“Without music, there is no Josh Davis.”
Says … Josh Davis (@praystation). Sure, the man himself might exist, but not the New York-based designer and technologist who had a role in making IBM’s Watson, developed visuals for countless DJs and bands, and, as the current media arts director of Sub Rosa, discovers how technology and design interacts with emotions. That guy — well, without music, he might still be doing art the old-fashioned way.
“I was pretty depressed in terms of being a painter,” recalls the 44-year-old creator, about the days before he switched to more high-tech mediums. “I just thought, What’s changed in painting? It’s thousands of years of history and you can look back and just think, Well, f—, what do I have to say now?”
Thankfully, he got his hands on a computer, which completely changed his outlook. “I’m still the painter, it’s just I’m not going to use paint and a brush anymore,” he says. “I’m going to use the medium of programming, the medium of a computer and a connected community, the Internet, to make work.”
For the last two decades, Josh has achieved what he set out to do, dreaming up colorful images and designs through coding. For his latest trick, he’s taking music and running it through a program that analyzes the sound as data — which then spits it back out as a set of moving images. By manipulating the program to correspond to different frequencies — a snare drum, a bass line, etc. — it will start to elicit new shapes and patterns.
Josh has put his Painting With Sound technique to use with artists such as Phantogram, Diplo and Squarepusher. He’ll often write dozens of programs for one project, in the hopes of finding something that fits both his visual tastes, and the band’s sound. Take the video for Phantogram’s “Fall in Love.”
“‘Fall in Love’ was 55 different programs just for that one song,” he says. “Usually, an artist will give me a thing of music and I just need to go meditate and just say, ‘OK, what do I think this song looks like?’ There is no goal in mind. I think that’s another thing that I’ve always tried to tell people, is I’m much happier making mistakes and failing.”
Josh’s digital creations aren’t typically political, nor do they convey any specific message. Instead, he traffics in the abstract. Which gets us back to that “No Music, No Josh” precept. Even when he’s not “painting with sound” he’s still using music as a means of inspiration.
“I will get into a zone, where one week I’ll listen to classical, and then one week it’s salsa, and then the next week it’s EDM,” he says. “And I just sort of listen to that music and my brain sort of visualizes what I think that music looks like.”
That could mean jagged green and red polygons, or fiery sparks, or his face pulsing from the beam of a strobe light. Really, it’s a search for something unique and unexpected.
“That’s really what I’m looking for,” he says. “I’m looking for that moment, where my eyes and my brain go, ‘F—, that’s beautiful.’”
— Instagram @music
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(This interview was conducted in German.)
Lea Perelsztein (@lealovescars) inherited a love for cars from her dad, but it was a tiny blue 1971 Fiat 500 that got Lea’s Instagram account rolling. Last year, Lea bought “Baby Blue” as a birthday present for herself. The duo has been cruising the streets of Hamburg, Germany, ever since, always on the lookout for the next motif. Whether it’s horses in a meadow, giant shipping containers or shiny firetrucks – Lea finds impressive backdrops for her car.
While all pictures of Baby Blue are precisely planned, Lea photographs other automobiles spontaneously. According to Lea, particularly unusual models can be seen at the Oldtimer Tankstelle (Oldtimer Gas Station) – a hangout for car enthusiasts. “People come here in their classic cars to meet up on the weekend,” says Lea. “If I haven’t spotted any interesting cars during the week, I know I’ll find some here.”