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Editors’ Pick: TFT expands into generative visuals with new work ‘Die Glocke’

Text by CLOT Magazine

We are presenting a new video work from TFT, the Irish multimedia artist Stephen McLaughlin’s silo for his techno productions, who is also back with a new release. The artist’s work as An Trinse is known for its long durations and conceptual intricacy, whereas TFT is aimed straight at the dance floor (even if it’s a slightly sticky, off-kilter one). After several albums on his own label, he’s recently released Die Glocke on London’s House of Reptile. McLaughlin also has a long-running audiovisual collaboration with Maxwell Sterling, performing as a duo at festivals such as Mira and Semibreve.

The visual component of this new project is a step away from the dense layering of found imagery, AI creations and archaeological scans that characterize his other work to a striking generative system in which strict 2D grids are swarmed with monochrome geometric shapes. This has been built in with motion designer Alistair Ramage with whom he has been working on a large-scale video piece in conjunction with the Royal Academy for their Marina Abramović retrospective. 

We were coming to the end of the project, and, as the production had gone surprisingly to plan, we had some render time twiddling our thumbs at the end and we started kicking around some ideas. 

Sterling and I performed before Alva Noto at Semibreve last year and I was struck by how powerful the visuals were whilst remaining minimal and constantly exciting. I’ve been a huge fan of Raster Noton since its inception, so it was a treat to see what they were doing behind the scenes. 

I felt that with a system that works as an instrument in itself, I could be liberated from my usual fixation on narrative, history and reference to create a visual language that stands on its own without the need for context. I have a totally new An Trinse AV show that I debuted as a work in progress at Iklectik in July, which displays all the prominent tropes of my work, so I was keen to try something fresh, preferably with some collaboration.

The work itself is, at times, straightforward dance music, but I like to play with encoding it with subversive sample sources or hiding subliminal touches in the post-production process. It’s a much blanker canvas to work with than either my work as An Trinse or with Maxwell.  

The art for my previous album ‘Gore Categories’ was by Ben Lee (whom I had met at the design agency Accept and Proceed along with Alistair a few years back), which acted as a really stark contrast to the ‘rough round the edges’ nature of the music held within. What he made felt really iconic and I’ve wanted to keep the same system for future art, so that was a natural starting point.

With Alistair’s technical skills, we devised a system of interlocking elements from the artwork driven by several data points from video inputs and the music itself. We managed to create something that both stayed true to the spirit of the original artwork and felt like an exciting evolution of this aesthetic in a surprisingly short time. There was a bit more experimenting and enough for a video, and we are now we are nearly at a full show. These short pieces are an announcement of the work; I hope to show more refined iterations soon.   

TFT will play at the ICA as part of Ignota Books’ 5th birthday celebration, The Spiral, alongside Flora Yin-Wong and Nicolás Jaar on the 13th of October. A full day of talks and performances take place nearby at St James Church featuring Maxwell Sterling, Tai Shani, Paul Purgas and many more. Find tickets here.

The video piece created in conjunction with the Royal Academy reacting to the work of Marina Abramović will play on the 13th of October on the screens at Piccadilly.

(Media courtesy of the artists)
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