and size are used in the system simultaneously, all three mechanisms exist in dierent time cycles, with discordant phases, resulting in the emergence of common chords arising from the generators, which resonate simultaneously but record dierent temperatures.
To all intents and purposes, the installation is a cyclical system modeling the time of “arrival” of meteorites on earth, a virtually imperceptible and extremely rare situation. The main driver and inspiration for this work was the appearance in my geological collection of several individual fragments of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite, which fell in the Russian Far East in 1947. This meteorite is unique for a number of reasons: it is the largest iron meteorite in recent history; its fall was witnessed by numerous people, including the artist Nikolaev, who was working outdoors at the time it fell and documented his impressions in a painting that became very popular in the Soviet Union; and it is the most studied object to have ever fallen to earth. Slivers and individual fragments can still be found at the point of impact.
The incredible draw of such rare “guests” from space prompted me to launch artistic research involving those trends in new media art of most interest to me: natural and artificial electromagnetism, work with sound, robotic automated systems, geology, astrophysics and astrogeology. Each of these topics represents a way of attaining a holistic artistic image, yet is also a separate mechanism, establishing a synergy of separate aspects of the work. Implementation of the project involves not only the creation of the object itself, but also a journey with it to the village named Meteorite, which is located near the point of impact in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains (Primorsky Region).
The culmination of the project was the siting of the installation in one of the craters remaining from a fragment of the meteorite, which exploded in the atmosphere. This was an idiosyncratic way of recreating the time of impact directly at the point of impact. Such a journey could be called a pilgrimage/investigation combined with the shooting of a short documentary about the whole process. Most of the meteorites used in the installation were found in one of the craters during the trip. Some samples were acquired from residents of the settlements near the point of impact.
The final format of the exhibit consists of a demonstration of the actual installation, as well as the film made during the trip and archival materials related to the project: books, large meteorite fragments, diagrams, and maps.
The project was created thanks to the NOVA ART Grant, received as part of the NOVA ART CONTEST. The expedition to Sikhote-Alin was organized and carried out with the support of Zarya Center for Contemporary Art, Vladivostok.
The final project of the Geological Trilogy, this hybrid installation is a system that simulates the process of transforming the seabed into a desert, a takir relief. Takir usually forms in flat basins. After a shallow layer of water dries up, the viscous, muddy bottom is exposed, the surface layer of dries and decreases in volume, forming a crust broken by cracks into separate polyangular slabs of various shapes and sizes. The surface area of these slabs depends on the composition of the bottom sediments (takir soils), the degree of salinity, the way in which it dries, etc. Takirs are formed when the groundwater horizon is more than 1.5 meters. Under such conditions, the salts enter the groundwater and return through the capillaries.
Takirs are typical of the deserts of Asia’s subboreal belt. The area of individual takirs is determined by the area of the internal-drainage basin. It is the bed of the drying lake that forms the takir, and it can measure tens of square kilometers.
Similar processes are now taking place in the basin of the dried up Aral Sea, to which this work is dedicated. Once the world’s largest saline endorheic (closed) lake, the depth of the Aral Sea began to decline sharply in the 1960s due to anthropogenic and natural factors. By the beginning of the twenty-first century it had almost completely disappeared. This is one of the largest environmental disasters caused by human activity and inept distribution of resources in the Soviet Union. In parallel with the drying of the sea, a desert gradually emerged on its surface area, which completely changed the landscape of the sea relief and the region’s ecological situation. Every year, the water either fills the lower parts of the bottom again or completely dries up, depending on the flow of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. Year after year, such fluctuations transform the surface of the dry sea from a desert to a seabed. These processes are currently the subject of active study by ecologists, geologists, and oceanographers, since they allow scientists to trace a number of phenomena that occur during such rapid metamorphoses.
The operating principle of the installation repeats these oscillatory processes. Samples of the clay bottom are either transformed into a liquid mass or dried out under hot air blown from special compressors. The dried substance cracks and forms a micro-model of the takir landscape. The cameras installed above the containers with the substance record the ongoing process, and a special algorithm turns the resulting cracked pattern into soundscapes. After some time, the containers are filled with water again, the “bottom” is stirred into a homogeneous mass by a special robotic system, and the cycle repeats itself.
Like the other two projects in the trilogy (12 262 and Guest), the completed installation was supposed to travel to the Aral Sea and be installed on the former seabed. However, the pandemic prevented these plans from being realized. The Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea was ready to support the trip, which was conceived as a joint expedition involving a large group of environmental scientists to the most complex and interesting points of the seabed. In this context, one must note that while the sea still existed, a special military laboratory engaged in the research, development, and production of biological weapons was located on one of the islands at its center, Vozrozhdeniya Island. The location was selected due to its isolation and inaccessibility. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union this territory has become increasingly accessible, which is of serious concern to the experts.