Signal from the Void

Setting up BLACKTOP/DISSECTION - Niko Skorpio - GalleriaKONE

Installing the exhibition at GalleriaKONE. Photo by Satu Karhumaa.

For the last few months I’ve been mostly absent from all social contacts (virtual and otherwise) apart from what’s absolutely necessary. It’s a common side effect when I focus all my thoughts and energy to something I’m working on. It is an internal process to which social chatter is distractive and disruptive, even. (Having said that, my sincere apology to all friends & associates I’ve unintentionally neglected recently… I miss you and wish to have a chat over coffee/beer/etc asap!)

The last few months I worked intensively to finalize the work that is now out there as BLACKTOP/DISSECTION. The whole process was rather lengthy, beginning some two and half years ago as my MA thesis. After completing the thesis the work continued and expanded to new levels of depth.

I feel like I’ve been held captive by this work for the last few months (and more). It has made me drive the highways, trawl the forest paths and dig through my archives in search for material. It has woken me up in the early hours with ideas for editing, composing and fear of failure. Now that it’s out there in the world I finally feel free. It turned out right and the current gallery presentation is fine.

It is likely, though, there will be other works related to this one. It’s been a long process and many aspects researched and developed are not yet present in the current incarnation. For instance, a lot of sound and music was made, out of which only a small portion is currently audible in the installation. Having worked in the context of album-length music for many years, I automatically think about making an album out of these sounds… but let’s see how things turn out.

The feelings I’m currently having make me think about the fluctuation of energy related to the creative process. (Note to science buffs: I’m writing about ‘vital energy’ which is somewhat mysterious and esoteric and may not follow the known laws of physics, so bear with me.) After investing a great deal of vital energy to a process, the energy is released in the form of a completed artwork (or something else, depending on the process of course). A period marked by exhaustion often follows. The shortage of energy feels like a vacuum within. The vacuum’s tendency towards implosion has some similarities to feelings of burnout, depression and the like, and it may lead to those if not handled with care and proper attention to what’s going on.

The void will eventually be filled with new energy. Sometimes, the void draws in unhealty energy that may manifest as depression, mania or other ‘malfunctions’ of the mind. I’m sure every creative person intuitively knows this, but not everyone is consciously aware or capable of dealing with it. I’ve had my share of depression and other woes in the past and, although having learnt a thing or two about myself and these processes over the years, will probably have some more in the future.

As of right now, though, I’m acutely observing this fine balance of an attractive void to be saturated by various kinds of energies circling around it.
Imagine a spiral of stars around a massive black hole…
I don’t remember having observed this ‘background process’ this consciously before. Obviously my interest lies in the direction of energies, inviting positives and banishing negatives. Now that there’s time for rest and recreation and no pressure (internal or otherwise) to initiate a new project (even though there are plenty waiting on the drawing board… they can wait), the odds should be on my side.

I may post more about this shortly. Or perhaps, this self-research could form the basis for an altogether new work. Remains to be seen.

BLACKTOP/DISSECTION @ Hämeen Sanomat

Hämeen Sanomat / Kulttuuri 3.30.2019:

Road movie vaihtui ilmastoon
Niko Skorpio haluaa installaatiollaan saada katsojan pohtimaan omaa suhdettaan ilmastonmuutokseen ja kulutuskulttuuriin.

www-versio jutusta:
Niko Skorpio pohtii installaatiossaan kulutusta ja ympäristöä, muttei tarjoa valmiita vastauksia

Näyttely on avoinna 23.4. asti, vapaa pääsy. Olen tavattavissa galleriassa tiistaina 23.4. klo 17-18. Galleriassa myös ohjattu hitaan taiteen hetki lauantaina 6.4. klo 13-14.

Niko Skorpio
BLACKTOP/DISSECTION
GalleriaKONE 30.3.–23.4.2019
Verkatehdas, Hämeenlinna
www.galleriakone.fi
www.nikoskorpio.net

BLACKTOP/DISSECTION premiere

To briefly break the silence, my next solo show opens on Friday the 29th March at GalleriaKONE, Hämeenlinna. It’s the premiere of my new work called BLACKTOP/DISSECTION, a two-part two-channel video installation.

Have a look at GalleriaKONE for more info. Those on Facebook may wish to check the event page there.

More about this work, my recent absence from these digital dimensions and other things will follow… soon(er or later).

Lithographic prints for sale

Posted a selection of lithographic art prints I made a couple of years back on Instagram, willing to part with these, if you’re interested in obtaining one or more please get in touch. The pics posted are cropped & optimized for Instagram, full images of the prints available on request.

As of writing this there are reservations on a couple but don’t hesitate to inquire. Thanks!

“Secret Chief I” (detail)
(2012)
Tpl’a 1/2
28cm x 17cm
“Sunya (OneEye)” (detail)
(2012)
Test print 1/1
25cm x 22cm
“X X X” (detail)
(2015)
Tpl’a 1/1
18cm x 29cm
“Flapper” (detail)
(2012)
Tpl’a 1/1
25cm x 17cm
“Circuits”
(2015)
Tpl’a 1/1
28cm x 21cm
“Sunya” (detail)
(2012)
Tpl’a 2/2
28cm x 21cm
“Selfie via Kurenniemi”
(2015)
Tpl’a 1/1
19cm x 24cm
“Descent”
(2015)
Tpl’a 1/1
30cm x 21cm
“Tuduur” (detail)
(2012)
Tpl’a 1/1
22cm x 30cm
“Morphic Resonance” (detail)
(2015)
Tpl’a 1/1
28cm x 19cm
“Descent (Tard)”
(2015)
Tpl’a 1/1
30cm x 21cm
“Ruudut”
(2012)
Tpl’a 1/2
22cm x 30cm

All of the above are xerox lithographies, my favourite printmaking technique. Every plate is unique, edition here means how many plates with a similar motif and design were made in the session.

Uneasy Ride – Chasing Freedom, Facing Devastation

My Master of Arts thesis for Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture is called Uneasy Ride. It consists of an artistic part, a cinematic installation, and a written part called Uneasy Ride: Chasing Freedom, Facing Devastation, presented in the form of a 80-page book. Completed in September 2018.

A batch of thesis books fresh from the press.

Abstract

This thesis examines the essential themes of the road movie film genre and their relation to certain contemporary issues and my own artistic practice. The point of view is that of a visual artist who works with moving image and sound and who reveres sovereignty and equality, suffers from climate anxiety and drives an automobile. In addition to the written part, the thesis consists of an artistic production which is a video installation.

The research material consists of a selection of films, beginning with classic American road movies. The thesis also examines a number of films that are not road movies per se, but they serve as a continuation of the themes, illustrating a vision of a near future that is undesirable but at worst inevitable. Additionally the text examines selected experimental films that are either relevant to the subject matter or influential to the author’s working methods and aesthetic practices. The literary research material includes books and articles that elaborate on the themes brought forth in the films from various points of view.

The research begins with various phenomena influential to the emergence of the road movie genre, from the developments in cinema and technology to the counterculture movements of the 1960s. The themes selected for further study are the pursuit of freedom, the rebellion, and the transformation of the passenger enabled by the journey. The themes are entwined with the Western notions of freedom and the human condition, the long history of consciousness expansion, and environmental disasters.

Additionally the text describes the two-channel video installation also called Uneasy Ride. The artistic process at the crossroads of image, sound and the selected themes is discussed. Most of the material for the work was filmed on the road. The filming trips and the writing overlapped and influenced each other, in particular the experiences of being on the road sustained the written part.

The written part of the thesis uses the films as a metaphor of the human condition and the current global problems surrounding us. The artistic part attempts to communicate on an emotional level and by audiovisual means something unattainable by words alone.

311098 Tapes

There were no photos or recordings from the event. I only had some memories. Like the ceiling above stage constantly rumbling to low end frequencies. People in the audience sitting on the floor, eyes closed. Someone telling me it sounded like Op:l Bastards; a compliment although very misguided.

And then I had the source tapes (and minidiscs) I had prepared for the gig.

According to some research we unconsciously modify our memories and possibly create false memories over time. Now, I’ve deliberately made a false memory of sorts. Here’s a live recording from October 2018, made using those source tapes prepared 20 years ago.

I’m sharing this to whoever has some 40+ minutes to focus on sound alone – preferably on the floor, with eyes closed. Rumbling ceiling optional.

DOWNLOAD:

20 years ago – Grey Bloom

20 years ago today, I released my debut solo album. I called it Grey Bloom [xero vol zero] and put it out on 12″ vinyl on my own small underground label Some Place Else. Always thinking bigger than my resources allow, it was supposed to be followed shortly by another LP with a related theme and tracks recorded at the same period. The album’s subtitle was supposed to refer to that, though in retrospect it seems like a planned one-off… “vol zero” ? Anyways, plans changed, other things came up and the follow-up got buried and forgotten.

Grey Bloom was a rather bleak and minimal album recorded with a very lo-fi setup that included a 486 PC computer (for some basic sound generation), a delay pedal, a bass guitar, some cheap keyboard, fm radio etc, recorded with a 4-tracker and mixed down to a minidisc (which I had just acquired to ‘upgrade’ from C-cassette masters).

The pinnacle of the album’s success for me happened when Jukka Mikkola played it on his radio show Avaruusromuathe legendary Finnish show for experimental and ambient music through which I had learned about the likes of Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno and more, back in the early 1990’s. It was absolutely the greatest honour that could have happened to the album, I was so happy about that!

This summer I’ve looked back and spent a few days with my old tape archive, going through master tapes and original 4-track recordings, to refresh my memory on past deeds a bit, and to transfer everything to digital. There are plenty of recordings that never ended up on a release, and to my surprise I found some of them a lot more interesting than what I chose to release back then. It’s all lo-fi sound collage type experiments recorded on a 4-track, so there’s a particular charm of tape hiss and other artifacts involved. Selected bits may come out in some form in the future, those interested should stay tuned on this frequency.

Helsinki Computer Orchestra @ Avanto Festival 2003

A surprise find on YouTube: Helsinki Computer Orchestra performs Shinji Kanki’s piece “PCM 0355+53” at Avanto Festival, Helsinki, November 2003. 

The rotating camera captured the show. Composer Shinji Kanki conducts the orchestra that on this occasion featured Tommi Keränen (HCO founder), Pilvari ‘Nosfe’ Pirtola, Jusu Vehviläinen (Pink Twins), Ovro, Ibrahim Terzic, O Samuli A, Jukka Vallisto (Lost Weight / Half A Map), Emi Maeda, Lauri Luhta, myself and some others I fail to remember at this time (sorry). 

I was in the dolphin section, the role of which was to imitate the pulse sounds that the dolphin language is based on. My setup, based on Reaktor modular environment, was a rather simple but accurate sine wave pulse generator.

Interesting to listen to this after almost 15 years from its performance — it still sounds awesome, especially the latter half where the piece gets going and reaches a kind of energetic equilibrium.

Helsinki Computer Orchestra rehearsals at Sibelius Academy.
Photo by Shinji Kanki. 

Related:
Shinji Kanki – PCM 0355+53
Avanto Festival info on HCO

Artist’s Work Hours

Media-archaeological excavations

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There’s the notion that the artist is always as work, even if it doesn’t always seem like it. At least some parts of their brain are at work. I have to agree, and often it’s not the question of choice but simply the way the mind works.  A fresh example follows. 

Yesterday I borrowed an old VCR (my own VCRs had been dead long ago) to check out some tapes I made 20+ years ago (more about them later). To test the player I grabbed the first VHS tape I found from my storage. It turned out to be The Hunger (1983), directed by Tony Scott and starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie and Susan Sarandon. Unfortunately but perhaps not unexpectably, the old VCR turned out so hungry it ate the video tape right up! I don’t blame the player, it is totally understandable by circumstances – shelved away like the decaying former partners in the vampire queen’s attic in the film would make anyone crave for anything to chew on. 

The Hunger of the VCR / media-archaeological excavations pt.2

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Anyways, I turned to more imminent things on my ToDo-list, making my way towards a thing that had a deadline set for tomorrow (ie. today). The thing was an assignment for a film course by renowned artist-researcher-lecturer Kari Yli-Annala, on topics related to hauntology, Russian cosmism, David Lynch and whatnot. So I had that in the back of my mind while doing the other stuff on my list… but the day grew short and I had to push the assignment over to the last day and get some sleep. 

(Zzz…)

One of my dogs woke me up at 3 am to let him run his errands outside. After, I went back to bed but couldn’t get sleep. Something was bubbling under in the unconscious and kept me awake. And it suddenly dawned on me I had practically done the course assignment unknowingly! Hauntology, the VHS and the VCR, The Hunger… it’s all there and just needs some camera work and writing as a red thread to connect the dots. 

(Coffee & work ensues…)

Now it’s 7 am and I’m writing this down for personal amusement, having mostly finished the assignment as well as a small media art piece (or two) related to that. More about those later; the Instagram photos here are merely for fun and documentation. This note is to illustrate how the ‘office hours’ are sometimes so off.. and… that the conscious mind is not always up to date on what’s going on. 

Niko Skorpio on Vimeo

I still agree with David Lynch on what he says on the video above, about watching movies on an iPhone. That was a decade ago, but the point remains. It’s impossible to achieve the kind of immersion that you get on a large screen in a dark movie theater, no matter how pristine your phone’s or tablet’s retina screen is.

For similar reasons, I’ve been hesitant to share online some of my videos and cinematic works, since many of them are installations designed for specific site and setting. Oneline, one cannot achieve the same experience as on large projections, special screens and darkened spaces.

Now I’ve partly changed my mind. I still think one should experience the works in the environment and setting meant for them, but if that’s not possible, online streaming is better than nothing at all.

That said, my video works from 2011-2017 (most of them, at least) can now be viewed on Vimeo. They’re also found on my website where there’s more info, stills, photos and related stuff.

vimeo.com/nikoskorpio

www.nikoskorpio.net

So, feel free to watch wherever, whenever and however you prefer. In general: the larger the screen, the louder the sound, the darker the room, the fewer the people and other distractions between you and the work, the better.