“Math is beautiful”: Interview with Lichterloh about Generative Art

Founded in 2005, research-based artist studio Lichterloh has been experimenting with digital technologies ever since. Using space, light, and transformation as their fundamental tools, the artist duo consisting of Christoph Schmid and Clemens Gürtler has been feverishly creating in-between the fields of art and technology, aiming to harmoniously fuse these opposites. Captivating generative art, live visual performances for musicians such as Kruder & Dorfmeister or HVOB, and interactive installations in minimalist, distinctive Lichterloh aesthetics have been among their works, fusing art and technology. 

By continuously expanding their practice, Lichterloh first entered the NFT-space as early as 2016. Mainly experimenting with generative art and creating algorithmic-based animations, the duo has found their place within the crypto-sphere. Staying true to their visual language, Lichterloh designs stylistically reduced, oftentimes monochrome generative videos and accentuate the visuals with harmonious sound. 

The NFT series “Automorph” is based on a research into self-contained, self-aware dynamic systems, as found in nature, biology, chemistry, or computer science. Translating questions such as “What is in the past, that brought us here?” or “How can we shape the future?” into a visual language, Lichterloh developed an algorithm making use of what is called a feedback loop: what happens in this moment affects the future; what was in the past has influenced the present. Each pixel of “Automorph” acts individually, while collectively forming a living, natural structure, ever-changing, never looking back, never coming back; still preserving the moment of self-awareness of each individual. 

In an interview, the duo Christoph Schmid and Clemens Gürtler take us behind the scenes of their artistic practice. 

You have been working in the fields of video, installation, and light for years now, exploring the relationship between art and technology. Do you see yourselves more as artists or as technicians?  
Almost all of our work uses technology in some kind of way. The reason we create art with technology is very simple for us: we are surrounded by it. Too rarely, though, it’s (mis-)used to create or show art. To us, it just makes sense to work on changing that. So, to answer your question, we might not be artists in a traditional sense, but you wouldn’t want us as your technicians either. 

Lichterloh is known for visually pleasing, oftentimes monochrome and stylistically reduced visuals, as seen in videos for HVOB or live on stage for Kruder & Dorfmeister. Have you always had a clear vision for your style?
It just happened. When we started performing live, everything was really new, and other people used to just layer as much video as possible, because you know, the software could do it. We had something different in mind – more precise, less random. Clarity. We kept to that. 

What boundaries have you been confronted with working between art and technology?  
Money. We can’t afford any of this stuff. 

With a background in animation, installation, and design, how did you first get into the NFT space?  
We got into crypto/decentralization in late 2016 and were immediately inspired by the NFT standard when it came out. We knew that one day, this could pay our rent. We had no idea NFTs would take off so soon. When they did, we were skeptical. There is too much noise, a lot of mediocre platforms, hardly any good ones. A lot has changed since then, and when misa.art knocked on our door in April this year, we were ready to release the first part of our series "Automorph". 

You entered the NFT space a while ago and mostly create generative videos. What fascinates you about generative art?   
It’s a lot of things. To a large extent, generative art is mathematics. And math is beautiful. Then there is an almost naive fascination with the fact that a few lines of code and a machine can generate something that touches people. Including ourselves. This never gets boring. Also, in contradiction to most of the generative art currently celebrated in the NFT space, we love the fact an artwork can be different every time you look at it. To us, generative art is more about specific moments than about consistency or reproducibility. 

Generative art is based on algorithms, making the process of creation very technical. What is important when creating an algorithm for an artwork? How do you combine the technical aspect with the artistic one?   
Preparing as well as presenting what we do usually involves a lot of technical work and consideration. The process of creating the actual imagery, however, is not much different than that of a painter. Similarly to using a brush to achieve what you are after, we use code. A machine might show it, but it is still us who instruct it. These instructions are the core of our artistic work. 

Once the algorithm is created, what are the next steps in your work process?   
Usually, a finished work consists of many pieces – a collection of algorithms rather than a single one, often adapted from various sketches or previous works. Again, similar to a painter, you build on your technique and use what you have learned to create new work. When such a work is done, we concentrate on executing presentation, which often is pre-defined before we start working on a project. Nevertheless, it can take up most of the time. 

Your work oftentimes revolves around philosophic topics, such as the question of life in your series "Automorph". How do you go on when visualizing those topics?  
We don’t have a recipe. Sometimes we will try to create a certain visual to express an idea, or pose a question we don’t have an answer to. Other times, as in the case with "Automorph", a visual might come out of research or sketching and by exploring it further, we learn about its nature and what it might be able to express.

Of all the disciplines you work on, what is your favorite one?   
To us, the differences are minimal. We love to create, and if we feel we can create something that matters within a certain space, we will try to do it. We do love performing live, as it’s the most direct in terms of feedback-that’s why we use it a lot to experiment with new ideas. 

“Automorph” by Lichterloh is released on October 18 at 6 PM CEST on misa.art. Please click HERE to learn more and collect the NFTs.  

FEATURED COLLECTION

Mossy #4
NFT

Lichterloh

Mossy #4

Bronze #4
NFT

Lichterloh

Bronze #4

Blue #4
NFT

Lichterloh

Blue #4

White #1
NFT

Lichterloh

White #1

Pink #4
NFT

Lichterloh

Pink #4

CREDITS: 
Artist portrait: Lukas Gansterer
HVOB: Window. Video by Lichterloh & Clemens Wolf
Bronze#4, Lichterloh, 2022.
Pink#4, Lichterloh, 2022.
Motley#6, Lichterloh, 2022.

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