Since the beginning of their collaboration in 1985 in Amsterdam, Bosch & Simons www.boschsimons.com have been involved in performances, concerts and theatrical productions. Since 1990, however, they have focused in particular on the development of autonomous musical machines, work that has been recognised with the most prestigious international awards, such as the Nica d’Or at the Prix Ars Electronica in Linz (1998), Bourges International Electroacoustic Music and Sound Art Competition (2002) and VIDA 6.0 (2003).
Simone Simons, who answers our questions first, points out that while there are many similarities between the sciences and the arts, there are also many differences. She suggests that an inventive mindset, creativity, and the ability to ask questions could be shared traits between scientists and artists, but feels strongly that the social responsibilities of the scientific community are very different from those of the artistic community. Science and technology are forced to respond to a single reality, while the artistic community, which does not have the same goals and is not obliged to derive single answers from the analysis of reality is ,in fact, a creator of multiple realities. Bosch and Simons, who use technology extensively in their work and look for models in the scientific community and in the way it researches and makes discoveries, behave similarly: they search, find, analyse, and keep searching and finding and analysing in a never-ending cycle.
Bosch & Simons began working in the field of physics, and have been interested in the design of installations based on chaotic physical devices practically from the beginning of their collaboration. They have always felt it is important for a given installation to have a life of its own, without them controlling it completely. However, they admit, it is clear that some aspects need to be controlled; for example, so that the structures do not collapse and are not dangerous, but the movements and sounds they produce are never completely controlled or predictable. In addition, they change constantly over the course of the exhibition, which can last for one or two months. Someone may arrive at a given time and experience a small fraction of the arrangement as a result of the design of a chaotic behaviour, but will never be able to experience the piece in its entirety.
Peter Bosch emphasises that his searching relies heavily on an initial idea. His works include a large family of pieces that work through vibration. In general, a vibrating source sets the other elements of the installation in motion. As an example, he mentions Cantan un Huevo, a vibrating structure made up of a large number of glass containers, which was inspired by an experience on the ferry between Denmark and Norway. There was a liquor store there, and the vibration of the ship’s large engines, pulsating through the shelves and bottles, generated a sound that moved from left to right throughout the store in an intriguing rhythmic manner. That’s how they thought of making a piece out of vibrating glass; which involved a great deal of searching. Sometimes, though, Bosch explains, everything goes very fast and the search does not take much time. It all depends on the problems they face and have to solve, just as if they were scientists. Sometimes there are very strict time limits, because the works may have been commissioned. But it can also be the case that an idea is tucked away for a long time until it suddenly takes form; and this is a trait that Peter Bosch also attributes to scientific work. And he asserts the following: in creative processes, which are by no means linear, there are special moments when certain sudden changes lead to giant steps forward on the path to solutions.
Bosch & Simons frequently use industrial electric motors with eccentric parts which, when they turn, transmit vibration. If the vibration frequency of the motors exactly matches the resonant frequency of a structure to which they are connected, everything starts to tremble. This principle underlies many of their creations, but Peter Bosch explains that, though it may seem paradoxical, sometimes the pieces also require subtle sounds, and this leads them to look for special pieces of glass with large dynamic ranges.
With regard to the events that inspire the pieces, Simons is keen to emphasise that they usually start working on a project because they experience something vital that they want to convey to other people. The best way is through your work, which becomes a kind of language that holds a mirror to the different experiences of those who enjoy the pieces. This phenomenon, Bosch adds, leads to unexpected treasures when someone with good and stimulating experiences, but completely different from their own, proposes more or less surprising interpretations and uses that they had never dreamt of. For example, take Krachtgever, a striking combination of wooden boxes and metal springs that together form a wall. While the most mundane thing people have seen in it is an allegory of sex, others have repeatedly suggested that the piece could be interpreted as a memorial to the Jews that the Nazis packed into trains to extermination camps. In this case, Bosch & Simons did not seek to allude to this particular issue, but are glad that people’s interpretations enrich their work.
Simone Simons feels that there is a clear relationship between the prevailing uncertainty in nature, which we humans do not seem to accept much, and their musical machines, which, she reminds us, are designed as devices that are not totally controllable: one part always exhibits exploratory and unpredictable behaviour, similar to nature, which exhibits unpredictable biological and geological behaviours that are impossible to control. We think we have control over things, she warns us, but we are quite wrong, because we control very little. The planet vibrates; you may think you’re sitting still, but you never are, because the world is constantly vibrating. We all had to improvise when we found ourselves thrust into the pandemic, she recalls. For them, this situation of unpredictability is of special interest because of its similarity with the behaviour of their machines. In a way, life and nature affirm their work.
Bosch & Simons live in a rural area of Valencia where the acoustic environment is completely different from that of a city. As such, they tell us, they can work with total concentration. They find it curious, then, that many people from urban areas, especially noisy ones, think and say that they make noise. While they do not take issue with this perception, they see and think of what they do as music, because they argue that in their pieces, in a way, despite the chaotic devices, there is always organisation. You think, feel or see depending on where you come from or where you live, they conclude; and they are glad that it is so, because they like the reality of this.
Where they live, people are not influenced by the various elements that condition city life, dictating what to buy and what not to buy, what to do and what not to do. You need to be very creative if you are far from the influences of advertising rhetoric. You have to find the solutions yourself; invent things. You can’t go to the store and buy them, because there is no store. Probably due to this culture of improvisation that was already present before they arrived, when they said they were artists and showed their pieces, people, finding it difficult to see them as artists, thought that they were inventors. And this, they tell us, is an interesting and different way of looking at the art-science-technology-society issue. It is noteworthy that computer music and electronic art, which use electronics or high technology, are so closely linked to urban environments. With today’s advanced communications technology and computers that are increasingly smaller and faster, it is no longer necessary to have relationships with any large institution, because one can now create electronic art anywhere. However, the vast majority of electronic artists still live in urban settings. Why not in the rural world? In Peter Bosch’s opinion, perhaps many more people should choose this setting.
Header photo : Manolo Portolés