The only creators contributing to Intersect as both visual artists and musical performers, French duo Nonotak explore where sound, light, and architecture meet.
When Noemi Schipfer and Takami Nakamoto first began talking about creating something together, Schipfer was in art school, while Nakamoto was studying architecture and playing in a metal band. They knew what they wanted to do. “We had the idea to merge the idea of space, sound, and visual at the same time,” Nakamoto says over the line from Paris, where the duo’s based. But they didn’t know exactly how they were going to do it. Would their collaboration be a music project? A visual art project? Something entirely different?
Instead of deciding on one path to take, Nakamoto and Schipfer decided to do all of them at once. If you look at what they came up with from one angle it’s a band with an exceptionally cool light show. From another angle it looks more like an installation art project with a particularly intense soundtrack. It’s animation, it’s engineering, and it’s a little like a magic show or a theme park ride. They decided to call it Nonotak.
Nonotak founded on a radical concept of bridging art forms that may not seem obviously related, but it emerged naturally out artistic ideas the pair had already been pursuing. “I was really interested in connecting sound and space throughout my student projects,” Nakamoto explains. “Noemi had been working on really kinetic visuals in 2D and illustration, but she had sort of a 3D approach, just using lines and visual perception. I found that really interesting. When we started together we wanted to put Noemi’s two dimensional illustrations into a three dimensional world.”
From the very start, Schipfer and Nakamoto have had a clear idea of Nonotak’s style. Sonically, they mix the icy synthesized sounds of Detroit techno with the epic sweep of video-game-inspired synthwave music, with a dash of bombastic arena rock dynamics thrown in. Visually it uses bright white lights in a darkened room to create simple geometric shapes that are repeated into psychedelically complex patterns. It’s not exactly a concert, or an art piece either. “Space, sound, and visual specificities that overwhelm physical perception,” is how Vice described it. The pair prefer to simply call what they do an “experience.”
Simplicity has turned out to be a key component of the Nonotak experience. “We realized having the most minimal visual will help us create brightness and contrast in our work,” Nakamoto says. Their installations can be intensely stark and minimalist: lines, squares, circles, and crosses emerging out of the almost pitch-black darkness, flashing in mechanistic repeating patterns. “We also use visual language that’s the most connective possible,” he continues. “Primary shapes are something that surround us everywhere. Everything that you see around you is based on rectangles or circles or lines.” The music’s hard electronic edges and driving cyborg beats make it feel similarly high contrast.
You put stuff out there, and you don't know what people are going to do with it. People are infinitely more creative than you are.
That may sound hardcore, but Nakamoto and Schipfer use their obsession with minimalism to create experiences that are not only easy to lose yourself in, but incredibly fun. The simple geometry filling your vision can play tricks on your spatial perception, making a room feel larger than it is, or like it’s falling away completely to leave you floating in space. Add a synth-heavy soundtrack in with the black-and-white visuals and it’s easy to think you’ve been transported inside a classic Eighties video game.
“What really drives us in creating installations is imagining people having a good experience within our concepts,” Nakamoto says. “We design our installation kind of like a movie, with a certain order of how things happen, so we’re able to generate certain emotions or sensations through that, just like you do with music or cinema.”
This December they’ll be giving attendees at the Intersect Festival two different experiences. On the music stage they’ll perform a show called “ECLIPSE,” customizing its fields of shifting grids to fit the space, as they do every time they stage a work in a new space. “If we have the same installation in a different place, it will sound different,” Nakamoto says, “and you will also want to express different narrations.”
They’ll also be unveiling a new immersive experience created specifically for Intersect. Nakamoto isn’t letting details slip yet, but he promises that it’s ambitious. “We sent a proposal,” he says, with a hint of mischievousness in his voice, “and then we sent a bigger proposal.”