"Every day I would find a café, get a 16oz drip coffee and buckle down to stare at Ableton and produce for about eight hours, after which I would go to whatever shows or events looked interesting that night and hope to happen upon a friend who would allow me to crash on their futon/couch/floor. "
Arielle Herman, on the pain and process that led to the realisation of her newly released, self-directed video: 'Physicality'.
Much has been postured about the "Millennial DIY ethic" - a generational bringing together of technology, creativity and entrepreneurism - primarily focussing on the overarching this-is-how-they-do-its of active participation, individual customisation, and experiential value; at least, this is how brands looking to tap into their interests, and as such their purse strings, see it. However, putting aside the - so dry it's arid - positioning of Millennials as just purely movers and shakers of markets, in favour of actually meeting and not merely tapping into the tracks of 75.4 plus million people - the largest living generation in the United States alone - the who's, the whys and the 'WOW that's cool AF though!' elements, somehow seem more relevant and life affirming.
And let's face it: We could all do with a spoon full of (positively rushy) super cool sugar right now.
So on that note, we present to you 'QUALIATIK': the multimedia project of producer, singer, songwriter, and new media artist Arielle Herman, whose progressive, beat-driven experimental pop-ethereal music video 'Physicality' just premiered on Paper Magazine; the product of a life-long interest in the human experience, via the Study of Neuroscience at Haverford and peppered with projects; exploring the projection of participants brainwaves during an interactive performance, no less.
PSYCHED YET? Well, in setting up Ello Future just over a year ago, it's women like Arielle - whose work, perspective and future-focussed redefining of concepts - who we were itching to meet and write about, because DAY-M, if her story, (told through an interview in two parts here) and brilliant redefining of what it means to be an Auteur across the New Media spectrum doesn't inspire you: IDK, we can't help! :SOS:
PRESS PLAY: We asked Arielle if she could compile us a playlist of her favourite sounds, which you can find via this link: QUALIATIK X ELLO FUTURE (Full track list at the end of the post)
ELLO FUTURE MEETS QUALIATIK: PART 1
ELLO FUTURE: You were studying Neuroscience when you first started making music - what was the catalyst for that transition?
QUALIATIK: It was less of a transition and more of a surrender, triggered by kind of a premature quarter-life crisis on my 20th birthday when I realised my teenage years were gone and I hadn’t lived as “myself” yet; whatever that means. I got into Neuroscience in the first place because of the same fascination with the human mind that fuels all of my work and obsessions to this day, so the divergence between the two interests did not lay in their subject matter but in how I actually related to that subject matter and how immersive I allowed my experience of it to be. In school, it was a detached, analytical kind of observation of the human mind, which left me feeling really empty and hollow. I felt this internal pressure to engage with my own brain in a visceral, personal, and unapologetically embodied way, and as soon as I started making music it kind of bashed the floodgates and all of a sudden I was just in it, finally learning how to let go of control.
ELLO FUTURE: While studying at Haverford, you were awarded a grant to project people's brainwaves during an interactive performance. Can you talk us through the goals of that project and what you did to illustrate the inseparable nature of subjective experience, aesthetic experience and neural activity?
QUALIATIK: The grant project, which was called Qualia (from the latin quale for subjective experience), aimed to let audience members manipulate each other’s subjective experience, and therefore neural activity, as seen through brainwave projections. The original goal of the project was to create a pathway that interfaced between the audience, MIDI synths in Ableton, an EEG arduino, and algorithmic visuals. Essentially, an audience member could walk in, play with a MIDI controller to alter an aspect of the music, and watch as an another audience member’s EEG signal shifted on the wall in response, as well as observe live visuals morphing along with the brainwave activity.
Logistically, audience members were to have access to MIDI controllers that would alter the frequency of a synth oscillation within a specified range, and a MaxMSP program would confer the frequency of the synth oscillation to a flashing light placed in front of another audience member who volunteered to be wired to the EEG arduino. Electrodes were to be placed on the visual cortex of the volunteer, where neurons would entrain to the frequency of the flashing light as it moved throughout the specified range via the audience-manipulated MIDI controller. An algorithm would extract amplitude values from the EEG signal and alter abstract visuals in response. The space would also be visually interactive, where audience members could change the colors of the lights and different images projected onto the walls in addition to the music, all with an awareness that in doing so, they are manipulating the qualia—or subjective experience—of other audience members. The direct wired pathway to altering EEG signals in real-time was intended to illuminate the fact that your “qualia” is really your neural activity, and that by changing each other’s aesthetic experiences, the audience was really changing each other’s brain activity. I also wanted to make experience-related brain activity tangible, obvious, and interesting to watch, and help develop an appreciation for the beauty of the brain in making us feel emotional, inspired, or creatively stimulated.
"I am really interested in taking the idea into the realms of virtual reality and augmented reality, and working with other new media creatives on this extremely exciting junction of art, technology, science, and sociology."
At the time, I did not know nearly enough about programming to design and test every aspect of the pathway in the four months between the proposal and the presentation while actively attending school, so I had to settle for creating a space that allowed people to alter each other’s qualia through visual interaction, and where the audience could participate in the EEG station and just see that there’s some electrical activity going on up there. It felt like a really awesome protype for a larger project I hope to do in the future, and also served as my doorway to the new media world, which I was somehow entirely unfamiliar with until completing the project! I am really interested in taking the idea into the realms of virtual reality and augmented reality, and working with other new media creatives on this extremely exciting junction of art, technology, science, and sociology.
ELLO FUTURE: In terms of the Physicality project, where did you begin, or what did you create first after you had the initial idea? Can you talk us through the process from the inception of the idea to directing the video.
QUALIATIK: I spent a solid few months just in ideation, and I have about 40 pages in a notebook of doodles, brainstorms, and ideas from that time. The concept of making a video was, though exciting, extremely overwhelming, as I had no clue where to start and knew nothing about filming, lighting, composition, planning, or any of the things you need to know to make a video with a high production value. I knew I wanted to use CGI in some respect and that I was trying to express a conflict within the self. I started by mapping out the moods I was trying to elicit in the video and different archetypes that evoke those moods in me, and made a Tumblr to compile images in a mosaic format so I could see them all together. A lot of the ideation phase was just teasing out everything that came to mind and letting my subconscious sort through it along the way. I think that leads to a more informed approach when it comes time to actually create, because the ideas have been synthesized on an intuitive level. That sounds really weird but a lot of my process is just feeding my brain heaps of “stuff” and trusting it to mould the ideas into some tangible form and dust the residue off the surface to reveal some finished product. So, in a big way, the process is very spontaneous and uncontrolled, which can be frightening when you’re feeling creatively insecure... To be continued.
Catch Part 2 of our in depth interview with Arielle Herman on Thursday - 24 November 2016.
Ciao for now,
Lydia & Becky xoxo
All images courtesy of Arielle Herman
QUALIATIK X ELLO FUTURE SPOTIFY PLAYLIST
A*Teens - Slammin’ Kinda Love
Mssingno - Fones
ivy - Ocean City Girl
Cocteau Twins - Serpentskirt
Outkast - Humble Mumble
Gang Gang Dance - Mindkilla
Gatekeeper - Storm Column
Holly Herndon - Fade
Gorillaz - Dare
Of Montreal - Heimdalsgate Like A Promethian Curse
Silversun Pickups - Panic Switch
Depeche Mode - Enjoy the Silence
Doldrums - Anomaly
Bang Gang - Inside
Zero 7 - Passing By
Jon Hopkins - Abandon Window
Burial - Archangel
First Aid Kit - Ghost Town
Deptford Goth - Union
Cocorosie - Werewolf
Air - Cherry Blossom Girl
Mazzy Star - Fade Into You
múm - Nightly Cares
Sufjan Stevens - Fourth of July
Fiona Apple - Every Single Night
Lana Del Rey - Bel Air