by Vatsala SethiDec 31, 2022
Supersynthesis is the most recent project from artist Amay Kataria, which was exhibited at Mu Gallery in Chicago from March 11-April 1, 2022. It is an interactive audio-visual art installation that invites people to create a space for collective expression and participation. It is accompanied by a physical installation, and builds itself off of the twin mediums of light and sound, in order to craft a communal experience. When audience members activate the piece and the space around it by interacting with it through an online interface, they become part of a communal wave that will anonymously accumulate itself until forthcoming eternity. The artist explains that the project began with a seed; an idea to explore “waves” as a subject matter that acted as a point of departure, from where he would then go on to employ light and sound as mediums of expression. He discusses some of his inspirations for the piece, and tells STIR, “After revisiting works by Olafur Eliasson, Dan Flavin, and Ryoji Ikeda, pinning several light installations, and surfing Instagram for material, form, and aesthetic inspiration, I arrived at a vision to create a three-dimensional representation of a ‘wave’, which was activated by light and sound.”
Discussing his early creative journey, Kataria explains, “As a growing millennial, I had uninterrupted access to moving images and the internet. With the privilege of being exposed to my first personal computer, a black Compaq Presario that came into my hands at the brink of modernity, I perceived it as a big video game console with an MTNL dial-up internet tone that is etched in my mind to this day. I would occasionally crack it open like a puzzle to put it back together or lose myself in computer games for countless hours after coming back home from school. It was my best friend and a silent enemy that opened the door for immediate access to the world, and often a lot of frustration as well.” The computer as an artefact enriched the artist’s childhood, fascinating him and holding his attention in a way that would come to define his future practice. It gave him the opportunity to explore other worlds, and yet, he would somehow always take to crafting realms of his own with far more gusto. He continues, saying, “I was repeatedly drawn to construct my own worlds like interactive applications or speculative infrastructure for cities as a teenager. What would these new realities look like and how will we interact with them? These questions acted like a conduit to another universe, which led me to explore the realm of human-computer interaction with formal training and education.”
Kataria feels fortunate that his family supported his creative interests, and that they entertained his seemingly bizarre idea of foreign education in the United States. He believes that his fundamental technological training, which would occur at Virginia Tech, has been absolutely critical in shaping his creative practice. It was there that he developed a keen interest in problem-solving, analytical thinking and objective reasoning. During this time, he would also pursue philosophy, photography, creative writing and sustainability along with various other electives, in order to cultivate his more poetic line of thinking. He says, “While reflecting upon the past few years of my practice, I have seen all these subjects woven into the artifacts that I have created. Everything affects everything, doesn’t it?” Kataria’s work is very well received, and has been shown at international venues such as Ars Electronica, Art Center Nabi (Seoul), Mana Contemporary (New Jersey), Experimental Sound Studio (Chicago), Electromuseum (Moscow), TIFA India, Piksel Festival, Hyde Park Art Center (Chicago), Bronx Art Space (New York), Space P11, DeConfine Festival and Vector Festival among others.
The artist explains that his practice is strongly positioned at the convergence of physical and digital materials that superimpose, in order to create a tangible experience triggered through the lens of an intangible window. However, the recent COVID pandemic has been particularly important to his work. He explains, saying, “I believe my art practice has always been in a temporal state of becoming. Lingering with an unsettled feeling, there is an inherent need to constantly reimagine and reinterpret its own set of possibilities. If Carl Jung ascribes the becoming of a human whole as ‘Individuation’, I like to ascribe my art practice to similar tendencies. In 2020, the systemic reorganisation of our social structures, in tandem with historical research and creative experimentation with technology anchored a new but familiar point of departure for my art practice. I began to borrow language from cognitive perception, network aesthetics, and digital materialism, that intermingled to seep strongly into my creative taste.”
The pandemic incited Kataria to pivot towards the internet as a medium. It gave him an opportunity to rethink his relationship with art and experiment with new modes of interaction that focus on humanising technology in order to create warm, soft and empathetic experiences. Thinking back to one of his earlier projects from this period, the artist tells STIR, “With my project Momimsafe, I arrived at this idea of “sustained interaction”, where an artwork is designed to capture the residual memory of the interaction and persist it as data to be revisited in the future. This data becomes an extension of the original experience and sustains itself as markers of memory that are anonymously collected due to the interaction of the audience with the work.”
Kataria believes that the future is now and that it’s happening at this very moment. With Supersynthesis, he has effectively added a new dimension to his practice of using light as a medium. He attempted to create something at a scale that he has not before, and greatly succeeded. Kataria’s piece is not only large, but highly immersive as well. He tells STIR, “I want to further pursue this intersection of interactivity and language of light to create environments that bring people together, cultivating a sense of collective experience. In the near future, I am looking for opportunities to further explore the mechanics of this language and experiment with its formal and aesthetic expression in public spaces.”