Future Art Ecosystems 2 Live: Sam Rolfes x Alex Boyes
[Music] Hello everyone Thank you for joining us this evening I'm here with Sam Rolfes and my name is Alexander Boyce and I am a producer here at Serpentine Galleries Arts Technologies team and this evening we will be talking about FAE2 Art x Metaverse and Sam's practice but before we start I wanted to do some general introductions because I have the rest of my team here with me I have Head of Arts Technologies Kay Watson Ralph Pritchard who is our Tech Manager Eva Jaeger, Associate Arts and Technologies Curator and our Commissions Producer Tamar Clarke Brown I'm also joined by our lovely BSL assistants Julie and Sarah and I just wanted to let everybody know at home that we will be switching BSL interpreters every 15 minutes or so cool so to give everyone a bit of background FAE2: Art x Metaverse as the name suggests is about Metaverse Technologies in particular how art production and those technologies are becoming more spatial, persistent, concurrent, interactive, and participatory-based and in terms of FAE2, when we conduct our primary research we like to interview a range of different professionals from different disciplines these include people from gaming architecture, education and most importantly artists of which Sam was one In terms of this research ordinarily it's quite a private production process and that's why we do these Lives because that way we can invite you our audience to understand how we conduct that research So to begin I just wanted to also let everybody know that if you require closed captioning to experience the livestream down the bottom of your screen in the bottom right hand corner there's some CC options and a toggle to manipulate Eva and Kay will be dropping some instructions in within the chat on Twitch to manipulate that as you will also if you want to participate in the chat you'll need a Twitch account to set up so Eva and Kay will also drop in some instructions for that too towards the end of the session we'll be asking Sam and potentially myself some questions so throughout the discussion please drop them into the chat, Eva and Kay will compile them and then direct them towards us towards the end but before we begin Sam I wanted to read out this really great bio that I came across on Clockmag I don't remember if you remember the interview oh sure yeah there were some interesting descriptions in there yeah I kind of feel like writing artists bios are a bit of artwork in themselves but I'm going to read this out American artist Sam Rolfes plays musical chairs switching between the roles of an experimental electronic musician 3D animator, VR performer, graphic designer, director, and also a writer his animations are improvised his collaborations unconventional, while his performances ever-more complex, thanks to his extra-experimental use of technology currently based in NYC where he moved from Chicago a few years ago, he is also a co-founder of now defunct art-music collective 'Join the Studio' and digital performance image studio Team Rolfes collaboratively with his brother Andy or his own, Sam - oh sorry on his own, Sam works with VR mixed reality, figurative animation and motion capture tools to create music videos, video games or live improvisational performances. Rolfes surreal imagery, sometimes sublime and often psychosexual images, explore human identity through contemporary computer-based image-making visceral, color-saturated, full of moist flesh, taking place in wonderland's or in hell his videos permeate the screen with juicy environments overflowing with thrilling microcosms of dreaming creatures So with that in mind Sam how do you feel about that and I was wondering how do you explain your practice to people that you haven't met before because I think that would be a really great introduction to those that may not be familiar with your work Sure that was actually closer than I remembered a lot of times when I'm being interviewed sometimes people grab old interviews - I mean I've been doing them since, just like habitually, since 2010 or something like that and they'll grab for some reason those are oftentimes prioritized on Google results because they didn't put dates on them so people will bring up, think that I'm still living in Texas or doing you know this or that but this one's pretty key these days I try and just quickly contextualize as like you know hi I'm Sam, I run this digital performance studio with my brother that's kind of been contextualizing it lately and digital performance and image studio I guess but they all arise from the same place which is kind of expressive responsive digital art-making that can take form all the forms that you mentioned but oftentimes whether or not it's like sculpting a character or developing a virtual environment or the choreography of the character through that environment it's usually done kind of live to a certain extent like even if it's not recorded on the first take I'm figuring it out live I'm responding to the space or even just responding to a character based on different stimuli like collaging and things like that so yeah 'digital performance' is the kind of buzzer I've started going with. Yeah because I mean you're a traditionally trained painter right? And watercolor in particular that was my brother was watercolor I did more I did oils, mixed media my final year in art school was like I would be doing I was doing kind of like digital experimentations of like messing with photographs making them look kind of architectural or kind of fractured and then I would print them I had a Japanese papercraft program and that kind of like takes a 3D model and unwraps it to be something you can cut out and then put back together so I was doing that and then doing experimental print processes where you sent, you screenprint a digital ground medium which is supposed to hold the digital ink and you send it through the school's inkjet which will break eventually from this process but you send it through and then where that kind of invisible ground medium is laid down the pigment sticks and the rest, it kind of flows around So anyway I was doing more kind of physical mixed media stuff moving towards digital. I mean it might help if I actually bring up some of the images that you sent through to me. Some of these are great. The reason why I asked Sam is because as a producer working at Serpentine Galleries we and within the Arts Technologies team we're exploring this tech all the time but when we encounter artists the number one question that we get is like I'm a Painter, I'm a Sculptor I'm a Performance artist, how do I equip myself with the knowledge, technical understanding and know-how to start venturing into this world? I wonder if you can explain to the audience a little bit how you managed to do that especially because I remember not to put words in your mouth but I remember from your original interview you were like some of it was really playing with the technology and the tools but other parts of it was networking right? That was really important for your practice Yeah so I mean you know, it's been a long process. I mean I started doing I mean our mom ran a 3D studio when we were kids so we had books around but we weren't really into it It was like a 3DS, Max, and Blender book from 1995 or something like that 2000 I guess probably 2000, and it was just kind of inarticulate I had like a baseline level but it wasn't really of interest and I didn't really get back into it until I had graduated art school and then, just BFA, and then moved to Austin and then moved back to Chicago to work with this painter Wesley Kimler and the thing that kept me away from it is because it felt cold and sterile it's like moving points around, the same thing I feel about keyframing animation you know you can do very beautiful stuff with that but it's not for me and so it took me finding coming across Zbrush which is like a sculpting program to find my path in because prior to that I was doing like flyers and posters and stuff but it was mostly me painting I would print stuff out, paint on them, collage them and then scan it and then do a digital pass on it so I was working with multiple layered media but not fully 3D because I was looking for that stepping stone that came that felt natural to me for the art-making process so got into ZBrush started messing around with some of the things, some of the stuff being pictured here and started immediately trying to work that into - I was already doing I had been throwing shows in Chicago like weird experimental shows like music shows with a little bit of art and so I was already doing a little flyer design and was starting to do music video-y things and I tried to implement that immediately into that partially because I could just work much faster as a painter I was just taking forever it was too laboured there's too many layers and stuff so I could just kind of churn things out which you know given the current era is almost a necessity and be more responsive to stuff and so I started getting into that and I learned in a lot of my early visual stuff doing stuff for like vjing basically for stages and then this first kind of attempt at a music video was basically misusing, digging into ZBrush which is a totally weird program, it doesn't, it has a different, it's like two and a half-D half d, it has very weird logic to it but I found you could kind of rig up it's not the proper way, like 'proper way' you rig a 3D character but you can kind of rig them up for posing typically and you can kind of marionette them around in like a really funny like cartoonish way that doesn't look like normal 3D animation and that's basically all I did for like a year was just playing shows and doing this kind of like, some music video attempts and little animations here and there that are just like puppeting puppetting characters around and in ZBrush you can't render anything really but they have a function for screen recording functionally that is oftentimes used for timelapses like when somebody is sculpting you see like turns from a sphere into a beautiful face or whatever like a big buff guy because it's gaming industry so usually it's used for that but I realized like oh I could if I record it slowly while I'm doing my thing I can make an entire video out of this because I'd really not done, I'd done flash animation previously when I was a kid but I hadn't done animation in years really so it was a slow process of that and then and really finding out what I respond to just naturally like what just isn't a pain in the ass like it's all a pain in the ass working in Unreal I'm mad 90% of the time I cannot tell you the amount of rage that I get out of that program but it's a much more natural kind of through line from my previous work and from my personal context than all the other stuff so it was like basically finding what that is finding what the core interest is finding, looking, playing around with stuff and then saying do I see myself in here? do I see something that speaks to me personally from where I'm at exploring that, trying to find you know your own thing, your own way with it and then just getting into the scene I did it through music primarily which is you know, you just go to shows, you get to know people, you play shows, you post stuff, I mean at least with music and stuff people are very happy to One; there's a lot more just promotion and people needing imagery just consistently and there are sometimes budgets which helps so I've ended up in this economy where it's like oftentimes based around album release cycles and I just have to retrofit my work into an otherwise commercial promotional kind of thing which sucks but that's the way that I found it so yeah a lot of just networking and just being part of the community and getting to know other people and stuff like that That kind of segues into something that I wanted to bring up which is some really recent work that you did with Danny Elfman, right? Because you mentioned puppetry and character rigging, of which this particular music video uses a lot of but I mean going from something like ZBrush all the way to Unreal Engine it's not one step is it it's more like experimenting with multiple programs in between Yes to an extent, for me it kind of was just a jump because I was like kind of stuck with I mean granted this also required my brother getting into Cinema 4D and Maya and stuff like that because it does require a certain amount of rigging and processing and stuff that ZBrush can't do entirely itself, it can do a lot of stuff but not everything and so I'm definitely relying on my brother and you know oftentimes we hire big you know teams of people to handle different things, but for me it was honestly, it was primarily Zbrush and then figuring out Unreal in late 2015, early 2016 and then that's just been the combo for the time being almost entirely but going from one to the next was basically quikly I can tell the story of how I got to that, so this experimental music group I don't know if you'd call them that but this group Amnesia Scanner did my actually, I reached out to them I just emailed them I was a big fan, I was just like sent them an email in like five different languages because they're very mysterious, I didn't know what country they were in, I was like we need to work together which I don't, I rarely do that but it worked out they got back to me, they're like yeah we should do something and I had really not done a true music video at this point and I certainly had not really fully animated anything spatially and so their main note was like we were thinking, picturing this kind of huge towering festival stage you know like that you see at these big EDM fests and stuff and you know maybe it's moving or something but that's mostly what they're picturing and so with ZBrush you can't do depth again it's two-and-a-half-D, it's pretty much flat so I was like okay I don't know what I'm going to do for this, like I said I started looking into Unity and Unreal because they were roughly free they were available and I was like this seems like something I can just kind of like I mean it's like the ZBrush thing, I can just screen record.
They didn't have the render function, they didn't have sequencer, they didn't have all these like anime like virtual production things that they have now but I had the sense okay this at least seems like a way that I could just make something happen I wasn't really thinking about VR at the time, initially I was just doing mouse and keyboard tests and more kind of like FPS type format so what's on the screen right now is a music video and that was created by so I met a developer through like a friend of a friend, I don't remember who introduced me to him, but this guy Eric Anderson, he was running this three-story punk venue in Chicago and he was an Unreal developer I just went to his place I went to this venue and just slept on the couch for like a week and just we just worked on this video and got it working he taught me a lot of basics of Unreal and he had a prototype Oculus headset, the DK2 Yeah - and so that's what I used for the camera and then this whole video is basically me just, this is live screen recording this is maybe take 30 or something like that because you couldn't render at the time, so you're just sending a live feed out to a separate laptop and just capturing it and so it's myself palming a headset as the camera and moving the WASD keys like an FPS and then all the lights all the character animations everything triggered on the beat by my friend Olivia Rodgers, who had an Xbox controller, she was just in the corner triggering everything and we did like 30 takes and with almost every video I still do first take it was like I don't really know, I know we're going back, I know the rough choreography of it through this 3D scene but I don't really know beyond that and then by take 30 we have like okay we have to hit this moment by this beat, we have to hit this by measure whenever and then this happens and that happens, and kind of just like working through it while we were recording and that's formed the foundation of everything since then Sam, so that's a really good technical overview but I mean myself just kind of like learning more about performance art really recently, in terms of like the rigging and the character creation and the camera angles, there's a lot of choreography involved right? Yeah, yeah it's like positioning where you are, where the contents going, how do you sort of navigate that coming from a visual arts background? Is it through your collaborations with performing arts experts? How do you do it? Where does it come from? The choreography? Yeah, maybe if I bring up, so one video that you did, I know this is a super popular one but the Sour Candy one, for me this one is where, and it really came through in your FACT Magazine interview, because this one to me you really see the I guess in terms of an 'exhibition speak' it's like the visitor journey through the music video, but it's choreography, right? Yes, yeah 100 percent. And where does that come from or how did I come to that how? Well when you did this music video for instance, is it Lady Gaga's team that's like this is how we want this, or is it Blackpink or is it you that comes up with it Yeah to their credit especially for the Sour Candy video they really let us do whatever like it was crazy Yeah and so, and that's normally the case we only pick projects where that's usually the case unless we take little client things here and there but anyway, yeah it kind of came from well okay, as a kid I would play like Half-Life 2 and I would like playthrough it for the 10th time, but I would playthrough it cinematically where I'm like okay, we're going to this level and then I would rotate the camera so that we see this vista right when this animation passes by and I would just do that as a kid, so I think innately I kind of was interested in that but choreography-wise like moving the character through the space and stuff I kind of think it's just, it's come in that it's just a natural result of working within this medium and just deciding like okay I want to do like VR or some sort of 3D spatial thing and I want to have a character go through it and I don't like keyframed camera motions and stuff even things that are really nice, they kind of just bore me I kind of like, to the chagrin of my team sometimes, I kind of only like one-shot videos because they feel like games to me it just feels more natural so I think it's just, yeah it's been a function of figuring out what works realizing say for example that I used to build sets like the sets in ZBrush so and I'd be looking at it from here you would see it like this size on the screen and be like yeah you're kind of rotating, you're like yeah this looks good, I think I can kind of walk around, like maybe it does something in here maybe and realizing that actually VR sculpting, like actually being able to sculpt the space and be able to walkthrough it allows you to really feel the space more it's mostly just setting up because I'm oftentimes the one performing it's just giving myself something to do it's like giving myself a little playground or an obstacle course and being like and just feeling out like okay I need something we need tension here, or whatever, but anyway I'm not trained in any capacity with that I have been djing since I was 15 I understand you know sculpting a climax and dropping it and you know certain things like that and performing in certain ways but beyond that it's kind of just been learning on the job I guess I'm really glad that you mentioned the playthrough bit too especially with Half-Life Half-Life 2 specifically there were some artists that we interviewed and playthrough was a really important part of their practice as well. But one artist, I don't know if you're familiar with Robert Yang? Robert Yang? Oh sure! So he was doing sort of like Half-Life 2 playthroughs as part of a virtual online curatorial context Oh amazing, cool - But treating like, I play a lot of World of Warcraft and I really love people that do playthroughs but kind of use that virtual environment to construct film.
Oh for sure, same. Yeah, which again connects to two other artists that we interviewed David Blandy and Larry Achiampong that use game environments to do their film. I wanted to shift gears a little bit to the metaverse, because I remember - Sure, I'm ready - on gaming and the metaverse your response was one of my favourites I'm also gonna bring up this because I really like this because the 'metaverse' as a definition is something that comes from science fiction primarily and is now really being taken up by big game and big tech to drive their own prerogatives so naturally it's a really useful prerogative term but when we were interviewing people we got a varied response which is which is healthy, but your response I don't know if you remember, but you were like "Oh you mean the meta way of playing a game?" Oh right, yeah sure. Yeah because when you're playing in particular MMORPGs there's a meta way of playing and the really hardcore player base kind of dominate the game landscape because of that meta way which is like I don't want to say it's the 'right way' of playing a game but it's the most 'successful' way for completing the game's content right? At least that time, because it can change Yeah, yeah yeah and in terms of the metaverse what we are really advocating for to sort of compare it is whilst big tech and big game engines are dominating the space and they've got a space within it, so do artists and public art institutions so we just have to remember that it's not 'the meta' at all points but I wanted to ask you again - How do you feel about the metaverse? I feel, well I mean that's a potent question because it's like, I will say, like most of the time, this is one of the only times that I've dealt with the term of 'metaverse' or had to think about it not in like a marketing context because it's so so based off of like I started hearing it through like MeowWolf like experimental, experiential, music, insta-museum type things and Epic Games and stuff like that and it just seemed like another it just seemed like synergy, like any sort of buzzword that the tech industry would use, I mean the fact that it comes from and brought like a past sci-fi historical context kind of makes sense It feels and I'm not that surprised because I feel like a lot of times that sector, that I have to deal with but I really have a lot of distrust for, grabs things at will from that kind of cultural memory for example like cyberpunk and kind of grabs, picks and chooses things that are useful to just marketing it but leaves all the political implications behind you know, just pulls out like "oh, it's a cool cyber guy and it's foggy outside" or whatever, and doesn't really grapple with the fact that you know you have to live in an apocalyptic era for that thing to come true so anyway I feel like I'm gonna have to deal with it and I have to reckon with that as a as a concept. I mean I think that
it's a fine way to contextualize all the stuff that's happening right now and for better or worse you know, you kind of don't get to define, like especially in the music world, you don't really - like 'HyperPop' - all the musicians I know who are technically 'HyperPop' did not I don't think many of them are fans of that term I don't think, or any other scene, like 'Deconstructed Club' No musician has hardly ever liked the term that was created for their genre it's normally determined by the press or now it's by playlists, so you know having a different commercial entity define the term that we then have to grapple with is a typical case for me. So yeah, I think 824 00:24:43,103 --> 00:24:43,101 that yeah all the stuff that I'm interested in is within that, it's just a matter of is the stuff that I actually want to do does it have a place in their version of the metaverse for example, because I'm pitching I'm coming up with concepts and trying to make all these experimental interactive livestream improv shows and things like that happen and I'll tell you there's a lot of companies that are talking a big game about the megaverse - the metaverse megaverse - that's what's next they're talking a big game about the metaverse, they're not saying yes they're maybe saying yes to our project and if they say yes yes we'll fund this then they get bought by a gigantic corporation and all their people are fired you know so you know I'm just very distrustful primarily just because of the recent history of it going through the tech industry which is just how everything is these days Yeah you mentioned 'interactivity' and 'experimental' in terms of your performances and I guess what I really, within your work I'm really drawn to is the fact that you give your audiences a lot of agency in terms of how to experience it but also the content itself a little bit which goes back into the metaverse; how much agency you have in it but there's a couple of performances and I'm going to go through some of the files that you sent through to me earlier but I just thought because I guess when people think about performance often it goes back to more traditional methods of performance spectatorship, it's quite passive but you actually invite and actively encourage your audience members not to just dance around the space but be part of the content creation itself don't you? Yeah to an extent, I mean we've done that several times particularly MoMA and some of the other performances where audience members will be involved or there's like a for MoMA there was a site where you could basically upload as we were doing the performance it was moving through this kind of like ruined space and all the picture frames and stuff, like little elements of history in the space, you could basically people could upload stuff from their camera roll when they were there and it would get textured, like you would see yourself or your child's photo or whatever in the space that we were moving through and performing through simple things like that, simple like little and partially just out of kind of in a DJ way like responding to the audience live you know setting up a scenario and seeing what's working and then having a myriad of spaces that kind of do different things dramaturgically, drama-wise or visually to respond to that at the very most basic level but our interest is in increasing that, it just takes more of an infrastructure to make it happen Sorry Sam we're just going to do a quick BSL changeover - Sure. Yeah and I think I had the wrong image up earlier because you mentioned the dark MOFO one? Yeah that might have been in the wrong folder, sorry.
That's okay but there's this one I remember you were speaking at the Sonic Acts Festival and this was one where people were in real-timeime uploading content to your artwork, correct? That was responding to the audience and going through people were asking questions live that one wasn't getting that was early I wasn't doing upload stuff on that one. Upload stuff is primarily Dark MOFO MoMA and then some of our things like our Unsound Festival stream last year and then other livestream stuff Livestreams are honestly the easiest because there's always already an online interface between the audience Yeah yeah There's one project I get a little bit confused so I remember it's Danny Harle So there's the music video and there's four different personalities that go along with the music videos Sorry YouTube ads love to get Adobe in there my favorite company. So I'm going to let this play a little bit, but in addition to this there's like an online club as well? I'm hoping that can you expand on this a little bit further so you created like a music video but then audiences are also allowed - not allowed invited to experience it online during a club when it's running they can sort of interact and walk around is that correct? Yeah I mean that, so we came to this project, to the Danny Harle project kind of, a different team made lot of the characters oftentimes, almost all the time we make everything from scratch this time, a different team made the characters, not real virtual, I believe and then we came in and kind of expanded all the sets to the kind of spatial design stuff that I've kind of been talking about and then did the motion capture performance, animated and kind of brought it to life a little bit and so we were handling all of that and then in addition to that a different team was building out the WebGL which basically is like stripped down experiences of this, just to give like a taste of you know, this kind of space that people kind of can move through and activate at certain times during the album rollout basically.
It's this one right? Yeah and you enter the club and there's the four different yeah yeah yeah, so I'm just gonna let But to be fair we didn't do the WebGL stuff, there was a different team that handled this stuff and my browser is going funny Sam in terms of the musical stuff too you've got your own musical alter ego as well don't you? Yeah yeah. Can you introduce your musical alter ego? Sure I mean I know I'm not supposed to have sworn No swearing - but it's DJ rude word beginning with 'f' right? Okay yes yes DJ four letter f-word Yeah that actually was related that kind of like persona was really a result of Danny actually. Danny Harle was doing the early Harlecore shows and Danny really has a sense for like characterization and worldbuilding and you know things like that and is just funny and he gave me a call one time and he was like "Sam, would you like to do a New Metal turntablist set?" Because he knew I used to be am or was a turntablist " a New Metal turntablist set as DJ expletive" and I was like, absolutely and it became, it was like some of the best sets that I've had and it was an easy platform I found it to be an easy platform to do skits of different you know just these kind of skits parodying different formats, play, you know art world stuff or different scene things it kind of became just became an avatar for me for it became very useful to I think just abstracting it slightly away from Sam Rolfes helped me take it less seriously, be you know, have more fun with it and start to explore skits and for all those sets I would hire voice actors and we would do like I would have skits throughout it could be like an hour or 30 minute Soundcloud set or like something for you know I was playing the parent company Minecraft shows, PC Music people and stuff like that and so I would hire voice actors 1062 00:32:21,106 --> 00:32:21,104 which is I think the first time ever I was doing that and it just kind of expanded my understanding of theatre and characterization and things of that nature so DJ expletive is a very, yeah it kind of helps me fill the gaps and it's one of the things that's not really commercial right now but people like it, people like it a lot kind of more than my visual work just because I think in terms of format it's just kind of it's easier to promote to a certain extent so yeah, it's been a fun side project Sam, so I remember when you were chatting to Ben and I had listened to previous interviews outside of our FAE2 but something that I really wanted to ask you, because you work across these different disciplines using these different technologies and not in conventional ways, I think and I feel as though we share a similar ideology in that this technology happens so quickly and traditionally the role of the artist has been to not only to critique society but also the tools that are used I wondered if you could expand on that, what you think the role of the artist is within the megaverse, the metaverse, whatever you want to call it? Yeah, I mean cynically they're the content - they're the unpaid content creator who because you have to generate so many things so fast you need to crowdsource it and you give them buy-in into your platform so that you know they get company script you know, in terms of social media responses, in terms for hard labor functionally that's the cynical end the artist's role otherwise, I mean yeah my perspective with that is that you know historically there's been more of a gap between the artist and the tool oftentimes it's like a it's a hand-me-down from industry it's when it became cheap enough or available and people started playing with it and it takes some time to actually feel out the implications and the kind of specific nature of an artmaking tool and these days not only is you know just out of economic necessity are people like really intertwined economically and just like on the teams of big corporations that are making the things the things that they're making are coming out faster and faster and faster and faster to the point that I feel like it not only flattens it to like a basic formal, formalist level of just like you know the effect flavour of the day but also, yeah, it kind of removes the longevity of the piece itself and I think that's intentional I think that's like you know I don't think it's happenstance that it's ended up that way, I think it's in the interest of the platforms that host most of the stuff and the companies creating it that things be flattened to just like immediate response stuff because it's not helping them if you sit with an image for longer than half a second so it's in no platform's interest to support making or support things that are being made that are meant to be consumed slowly I don't think maybe with some exceptions but anyway that's been my experience and just broadly, the role of the artist in the metaverse, I don't know it's kind of hard say it's really hard for me to say without just going to a cynical answer I mean I think ideally, an artist would find a very, would find a specific and kind of non-commercial way to express themselves that is not based off the metrics and value system that the platforms themselves are kind of setting up which is like you know constant engagement or whatever the metrics are you know, like constant engagement some things are great like building community, getting to know people, working quickly to a certain extent lets you iterate really fast there is something to the 'work fast and break stuff' model from the startup and tech world in that you can kind of, you know, but I think that that is only useful to an extent and is broadly harmful to art-making in the long term so I don't know if that really answers the question, it's hard to say because like I kind of don't I kind of feel like where things are right now, just cynically, just specifically in the industry, maybe this is just an American perspective but I kind of feel like like with NFTs my perspective was like, with a lot of that, the art is not, the art is the wrapper the art has nothing to do with this, it's a convenient promotional tool the artist is being used to paper over all the stuff happening behind the scenes and artists are really online, they're going to tell people about it they're the biggest patsies they have no we have no money coming in, we crave attention and so as soon as you infuse any sort of money into our communities people are going to lose their minds, they're going to argue over it and this and that but it's going to spread whatever you're trying to spread so I think the way they're being used right now is just is like either unpaid labour or patsies to spread stuff and you know in an ideal world you can kind of carve something out for yourself but it's really hard to do so in a world where everything's owned by like two companies Maybe there's sort of, I don't know to balance some of the cynicism or on a practical level Sam Please do How do you balance, again back to our original FAE2 interview, you were like you kind of need to constantly be in the public eye to have a cultural cachet but at the same time as an artist and what you've been speaking about there's a certain amount of R&D or research and development involved How do you and Andy, because there's two of you, right, I know you collaborate with a lot of people, but how do you balance that as like a business? Carefully I think. I think well we're always trying to so I think you know there is a there's a kind of pressure for digital artists or whatever to be adopting whatever the newest thing is that's out like GANs or whatever whether or not you have anything to say about it we do try at least to keep abreast I mean we play around with that stuff we do Andy's been doing all sorts of series using kind of you know the VQGAN+CLIP stuff like AI-assisted, like taking, he'll make a sculpture and then use AI to assist the environmental you know expansion of that and then maybe he'll do some additional detailing we do a little bit of that I mean honestly a lot of our most important R&D is done it's done in the service of a pilot or a pitch we're trying to do or we do a livestream here and there it's like the narrative stuff we're trying to do kind of is oftentimes done in service of trying to get a bigger project to happen, just because it's hard with just the way that like running an experimental art studio is like you know we're not making huge margins on this so you kind of have to find a commercial excuse for every single thing you want to try and maybe most of it won't make it to the final video with the Danny Elfman video we were doing fluid dynamics we were doing all sorts of different stuff that didn't really you know, you add a lot of stuff to a project and it gets very bloated and there's too much things and then you pull back what's not working but then you've had enough experience, like you've learned a little bit that you can maybe more intelligently implement it later so we kind of do it during production and maybe every once in a while I'll use it as an excuse to make a skit but again with these little skits these little like you know community, scene critiquey non-commercial animations - has a purpose I have to feed the beast of social media to a certain extent even though I'm not doing a very good job at it I have to post something so it's still functionally a commercial venture. Yeah, I think you do a pretty good job on the social media front As best I can, I mean with what my practice is But that leads me to my next question because you both are working on a game at the moment, right? Slowly. Yeah, so I saw these beautiful visuals that you posted recently that are towards the game, right? But in terms of funding it and its production I was hoping you could expand on it a little bit because it's not like a conventional game development workflow is it? No by no means. Yeah so
the game is a it's something we've been trying to do wanting to do for a while and the different functionalities of it like we're trying, we've got all sorts of different things we're playing with, from these different kinds of creative modes to different other kind of game loop stuff and we're in production, I mean it's, I say it's slow because for the reasons that I mentioned before where we can't - like I've had five deadlines this week, like I have and that's out of necessity it's just like, we're trying to take it slower and have time for additional stuff but you know to a certain extent rent rent keeps being due despite what we want to say about it so that's been keeping us like it's been a slow pace but we so basically at least the economic context or the model that we're working with for the game is one of audience participation and that's also like the meta-level too so we didn't want to I didn't want to just go away for three years or whatever just working on a game maybe sharing a screenshot every once in a while I also can't afford to hire all of our devs constantly for that time and we're very interested in Fan Fic. and audience interaction or just like you know community I've been part of some meme groups that had Discords where just they would build lore and they would build all these internal jokes that would spread to minion accounts and just like you know there's a lot in just like having a community like riffing just like making even if it's dumb having a kind of lore and a history and internal logic, internal kind of terms and ideas get formed very quickly and that seemed like a very interesting narrative thing to work with so basically all that to say is the plan is that once we get it to a roughly kind of playable kind of like, okay we've got something that's like basic and fun we debut it probably on a Patreon just to have like a very cheap one just to have some base-level income that just gives you access to and maybe eventually it's just totally free and the Patreon gets you slightly more access I don't know, access to the game and then we iteratively release it as we develop it, but not just as we go along on our way not really paying attention the audience is going to be kind of along with us so submitting you know fan art or character designs or like you know actually choosing what path we go on almost like an RPG character tree where it's like okay, you're here there's like 3 steps to get to or it'd be like 10 steps to get to multiplayer okay so to get to whatever functionality or whatever narrative whatever thing that people are actually really responding to giving people a little bit of control over where we go and then along the way determining like okay, to get to multiplayer we're going to need this many characters, we're going to need this many more subscribers to be able to hire this many devs little goals here and there and then the idea is, the hope is okay so we've got this idea of player interaction or participation in in the whole 'meta' in the game that shouldn't be done just on spec, that sucks like 'Hey everybody! Come pay to play my game and then create work for free to send us!" That sucks. I mean that's the model for a lot of stuff these days basically but I didn't want to do that so we're looking at we're looking at fractionalized ownership stuff you know as crazy as the crypto, DAO, all that stuff world is, I really do think that beyond just the you know, vampiric speculation that happens which is I think just gonna happen as a result of being in a Capitalist system that it grows out of I think there are a lot of really really the stuff I'm psyched about is people being able to own a piece of a project, the DAOs (distributed automated organizations) things like that there's a few that we're looking at. We're going to probably get into that maybe after the first, around the time we debut which I'm really trying to have happen this year we keep having like kind of cool stuff come that's like not it it's cool because it's like a cool musician or something like that but it's not like a game I keep thinking about this, like another music video is not going to make my practice more interesting like a game is way more interesting so it's just a matter of getting to that point but that's the plan Can people contribute to it already Sam or get in touch? If they want to be part of it or what's the best way to get involved? Good question. I mean it's kind of like I mean really I should be giving people more options for helping on that all we've done is just doing like, when the NFT thing happened I was really conflicted on many levels about like how best do I participate in this? If at all and the way I thought about it at least was it was like we did a fundraising thing selling off pieces of the game thing so it went towards basic production, like early production I was doing it in in the form of these kind of like parody skits which let me kind of act as a bit of a release valve for all the depression and pain and spiraling that I had thinking about like all this NFT stuff for half a year because our kind of like Creative Producer and creative audience - what do you say? User community, Designer head, Cara Kittle, had been telling me about it for a long time and I and you know it was a long time coming but we had made we raised a little bit of money off that I probably need to debut something where people can kind of keep keep abreast of it or like I'm just hesitant about asking for further donation because I kind of want to just give somebody something just like debut the alpha and then people can join on the Patreon so I will say what we're probably going to do before the game debuts is that we've had all these interactive shows and stuff that we've in done the past and we've wanted to have been doing and the big companies keep seeming interesting then they don't pick it up I think we might just start it and do like a pilot, like start a show like a livestream show or something like that start the Patreon with that, that is part of the game world and then hopping on that Patreon when it debuts would just help actually make the game happen so that's probably the best way people have been reaching out with skills, skill stuff just because I've been looking for Unreal developers, AI people, like it's all Unreal so I'm always interested in devs who might be interested in working for a friendly rate at least until we get like a proper income stream, but yeah that's kind of where we're at with the game currently It's exciting! But Sam we've got around 10 minutes left Right - So I was gonna open up to questions from Kay and Eva Hi Alex. Hi Sam. What a great
conversation I'm sorry to interrupt Oh wait, I need to listen on Twitch I'm sorry hang on I can't hear it Sam's just switching to the Twitch Turn on the audio Okay all right go ahead You might have a delay [Laughter] So I'm just gonna talk for a little bit to begin with while we go through this I just wanted to say thank you so much that was brilliant. So great to hear you talk about your work a little bit more I have a few questions here but first of all we have a shout out in the chat for Kara Kittel from Trust so I thought I'd say that one out loud Love them ~ huge fan So the first question from frankiedoestwitch00 How much of your own personality goes into making these characters? You must have a strong bodily connection to them? Can you give some examples? Thank you. Cool okay thank you! Sorry for the delay how much personality goes into the characters, I mean quite a bit I mean oftentimes you know it's always it's a weird process working in this kind of like mediated way where you're working with a musician who has their own creative interests and stuff but most of the time we're given a fair amount of freedom I think a lot, I mean really a lot of it, the character design is really still where a lot of our painterly inclinations come through like Andy and I will just be like we'll be just, you just kind of sculpt in 3D clay, and just kind of like brush in characters and kind of pull and push things and a lot of just our basic just formalist kind of aesthetic preferences in terms of just like ornamentation and kind of flow and our interest in fashion our interest in this and that come in there oftentimes that's where we're I mean sometimes these days sometimes we're brought in to do like character-avatar designs and that's kind of just fun you know it's not - the really interesting thing is when it gets into the performance of it which can take all sorts of different like depending on how you rig up or animate the character it can move in completely different ways it can have a completely different kind of personality so it's kind of this interesting process of between Andy and I oftentimes sometimes other artists, but usually Andy and I building the character to be who we think they are having a bit of a dialogue maybe he and I swap characters between ourselves and kind of we get some more of his realism and we get some of my more abstraction so it's kind of a combination of both of us and then it goes to the rigging team oftentimes led by Andy and then that's where it gets rigged up and stuff and that's kind of out of my hands I might have kind of designed it a certain way where I might be like yeah I think it should you know kind of be more flowy or whatever but through this then very technical process a lot of the personality comes out and it's yeah, and then I get in my hands and then I can perform from it and see how it moves, tweak it and then add some of myself to it give it yeah, just where I'm at with the song or where I'm at feeling personally so at various points it kind of bleeds in throughout the process oh I need to turn Twitch back on sorry hold on You're alright - I just brought up as you were saying that I brought up Matthew Dear's 'Bunny Dream' as well as you were explaining, yeah Next question. Next question. From '123qsdklsbs' Catchy! "I heard you're into data moshing but I don't really get what it is can you explain? Sure, well I wouldn't say that I'm I mean I certainly like stuff that's done, that is datamoshed well I just used to use it as like a as a symbol really, talking about this kind of stuff especially when it comes to you know the rapid iteration of new tech creative tech tools and stuff like that because back in the day okay so datamoshing is basically like this process where you you go into the so the way that videos are made they have like these certain frames that set up what it actually looks like and then to save space there are frames that just kind of describe the change from the previous frame so you can start removing those kind of like signpost frames that says what it actually looks like and so when it's lacking that it's just the motion so you can start, it starts a motion and then you cut out the frame that would be the next goal post and it just kind of keeps going and it kind of just like interprets you know, to a certain extent where it goes that's an actual like glitch it kind of feels like GAN stuff it kind of feels like you know AI or whatever, it's not really I mean in a way I guess in the way that the compression works it's a form of AI maybe it's mechanical or digital but anyway my interest in datamoshing was just using it as like that was this huge thing or it was a fad back in 2012 something like that especially in Chicago where I went to school in the 'Glitch scene' there was a whole 'Glitch scene' - there was a Glitch Festival it was really cool but people kind of when it became, as it became 'mainstream' as much as something like that can become mainstream, at the time it kind of just was what was, it didn't really, people did it, they did tutorials, they did their thing, Kanye did it in a video then we moved on and it was just like one of those I just noticed I saw its life and at the time death, I mean it's kind of back on TikTok now and people are doing really interesting versions I don't know if it's still glitching in the same way they're doing really kind of, I mean this that's playing on the Twitch right now is like this looks pretty recent yeah it's like 2020, anyway it's kind of had a resurgence but it's just been interesting to watch it's life because it's like this potentially just very formalist you know, it's just an effect and it kind of has peaks and valleys in ways that I feel like are consistent with it just helps track how does, how do art forms get digested and used these days Okay we've got a few more questions Cool. 'Queerdirect' asks 'What distribution channels have been most successful or accessible for your work and where does it translate the best?" I mean because so much of my stuff is based on album releases release has been so far I mean it's like YouTube but I don't really, I mean you know I don't know if I would qualify that as successful I think oftentimes the most successful stuff is when I clip a music video I clip like a section of it and I maybe put it in a weird like meme context or something like that the casing you put these things in is oftentimes more important to success than the actual thing, I''ll do these you know very involved things that as soon as somebody clocks that it's a music video it's way less likely that somebody's going to want to digest it I think but if you give it, if you remix it in some sort of way that is somehow contemporary or is like a form you can kind of remove weirdly if you remove some specificity that it's a music video thing and you kind of give it a different vague specificity this is very platform-dependent and I think that that's not something necessarily based on human nature I think it's what works on Twitter and stuff but yeah the distribution channels have primarily been pretty traditional in terms of just like YouTube, Instagram, Twitter again I've been like the format parodies and stuff where you can kind of make it look like other stuff, people recognize at least to a certain extent and that really helps with that digestion especially for stuff that's not just something very understandable like the weird stuff I do but I am interested in doing more you know community direct stuff, Patreon Discord. I mean I've participated
in them to a certain extent but not to the extent that I probably should be I'm trying to think of what else yeah but the way we've been putting it out has been pretty traditional and with the game hopefully with something that's actually very participatory, of doing streams on Twitch and stuff that's the stuff I want to be doing so Just one very quick one before I think will be our final question is a question from 'pzxh'... I can't say it Are all of DJ f-words sets on Soundcloud? If not is there somewhere I can find the rest? Yeah almost all of them are - all the good ones ones I'm pretty sure, I don't think I've missed any you know, yeah there's been a few here there that, well I mean I do a lot - I do live stuff like I'll be playing tomorrow night Market Hotel in New York, in Bushwick but those aren't recorded but the sets for the online shows or for the more important sets or whatever those are all just on Soundcloud. I need to do a new one it's been a minute so if you're looking for more you can you might have to wait for a second but there will come a time pretty soon I just have to get a little bit less busy! Okay final question this is from 'Riversabre' "Sam what are you most afraid of in the near future and most excited about?" Interesting question. I'm afraid of market consolidation pitching to the same two people for the rest of my life to have any hope of anybody of more than like 100 people seeing my stuff I'm afraid of being I don't know I'm grappling with different emerging cultural movements and formats that and finding a way to more genuinely interact with than in a way that's just not like doing like a like 'hello-fellow-kids' type meme thing excited about I'm excited people are getting, having these kinds of conversations about institution building, about you know that an institution like Serpentine is is interested in this kind of thing it's a long time coming because certainly I don't I really don't expect Epic to come and save the day for artists but I think as we grapple with it and come to terms with what this space is and what the artistic cultural and you know value and economic dynamics of that are finding people kind of come to that realization together in this kind of really weird time and start to talk about the strategies for how we carve out a space that is not entirely determined by a quarterly exponential growth of some American company that's very promising that's very exciting and there's just more tools and you know once I get our game working I'm just psyched to play around more that's fun and have maybe a slightly more stable income than just music videos but more broadly just socially I think these types of things of building communities together that are having fun maybe like play spaces, things that are responsive, things that are you know academically interested but are you don't have to that are in more fun spaces acknowledging that fun needs to happen or that exciting dramatic things happen and that interesting intelligent people don't have to be in a white box to do that I think is very exciting Well thank you so much for speaking with us Sam, let us know when you have more info on the game as well - I will the moment it comes out.
I also want to let everybody know that as part of the FAE2 Art x Metaverse programming we've got more Lives coming up which can be found via Serpentine's website as well as Training Sessions around different metaverse technologies and also we've got some podcasts as well from different people that we interviewed from FAE2 as well but thank you very much Sam - Thank you Thank you all so much I can't - FAE2 really was very impressive I usually am very cynical about these kinds of things, I mean obviously people have been hearing it for the last hour but the whole piece was really heartening and exciting to read and I felt a lot or most of it I was just like 100% very very into so it's a pleasure and thank you everybody for listening Thanks Sam [Music] [Music] [Music]