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Will joined the digital team last year as a developer at Fiasco. Outside of the studio, he is always looking for ways to expand upon his creative practice as a keen electronic music producer and a contributor to anonymous collective Headless. Here, Will discusses his love for audio-visuals both in and out of Fiasco HQ.
I came to Bristol initially to study Medicine and instantly felt an affinity to the city. Academically, I naturally moved towards the humanities side of things and outside of studies, I threw myself into the Bristol music scene.
During my degree I felt somewhat frustrated with the creative constraints of science and academia. In terms of wanting to play and push things – there just isn’t a whole lot of room for that. Simultaneously, within my music practice I found myself constrained by the scale of projects or the methods available to share them.
It wasn’t until I went to do my Masters in Sound Art at Bath Spa that I felt a synergy between academic and creative disciplines. Working with computers, it’s possible to be both technical and artistic. There was a sense of realisation that this is a field where I can exercise all my interests and skills without restraint.
Through studying for my masters, I found real intrigue in sculpture. I’m fascinated by the notion that your appreciation of sculpture is variable depending on where you stand in the room, how the light falls, etc… It’s as much of an experience of the environment as of the art itself. Experience-driven design and development is like creating a digital sculpture for me.
There is also a real cross over between music-making and coding. Both are essentially forms of language. Because I’m not a classically trained musician, I approach both in quite an exploratory way. I’m a big believer in learning by doing. The process of producing music means working with large amounts of raw material and whittling it down. Web builds are similar. Both involve an element of improvisation in real time until something feels right.
I learnt audio programming as a way to express myself musically, but realised I could use this same code – this same language – to communicate visually too.
I decided to do a software engineering course, transforming what I considered to be a hobby into a professional practice. Here I learnt about programming principles like SOLID and DRY, and gained experience building larger API’s and web applications. A lot of the focus was around working in a modular way with frameworks like REACT to create fast and scalable single page applications. Creating code that allows you to work collaboratively has been one of the biggest learning curves for me. The best code is there to be read by others.
One of the main skills I’ve learnt is being able to effectively problem solve. A large chunk of my day is spent trying to figure out how to do something outside of my existing remit, so it’s about how to approach that without being overwhelmed.
Since starting at Fiasco last year, I’ve been awe-struck by a shared passion for learning.
Within the digital team itself we’ve got a great synergy and having a free flow of ideas has allowed us to produce some really exciting work. Greenwash (a conceptual site for Changing Markets) is a great example. From the beginning, we explored shaders to create CRT television and water-like effects, alongside different video frameworks to bring the narrative to life.
Art galleries are too curated and static. There’s not much room to actually feel anything. About 8 months ago a group of us came together to think about putting on multi-media installations in Bristol. Coming off the back of Covid, we discussed how a web presence could build upon some of the steps forward that art organisations took during lockdown; ie. being accessible to all and unconstrained by location or finance.
Headless was conceived to sit somewhere between an art exhibition and a club night; founded upon principles of creative autonomy and collective practice. There is no singular creative vision with Headless, outside of the aim to create the experience of a collective body of work. The first physical installation will be an opportunity to experience a collective body of work across sound, sculpture, visual art and lighting installation.
As a collective, our aims are towards a continuous output in both physical and virtual spaces. We said from the outset that we wanted Headless to be a sum of the parts. So that the physical or virtual experience is the dominating art form rather than an individual piece of artwork. A lot of my involvement has revolved around developing a framework to support that virtually, with 3D frameworks like Three.JS and custom WebGL alongside audio frameworks like Tone.JS.
Exploring interests outside of the studio has given me the drive to keep exploring new ways of doing things at Fiasco. The conversations we have within the digital team are not restricted by what we’ve done before, or what we’re comfortable doing. At Fiasco, digital isn’t an afterthought to brand, but a meaningful experience in itself.
Working on Headless has given me the confidence to develop my own tools. Using WebGL elements for video transition in Greenwash, or building custom functions for navigating a map for Dallas Museum of Art wouldn’t have been possible had I not learnt how to do this via experimenting in personal projects.
I’m continually learning and drawing from previous experiences – rebuilding chunks of code to give it a new lease of life. To draw a music parallel, it’s like sampling. I’m always sampling bits of code to see how it can be pushed further and given a new meaning. There’s so much content out there online, I think it’s about how to differentiate by the experience of feeling.
The first Headless event is on 14th April at The Island. You can find more information here.