A classically trained musician, AMIT PITARU (1974-) strives to create interactive animations with the same fluency as music both in his own web projects and his collaborations with James Paterson.
Both in his collaborative work with James Paterson on their joint site, www.insertsilence.com, and in solo projects for www.pitaru.com, Amit Pitaru embraces the often sterile process of computer coding in the same easy, emotionally expressive way he would play a musical instrument.
A classically trained jazz pianist, Pitaru was born in Jerusalem in 1974 but has lived and worked in New York for the past five years. He met Paterson at a conference in London in 2000 only to discover that they lived on the same Brooklyn street. They then developed the insertsilence.com site.
Neither Pitaru nor Paterson has any formal training in computer programming, yet they have taught themselves how to code and how to construct their own tools. They work in an improvisational way by simultaneously creating animated images from computer code using these tools. Each then refines the result again and again, until both are satisfied with it.
See Amit Pitaru's work at:
Q. How would you describe what you do?
A. My work can be seen as an effort to apply music-production methods towards visual design and motion. I'm currently learning how to create work through a balance of design and performance. This is not a new idea - jazz musicians have been doing so for years by improvising on musical structures. In many cases, I cannot find the tools to create what's in my mind, so behind the scenes I am developing custom tools that enable this exploration. The tool itself is not physically part of the final work, but rather an instrument through which the work is performed and recorded on.
Q. When did you first become interested in technology?
A. Playing piano from an early age signifies my initial interest in technology. Musical instruments are a profound example of technology that was perfectly designed according to the way we move, think, feel and, most important, the way we desire to express ourselves.
Q. How did that translate into an interest in digital art and design?
A. I think that my musical and visual aesthetics originate from the same source. Music, design and motion always came hand in hand for me, and digital art seemed to be a good common ground to explore this connection. As a musician, expressing creativity through code did not seem that much different from doing so musically. Both languages require a similar approach towards design.
Q. Originally you were a jazz pianist, how has that influenced your work as a digital artist and designer?
A. Ha - this is a subject for an entire book. Simply put, Jazz musicians produce music - improvise -through a profound understanding of structure, as well as masterful performing ability. This enables them to design through performance - a concept that I apply to my work.
Q. How did you and James Paterson first meet? And how did you begin your collaboration?
A. I first met James in London only to find out that we both lived in New York - in Brooklyn - on the same street! He would come to my place and animate while I practiced music. The room was set up in a way that enabled me to see what he was doing. After a while, it was apparent that we were both reacting to the other's work without consciously trying to do so. In consequence, James and I share a mutual interest in accessing the connections between sound, visuals and motion. We decided to explore this further using a common ground - coding in Macromedia Flash.
Q. Describe your working methods with James. How do you begin work on a new project, for example? Do you sketch, make notes, write code or go straight to the computer? And how does the process develop from then onwards?
A. During the production process, both the code and artwork are bounced between us like hot potatoes. We give each other full permission to destroy each other's work towards progress. A significant part of our work consists of creating tools that enable us to explore the connection between music and visual motion. This is where visual content and code meet. We build instruments which enable us to perform motion in the same manner that musicians perform music and also record the performance. These tools can be seen as the equivalent of a musical instrument and a multi-track recording system: set to produce motion of visuals rather than motion of sound. Once these instruments are complete, we practice them in the same manner that I would practice the piano. The idea is to achieve an intuitive and fluid control over the instrument, and than to use it to record motion over a musical track. For example, www.insertsilence.com (Pitaru's collaborative site with James Paterson) and the Bjork piece on www.showstudio.com both contain material which was performed and recorded with such tools.
Q. What inspires you and your work?
A. Listening to music is a most engaging experience for me - it can significantly affect my mood and take over my mind. I would like to create work that delivers the same engaging experience. I know that James shares the same goal, and actually was the first to articulate it as such.
Q. Do you draw inspiration from other digital arts and designers? (Except James.) If so, who?
A. I draw inspiration form conversing with people, even more so than from their work. I love to talk with Andries Odendaal from wireframe, Motomichi and Sigi from Antenna Design, Jemma Gura from Prate, Joshua Davis from praystation, Erik Natzke and many others. Most of all, I love having good conversations with my father who's a scientist and mother who's an artist.
Q. Which new technologies have had the most impact on your work?
A. Macromedia Flash enabled me to ease into the digital medium. Its intuitive learning-curve enabled me to adjust and reapply musical knowledge into this medium. But now that I'm 'in' learning C++ will probably enable me to gain the most freedom in the medium.
Q. What projects are you planning for the future?
A. James and I are both interested in extending our work into physical computing, robotics and sculpture. We have so many ideas on the table - it's a matter of picking the right one and getting some funding towards further research and development. Personally, there is new work in the field of Adaptive Learning Systems which I would like to use. It's funny how an art project can take one through so many practical issues of design and psychology. Perhaps some of the lessons I've learned can do some good in other fields. We'll see.