Techno Mutants. An interview with the artist Ignas Krunglevičius

July 10, 2022
Author Aistė Marija Stankevičiūtė

Ignas Krunglevičius (b. 1979, Lithuania) currently lives and works in Oslo. He received an MA in music composition from the Norwegian Academy of Music in 2010. His installations, videos and sculptures often combine sound and text, where he explores the intermix between the agency of power, economy, nature, and existential realities generated by global technological developments. His works have been exhibited at the OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shanghai, China; Kunsthall Oslo, Norway; Ultima, Oslo, Norway; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, USA; Transmediale, HKW, Berlin, Germany; La Biennale di Venezia, Nordic pavilion, Italy; the 19th Sydney Biennial, Australia; and elsewhere.

Aistė Marija Stankevičiūtė (AMS): Your artistic practice often includes key words of language games, power structures, mechanisms of the human psyche, and control of society and the individual, but my curiosity got was excited by a sentence I read in an interview published on Muzikos antena. You said you ‘don’t like romantic music very much’. What is that romantic music you don’t like so much? Why?

Ignas Krunglevičius (IK): I’ve always been interested in the future: both science fiction and various speculations trying to imagine what the world will look like in the future. When this question was asked, I interpreted nostalgia and romanticism as a human reaction and an inability to understand what was happening now. Looking at the past, longing for what was, and comparing it with the present: I’m not interested in that kind of idealisation of the past. But a long time has passed since that conversation: now it seems I have confused art and ideology, so I’m no longer angry at romanticism, I’m interested in all kinds of art.

Ignas Krunglevičius, VISIONS, Thailand Bienalle, 2018. Photo: Thailand Bienalle

AMS: Talking about the things you love, your work is closely related to techno in various ways, both in sound and in visual language. For example, in your work Playable character the text and colour appear on the screen and change synchronically to the sound, raising tension reminiscent of strange parties; it acts as a compelling advertisement, or a cold social media reaction that is both intimidating and engaging. Interestingly, all of these elements, turned into artworks, tend to float in a clean, sterile environment, one in which you cannot hide, one that reminds you how we imagine the future. It would be interesting to know what connections with techno music you see in the ‘present future’. With what political power is this pulsating?

IK: In the 1990s, just after independence, I remember the moment when music suddenly changed. Lithuania’s borders opened, new clubs appeared, and legendary parties started … That new sound has moved fully into the zeitgeist. Maybe because it was that genre of electronic music that dominated my youth, is it so close and understandable in my current work? Techno is completely dependent on digital sound production technology, timbres change rapidly by mastering new ways of extracting sound.

Technology, in a broader sense, is completely related to ideology and culture. As soon as a technological leap occurs, culture changes and the understanding of the world is renewed. As Benjamin Britten often mentions in his writings, this is the Copernican shock: the discovery of a new technology creates a new way of seeing the world. New ways of expression and new aesthetics are born. For example, there is currently an explosion in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and sound synthesis, we can hear new things not only in techno sound mutants, but also in the corners of experimental, noise, field and other electronic music.

AMS: Have you noticed techno mutants taking a physical form? Since, in addition to being a composer, you were also part of the PODIUM project space in Oslo, you had the opportunity to actively observe art trends and tendencies. Have you noticed any mutants or phenomena from techno and noise music in visual artworks?

IK: After eight years of activity, a change happened in our PODIUM Oslo team: we handed over the entire development of the programme to a new generation. A couple of years ago it became obvious to us that PODIUM had to renew itself. For a long time, we searched for someone who could pick up the baton. Since the beginning of this year, the current team has been curating a whole series of young artist exhibitions, and it’s easy to see that sound is having a big impact (and not just at parties). Most recently, PODIUM presented a series of works where writers collaborated with sound artists. now has three audio works. Next to PODIUM, KAFÉ HÆRVERK (the legendary experimental music club) often organises noise breakfasts, where from 8am in the morning Harald Fetveit handles the brains of every visitor who comes for coffee and porridge. In the post-Covid era, the desire of the public and artists to be together is felt, so there are many more group exhibitions and long parties that last until the morning.

Ignas Krunglevičius, Hard Body Dyspraxia, Longyearbyen, Svalbard, 2021. Photo: Tom Warner

AMS: Is being a part of a creators’ community or group important to you? How often do you collaborate with other artists?

IK: I think artists are never isolated from the community, so to some extent we are all part of the general collective of artists: we always share our influence with our colleagues. To answer the question more precisely, the aspect of authorship and its sharing should be mentioned. When creating solo, authorship is usually quite clear; but in a group it’s much more complicated. When we decided to hand over PODIUM’s activity to a new generation, together with the former PODIUM team, we founded the INFOPSIN collective (with Ragnhild Aamås, Lesia Vasylchenko, Istvan Virag and Ayatgali Tuleubek). Our first project is a multimedia work that lasts for many years. Here, authorship is divided according to the expertise of the group’s artists.

Creating with a team is very attractive to me because of the complexity and the results. Next to my solo work, INFOPSIN gives me ballast and destabilisation. In the collective surroundings, unexpected creative decisions often happen, which later influence solo works, and this encourages one to overstep one’s aesthetic limits.

AMS: It would be interesting to learn about artist groups in Norway. In Lithuania it’s not a very frequent occurrence; we love one-off gatherings most. How common is it in Scandinavia?

IK: Next to INFOPSIN there is also Tenthaus, FRANK, Spatial Operations, Svartjord, Usikker kunstjente, Sexy boyfriend, Skeiv kopp, Louise Dany, Lilithists, Verdensrommet, Textfuckers and other collectives. I think the emergence of longer artist collaborations is inevitable. In order for some works to appear, a group, a joint creative process, is needed. Creating with friends is a lot of fun. It is also important to mention that collective work is encouraged by cultural funds, which enables the realisation of bigger ideas.

AMS: Last year at Artica Listens you created the sound installation Hard Body Dyspraxia. In Longyearbyen, the northernmost settlement in the world, you turned a defunct coal power plant into a loudspeaker by attaching tactile sound transducers to the objects in it. Can you tell us more about these tools and the recording process? It is interesting how the smallest creatures echo in such a gigantic body. How is your work related to tactility? How do you understand that those touch-caused waves are already becoming an artwork?

IK: In 2020, I was invited to the artist residency Artica in Longyearbyen. At the time, I had just rediscovered the work of the composer Maryanne Amacher, and during a tour around an abandoned power plant the organisers asked me what I would like to create there. Inspired by Maryanne’s work, I proposed a sound installation spanning the entire space of the abandoned power plant. Maryanne Amacher was interested in sound born in structures. And although I’ve never had the chance to experience her work live, this idea has been very much in sync with my own work. Imagining what it might sound like, Hard Body Dyspraxia was my attempt to create a medium where space becomes the source of sound. Sound is a form of touch, in this installation the sound could be felt not only with the ears, but also with the body.

The tactile sound transducers I use in sound installations send sound energy into the material to which the transducer is attached. For example, a transducer connected to a wooden door will turn that door into a sound source, and any sound played through the transducer will take on the physical sound characteristics of that wooden door, sounding soft and slightly muffled. A transducer connected to metal will generate a much clearer, metallic sound. This materiality turns into a quality of sound, a timbre: in the Hard Body Dyspraxia installation, the sound of the flies in the glass sounded on the edges of a steam turbine, something between a bell, a glass and the hum of insects echoed.

Ignas Krunglevičius, ECHOPRAXIA, 3D skecthes, 2022. Photo: Ignas Krunglevičius

AMS: What do you have most thoughts and plans for right now? What projects are waiting for you in the future?

IK: I am currently preparing several projects: a solo exhibition and an installation at the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo this September, where I plan to further develop an idea I tested on the island of Svalbard, to turn the museum into a speaker, where walls, doors and various objects turn into sound sources.

In October, I will show new sound sculptures at the Vartai gallery in Vilnius. In addition to these soon-to-happen exhibitions, I’m working with the material I discovered together with the artists’ collective INFOPSIN. Last year, we showed the performance-opera Echopraxia at Gallery 1986 in Vilnius, which I’m now trying to reproduce in 3D. We recorded the choreographic elements in a motion capture studio; we scanned the buildings with Lidar, and recreated the costume materials in 3D to simulate the physics as realistically as possible. It is very curious how this sampled reality will continue to be broadcast after acquiring the aesthetics of the computer game. And in parallel, it contrasts with the filmed material from the performance and the studio. There will be a synthetic version of the opera that will turn into a movie or a game, or something between a movie and a game and an opera. I’m very interested in simulations, recreations, both of existing things or creatures, and of speculative creations. And I’m not talking about the thoughts of Jean Baudrillard here, but the new achievements of computer simulation. The restoration of nature through the production of machines, architecture, politics, economics. What will it all look like? What will the new techno mutant sound like?

Ignas Krunglevičius, Hard Body Dyspraxia, Longyearbyen, Svalbard, 2021. Photo: Tom Warner