27 October 2016

Interview with
Cedric Kiefer, Onformative:
Unity of Senses

Text: Franziska Porsch

In abstract terms, design is an input-output system that transforms ideas and materials into something new, as determined by the specific designer in question and his or her context and tools. For a while now, the focus in design has not been solely on output anymore, concentrating increasingly on the system itself and the associated (design) process. The following projects show how different designers approach this issue.



The Berlin Studio Onformative includes an open process in its working methods that can result in various different outputs. Depending on the project, different methods, formats, and media are used that move between the analogue and digital worlds, and humans and technology. The “Collide” installation is their latest work operating in line with two previous projects: “Unnamed Soundsculpture” and “Pathfinder”. For “Unnamed Soundsculpture” a dancer’s movements were translated into a three-dimensional point cloud using depth cameras from which, in turn, a free visualisation emerged. “Pathfinder”, by contrast, is an inspiration to dancers. Following an algorithm, projected into the space are geometric shapes on to which the dancers can orientate their choreographies. By doing this, “Pathfinder” does not illustrate a creative expression like “Unnamed Soundsculpture” but rather guides it. Both elements are evident in “Collide”. Once recorded movement data had been transformed into abstract, atmospheric images, three cellists set it to music. During this time, the visualisation was fed to them via VR spectacles. The resulting image and sound landscape is accordingly the result of several transmissions of creative processes that flow together into a synaesthetic experience for the viewer. We spoke to Cedric Kiefer from Onformative about the background to “Collide”.


The transmission of the analogous into the digital and vice versa is a central element in your work. Where is the fascination for you and what aim are you pursuing?


Our commitment to explore the boundaries of art, design, and technology through thoughtful and meaningful works leads to many interesting intersections between mediums. This approach creates the opportunity to look into these spaces and challenge the boundaries by which these fields are defined. An important appeal for us to examine analog and digital fields is the way that it represents the human connection to technology. For us it is a natural impulse from which to conceptualise innovative ideas and a new visual language.



“Collide” was a commissioned work. What objective did the project have and how much freedom did you have?


“Collide” was commissioned by Dolby Laboratories in San Francisco. Dolby was inspired by our previous works like “Unnamed Soundsculpture” and “Pathfinder” and asked us to create a site-specific work for the gallery in the lobby of their headquarters. We were asked to create a work under the theme of dance and technology. It was open to interpretation and we had the freedom to choose our own artistic direction. As opposed to only working with dance, we chose to broaden our direction and look at different kinds of human movement and gestures. One of our leading fascinations is the relationship between humans and technology. The conceptual background of this project exemplifies our approach by examining a new visual language through which to interpret movement. The briefing from Dolby outlined the technical capabilities of the gallery so that we could make use of the incredible sound technology and ribbon screen in the space. The film was created specially for the 62-foot long screen with a ratio of 13:1.





There are various approaches from previous works to be found in “Collide”. To what extent does “Collide” offer a representative synthesis of your working methods?


“Collide” is a good example of our collaborative process and interdisciplinary approach. The work is a culmination of ideas that we have explored in previous works such as “Unnamed Soundsculpture” and “Pathfinder”. As we branch out of looking at dance in particular, in “Collide” we experiment with a broader idea of bodies moving through space. Our process involves an interdisciplinary approach incorporating the analysis of recorded motion data. “Collide” is also a good example of our collaborative process. We worked with musicians and sound designers to fluidly combine sound and visuals from the inception of the piece. This process exemplifies our commitment to explore concepts to their fullest potential and create a piece that is experienced on a deeper level.



What sort of challenges within the project did you face with the complexity, the many transmission steps – dance to animation to sound?


Our main challenge to achieve the work was to translate the feeling and idea of the union of senses into a visual and sonic format. As the visuals acted as composer for the sound and vice versa, all components of the installation impact each other to become one and exemplify the phenomenon of synaesthesia.



Collide – digital art installation from onformative on Vimeo.



Is there a new project already in the offing? What have you planned for the future?


We currently have several projects at different stages of completion. Our upcoming projects vary from physical kinetic sculptures to other digital screen-based works. We always have ideas for new works, just waiting for the right opportunity to come to fruition and be exhibited. As we are committed to working in a collaborative atmosphere, we are also always interested in opportunities that bring us into an open process with others working in different fields.


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