Virtual Organisms Writhe in Generative Music Video "Tehraj"
Symbios’s generative music video for Tsaik’s song "Tehraj" is like a moving Ernst Haeckel painting.
Screencaps by the author
Nature, like technology, is about systems, many of them imperceptible. It generates its own code, which results in everything we see—even the tools and technology created by humans. Technology itself can do something similar, but by human design. Generative art is sort of a marriage between the two, and this is on display in audiovisual artist Symbios’ new music video for Tsaik’s experimental, collage-like electronic track “Tehraj.” The video explores images of generative digital objects invading nature, and nature in turn invading the generative digital realm. In one scene green cabbages (or lettuce) pulsate rhythmically on a looped video of a forest and river scene, while in another a virtual camera on tripod looks out onto wintery scene.
“Tsaik’s production is an interesting mix of self-sampling, sound synthesis, and intense recomposition—a sort of simulated jazz,” Symbios tells The Creators Project. “To complement their rich production techniques and natural feel, I wanted to create a layered world featuring nature, generative organisms, and self-reflective video effects—a sort of simulated Ernst Haeckel. I settled on the use of stock footage of nature (some photographed by Tsaik), plant-like L-systems, datamoshing, and 3D models of kaleidoscopes.”
Symbios, who studied mathematics, condensed matter physics, and graphic theory at CalTech, also produces computer music as Isomov and SUGARQUOTE. He and Tsai met on a music subreddit. In the last few years, he has developed a generative art practice using Cinema 4D and various programming languages. Eventually, Tsaik and Symbios decided to collaborate on the audio-visual piece “Tehraj” for band’s upcoming album.
Symbios says he’s especially interested in the “speculative realist perspective” on virtual realities—how juxtaposing the virtual and actual (or real) can allow viewers to face the real and encounter the sublime. The reason he used generative art in this video has to do with its ability to create lifelike artistic organisms through simulation.
L-systems, Symbios explains, are models of self-similar plant growth and allow users to create very complex structures with a few simple rules. “The complexities of a biological plant are hard to replicate so simply, but the growth of l-systems has an uncanny resemblance with that of plants that exist in nature,” he says. This makes them a good mirror for the scenes presented in the video. L-systems are often used in video games to quickly generate natural landscapes.”
Symbios used datamoshing to give the video a natural impressionist feel to mirror the “tape-saturated feel” of “Tehraj.” The kaleidsocopes, on the other hand, were inspired by an old blog post on the topic.
“[Kaleidoscopes] are particularly interesting to me because of how strange it is to have a virtual solid be rendered using reflective surfaces within an already-virtual model of plants and nature,” Symbios explains. “I hope that this complex layering of the actual and virtual is an appropriate analogy for ‘Tehraj,' especially during the jarring transition near the end of the track.”