Tech+Art Podcast: Espen Kluge

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OVERVIEW

Welcome to the new Tech+Art Podcast!

Join us on this adventure as we meet & speak with: artists, makers, researchers, designers and creators from all background and fields.

Our objective is to understand their creative perspective, dive into their workflow & creative process, be inspired by new ideas and their work – and stay one step ahead of cutting-edge industry developments.

"You can work together with the generative part of the visual art in a way that you get to be creative all the time by having the computer sort of present you some sort of magical variable that you might not have come up with yourself."

IN THIS EPISODE...

In this episode, we’re chatting with Espen Kluge, Espen Kluge is a film composer, visual artist & coder. His generative art series “Alternatives”, was featured in a gallery opening with Kate Voss in Switzerland.

Recording this episode with Espen was fantastic and provided a unique insight into the creative mind and and important conversation around mental health and creativity.

Question 1: When you mentioned thriving in a chaotic creative environment - alternating between knowing and not knowing certain aspects of the project. How do you get into that state? How do you manage to still be “productive” in the sense that you don’t get lost, and since you create music as well as scripts for code-based art, is this state the same for both mediums or is your approach different somehow?

[ 6:08 ] – And I would like to think that everyone who is doing stuff like creative programming, making music or being an artist, you know, it’s hard to pinpoint the time when you get an idea, where it comes from, what the process from the idea to sort of the first prototype of that idea is. But I think the best sort of queue for me is when I dive into a general subject – that subject might be a chord progression or it might be an idea of something I want to do visually in a script or something like that. And then instead of being very goal oriented and sketching out what the result might be in a sort of static photoshop sketch, it’s more like I just see where it takes me and try to take advantage of the opportunities that coincidences create.

[ 6:51 ] – I like to try and take some code that I find that’s really interesting, change it and maybe inform my own programming in that way, but not necessarily trying to understand all of the underlying aspects of the programming. I found that I thrive best in working that way through trying to learn programming in a very deep and thorough way from the beginning. And I found myself sort of not being very happy in how quickly I progressed.

[ 7:41 ] – But I like that though. I like the struggle too. That’s where a lot of the magic happens.

Question 2: So how do you not get frustrated with that “creative struggle”? Do you have any tips on how to navigate that?

[ 7:50 ] – Well, honestly, I’m bipolar and I really don’t mind talking about this […] I used to go through these phases of hypomania, which means that you get all of this energy and all of this motivation. It might not make you smarter or better at thinking but it makes your motivation just go a thousand percent. If you have an idea, you’re never going to stop until you meet some sort of goal. So that has been the spark of a lot of my projects, it’s been sort of the beginning to some of my projects. There’s a downside to that as well, but the upside is that you thrive in these chaotic states.

Question 3: Since you’re so receptive to sharing more about being bipolar - and pardon my ignorance in any way - but can you tell us a little more about your journey to get to this point and what role bipolarism plays in your daily life and workflow? What’s your way of “living with it” if you will?

[ 9:43 ] – […] bipolar is the opposite of being stable in terms of energy and being positively minded and negatively minded. Being high is sort of like being really happy and being low is being sort of depressive. And those states give you something that you don’t have when you’re in the middle of the whole thing. So I’ve experienced those highs and lows for so many years, and now that they’re gone – the way that I like to think of it is that ‘well I’ve learned something and it’s up to me to bring that with me into my creative life in the best way’. And I think I’m doing that. But I find myself thriving better in working in a really systematic way. So everyday I’ve got my very systematic list that I go through and I wouldn’t have been able to do that before.

[ 10:25 ] – But the chaotic way of thinking and getting ideas from left and right and sort of feeling that I can do anything – that’s totally gone. But I don’t feel a lack of good ideas or I don’t feel a lack of motivation and doing creative stuff at all. It is different, but I don’t think it’s more negative or less creative. But a lot of people in my situation who are creative or productive people, feel that they lose some of that when they go into medication, but I don’t really feel less productive. And quite honestly, I wouldn’t be able to have a good life – regardless of creative work – I wouldn’t be able to have a good life without being medicated I don’t think.

[ 11:35 ] – […] so many people struggle with it and don’t know how to sort of go about in the world, talking about it – even though it’s such a big part of their lives.

[ 12:41 ] – Learning something new is a magical thing. You get to be in that chaotic state where you don’t know anything and you’re just trying to figure it out.

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Question 4: Can you tell us more about this project and how you came to making generative portraiture?

[ 13:40 ] – In 2013 I did an everyday project […] and I tried to do it as a way of being creative, but not taking too much time. So I tried to make it very quick. But it escalated into this thing, where the first 30 I did in an hour, but the next 10 I spent two or three hours per week.

[ 14:31 ] – In January, I wanted to use this script that I’d created ages ago to instead of just being a logo in HTML 5 canvas thing on my website – maybe I could expand on it and make it into some sort of portraiture, generative art type of thing. […] And I thought this script was capable of some pretty cool things and I had some ideas on how to expand on it.

[ 15:21] – From Number 1 to Number 100, it was a real adventure I’d say. Just trying to figure out the aesthetical preferences that I might have and just going into different avenues and challenging myself in terms of… well I got some feedback […] and so I tried to sort of explore those contrasts and add a little bit to the script to make more variation.

Question 5: So what was your process in terms of building that first version of the script and then modifying it based on feedback or aesthetic effects? How did you mix code and design to achieve your vision?

[16:19 ] – You’re touching on something that’s got to do with the generative concept – right? Because you’re not the only person making this art. The computer is sort of a partner, or it’s a curator or something like that. So part of the process that I’m using in this project is that I make maybe 20 different versions of each portrait and I have these random elements and I have custom elements that are different for each of the versions and I just generate them and have a look at each one of them. So it’s sort of like a line-up and I get to choose which one that I like. That’s a really cool process, because I’m not calculating that much […] I get to be an audience. I get to go into a gallery that I’ve created together with someone and I get to critique it.

[ 17:07 ] – The most successful ones, in terms of which ones I like the best, are just total coincidences. The coolness of that piece is not generated by me. It’s just a script that did something random that really turned out cool looking. […] I really like to work together with the computer because it’s random.

[ 18:14 ] – That’s what you can do with generative art as well. You can work together with the generative part of the visual art in a way that you get to be creative all the time by having the computer sort of present you some sort of magical variable that you might not have come up with yourself.

Question 6: Maybe you can add in perspective from your previous work like your first app that enabled others to make music - but what do you think is missing in terms of tools that empower other creators? Including yourself? What is missing from your workflow?

[ 21:28 ] – A lot of people are trying to simplify something – programming, they are trying to simplify generative art making – I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad idea to do something like that. Trying to create a node-based interface or something like that. There’s a lot of node-based stuff that’s awesome by the way. But a lot of the creativity sort of comes from the complexity of these things as well I think. Well for me that’s correct anyways. It might not be like that for other people. And I think that’s valid for me because it gets to be in a chaotic and complex world, where not everything is really simple. Is there any advice that you would share with other creators or a younger version of yourself – especially around concerns about mental health and finding your path as a creative?

[ 22:51 ] – My creative projects haven’t necessarily had their birth from wanting to have this great product or result where I can show this to the world. It’s been more sort of a way to hide myself – a nice space to hide myself. […] If you have motivation to do something, you’ll find a way. Everyone has their own way to get into it.

RESOURCES

Here are all the most important links/resources mentioned throughout the episode:

Espen’s Website

Espen on Twitter

Espen on Instagram

Interview with Artnome

Alternatives by Espen Kluge  

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