Interview with Pe Lang – Main Prize Winner of the PAX Art Awards 2022

During the set-up of his new installation for the current exhibition at HEK, Pe Lang (*1974) the main prize-winner of the Pax Art Award 2022, took some time to talk about his new work Alomeris with HEK intern, Danuka Ana Tomas. Lang explains how this new installation was birthed out of his passions for Sci-Fi, Quantum Physics, Chaos Theory and Buddhism. Alomeris is currently on view at HEK from the 1st of April until the 21st of May 2023 at HEK in the «Pe Lang, Johanna Bruckner, Jennifer Merlyn Scherler. Swiss Media Art – Pax Art Awards 2022» exhibition, showcasing the winners of the PAX Art Awards 2022.

Danuka Ana Tomas: Your new work Alomeris is being presented for the first time at HEK and to the public – what was your motivation for a new project and what is your work about?

Pe Lang: Thanks to the support of Art Foundation Pax, I had the opportunity to create new works outside the confines of a commercial framework and showcase them at the House of Electronic Arts. From the outset, I approached the project by asking myself: what am I truly curious and passionate about, and what do I really want to do? To answer these questions, I created a list of things that I am passionate and curious about, like Sci-Fi, Quantum Physics, Chaos Theory and Buddhism. Then, I searched for commonalities among them and attempted to combine them, mixing a supercharged motivation fuel to explore the limits of my abilities. The installation aims to immerse visitors in an intrinsic state that interweaves concepts of existence and non-existence. By creating an environment that exists in a semi-state between the two concepts, the installation encourages viewers to question their assumptions about what is real and what is not. The production began in mid-February – from a practical view, this project was a sharp experiment for me to discover what I am capable of achieving in a mere six weeks.

Installation view: Pe Lang, Aloremis, 2023 Photo: Franz Wamhof

DT: Can you give us some more background about the different elements and techniques in the installation?

PL: My aim was to create an installation that emphasises a clear and minimal form with the use of entirely analogue technology. Light projectors build with prisms, lenses, and motors casting their slow-moving lights across the space while rotating speakers – controlled by analogue chaos circuits – emit a soundscape played from 1/4” tape. Thin structural elements, slightly suspended, impose an outline of dimensionality and space, while super-black hanging cubes inverse a sense of solidity or void. Placed on the cubes are geometric shapes, etched out of mirrored finished steel plates, a visual representation of the underlying themes of the installation. During the mechanical construction phase, I found myself relying heavily on improvisation, which I refer to as “improvised mechanics.” Since mechanical systems are based on the rules of physics, I had to approach the construction process with a degree of flexibility and adaptability. This meant building the structures and then assessing their functionality on the fly. If the mechanisms didn’t work as intended, I had to make adjustments and modifications until I arrived at the desired outcome.

Installation view: Pe Lang, Aloremis, 2023 Photo: Franz Wamhof

DT: A try and error approach?

PL: Yes, try and error approach.

DT: Alomeris consists of different elements – analogue projections, moving speakers, sound, all very geometrically and symmetrically arranged and coordinated. How does this precise spatial design come into existence?

PL: This exhibition depicts a single scene from a science fiction novel I’m currently working on. Set in the year 10800, humans have evolved significantly and have moved beyond mental states that restrict the mind. They have come to the realisation that having cravings and attachments will not necessarily lead to happiness and contentment. Consequently, people in the world of this novel have come close to being enlightened by mastering the techniques of working with the mind. In Alomeris, the title of the novel on which the installation is based, characters called builders are sentient beings that custom-make realities and memory for different classes of beings. The installation recreates the studio of a builder. A workspace to solidify reality, thoughts, motion, and time.

DT: Is it true that the speakers are recycled from one of your former installations?

PL: Yes! I build them during an artist in residency lab residency at CSEM in 2007 and used natural sound events as a call and response model, programmed in Max/msp. For Alomeris, I adapted the mechanics and electronics to control the movements of the speakers with an analog modular synthesizer.

Installation view: Pe Lang, Aloremis, 2023 Photo: Franz Wamhof

DT: To round up our little Chat, what are your thoughts about the future regarding the evolution of AI and WEB3?

PL: I’m currently testing ChatGPT3 and Midjourney as part of my workflow. However, as I delve deeper into the world of AI, I’ve become increasingly concerned about critical issues such as energy consumption, maximizing profits and exploiting resources, and the impact of AI on job markets, particularly within the creative industry. Therefore, I remain highly critical of AI, especially as our dependence on it increases with web3, making us vulnerable to cyber-attacks, hacking, and a lack of viable alternatives.

Ultimately, the key question is whether AI and web3 can make us happy or happier in life. What are our actual desires and goals, and what brings us fulfillment? Is it the pursuit of wealth, power, or something else entirely? It’s important to remember that chasing after these things don’t necessarily lead to happiness or contentment. In fact, it often comes at a great cost, making it ultimately not worth it. But yeah, that’s my personal thing. I was a very tech and computer guy, Now I enjoy doing stuff with my hands. I’m very interested in learning new skills. Preserving skills from extinction is a major concern in my novel. The more we outsource skills to computers, to AI’s, the more we are losing them.

Thank you to Pe Lang for taking the time to chat about their artistic process and work during the busy set-up at HEK. More information about the works exhibited and the accompanying program can be found here!