Boosting creativity through technology

                                                                               Francesca Fini performing at the SRFTI , Kolkata
Francesca Fini is an Italian artist working with mixed media, video and per- formance art. Her live projects, always addressing social and political issues, are mixed with lo-fi technology, homemade interaction design devices, live audio and video. She speaks to Abhijit Ganguly on the sidelines of Ghosts of Shakespeare Festival, 2014, organized by the Arshinagar project.

Some would say that technology and music should be separate disciplines; that technology does not represent humans and instruments interacting. What can you say about this?

I believe that nothing is separable in the perspective of human endeavour. I think that everything that man has developed so far as a tool to progress culturally, socially and economically must be de-contextualized and re-used creatively in any field, especially in the arts. Art is a sight without prejudice that discovers seemingly “improper” and innovative uses of things.

A lot of modern and contemporary art is based on this principle, Duchamp onwards. In any case the relationship between technology and art is as old as man, it is an indisputable fact. We can provocatively say that art is a formula, and that this formula is Technology plus Magic, so it is no surprise to me that some of the greatest artists were also scientists and innovators, like Leonardo Da Vinci. There has always been a relationship of mutual exchange between these two fields of human endeavour, and often was the technology itself to draw inspiration from art, films, literature, visual arts, especially during the last century. The relationship between music and technology is even stronger. All the musical instruments that man has used over time to provide a certain level of technology, and the care and study that men have devoted to the invention of musical instruments and to the development of music as the first form of entertainment is comparable only to that which they poured in medicine, chemistry, engineering and - sadly - war. So I think the problem of the relationship between technology and music is a false problem. I understand that it may seem a very cold process to "filter" music through something aseptic like a computer, but in reality the computer is just another tool, and as such should be understood and used. If your project is authentic it has a value and a reason to exist, whether it’s music processed through the computer, an impromptu performance with non-traditional instruments, a song passed down by oral tradition in an old village, or a symphony written on a pentagram.

Francesca Fini performing at the SRFTI , Kolkata
It seems technology and music as interlinked fields are growing?

Yes, music and technology are in a very deep relationship now, as always. From the point of view of commercial music it is clear that the computer has replaced a whole series of complicated equipment and has made the work in recording studio much easier and faster. From the experimental point of view - which is the field that interests me - technology is practically essential, particularly that branch of technology related to interaction design culture and devices (sensors, computer vision, motion tracking). In the performance I recently did in Kolkata for Ghosts of Shakespeare Festival, the most common tools at the base of interaction design and conceptual art issues are incorporated into a live show that gives them absolutely new and unifying meaning. Technically, the performance has been designed to use a webcam connected to real-time software that tracks my movements on stage. My movements are tracked by the webcam, the coordinates of position and velocity are sent to the computer where all these data trigger and modulate a palette of live sounds. So I basically make music through the movement of my body; my whole being is turned into some sort of music synthesizer, in a mix of organic and inorganic, corporeal and technological.

At the same time my image, recorder by the webcam and projected live on a screen behind me, is interactively deconstructed and mixed with 2D and 3D graphics in order to obtain a kind of augmented reality. The concept behind the performance is the desire to melt together two very distant languages: Shakespeare and a video game. “To be, or not to be”: the eternal question is made by remixing the words of Sir Laurence Olivier in his Hamlet. The question is always the same, but in my performance gains a new meaning. Being or not being here means to decide to exist in the real world or in the virtual one. So that the oneness of playstation, Facebook, social networks and smartphone culture becomes a public show, while the aesthetics of ritual theatre decomposes in the psychedelia of a video game.

What do younger musicians need to know about technology?

More and more often I hear people misusing the concept of the “gap” between analog and digital. Today seems to have become fashionable to call yourself “analog” or “digital”. Who defines himself as “analog”, generally in a snobbish manner, sees himself as a soldier in a crusade of concreteness and humanism against the coldness of technology. He prefers the “holistic”, almost spiritual continuity of analog culture against the discontinuity of the communication in digital culture. The “digital” person instead feels he is the advocate of a frontier border that is no longer a frontier. In reality, there is no trivial dichotomy between these two concepts and there is much more holistic and integration of the tools that we use every day than in our vision and understanding of the world we live in. Because our whole life revolves around some indispensable tools for our socialization, communication, creative expression and basic survival that is perfect combinations of analog and digital. So I feel like telling the young musicians, who surely will sooner or later be placed in front of this choice of the world and the culture that surrounds them, that there is no great cultural crossroads on the horizon, there are only beaten tracks or rough paths, and you should always choose the latter.

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