How does sound translate to visual art? Something you can touch and hold? When new media artist Liat Segal came together with ceramicist Roy Maayan to create the ‘Plate Recorder’ the outcome was a project of intrigue, delight and an exploration of several dimensions and disciplines.
Israeli artists Liat Segal and Roy Maayan came from different creative paths. Segal has a background in data science, working with artificial intelligence, which pushed her into exploring electronics and mechanics and making projects that got increasingly more complicated. “At that point. I very quickly understood that I found my medium as an artist,” explains Segal. Now, she looks to push technologies out of their original contexts to “give them new and intimate purposes which have nothing to do with usefulness or usability.” The playful nature of exploring these technologies lends itself to blending electronics and software with structure, motion and data.
Admirers of one another’s work and friends for many years, it was the Cluj International Ceramics Biennale which finally provided Segal the perfect place to collaborate with Roy Maayan on a project. Maayan grew up with a love of ceramics, making pieces when he was eight and attending classes in Tel Aviv, and later at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.
“I fell in love with clay and never stopped.” — Roy Maayan
With the Plate Recorder project, people could sing or make noise into a microphone and see the sounds play out as waves indented into ceramics on a wheel. It’s almost like a vinyl recorder playing picking music up to play, but in this instance it’s laying down the track. In the end, a series of creative and unique plates were designed.
It seems like it’s been a natural progression for these two to come to this project.
What’s your earliest memory?
Segal: Around the age of six, I was building what I would call today a ‘Rube Goldberg Machine’. That is, a machine that performs a simple task in an indirect and over-complicated fashion. This naive machine, constructed of paper and my toys, was moving a marble through a series of paths to eventually make pieces of paper fly.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Maayan: I guess it’s relatively unusual, but basically what I’m doing today. I remember sitting next to the kitchen table with my mom, telling her I’ll eventually open my own studio, teach and create. I’m fortunate to say I’m living my dream.
What was the process like for creating the Plate Recorder?
Segal: The act of building the machine is significant to me. Generally speaking, I feel that with tech-related artworks the technical choices that are made affect the final artwork just as much as the touch of a painter affects a painting. That is why I choose to build my machines myself rather than hiring a third-party engineer.
While designing and building the Plate Recorder Machine I wanted to give it functionality and visibility that is in both in the world of audio and that of ceramics – somewhere between a turn-table and a throwing wheel.
Maayan: After understanding the essence of the project and the rough idea of its visibility, each of us started to work in their domain. I was experimenting with the surfaces of plates, finding the right combination of materials, fire procedure etc.
Creating the project has been “emotionally and physically intense” as it involves many technical alterations, and has taken them traveling and exhibiting in the last year. But the pair are pleased that the work has reached a diverse audience, and encouraged meaningful dialogue around the project.
“We plate-recorded sounds that were sent to us by a musician from Tehran, by a woman who recorded her uncle’s funeral in New Jersey, by a pregnant woman in Tel Aviv who recorded her unborn baby’s ultrasound scan and by many others. Feeling that we played a chord in the hearts of people is priceless.”
Do you keep any art at home?
Maayan: Yes. Mainly ceramics. I collaborate regularly with fellow potters around the globe, we switch pieces and also, I keep some pieces of our joined projects. I also buy ceramics pieces throughout my journeys. People ask me why I buy ceramics pieces when I can make them myself. My answer is that, first, I’m not sure I can make all of them. Second, I’m not sure I want to make them. I want them the way the artist wanted them to be.
Liat: Being an artist has one great, usually unspoken of, perk. The ability to barter artworks with other artist friends. The latest piece I got is a wonderful work by Israeli artist Nivi Alroy.
The inquisitive exploration of sound in the context of ceramics is an enjoyable process, and an engaging piece of art. It’s a striking reminder that “art is not equivalent to aesthetics,” describes Segal. “Art deals with human nature, with our brightest and darkest desires and emotions and of course, with morality and philosophy. As such, technology in art is a tool, just as it is in other aspects of our lives.”