Public Audio Image — Slobodan Zivic

A year ago Slobodan Zivic, a well known DJ and graphic artist, first told me about a project he was working on. He wanted to combine his trademark aesthetic with his involvement in the music industry. For those of you who aren’t familiar with his commercial work he is the person behind the visual identity of musicians and bands such as Icona Pop and Tove Styrke.

We met up one day at his studio in the Södermalm district in Stockholm where he showed me a couple of works that he had produced. They were mostly mixed media pieces made to be hung on walls. It was graphic design and retro digital elements layered on a mirrored surface, immediately reminiscent of tangible formats, from when the cassette was still around to the much more recent and direct connection to CDs.

Since then I have been patiently waiting for today to come, when the public and I get to see these pieces for the first time connected to their partner element; sound.

Tonight he will unveil Public Audio Image, an exhibition curated by C-Print, that merges Zivic’s signature style with important established as well as up-and-coming musicians from Sweden to create an audiovisual experience, which with his background in a sense becomes biographical.

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Could you start off by explaining the social aspects of the project? It is an impressive list of collaborators. Who are they and how do you know them? How do you approach someone, another artist even, to collaborate on a project like this?

They are a quite unique bunch of Northern Europe’s best music producers and DJs. They are creating all the arrangements themselves —  that alone makes them unique. Partially because of the level they’ve reached and some of them are just about to start their musical journey, too. I know most of them personally, they all seem to liked the idea of working with a audio-visual experiment like this.

Where did this project come from, what is your process behind it? Subsequently what are your inspirations and motivations?

The whole thing started out as an reaction towards the access we all have, that all the World’s information is within reach, through a computer or device.
I strive to dedicate and constrain an event and an experience to a physical space. The installation is only presented for a limited time – to manifest a counter-reaction of total availability.
I like the idea of total access and to have all the information in your palm, but there is a backlash as I see it. The World outside is as interesting as you make it. I think there’s a negative aspect to consumerism that makes us counter-productive and where a lack of creativity gets sacrificed. I had that mind-set when i started working on the installation.

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This is a very intriguing concept, but as a visual artist, how do you think the works rank compared to all your earlier work? What have you designed differently this time considering that they aren’t to be interpreted as monoliths?

I’ve forced myself to work physically and to explore new materials coming together, that feel appealing for me. But yes, of course there are some shapes and expressions that you can find in my commissions too.
Monoliths or not, it is a totally new context and attitude of how graphics, material and sound mix together in, if you ask me, a weird not-so-tangible way. This is the first time I lost control during the process, and that is great but also challenging!

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How much does your background as a DJ add to the project? Have you managed to stay out of the musical productions or are you involved there too?

I’ve stayed away from the music completely. I have experience in working with music, both in the studio and as a DJ, so it helped me understand the process and how to approach those two senses.

The works are cohesive and belong together visually. Is there a similar unity to the music? Are there any uniting factors in the audio part of the project that are noticeable to an outsider?

The weirdest aspect of the musical contributions is that it was if the musicians listened to each other’s stuff during the process. None of the musicians involved listened to each other’s productions, still there are a lot of similarities. It’s like they all interpret the image and statement I’ve given them, in the same way. Some sounds and arrangements have a lot of similarity, a similar vibe.

Did anything any of the artists create for you surprise you? Did it end up how you expected it?

I believe I will be surprised when the pieces are integrated into the gallery, ready to be experienced, but for now they are only files of great productions. They will come alive in the context of the room and fused with the image.

What are you hoping that people experience? What are your hopes in terms of what visitors take with them?

I hope they get a feel of ”What the hell was that”, like it makes sense in a way it shouldn’t. My biggest concern is if the people involved, imagine it like this – and find it appealing.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes, there’s another exhibition of mine booked this fall. The venue will be Riche in Stockholm, so if you don’t like this one, give me a second chance.