Dialogue with Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus of LoVid

Fall 2010: v.06 n.02: Dynamic Coupling

 Rural Electrification, 2010. LoVid.

Rural Electrification, 2010. LoVid.

Rural Electrification combines audience interaction with exposed electronics, conductive wires and live audiovisual feed to create a narrative of a retro-futuristic coexistence between biological and technological systems. Tactile audience participation will enable individuals to experience otherwise imperceptible connections in extreme collisions of the organic and artificial.

How much time do you spend together? Do you live together or share a studio, or do you just get together to work on projects as they come up?

We live together, work together, eat at least one meal a day together, and sometimes we email together.

When you are working on something do you schedule structured time together in a physical space, or meet online, or is it more organic than that?

Usually it’s pretty organic but sometimes we plan ahead like: after the girls go to sleep, or on Sunday, and our favorite: in July!

Do you keep your personal/professional lives separate, or have they become seamless and indistinct? Is this okay?

Our personal and professional lives are intertwined. But we have multiple professional lives and some might be a bit more separate. We also have more than one personal life so it can get complicated.

Can you, or do you, turn off your research/studio practice(s)?

It’s more whether it’s on overdrive or overoverdrive.

When and how did you meet each other and under what circumstances?

It was a Rubulad and free103point9 party in Brooklyn. Kyle did a paper puppet show and Tali did a video puppet show. Carrie Dashow also filmed the event and we have a video of the first time we met.

At what point did you start making work together?

A week after we met.

Was there a growing period, when you had to get a feel for each other’s process/priorities, learn how to communicate – or did you click right away?

We clicked right away but LoVid wasn’t born until about a year after we started working and loving.  After that it took us a little longer to work primarily as LoVid. We are still learning how to communicate and work between our very different habits, methods, and means of expression.

Do you gravitate towards roles in your practice – based on strengths, or personality, or skills? Or is every project a different kind of adventure?

We each have things we like to do and ways we like to work, but we usually try to stretch ourselves with new projects, which enhances the sense of adventure.

How do you generate the concepts you work with? Do you draw, write, photograph, or do any sort of regular background practice? Is this a shared thing?

We talk, google, draw, and sketch together.

How do you make choices and negotiate decisions about what direction to take with projects?

We present ideas to each other and then work to make sense of it and help it fit/resonate with both of us. When one of us presents it, we either get excited or challenge the idea. Then, the proposing one needs to justify and convince the other. We rarely continue working on a project without the support and enthusiasm of the other.

Does your collaboration ever involve more people? If no, why not? If yes, then when and how does that work?

As LoVid, it’s only the two of us, with an occasional exception of our two daughters Rama and Dlisah. We do like to collaborate with other people, too, for certain projects, and have an ongoing collaboration with our friend Douglas Repetto. We also sometimes include audience participants and guest performers in our performances.

Will you describe a project that didn’t work out or you didn’t follow through on? Can you describe something that you couldn’t agree on or you didn’t feel like you were both “into?”

We found these Tushkins at a burned-down factory in Bynum, South Carolina. There’s video, too, and plans for a diorama and book, but we never followed it up.

What kinds of singular processes or practices, studio or research, do you maintain as individuals that you may or may not bring into the collaboration?

We tend to pour most of our creative energy into this collaborative work, but we do each have our own specific ways of working and finding inspiration. Much of our collaborative work is produced in segments that we work on independently.

Do you make your own work in addition to the collaborative work, and what sort of need does this fill?

Our individual work is generally included in our LoVid practice and identity.

If you maintain an individual practice as well as a collaborative practice, have you run into conflicts of interest, time-management/priority issues, or experienced communication problems due to multiple focuses at any point? How is this resolved?

We sleep in different portions of the night and sometimes go out to separate places.  Being two people is actually helpful for time-management.

What are the strengths in working collaboratively and what are the challenges in working collaboratively?

By working together we can articulate our ideas more clearly, which is useful in producing the work but also for giving talks, presentations, and writing. Also, working collaboratively we are able to create something that is more complex technologically and aesthetically than we would have made on our own. The only disadvantage is that sometimes the collaborative process is less intuitive and slower. But it’s great and helpful to share the responsibility of our creative process and we love sharing this as a family.

What sort of theory, cultural circumstances, or life scenarios influence or inform your decision to work collaboratively? Would you say that your collaboration is philosophically driven, or more pragmatic?

It comes from both of us seeing art as a part of life and vice versa. It makes sense for us to have our work be integrated into our life. As a couple we are always looking for ways to understand each other better, to know each other and learn about ourselves in the process. Working together in general and working as artists together are complementary ways to develop intimacy. We are better life partners because we are great collaborators.

If you teach, how does collaborative practice inform the way you facilitate student projects and teach studio courses?

When we teach we have a collaborative approach to working with the students. We like to create an open studio experience where brainstorming, discussion, and experimentation are encouraged.

If you teach, do you co-teach? If you do co-teach, how has that been received by the students, and how has this been received in the academic institutions you have worked with?

We usually give guest and visiting artist lectures together.  It seems to be pretty well tolerated; institutions often treat us as one person, though we can also sub for each other if we can’t both make it.

Please point to us at a project or projects you would like to describe. Include links or attach files. If relevant, share with us a sense of the collaborative back-and-forth that may have gone into planning and making the work.


LoVid, essay by Amy Benson

We saw it in a flash as we drove by and we shivered.  A thick row of electrical towers planted down the side of the mountain.  The trees!  They had been chopped at their roots and the looming towers filled the void.  If we had gotten close, they would have fritzed our brains, given us lesions or the makings of cancer ten years down the line.  From the car window, it was the end of beauty, the end of the dream of untouched nature—that we have not touched, will not be touched.  If we drive deep we will find a place where we are the only ones with cars, the only ones with lights who might read in separate rooms after the sun has set, who might snack from a bowl of chilled cherries.  The rest of the world—it is not so irrevocably full as they say—does not need these things as we do.

Not long after, we walked into a room full of electrical towers a few feet over our heads and flickering with black and white fuzz, visual static.  We thought with a smile, Ah, environmental art. We knew how to respond: this hated symbol might as well be an oil derrick, a smoke stack, a nuclear reactor.  Thanks to the artists, we were awash with our culture-between-stations under the architecture of our doom.

The longer we stood under it, though, the more the light seemed stirring and not snide, apocalyptic. We read the plaque: the electronics that created the flickers were handmade.  Someone, a particular someone had affixed part to part, left fingerprints, tiny sumi strokes of solder. The artists were not tapping into the Great Din; they were making their own, room-sized, just for us.

And there was something about the size of the towers themselves that made us feel an odd warmth.  They did not tower, they were at fingertip’s reach and softened, almost cartoonish, like props in a play.  Then we saw they were made of paper—how easily we might have tipped one to the ground and stood over it.  A gust might have flattened the room.  We saw the wobble in their assembly, line just missing line, glue in a curl, and we felt affection.  As a terror becomes quaint through storytelling, these towers came back to us from a gentling distance and we felt like giants among them.

We were familiar with the artists, a man and a woman, married, who’d taken one name.  It suited them.  We’d seen them perform several times with devices they had made from the smallest components.  Early on, they’d strap video monitors to their heads and joints and invite a riot of color and sound into the room.  Later, they made a video synthesizer the size of a grand dining table, full of ports and plugs, an abundance of dials, and worked it together.  Colors with muscle and pitch becoming sound that revved and popped, each flicker ratcheting into the next.  They had an intimate relationship with current—they built boards with tiny slaloms that told it where to go, they filled every last inch of a room with it and knew when to draw it back.  They held it between their fingertips, weren’t afraid of the bite.  And they did this wordlessly, without a map, as if sending signals into the interstitial fluid between them.

We had seen other artists on the scene courting the future—wanna-be cyborgs with extra ears growing in the skin of their necks and implanted RFID tags and facial prosthesis.  But this artist, they were a new creature.  They spoke once about how they work.  He is colorblind, she is imprecise; he wants a clean final piece, she wants to pick up every thread along the way.  They disagreed as they talked, but they finished each other’s sentences.  Picture them pressed back to back, her knotting or sketching or sewing or gluing great towers into being, him beetle-browed over a circuit board with a soldering gun.  The space between them liquid and alive.  Cellular communication—that, too, is electricity.

In the last performance we saw, they passed wires into the audience and we handed them on and let them slide in our palms, the current reaching out through many people and then looping back to the stage, alive in our hands.  They shared the signal with us.  For a moment, we were all one name.

We had seen them before, but we had never understood the way they might tell the story.  They, too, had been in a car, between places where they might get out and light up a room.  Only they stopped at the gap in the trees and looked up, the hair rising at the backs of their necks.  Never had they seen so many towers.  The towers were not a metaphor.  They were a true thing.  They were nature.  If they followed the towers back past the grid, past the dam and the thick and swirling river, they would find a thousand trickles out of rock and moss, through tangles of roots.  Farther than that no one can say.  And if they followed it forward, fanning into the landscape, wires sending the pitch into every house and apartment and street and depot, at the end, they’d find something animated, something solid or stuttering, something almost finished or sickled and circling.

We cannot help ourselves, we want so much. And it is beautiful, what we’ve made, what they’ve made, the paper towers that catch the currents and curl and stand until they’re taken down. At the hillside, the artists took pictures as if this was the end of the journey all along.

LoVid is an interdisciplinary artist duo composed of Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus. Our work includes live video installations, sculptures, digital prints, patchworks, media projects, performances, and video recordings. We combine many opposing elements in our work, contrasting hard electronics with soft patchworks, analog and digital, or handmade and machine produced objects. This multi-directional approach is also reflected in the content of our work: romantic and aggressive, wireless and wire-full. We are interested in the ways in which the human body and mind observe, process, and respond to both natural and technological environments, and in the preservation of data, signals, and memory.