NaN:Collider @ MADEIRADiG

Code is Poetry

In a fusion between music and digital art, NaN:Collider (João Martinho Moura and António Rafael, together with Miguel Pedro, founder of the group Mão Morta) presented at MADEIRADiG an immersive show that takes the spectator on a 30 minute trip through the deep space, starting on Earth, exploring formations of spiralling galaxies, and ending in a mysterious black hole. NaN is a number element used to represent unrepresentable values. Collider represents the opposite concept, the specific, used as a research tool in particle physics.

It is no coincidence that UNESCO granted Braga the title of Creative City in the field of media art and the appearance of artistic movements related to digital art like BRG Collective – collective of Braga around the sound, image and digital art exploration – highlight this reality. Nan:Collider are part of this collective and the concert we attended results from a relationship between music and science, in an exploration of the aesthetic side. Thus, this is a work resulting from several fusions.

Elsa Garcia – The visual part we saw at the concert results from a research work at the European Space Centre, for which you developed a software to vision as investigation.

João Martinho – Exactly. It started about five years ago with an investigation launched for more than 12 years and I had the opportunity to work on that project, on that mission.

EG – Mission?

JM – It is a space mission. The investigation is called Rosetta and its goal is to study the 67P comet measuring around 4km. It was near Jupiter, it has already been close to Mars, and now is again on course near Jupiter. I worked for several years in this project and got quite involved with the images that arrived from the investigation … I worked in the visioning area and the images arrived from Mars and from other parts of the Universe.

EG – Where did you present this project?

JM – Besides MADEIRADiG, in Berlin and at the Ocupa#2 in Braga. Ocupa just started last year and was inspired by the idea of promoting what is being done within the electronic music and digital art fields in Braga. As the name suggests, the idea is to occupy a space, program it, and take care of it, like the “squatters” do.

EG – How did you get interested in media art?

JM – In my case, I have almost 15 year experience in this field and curiously a few years ago was called new media art. The new has obviously died. Part of the viewings of these images are developed by code, always with some sound, and this relationship between science and art, both from the code and the interface, is amazing to develop.

EG – Rafael, how do you connect the music to the visual?

António Rafael – We have been exploring for a long time – since the time of Mão Morta and in spite of our association with Rock – several sounds, a lot of it in parallel projects we had. Miguel, for instance, did several pure and simple electronic music projects connected to the creation of sound environments for exhibitions and installations.

Miguel Pedro – Yes, I always have been connected to the world of electronic music. My first instrument was an analogue synthesizer. I bought it in 1984 and it has been with me till today. Electronic is for me an experimentation with the sound, therefore the parameters used in this field are quite different from those used in conventional music: the spatialization, the tone, we work on the pitch, we work all kinds of parameters, and all this makes electronic music to perfectly mix with the viewing and the images. In fact, what you see in festivals like MADEIRADiG is that marriage with the visual part.

JM – For five or six years now we have been working on the media art field with Miguel and Adolfo of Mão Morta. We even had a quite interesting project that gathered science and art called Neuronal Chamber. With Adolfo on stage, and during his performance, we carried out a real ECG and EEG with the several brain sensors.

EG – I would love to have seen that show.

JM – That project was done in Guimarães within the scope of the European Capital of Culture. After that we carried out a little more scientific performance in Italy. There are still records of that performance.

AR – For the second part of this project we were invited by the INL – International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory, that has a strong, even strategical, commitment to the fusion between art and science. For the project we did something I like a lot: capture sounds (I usually say that music has to be very organic, in this case in the sense that it is connected to space) and the INL was a place with lots of noise, a lot of sound pressure, what is somehow curious since when you think of science, you think about aseptic or silent things, when, in truth, it was very loud, with ventilations. We replicated the sounds we developed for our field on that work. It is also funny this precision of science that we interpret without holding on to formulas.

EG – How was your working process for this project?

MP – It was a work in progress where we worked searching for a final result. It isn’t a work that is presented immediately, it took a couple of months. João was working on the visual part, sending us ideas and images, and Rafael and I worked together, sending audio files to each other.

AR – And images are also influenced by sound. It is a two way, immersive process.

MP – Within the scope of the performance we built the sound narrative that goes together with the visual narrative.

EG – How do those two narratives connect?

AR – I tell you what I told once … the narrative comes out of my hands.

JM – In what concerns work, it is a journey.

EG – João, how was that fascination of yours for these issues born?

JM – I always liked science.

EG – Did you study science?

JM – No, because 20 years ago there wasn’t this option of science and art. So I started an art degree, finished the first year, but I almost immediately became aware that I liked programming. So I dropped out and started a programming engineering course, aiming to program visuals, and then I got back to the arts for a course in the media art field. It was quite a journey jumping from one thing to another.

EG – It is all a matter of algorithm …

António Néu – Code is poetry.

EG – Beautiful… that is a great title.

JM – There is this school called National Schools Poetry Competition which has exactly that same moto “code is poetry”. And referring to that sentence, yes, those doing media art develop artefacts in that area. I would finish with that statement. Much of the visuals, and even some sounds, are done with code and colours…

Nan:Collider will be back to surprise us, this time with the work they are developing together with choreographers in the dance field, with live code and audio-visuals. New explorations and journeys await us.

© António Néu

See also: MADEIRADig 2017

Elsa studied journalism and over the years has taken several contemporary art courses, including Themes in the History of 20th Century Art (Fundação Serralves), a Curatorial workshop at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon, Aesthetics (Ar.Co) and History of Photography at the same Institution and a Postgraduate Degree in Curating at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at Universidade Nova de Lisboa. She is a founding member and director of Umbigo magazine, created in 2002, with which she developed several curatorial projects, including the exhibition "Entre Limite e a Audácia" by Miguel Palma at the Fábulas gallery, "The Difference" by Andrea Splisgar at the Palácio de Santa Catarina, the exhibition "Pieces and Parts" at Plataforma Revólver, Lisbon, "Pierre Barbrel – Dissociation" at Espaço Camões da Sá da Costa, "Robe de contact (lys)" by artist Jean François-Krebs at Galeria Sá da Costa. In 2023 she curated the exhibitions "Unwinding" by Theodore Ereira-Guyer and Sam Llewellyn-Jones at Galeria Sá da Costa and "A Face is a Mask..." by Pedro Valdez Cardoso at Brotéria. She was jury and curator of the Contemporary Jewelry Exhibition "On the Other Hand", commemorating the 5th anniversary of PIN (Portuguese Association of Contemporary Jewelry), at Galeria Reverso (Lisbon), Galeria Adorna Corações (Porto) and at the Gray Area Symposium at Galeria Medellein ( Mexico City). In 2018 she was a jury for the ENSA Arte award in Luanda. Also for Umbigo magazine, she coordinated the edition of the book "Coordenadas do Corpo na Arte Contemporânea", a collection that brings together an essay by Bárbara Coutinho and several artistic works, many of them developed specifically for the book, in a set of works that represent a small sample of the concerns philosophical and aesthetic ideas of a group of artists. In 2018, together with António Néu (art director of Umbigo magazine), she created the UmbigoLAB Platform, a networking network for artists that promotes synergy between them and agents in the field (curators, museum directors, gallerists, collectors and institutions).

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