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17 Apr 2018

Artist Interview | Barak Chamo

We sat down with Lightbox Lab artist, Barak Chamo to discuss his upcoming show and more. 

Lightbox: So you’re a creative technologist and interactive designer? Tell us more. 

Barak Chamo: “Creative technologist” means different things to different people as it became sort of a catch-all title for everyone who’s doing cool and weird things with media tech, but I actually think it described my practice perfectly. I explore emerging technologies, from machine learning to virtual reality, projection mapping and whatever comes next, and try to incorporate them into my practice in a creative and artistic way.

Learning a new technology or technique is just like learning how to play a new instrument, it becomes another tool in the palette ad the real fun and satisfaction comes from bringing these tools together to make something new. At my Lightbox residency, for example, I’m combining depth-cameras for crowd motion tracking with reactive visuals that respond to the audience. I’m also combining projection mapping with laser mapping to create an installation that exists both in front of and beyond the screen, fully immersing the audience in it.

LB: When did you realize you were an artist?

BC: It’s funny to be asked this question now, as I’ve been asking my professors the same one just last year. I dont’ know if I’d call myself an artist (yet, at least) but I realized that I want to pursue an artistic practice when I left the startup world and dedicated by time and effort to using technology as a creative tool and a platform for self-expression and critique. It’s an exciting journey and I feel fortunate to have been given the opportunity to showcase my work in a place like Lightbox.

LB: What comes first, the art or the technology?

BC: I think there’s a critical and delicate balance between art and technology, particularly in new media or media art. I’ve seen many examples of work where the balance is off in either direction. Sometimes technology comes first and the piece is informed more by an ambitious technical goal rather than a coherent artistic statement, the outcome tends to look more like a technical demo and less like a work of art. Other times, a piece is pretty much complete and a technological component is added for some added “wow”.

I found that at least for me it’s very easy to jump the gun and over-do the tech part of a tech+art project so when developing my own work I try to consider the art / message / impact of a piece first, whether in a performance or an installation, and apply the technologies and choose the mediums that will elevate the work and bring it to the next level.

LB: Who has inspired your craft most? 

BC: Such a hard question! I’m constantly inspired by the colleagues I work and collaborate with, artists who’s work explore new means of creative expression and people I meet in my travels. It’s a constant stream of stimulation and inspiration that turns into new work and project ideas and avenues to explore. The field of new media and creative technology is evolving at an incredible pace and it’s important to me to keep an open mind and learn from the works and achievements of others.

Most recently I’ve been exploring light and color interaction and have been inspired by the works of Robert Irwin and James Turrell. I’m excited to learn from their masterful manipulation of light and space and apply what I find to my practice. I’m also very much inspired by the TeamLab, a Japanese new media studio and the work done at the Ishikawa Watanabe Lab at the University of Tokyo, both pushing projection mapping in new and exciting ways.

LB: Why Lightbox?

BC: Lightbox is a really incredible space and its mapped surrounding allows me to design an installation that is both truly immersive and collaborative. The reason I’m still more excited about full-room projection mapping than VR or AR is that it allows the audience to experience an installation together, share reactions and moments and be immersed in it from all directions, something that I find quite wondrous.

It’s been a pleasure working with the Lightbox team so far (shout out to Hayden the projection Wizard!). They’ve been really accommodating and gave me complete creative freedom in choosing a direction for the upcoming installation and building up both the tech and the art aspects of it.