Interview: Aloïs Yang

We’ve reached the final artist interview in our TAIWANESE EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC event preview. Once again, I implore you to come join me at London’s Café Oto on Saturday November 4th, where Happened will be presenting four Taiwanese artists that all have their own unique means of working with sound and performance.

This time I speak with Aloïs Yang, whose work straddles numerous intersections simultaneously: between inner and outer worlds, between science and subjective understanding, between organic energy and digital processing. His installations encompass both the infinite expanse of the universe and the intricate unfolding of human experience, which is quite something. Below, we discuss the metaphysical conception of his work, the notion of home, and the process of painting organic sonic environments from lifeless digital programming. Oh, and be sure to check out the previous artist interviews with Lucia H Chung, Yen-Tzu Chang and Chiyou Ding if you haven’t already.

Do you have any thoughts on how you might approach your live set at Cafe Oto? What sorts of ideas are you working with in the live environment at the moment?

I am developing my previous interactive installation Panning Time & Space to work as a live A/V version. The source materials of the piece are my field recordings and videos of landscapes in Iceland, during my one-month residency in 2015. It will be updated to my current collections, which is more about city landscapes, machinery, human activity and noise. Besides the contents, I have developed the hand gesture/motion sensor as a live audiovisual instrument, so that I am able to have a musician type of relationship with the technology. With the goal of expression, improvisation, and unpredictable outcomes.

Many of your works seem to focus on the intersection between objective universal events and subjective personal experience. For instance, both Hear The World Ending and Hear The World Begin seem to thrive off the interaction between scientific data and audience imagination. The artist statement on your website also seems to suggest that this duality is important within your work. What interests you about bringing these two principles together?

Artists and scientists share the common goals of asking questions, understanding the reality, and exploring mysteries. One of the biggest mystery for me is our consciousness, which the scientist still does not have a conclusive explanation for. Art has the power of engaging people’s minds, and creating open space for experimentation and observation of your own inner world. That is the opposite experience of approaching an objective scientific theory, especially on big-scale existential issues as in the two projects you mentioned.

I think it is this counterpoint that makes it so interesting to bring these two perspectives together as one experience.

On a similar note, you seem to have an interest in how technology is augmenting human experience: through the translation of human gestures using motion-sensor technology, and via thematic exploration (in works such as Panning Time & Space). To what extent have you felt that technology has altered your relationship with reality, or your perception of yourself? Do you think this intimacy with technology is having an effect on the quality of human experience, for better or for worse?

For better or worse, I am not sure. I think the issue here is how we passively or actively engage with the technology. Digital and analogue worlds are inevitably overlapping with each other. Living in this reality, it is important to be conscious of what we actually need, and not fall into buying “wants” that are driven by economical and technological advancements. Through making art with technology, I am interested in creating new meanings and relationships with existing technologies, as an investigation of our new values and beliefs, and also speculating about the future.

I notice that you utilise tools such as improvisation and audience interaction, which I can only imagine bring an element of unpredictability to these pieces. How do surprise and the unexpected feature in your work?

It plays a crucial part in my works. I spend most of my time in the lifeless digital programming world with the goal to create an organic sonic environment. Humanity is always at the centre of my works, both conceptually and technically speaking. I am focused on designing tools or instruments according to the thematic framework for each project. That is capable of generating real-time audio or visual contents, which are strongly connected with the human inputs. I believe through these intimate interactions – from the playfulness of technology, to a learning process of understanding the messages behind each unique outcome, is one of the most powerful and direct art forms for engaging viewer’s imagination, emotion, and comprehension.

Also, as the creator, I don’t like to repeat myself, with this approach, it is a way out of becoming bored by your own art.

Could you tell me about the environment in which your work is initially developed and generated? Given that a lot of your work appears to be shaped, at least in part, by the physical space it occupies, how do you anticipate the acoustic and experiential properties of an exhibition space while you are developing your work?

I like to initiate my project in pure metaphysical forms of ideas, memories, past experiences, that eventually gather to a challenging vision, that makes me curious enough to make it happen.

Prior of approaching a new space or context of event, I tried to have no anticipation of the ideal set-ups. It is important for me to sense the space, materials, and people around, in a clean and neutral state of mind, so that I can have the full spectrum of potential possibilities. That brings me the freedom of improvising with the given conditions.

In the end, it is about presenting an experiential art work, with every aspect within and every circumstance surrounding happening as a whole, and this cannot exist without our act of perception and interaction. This is the reason why I pay a lot of attention to the present.

Could you tell me about your experiences as an artist in Taiwan? Were there any venues, record stores or organisations that were particularly important to you as places to engage with experimental music and the community around it?

During years I spent in Taiwan, I was in the stage of exploring my artistic directions. There were not a lot of music or art scenes that particular resonate with my interests, where I can now identify with. However, it was this energy coming from the isolation I created from my surroundings, which pushed me to explore and appreciate things in my own way. It’s like how children need no reference or knowledge to discover their own truth, and thus create their own realities. I think this was the most important experience I had in Taiwan that makes me who I am today.

For how long did you live in Taiwan? What led to you moving to Berlin?

From nine to 25 years old. I first moved to London for my MA degree in Royal College Of Art, which was Design Interaction. It was a great course where I learned critical design thinking and artistic communication skills. It is also during this period of time that I found my personal integrated approaches of expressing my ideas freely between sound, visuals, and interaction.

I moved from London to Berlin in 2016, because of friends and people I met. And of course, the high frequency and quality of sound and art scene events is truly inspiring.

Since moving from Taiwan, have you noticed any changes in the way you contemplate or interact with sound?

I spend more time on “listening meditation” than listening to recorded sound pieces. It is a practice to free my mind from thoughts and to be focused at the present: to treat all sound equally and appreciate it as it is, by opening up all my sensibilities to a level where I am able to feel myself expended to the space freely. Also, observing different perceptions of time where sound occurs. These inspiring moments often lead to my field recording creations.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I have been experimenting with the idea of home. This year I traveled a lot, doing artist residencies, shows and exhibitions, with no fixed base. Next stop after Cafe Oto, I will go back to my hometown of Taipei for a while, where I have not returned for nearly two years. I will figure out if an anchor point really exists and matters for me.