On a rainy afternoon I head over to Stofan, a newly open small cafe in the center of our beloved smallest big city of the world. My date is with a Dutchman, an artist/computer geek I have been repetitively bumping into at various concerts in the course of the last two weeks or so. Nanna Dís is supposed to meet up with us as well. Officially to take photographs but I have a sneaking suspicion that under the mask of the photographer lurks the face of an vary editor here to spy on my modus operandi as it is only my second interview. Nanna Dís and the Dutchman arrive at almost the same moment, we order a round of coffee and plant ourselves in the only sofa available at the busy cafe.
So, who are you?
My name is Beer Van Geer and I´m from Der Haag. I have my own media company called Universal Media Man (universalmediaman.nl). I studied digital media at an art school in Utrecht. It is the only school in Holland that combines art, media and technology. So I did a lot of different things there, there the aim is to combine all media together really. After I graduated I started my little company. I mostly work as a freelancer but I also hire other freelancers. I do a lot of different stuff, from commercial projects to more artistic projects and all that stuff that I do is interactive.
Beer shows us a video of himself operating his graduation project, a short of interactive media box, ideal for helping out festival go-ers finding something that appeals to them. The hypothetical festival guest steps into a big box where he is confronted with a huge mirror displaying control buttons hovering over his reflection. By raising a hand and waving at the controls you change a moving image that is located in the center of the mirror. That moving image could be of a musical act playing at a particular festival for example. If you happen to see something you like you select it, expanding the center image and having it reveal info about where and when the particular musical act will be performing.
All we know (Info): www.universalmediaman.nl
All we know (Demo)
How many of these boxes are there?
I haven´t sold the idea to festivals jet, so I have only made the prototype. But it was stored in a place that got squatted and squatters trashed it, took it apart and used its walls for isolation in the sealing. So now there isn´t a box left. Although, I use the same mirror technique in other projects.
Next he shows us a video of a hospital security system he designed. It is based on similar mirror control technique. An example of a more commercial project he says. To me it looks the same as the surveillance system seen in Minority Report.
How did you end up in Iceland?
It was because of a project I was working on with Mind Games (mindgames.is). I was making an application that works with neuron feedback devises where the goal is to train you in meditation.
In this project, called the Dagaz Project, I work with mandala figures, geometric figures from Buddhist art used by monks to meditate. You can actually find them in every culture. Here in Iceland you have them in the patterns of you wool sweaters.
I first got interested in the mandala figures when I was traveling in south east Asia and started to notice their spiritual culture. They really have an good system to enable people to practice spiritual matters. For example boys have to stay in a temple there for a period of at least two weeks in their lifetime, after which they have a chance to learn more about meditation if they choose to.
In Holland we don´t have anything like that at all. Sure we have churches, but they´re all empty. And sure we have monks, but they are hidden away from society. The connection to the spiritual world has disappeared. But at the same time we have constructed devises that can measure the brainwaves. In the Dagaz Project we tried to adopt Eastern meditation ideas to Western standards by combining the mandala figures and Western brain wave measurement devises.
The Dagaz Project is an app that works with a device that you place on your head. This device picks up data about your inner state. When the program starts you´ll see a large circle in the middle of the screen. As you get calmer the circle gets smaller and smaller until finally it disappears. Then you have reached the next level. Now the mandala figures appear, dancing around a point in the middle of the screen. The figures and their arrangements get more and more impressive as you get calmer.
Dagaz Project (demo)
This is futuristic stuff! As me and Nanna Dís marvel at the dancing triangles on his computer screen Beer starts to tell us about his newest project.
My new project is related to the Dagaz Project. It is a synthesizer for feedback devises. That is, it is a synthesizer that visualizes feedback. It works like an open system so you can link it to different frequencies. For example if you connect it to a heart monitor you can emulate your hart rhythm with it. It links feedback to visual parameters. The synthesizer is set up visually around various gravity points witch effect particles that float in space. There is a main gravity point in the center and there are more points around the center. Each point has an gravity alternation slider witch can change the patterns, making it possible to create endless different forms, shapes and dynamics.
Beer points to his computer screen at something that looks like a windows media player plug-in while me and Nanna Dís pretentiously nod our heads pretending to have understood what he just said. He goes on explaining his newest work that is inspired by the geometry of nature, both on macro and micro levels. As we continue to pretend to understand I start to suspect that he must realize that his complex explanation concerning the geometry of nature as an open system is waisted on island hicks like ourselves. It must be his good manners. I decide to direct the interview on to, for us, more comprehensible topics.
You are also involved in an online concert program. What´s that and how does it work?
It is called Hyphae and it is a series of live electronic concerts wich are streamable online. The first one was the Extreme Chill concert at Kaffibarinn last June featuring Skurken, Tonik, Beatmakin Troopa, Orang Volante, Plat, Steve Sampling, Murya and Futuregrapher.
The Kaffibar concert is accessible in its entirety at: www.livestream.com/hyphae/video
The concept is about streaming electronic music from many different locations creating a synchronized global party and at the same time giving new up-and-coming musicians a bigger platform.
We have had two of these concerts already and they have been well received. Our first priority was to stream top quality music through the internet but now in the upcoming events we would like to add some interesting visuals to the streams. So most of the artist playing in upcoming shows will have some sort of a visual aspect to their performance, hopefully resulting in an more pleasurable viewing.
The next concert is on the 26th of November and for the first time it will be a stand alone Hyphae concert. The first two times we linked the concert to other events happening at the same time, the Kaffibar concert was for example linked to an art festival in Holland. On the 26th we plan on having concerts happening in different locations around the world at the same time. Musicians playing in different countries will together form the official line-up.
The Hypae II concert will feature musicians live from four countries (USA, Canada, Denmark & Netherlands). The concert starts at 19:00 (GMT) on the 26th of November. You can watch it online at http://www.hyphae.nl/ or, if in Iceland, catch it on screen at Kaffibarinn.
Do you feel that Icelandic electronic music compares to what is happening in other countries?
Yes, definitely. It is of very high standard and frankly I am amazed of the number of good electronic musicians in Iceland. Here it feels like everyone has a music identity or is involved in music in some way.
You think you will be coming back?
Yes, I plan on coming back very soon.
Interview: Hallur Örn Árnason
Photographs: Nanna Dís