Spotlight on Soundscapes: Bill Klaila

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Bill Klaila, who joined us this spring from Minneapolis, was one of our 2017 FSP/Jerome Fellows. On Bill’s first day at the park, he recalls that “there were over 200 people visiting Franconia. That ramped up my motivation considerably.” A common theme in Bill’s body of work is the idea of evolving an artwork over time, starting with a relatively simple piece, and then expanding it into a more immersive one as time goes on. Bill’s work here at the park, titled “Empyream,” is an interactive soundscape, with three installations within the park. “Empyream” uses an infrared camera and computer to track visitor’s movements and then plays music in response.

Describe your creative process.

I tend to evolve an artwork over time. A new idea usually starts out as a relatively simple piece, like using a video sensor to place the viewer into a 2D scene. Over time, I add to the piece – things like 3D animations, graphics effects, and 3D models. For example, the first immersive environment I made was a simple soundscape that played splash sounds as you walked through it. That evolved into a complex video landscape with animated foliage, which included several different scenes or levels. Using a Kinect video sensor, you were projected into the scene where you could wander through this animated landscape.

Several artists have influenced my work: Bill Viola, Nam Jun Paik, UrbanScreen’s projection mapping onto buildings – but especially Liz Phillips. I experienced a piece by her in NYC that was, essentially, an empty room with sensors. As you moved about the room, you generated this amazing music. It was then that I realized I wanted to make this kind of artwork.

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Tell us about your project at FSP.

At Franconia I am building a soundscape. I wanted a rich, immersive experience that concentrated on audio. There are two sound-columns that sense viewer movement and respond with orchestral music. One pillar plays woodwind notes, and the other plays brass. These two installations are close enough together that the sounds can merge.
A third installation is in the FSP Welcome booth which plays banjo and guitar notes in response to your movements.
I like audio installations because they are not physical objects, yet they fill a space with sound. There are a lot of challenges when putting an electronic installation outdoors. Making it weatherproof and climate-proof are paramount.

How does your time at Franconia compare to other residencies?

Franconia is unique. Artists live in an old farm house at Franconia and share in cooking and cleaning duties. It is communal living with an emphasis on art making. There is a lot of sharing of ideas and philosophies.

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What did you learn at FSP?

At Franconia you are part of a community of artists. For so long, I have worked on my own, and it was refreshing to be a part of community. Working at Franconis is similar to being in art school, and I realized how much I missed that.

The biggest challenge was preparing a computer-based installation for the outdoors that would last at least one year.

Anything coming up?

Nothing Certain right now.

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Subscribe to Franconia’s blog and never miss out on a FSP Spotlight interview. Check out earlier 2017 Spotlight installments: Nooshim Hakim Javadi and Pedram Baldari, Laura Feldberga and Ojars Feldbergs! We will be featuring all of our 2017 Fellowship Artists throughout the summer, so stay tuned.

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