One of the great things about hanging around the Cycling '74 campfire is the great group of artists and musicians that are found there. One of these, Andrew Benson, produces visual artwork that ranges from stamp-sized GIFs through massive festival/concert graphics. Find out more about Andrew's work and artistic perspective in this mini-interview.
Still from "Melting Rainbow Heart"
Let's start off by introducing people to your artwork. What are some of your highlight pieces?
Right now I seem to have 3 different trajectories of work, all sort of inter-related.
The main thread is heavily feedback driven experimental digital video/animation work like these:
as well as these browser-based projects:
And the past few years I've been working a lot with 3D animation like this new one I just released through Undervolt & Co:
And oddly one of the most popular projects I've done is Wolf+Unicorn:
And then there is live video performances and installations that are hard to document well, but it's an important part of what I do.
You've been involved in collaborations with some big name performers. What are some of the particular challenges with that kind of work?
I've been very lucky to work with some wonderful artists all around. The biggest challenge there is that it's not just you in a studio coming up with a crazy idea and going for it. In addition to the headlining artist, you need to work with a big group of people who are all motivated by things not failing and being as predictable as possible. As someone fascinated by the unexpected in my own software, it took some adjustment to see things from that perspective.
The biggest challenge there is that it's not just you in a studio coming up with a crazy idea and going for it.
The other part of it, as Video Director, you often need to be on the phone with equipment vendors and venue people and your job is to demand the best possible situation while not making any enemies. That relationship is really important because in festival shows (for example) you are getting to the venue early in the morning and all you have is soundcheck to make sure the rig is going to display your output properly.
Among Max users, you are probably best known for your "Jitter Recipes" articles that describe interesting visual effects. What was your motivation for doing the recipes, and will we be seeing any more in the future?
When I was learning Jitter in art school, I found that the core stuff I really wanted to do was only hinted at in the tutorials. When I started working for Cycling '74, it was around the time that Jitter 1.5 was coming along with a lot of new sound manipulation and OpenGL features that were really exciting. As a side project, I started putting together these little demos of the new features while also trying to provide some guidance for people who were learning Jitter. These started as a Friday afternoon forum post, but it became clear quickly that we should collect them together and add some text documentation. Since a lot of us at Cycling '74 also happen to be serious home chefs, the cookbook format seemed like an obvious hit.
As a side project, I started putting together these little demos of the new features while also trying to provide some guidance for people who were learning Jitter.
I've begun work on a Jitter Recipes package that will be updated as I further develop the content. Right now, I'm focused on modernizing and consolidating the essential existing recipes, but I'm also excited to get to a point where I can start adding in some new ones.
While most of your writing has been about visuals, I've also noticed a few articles about sound/audio. What is your interest in audio work, and how do you integrate it with your visual work?
I actually started using Max because I wanted to do audio work with it. I spent most of teenage years playing drums in garage bands. The cool thing about being the drummer is everyone leaves their gear at your house, so after hours I'd go out and start plugging things in and experimenting with all the sound gear. So when I was in art school I really got into sound art and performance (I was a Painting major), and took a Max class with Laetitia Sonami. I consider sound, synthesis and music to be a really core part of my identity as an artist, although nowadays that tends to be more just part of the studio process and not necessarily a big focus of my output. I love collaborating with musicians because it keeps me connected to that part of things.
[You can also hear more about Andrew Benson’s work - and his background - in his interview in this Art + Music + Technology podcast.]