Supersynthesis is the most recent project by artist Amay Kataria, which was exhibited at the Mu Gallery in Chicago from March 11 to April 1, 2022. It is an interactive audio-visual art installation that invites people to create a space collective expression and participation. It is accompanied by a physical installation and is constructed from the twin mediums of light and sound, in order to create a common experience. When viewers activate the work and the space around it by interacting with it through an online interface, they become part of a common wave that will accumulate anonymously until the next eternity. The artist explains that the project started with a seed; an idea to explore “waves” as a subject which acted as a starting point, from where he would continue to use light and sound as means 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 materials, shapes and designs aesthetically inspired, I arrived at a vision to create a three-dimensional representation of a “wave”, which was activated by light and sound.”
Discussing her 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 fell into my hands on the verge 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 occasionally opened it like a puzzle to piece it together or lost myself in computer games for countless hours after I got home from school. He was my best friend and a silent enemy who opened the door to immediate access to the world, and often also to a lot of frustration. The computer as an artifact enriched the artist’s childhood, fascinating him and holding his attention in a way that would define his future practice. It gave him the opportunity to explore other worlds, and yet he would still throw himself into creating his own kingdoms with much more enthusiasm. He goes on to say, “As a teenager, I was repeatedly drawn to building my own worlds, like interactive apps or speculative infrastructure for cities. What would these new realities look like and how will we interact with them? These questions acted as a conduit to another universe, which led me to explore the field of human-computer interaction with formal training and education.
Kataria feels lucky that her family has supported her creative interests and nurtured her seemingly bizarre idea of foreign education in the United States. He believes his foundational technology training, which would take place at Virginia Tech, was absolutely essential 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 will 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, “Reflecting on the last years of my practice, I saw all these topics woven into the artifacts I created. Everything affects everything, right? Kataria’s work is very well received and has been presented in 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 overlap, 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 her work. He explains by saying, “I believe my artistic practice has always been in a temporal state of becoming. Lingering with unsettled feeling, there is an inherent need to constantly reimagine and reinterpret one’s own set of possibilities. If Carl Jung attributes the becoming of a human whole to “individuation”, I like to attribute my artistic practice to similar tendencies. In 2020, the systemic reorganization of our social structures, in tandem with historical research and creative experimentation with technology, has anchored a new but familiar starting point for my artistic practice. I started to borrow the language of cognitive perception, network aesthetics and digital materialism, which mixed to seep heavily into my creative taste.
The pandemic prompted Kataria to turn to the internet as a medium. This allowed her to rethink her relationship to art and experiment with new modes of interaction that prioritize the humanization of technology in order to create warm, gentle and empathetic experiences. Thinking back to one of his first 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 persists as memory markers that are collected anonymously as a result of the audience’s interaction with the work.
Kataria thinks the future is now and it’s happening right now. With Supersynthesis, he effectively added a new dimension to his practice of using light as a medium. He attempted to create something on a scale he hadn’t had before and was highly successful. Kataria’s room is not only large, but also very immersive. He tells STIR, “I want to pursue this intersection of interactivity and the language of light to create environments that bring people together, cultivating a sense of collective experience. In the near future, I seek opportunities to further explore the mechanisms of this language and experiment with its formal and aesthetic expression in public spaces.