A Conversation with Ultraviolet.to

Ultraviolet.to is an interaction design studio based in Rome, investigating the relationship between man and machine through an interdisciplinary and collaborative attitude. Formed by members Bruno Capezzuoli, Tito Cetroni, Massimo Zomparelli, Francesco Viteri, Giulio Pernice and Laura Arcangeli, Ultraviolet.to mainly uses sound and light as a source to create interactive installations, continuously searching for new forms of creative expression. Until 7 January 2024, their first land art piece, Eco, is on view in Tuscany: a stream of neon light that starts from a giant and luminous sphere, connecting nature to human activity from the limestone quarries of Monte Calvi to the mountains of Campiglia Marittima. Thus, an immaterial path is created that not only tells the local story, but amplifies the voice of nature, through field recordings that enclose the sound of wildlife and the surrounding ecosystem. We asked them some questions about their new work.

You have been involved in interaction design for several years, and you were making art through your computer long before it became fashionable (indeed, since the computer, in the art world, was not really well seen). In a world that has gone mad with artificial intelligence – sometimes uncritically, or in a state of confusion between euphoria and concern – where do you stand, and how do you manage to remain authentic?

Art has always been at the forefront of experimentation with new technologies, often used to investigate new social relationships that arise. The use of AI by many artists is not far behind, the curiosity towards this tool is strong, and the future potential is still unexpressed. For us, using AI is just one of the many techniques available. We choose it if we feel that it would be more effective in communicating our thinking. Certainly, it is undeniable that we feel a great fascination for AI at the moment, as we are experimenting a lot with neural networks.

Eco, render, courtesy Ultraviolet.to

Your artistic practice is based on two main elements: light and sound. Can you explain why?

The wavelength, the path of light, the visible spectrum… These are all elements that bring us back to the root of light, an element constantly present in our productions. The artistic installations that we have created – those that use as a language the transmission of a luminous form in its simplest state, such as 405 Fields – are the works to which we are most attached. The sound counterpart in these installations is our interpretation of an audio signal emitted by light and not audible to the human ear. It is also strongly true that the work of art has its fulfilment in the act of the viewer’s perception, since you have a generation of sense exactly when the photon stimulates the retina.

With Eco you had to deal with the natural space and, for the first time, with the monumental dimension proper to a work of Land Art. What was it like to relate to such a large space, to the Earth itself?

The confrontation with a natural space always requires us to walk “on tiptoes”, trying to act as much as possible in harmony with it. Additionally, the large size of the spaces that are involved led us to consider aspects that we had never considered before in the production of our art installation, or what impact it will have on the inhabitants who will coexist with this new entity of light.

Eco, installation view, courtesy Ultraviolet.to

The sound of nature, the field recording of the Cava and the woods is a central element to the artwork: where does the idea of amplifying and propagating this melody, giving voice to this echo of the mountain, come from?

In this work the sound is a core concept, and it articulates the story of the natural elements that blend with the work of man. Conceiving this installation, we first started to imagine this melody, and then we came to conceive how to make it an installation with the light and the sphere on the Rocca Antica. The sense of audio in this installation is synesthetic to light. It is our intention to work with the “raw material of information”: sound has the role of giving three-dimensionality to space, while light compresses it into a one-dimensional line.

An important work of sound capture and sonorization was made by Ipologica [a collective of producers, authors, DJs, live performers and sound engineers founded by Fabio Sestili and Giulio Maresca in 2006].

In several of your works, the central relationship was that of man and machine. With Eco, instead, the binary involves man and nature, reconnecting the mountain to human work. How did you interpret the link between man and nature in this work? Is there an "ecocritical" intent or not?

Actually, Eco is the second installation designed in recent months that compares the relationship between man/nature (the other work is waiting to be produced). We believe that in a natural and instinctive way we are transforming the object of our artistic investigation. In Eco there is no critical reference: the objective was rather to magnify the two main aspects, that is the work of man understood its highest meaning and nature that is a characteristic and an element strongly present in those areas. Ours is not an educational but rather a prospective operation: we put ourselves in a position to create installations that can give rise to new points of view from the spectators.

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