Audiovisual artist Benjamin Charles, also known as chromasy, uses field recordings, daydream synthesis and glitchy percussion to create emotional topographies, explored and charted by collaborator Mahir Duman.
Back in 2020 Berlin-based community VJ Open Lab and NYC event series Never Knows Better brought together chromasy, the artistic alias of audiovisual artist Benjamin Charles, with visual artist Mahir Duman, tasking them with remotely creating a 15-minute AV show together. At around this time chromasy had self-released their debut EP, When These Mountains Turn To Oceans, combining carefully collected Tascam field recordings, taken during a period spent in and around Asia immediately before the first days of the Covid-19 pandemic, with somnambulant drone and glitchy, bit-crushed percussion. “The field recordings gave my tracks such character and provided unique moments captured from my travels, so whilst they are a universal celebration in worldwide sounds, they are also very personal to me,” they explain.
“Included inside are train announcements from China and Japan, also traditional vocals from Vietnam, amongst other bits such as children singing and market sounds I caught by chance when wondering around,” they continue. “Perhaps the juxtaposition that is most striking in retrospect of this audio work, is the calming sounds of the coastal tides featured from Naoshima in Japan, it was such a beautiful day there and very calm. Only two years later, just feet away from where I captured the recording was Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkin swept into the turbulent ocean.” Fresh from a frantic return home as international borders were closing and cities were locking down, chromasy seized the opportunity to continue their exploration of the world captured in the EP.
chromasy describes the EP as “a journey from soaring over the peaks down through urban decay, finishing at the ocean. Sonically blending elements from our own concrete jungles into the surrounding natural habitat. As these two very different worlds continue to merge, it is only a matter of time before the landscape will hold a permanently changed face.” Creating a 15-minute audio mix of the EP, they sent this description and the score to Mahir Duman to translate the concept into an accompanying visual sequence. The result is constantly shifting digital topography in which figurations of the cosmos, crowds of people, the flow and ebb of waves and the flap of a bird’s wing are folded into undulating mountain tops and deep, rippling ravenes.
Simultaneously evoking rapidly corroding VHS nostalgia while converting old signals into new, unexplored environments, a quality enhanced by chromasy’s gauzy sonic palette, Duman’s visuals render the passage of time as fluid and malleable. Old memories take on the elevation and depth of mountain ranges, while images of the largest and smallest scales – planets and dust particles, oceans and dancers – collapse into one another in a digital approximation of plate tectonics, a pocket dimension where mountains turn to oceans and back again within the blink of an eye.
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