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A Virtual Universe of Multisensory Psychedelia Appears in Barcelona

For this year’s Sónar Festival’s +D stage, Berlin-based artist Tarik Barri debuted a new 3D generative audiovisual performance.

by DJ Pangburn
Jun 23 2017, 5:11pm

Imagery seen in the first ambient half of Tarik Barri’s ‘Versum’ performance. Images courtesy the artist.

Both on his own and with musical artists like Radiohead, Monolake, and Nicolas Jaar, Berlin-based artist Tarik Barri has been turning musical dreams into 3D worlds. In his latest audiovisual work, Versum, featuring Lea Fabrikant, which recently debuted at Sónar Festival's +D program, Barri took a mesmerized crowd deep into a hallucinatory 3D world by collectively flying them through abstract, shimmering, and colorful visuals that mirrored, when paired with evolving, ambient sounds, the effect of a psychedelic trip. Using a joystick, Barri essentially piloted the crowd through a black void punctuated by color-shifting and rippling imagery; a technique he utilizes again in the Versum's second half while performing with Fabrikant.

The joystick allows Barri to smoothly introduce new visuals into the virtual frame by turning left or right, panning up or down, rotating, and otherwise switching directions in the flight path. As this is happening, viewers hear the ambient generative sounds synchronize with moving 3D images that are colorful sunbeams one minute, ripples in space-time the next, and various things in between.

"The movements you get to see as you travel through this universe are quite smooth and human-like because they're actually created in realtime by a human." Barri tells Creators. "If I had some fixed trajectory it would always, in one way or another, betray its more robotic nature. Also during the part where Lea Fabrikant records her own voice and images, everything is done on the spot, as she creates and affects visuals and sounds, composing and improvising a whole new piece before our eyes."

Barri used a combination of Ableton Live, Max/MSP, and GLSL (OpenGL Shading Language) to create the sounds and visuals in Versum. He compares this software system to a brain with eyes and ears that creates instead of receive audio and video signals.

Barri uses GLSL as the system's eyes to create the shapes, colors, and textures of everything seen in Versum. Ableton Live is the ears of the operation, in which Barri programs plugins in Max for Live. This part of the system produces the sounds that he says the brain wants to hear. Max/MSP, as a sort of nervous system, connects all of these elements.

Imagery seen in the second half of Tarik Barri's 'Versum', performed with Lea Fabrikant.

Instead of using straight lines in Versum, Barri creates shapes and motion that are more organic and, as he says, wavy. The idea here is to properly integrate the visuals with the ambient music, which of course is comprised of all sorts of waveforms and their various permutations. Barri wanted the sounds and visuals not to just connect or synchronize on a technical level, but on a highly emotional one.

For this reason, Barri finds the concept of the psychedelic experience fascinating, particularly as it relates to Versum. He notes that mushrooms turn off certain parts of the brain that normally allow a person to make sense of the world, allowing other parts of the brain to express themselves more freely when exposed to multi-sensory inputs.

"I think what I'm basically trying to do with my work is guide people into my own programmed concepts of time and space," he says. "I take people to another space and another place where time proceeds, and that means for the viewer that they're going to have to say goodbye to the regular ways of seeing space and time."

"Just saying goodbye to those regular things is in a way similar to what the mushrooms can do when shutting off your normal way of categorizing things," he adds. "So, I think that is perhaps how my work can, if you're into it, facilitate that psychedelic experience in the viewer and the listener.

Click here to see more of Tarik Barri's work.

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