INTERVIEW BY 採訪 X HARRY LIU 劉競晨
TRANSLATED BY 翻譯 X CAI SUDONG 蔡蘇東
IMAGES COURTESY OF 圖片提供 X SONICA 聲音藝術節
Mark Lyken is an artist, filmmaker and composer based in rural Dumfries & Galloway in Scotland. Utilizing his gifts as a musician as well as a painter, he now creates observational film, music, and sound works, together with performances and installations that have been presented nationally and internationally. His current work explores the relationships to place and the interplay between nature and culture. This has led to collaborations with artists and scientists, most notably from the University of Aberdeen’s School of Biological Sciences. His film Mirror Lands, which co-directed with Emma Dove, won the Award for Creativity at the IFFEST Documentary Art Festival 2014 in Bucharest and his latest audio-visual commission Oscillon Response premiered in Glasgow at Sonica 2015.
ART.ZIP: Would you tell us a bit of your background and how did you start your practice?
ML: For 24 years or so I made electronic music and pieces of film as completely separate things. I did an artist residency in the highlands with the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, so I worked with ecologists. They had a field station in a place called Cromarty, and they look at the impact of tourism and shipping on the local marine population. As I was interested in sand, I managed to get this amazing residency and go and hang with marine biologists who do lots of underwater recordings. It was an absolute dream and a real turning point for me. They gave me a chance; they saw something in my work, the music that I’d made and the visuals. By that time, I’d moved into doing gallery paintings based on meteorological phenomena. I did a six-month residency with them and after that things kind of snowballed.
ART.ZIP: What do you think is the common theme throughout your work? What’s your focus?
ML: It’s mostly about sound. I’m also interested in people’s relationship to place. Why people are there, what they feel about it and then interviewing the next person. Their relationship to their town, city or village is completely different to the person living next door. So I’m really interested in those stories. I’m interested in small and big. I think there’s real poetry there.
ART.ZIP: For your performance Oscillon Response, you used the same machine to produce the work, but the original data is lost. What’s the story?
ML: Yes, it’s an oscilloscope, from the 1950’s, completely analogue; the trace patterns are on the screen. You feed sound in, you see the patterns and then it’s gone. Ben Laposky, who made the original Oscillons, would photograph them with high-speed film and freeze those moments in time. When I came to do it, essentially I did the same thing. I had a really good camera, but with a low-tech solution. I had a black material hood over the oscilloscope and me and I was just filming. I had a modular synthesizer, so I had modules feeding sound into the oscilloscope. It’s a digital transfer of an analogue process. I was essentially using the same process as Laposky and I took all that raw footage and then edited it digitally. I treated it like it was film, I wanted there to be some kind of narrative and structure.
I’m really interested in mixing those two worlds: analogue and digital. I made digital work for a long time and I felt I was missing that tangible connection. With the music as well, I started to get back to using synthesizers, things that I could touch, which I think is really important. I think there’s a disconnection with digital, so I wanted to be able to engage with it in a tactile way.
ART.ZIP: 在《示波反應（Oscillon Response）》現場表演中，您使用了當初創作時的同一套設備，但原始數據卻丟失了。這其中的來龍去脈是怎樣的？
ML: 是的，那是一臺1950年代的示波器（一種能夠顯示電壓信號動態波形的電子測量儀器），完全采用模擬信號；軌跡圖像顯示在屏幕上。你接入一個聲音，就可以看到圖像，然後圖像轉瞬即逝。示波的原創者本·拉博斯基（Ben Laposky）會用高速膠片把圖像拍下來。而我也采用同樣的方法。我有一臺非常好的相機，但使用方法幾乎沒有技術含量——就是用黑色的罩子罩住示波器和自己，然後開始拍照。我也有一台模塊化合成器，因此我能用模組給示波器輸入聲音，換句話說，我把模擬信號數字化了。我和拉博斯基的制作過程是一樣的，我收集了所有的底片，然後進行數字化編輯。我把它當作電影來對待，我想讓作品有一點敘事性和結構性。
ART.ZIP: What do you think digital art is? Is there a way to describe such a large field?
ML: I think it’s like anything else. It’s a medium, another set of tools to produce work. Whether it’s a brush, camera or a mouse, it’s all to do with taste, your aesthetic sensibility. For me personally, I like to be able to introduce a tactile element, but everything we do, even if it’s an analogue process, is recorded digitally, and you can’t escape that. It’s just numbers, 0’s and 1’s, it’s a way of capturing that data.
ART.ZIP: Why do you have a digital methodology in your work?
ML: Again, because it’s an accessible tool and it’s what I grew up with. I’m 42 and when I was growing up both my parents worked for a company called Timex, and the factory in the town where I lived made the ZX Spectrum computers in the early ‘80’s. So we all had these computers. Those computers didn’t do anything unless you programmed them, so we all had a little understanding of programming, and we all grew up with computers, from a really early age. I had my first computer in1982, and that’s kind of incredible.
That kind of digital way feels natural. The thing about those computers was that you could open them up and repair them, because they were quite simple, so you had that hands-on feel. My parents made them, so I knew what was inside them.
ML: 因為數字手段是一種唾手可得的工具，我從小就和它打交道。我現在42歲，小時候我的父母在一家名為泰梅克斯（Timex）的公司上班，而旗下的工廠在1980年代前期就開始制造ZX Spectrum計算機。所以我們那時就都有電腦了。那時候的電腦需要你給它們設置程序，否則它們什麽都做不了，所以我們從小就對編程有所了解，而且可以說是和計算機一起長大的。我在1982年就有了第一臺電腦，這是挺不可思議的事情。
ART.ZIP: There is, perhaps, a criticism that a new generation of digital artists cares more about the aesthetics of a work rather than a concept behind it. They are busy chasing the new effect. What do you think?
ML: I think it’s like anything. It is quite exciting, but the last thing you want to do is to make work that follows any kind of fashion because it’s going to date. It’s like when lens flare came out, now you look at advertising from the ‘90’s and everything has lens flare, it’s just horrible. Personally, I like to use the technology in the same way as if I was cutting actual film or tape. I like to use digital tools in the same way as if I was doing an analogue process. It’s just much easier, that’s why I use it. You can have everything in your bag that you need. There’s no reason to be scared of that. I think it’s crazy that people would regard it as any different. It’s all about output, that’s the problem with digital art. It’s printed out; people have a problem with that process as if it’s just a poster. It’s a really strange thing.
ART.ZIP: What do you think the relationship is between art and technology? Is technology just for bringing out the new tools, or is it changing the field of art?
ML: I think they can’t help but feed of one another. It’s like a loop. You use the tools, and then maybe use them in a different way that the programmer intended. People drive it forward. People will always, and rightly so, use the tools incorrectly. You’ll use the application in a way that the programmer never intended, and that’s good because that’s humanity.
ART.ZIP: You’re also influenced by Graffiti culture…
ML: Graffiti teaches you. You go into places that you really shouldn’t be and you size them up, you regard them differently, as a canvas. It makes you really good at interacting with spaces. So there are lots of lessons that I took from graffiti. When I go into a room, I might not think of it in terms of painting any more, but I think of it in terms of what I could do with it. We’re in this room now and I can hear the echo and I’m thinking how I could work with the space. The graffiti thing is really interesting. It teaches you to be bold. I like to make work that is quite quiet and reflective. When you’re painting places, as a graffiti artist, you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, you have to be quite quiet. You meet some interesting, often quite scary characters in these places. I was never into mass acts of vandalism, I like to find an abandoned place and try and work with it as harmoniously as you can be. I then decided that, after so many years of using spray paint, it was starting to affect my health. Particularly in the ‘80’s when it was car paint, now it’s formulated. I still do mural works from time to time, but it’s more with emulsions, acrylics and things. As I do more and more of these environmental projects, I can’t be spraying.
ART.ZIP: Do you have any upcoming or recently completed projects?
ML: The Oscillon Response, it’s brand new. I’ve been working on that for about six months, well for a year actually, but six months full-time. So beyond that, I’ve developed a feature film, my first foray into drama, so it’s a scripted work. I have a producer and a screenwriter and we’re working on a project that’s called Out of the World and Into Borgue. Borgue is a little town in Dumfries and Galloway that’s always has a reputation of being otherworldly, so it’s an idea of investigating people’s idea to place from a previous art and documentary work, but taking it into a scripted psychological way. It’s a brand new challenge, but it means that I can score it as a composer as well.
ML: 有的，那就是全新版本的《Oscillon Response（示波反應）》。過去一年裡，有六個月我專職只做這件作品。除此之外，我還創作了一部劇情片，這是我第一次涉足這個領域，是一部有故事腳本的影片。和我合作的還有一位制作人和一位編劇，我們的項目叫《走出塵世，步入博爾格（ Out of the World and Into Borgue）》。博爾格（Borgue）是蘇格蘭鄧弗里斯蓋洛韋區域（Dumfries and Galloway）的一個小鎮，有著世外桃源的美譽。因此，我們的想法是根據早前的一部藝術紀錄片來探討人們對於處地的看法，再賦予其劇情化的心理活動過程。這是新的挑戰，但這也意味著我能以作曲家的身份為這部片子配樂。
ART.ZIP: Have you been to China before?
ML: No, I haven’t. What I’m interested in is the parallels between places, so if I’m making work in a little fishing village in the highlands I’m very interested if there are parallels between China or wherever. I’m just interested in the everyday things. There’s real poetry in people’s everyday life and I like to try and reveal that. Going somewhere as an outsider you would see things, that you if lived there, you wouldn’t, because you’re used to it. I quite like being on the periphery.