Candaş Şişman ve Deniz Kader, whom we know from works such as Haydarpasa-Yekpare, Dalgalar-Waves exhibition and Contemporary Istanbul have worked on countless national and international performance shows, installation works and animation films. In 2011, they have collected their accumulated knowledge and skills under NOHlab and have been continuing their video mapping projects, audiovisual performance preparations and experience design works from their studio in Macka.
Could you please tell us about yourself a bit?
The NOHlab consists of Deniz Kader and Candaş Şişman at its core. We have been together since 1999, first we learned about plastic arts in high school and then we continued our education on animation and motion video in college. We had a chance to work on multimedia design in Holland for a year while we were in college. During this time, we could observe many new media festivals and works. In 2011 we collected this knowledge and skill under NOHlab, our co-formation. We have been working on art direction, motion design, video mapping, visual-audial performances and experience design for arts and advertising industry since 2009. Some of the brands and institutions we work with are; Chanel, Pink Floyd, Ars Electronica Festival, Istanbul 2010 Agency, Nike, Land Rover, TEDx and Scriabin Museum.
How did you turn your fine arts education into your current style?
It shaped during a long and organic progress. We could say that while we were working on projects we were curious about, not questioning why we were doing what we were doing, our current style came into existence. We had learned painting in high school and at that time we focused on static imagery, but it was not enough for the language we wanted to bring out for our work. So we decided to try animation technique to take advantage of using time in our works. Animation contained many expression styles such as sound, cinema, illustration… However, after a while, it became clear to us that animation wasn’t enough for us either. We wanted our work to overflow the monitor or the movie screen and take a more physical form. So we began looking for new techniques to serve us. The most important one of our finds was projection mapping which took a physical surface and a digital layer. This brought us to a point where our virtual images could meet physical reality. We continue looking for ways to include in our works such as scent, sound, space… To sum it up, it all evolved from continuously asking questions, finding new answers, and asking new questions formed by those newfound answers.
How long have you been working together?
How did you decide to found NOHlab?We are classmates from high school and college. We were in the same class first in Izmir Fine Arts High School, then Anadolu University’s Animation Department. We worked on many joint projects and built mutual ideals. Upon college we moved to Istanbul and formed our first studio Silo1 with our friends from college. Afterwards we began working as freelancers and brought the Haydarpasa-Yekpare project mapping project into life at this time. In 2011, we decided to collect this knowledge and skill together and founded NOHlab. To put it shortly, NOHlab is the story of a 15-year-old friendship.
Deep Space Music-Ars Electronica, 2012, Visual-audio performance, 32'00'' - NOHlab & Plato Medialab & Maki Namekawa
Where does the name NOHlab come from?
We could say that our name comes from the combination of visual arts and research and development – which we cannot separate from each other. “NOH” is a far-eastern name that is made up of two separate words meaning “skill” and “talent”. The oldest known stage theatre also takes its name from noh. The most basic characteristic of this stage or performance arts is that it tells and narrates the feelings and story to the audience via movements. We follow and are inspired by the science projects that supports and develops new media arts. Since we view the concept of art as a research project at the same time, we also have an added “lab” in our name.
Land Rover-Onelife magazine, 2013, cover design
How does new media and the digital technologies affect contemporary art?
Digital technologies brought many new possibilities into arts, letting interactivity and experience-based works develop. Now the audience does not simply “view” the work, but can be a part of the process and even change the course. The most important element that makes this possible is technology. Another innovation that comes along digital technology is its ability to form a bridge between many different fields and techniques. This increases the possibility of synthesizing different fields, allowing an infinite number of combination options. Looking back at technology’s progress, we see the switch from analog to digital. When we look at it now, we see hybrid technologies that bring analog and digital together. The simplest example to this is the possibilities 3D printers bring us, or using various sensors to play video games using our very own bodies. However, what makes us really excited is the next step. With the extraordinary development in science and technology, we can now interfere with or copy organic creatures. For example, now we can store digital data in dna, generate synthetic edible meat or even interfere with our brains. These are developments that will make us need to redefine many concepts such as life, faith and reality. At this point, these will bring out new methods and art streams parallel to the developments mentioned. For example, Bio Art will become prominent in the near future.
Lucifer's fall-2012, Theatre performance˝, 130'00''
Could you tell us about Yekpare?
Yekpare, which came into existence for The European Capital of Culture, 2010, was our first video mapping work. By then, this technique that lets us view and experience a known structure in a whole new light was not as known and widespread as it is today – at least in public spaces. Umit Ozdemir, the Stage and Performing Art Co-Director of Istanbul 2010 Agency sees such a public performance abroad and suggests to create such a big-scaled show on Haydarpasa train station. During this time, we were also experimenting with this technique in our studio. Knowing this, our close friend Erdem Dilbaz mentions us to Umit Ozdemir who is on the lookout for artist to make his dream come true. So our 30cm experiential cube becomes the surface of Haydarpasa train station right before our eyes. The story to be told was very important to the 2010 Agency. The 8500-year history of Istanbul was supposed to be projected onto the walls of Haydarpasa. We generated the story together with Erdem, the coordinator of the project. With a symbolic narration we wanted to put together a one-piece form made up of layers including port-trade, Byzantine architecture, chaos of languages and beliefs, eastern-western duality, basically all layers of history. Technically, the project had many problems to solve. For example, the projection machine and the whole equipment needed to be placed on the water. To solve this, a recently sunk floating dock was brought from Halic to Kadikoy. However, when we were asked to repeat the performance for the closing ceremony in December, the weather conditions turned our 80m to 30m platform into a Norwegian fishing boat hunting for crabs. In fact, a wave hit the right side of the platform, ruining the equipment located there. Another obstacle was the fact that we wanted to show the traditional Turkish art, water marbling in the show, but were not able to generate that visual via computers. So we decided to actually do the marbling and spend a whole week trying to learn how.
You do both artistic and commercial work. How do you find the balance in between?
Because we have various motives to find it. The most important one is that we are trying to come up with our own language. This is existential and to us, the most important motive of production. There are many ideas and techniques that we want to try and this is necessary for our own satisfaction. We find this creation environment in artistic projects that are not as strict as commercial ones. Another motive is to try to create a capital for our own projects. This requires us to produce both ways. If we always take commercial projects, we always get the same type of commercial projects. But when we combine that with artistic projects as well, those artistic projects can lead to other commercial projects as well. Sometimes a potential customer can view an artistic project of ours and request a similar projection for their own brand. This is our favorite type of work; we get to create with our own visual language, yet still get a commercial revenue. These needs make us have to fins a balance. To put it simply; we take commercial projects and use the revenue to buy ourselves time to create artistic projects. We try to create a recirculation that lets us have free creation spaces. Of course this creates time and money problems. But we like to believe that in the future, we will reap the fruits of investing in our own work.
Sound&Light-2012, Visual-audio performance, 60'00''
Do you think you are understood enough in Turkey? Are you having difficulty convincing brands to invest in your work?
We are a multi-disciplinary studio; we generate ideas including our artistic look into the commercial projects or we interpret existing ideas. If you look at international Nike ads, you will see that they are fairly artistic, abstract works. In Turkey, this way of thinking is not financed or consumed. Nike wants to increase its prestige and brand value by financing an artistic project. Unfortunately the brands in Turkey cannot yet view advertising this way, or are too tentative. They do not look at the big picture, they only want to increase their sales in the short term. Usually we are approached by global brands for projects that fit our style. It could be a performance for a launch, an animation movie or a special installation for the brand.
You took part in many international projects as well. How does it work there?
Especially where production is concerned, everything works much better compared to Turkey. Their timing, technical resources and human interactions are much more professional. We were really impressed with the crew of “Lucifers-Fall” from a church performance in Holland. Even when it was hectic, they still had time to take a break and tend to their needs. Other than that, finding technical man needed for our projects are much easier than finding them in Turkey. And most importantly, time management. Everything proceeds according to the plan. This enables creating free time, which is very important for productivity.
How do you spend an ordinary day at your office? Can you describe your daily ritual?
Since we create most of our work digitally, unfortunately we spend most of our office time in front of our computers. That is a constant ritual, sitting : ). Our office is close to the Macka Park and we really enjoy visiting there when it’s nice outside to step on the grass. We are three people in the office, but that can change according to the projects at hand. Since our office is located very close to our home(it’s in the next street), we go back and forth between two streets all the time. Our biggest social occasion is going home at night. Usually we prefer to work quietly at the office, we do not enjoy crowd and noise. Upon arrival, Deniz makes coffee whereas Candaş changes into slippers…
How are you getting along with Istanbul? Are you dreaming of another country to continue your work?
The dream is Amsterdam, the reality is Besiktas…
Are there any new plans and projects for the future?
Of course. Some We are working on a kinetic sculpture project that will be located in a public place in Istanbul – we are hoping to go through with this project and become one of the firsts of Istanbul. Apart from that, we want to improve our software “NOS Visual Engine” that generates real-time visuals and use it in performance projects and installations. We could also share that we were thrilled to be invited by one of Europe’s best festivals, Europalia Festival. We are working on a audiovisual performance for the event. In the long run, we are hoping to bring our studio abroad and continue working there.
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