Joris Strijbos is a Rotterdam-based artist whose work focuses on the synaesthetic relation and interaction between moving image and sound.

His artistic research focuses on cybernetics, swarm intelligence, communication networks and emergent systems. Through kinetic installations and expanded (live) cinema performances, he develops complex immersive and synesthetic landscapes in which image, sound and light are continuously intertwined in a synchronized choreography. In his work he combines artificial, electronic and digital media with models and algorithms based on biological systems. In many of the works, the viewer witnesses a process in which machines, computer programs and the physical world interact with each other. The installations are programmed using algorithms to reflect specific organic structures and "natural" behaviors such as self-organization, which are then revealed to the audience in the movements and abstract light patterns of the machines. Sometimes the artworks explore the edges of human visual and auditory perception and produce strong hypnotic patterns such as stroboscopic light pulses and sound waves. In other installations, the experience is more meditative and the composition focuses on choreographies and shifts of minimalistic and mathematical objects. What the pieces have in common is their multisensorial nature. Light, sound and movement are merged with precision into time-bound sculptures.

Joris Strijbos studied ArtScience at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague where he earned his Bachelor degree and received his master degree at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. His work has been widely shown at festivals, galleries and museums like Ars Electronica – Linz, Sonic Acts Festival – Amsterdam, DEAF Biennale – Rotterdam, Meta.Morf - Trondheim, TodaysArt Festival - The Hague, Woodstreet Galleries – Pittsburgh, WRO International Media Art Biennale – Wroclaw, Van Gogh Museum – Amsterdam, La Panacee - Montpellier, Nuit Blanche - Paris, EYE Institute - Amsterdam, TENT - Rotterdam, NCCA - Moskou, ]Interstice[ Festival - Caen, Blooming Festival of Digital Arts - Pergola, Museum of Contemporary Art [MOCA] - Yinchuan, Boxes Art Museum, Shunde, ZERO Foundation - Düsseldorf.

Joris Strijbos is part of Macular, a collective of artists researching the interplay of light, sound and motion. Their practice focuses on the programming and manipulation of emergent systems and properties as well as on the constant observation of natural phenomena and dynamic processes. They create largescale multisensoryinstallations of minimalist aesthetics that often address humans’ relationship with the natural world.

In 2017 Strijbos co-initiated Klankvorm. Klankvorm is a Rotterdam-based platform for the realisation and presentation of experimental audiovisual art. Klankvorm events take place in different locations and feature audiovisual performances and related presentations by participating artists. Klankvorm aims to initiate, commission, and present new works by sound artists and visual artists who collaboratively explore the audiovisual domain.

In 2015 Michael van Hoogenhuyze wrote an essay on the works of Joris Strijbos for the publication of his solo show at Nome Gallery:

Joris Strijbos’s installations: How to realize artificial life without individual will?

In his work, the artist Joris Strijbos plays with technology. Movement, light, and sound are all created and observed by the installation at the same time. These observations can form the basis for a mechanical, digitally directed choreography. Some of his installations are carefully performed compositions, whereas other, more experimental installations allow the elements to produce new music or movement by collaborative, mechanical improvisation. At the same time, Strijbos’s work is the result of centuries of technology and science.

The Industrial Revolution involved a paradoxical process: machines were built to give man power over material, but it became clear that these machine work only if the machine operators follow guidelines and set procedures. Otherwise, these constructions exhibit unexpected, complex or chaotic behavior, as if they have a will of their own. As the Czech-Brazilian philosopher Vilem Flusser stated, you don’t use an apparatus or a machine, but rather you operate it. The unpredictability of some machines leads us to speak of ‘behavior’ as if we are being confronted by ‘living’ organisms with their own plan. Such behavior occurs if the installation makes unexpected movements or leads to incomprehensible actions; this behavior resembles real life.

Although technology can be used to control events, it can sometimes be unpredictable. This phenomenon of the possibilities of control together with unpredictability has always fascinated Joris Strijbos. When experimenting with the complex electronics of sound equipment, he learned that, by ‘incorrectly’ operating the switches or by rewiring cables differently, he could produce chaotic sound effects. In other words, feedback could lead to unpredictable events that, although not ‘intended’, could also produce their own beauty. You can operate machines in different ways: correctly and with the predicted results, or not according to the rules. In the latter case, unexpected events can be more exciting and more interesting than the product of ‘correct’ operation.

To create these events, you have to use equipment that can both transmit and observe events or signals and can then transmit these observations (for example, making a sound and simultaneously registering it). As soon as the machine begins to observe its own signals, feedback can be created: unexpected events arising from simple actions.

At the beginning of his artistic career, Joris Strijbos focused on sound. But although the topics of his work are often the same, he actually doesn’t want to repeat the same installation. Strijbos continues to ask new questions in his work, leading to a series of projects that, despite their similarities, are cbased on new, fundamental questions. His works is in that sense always research based: the questions asked form the incentive for a following step. In his research, the given possibilities are continually studied and put under pressure to be pushed to the limits. A shift to possibilities other than sound was a logical consequence. Movement and light begin to play important roles. His installations are composed of a series of identical elements, and this repetition is a characteristic that creates his own esthetics. In addition to his own installations with their unexpected possibilities, Joris Strijbos is also inspired by nature. Large processes on the scale of the landscape give him ideas for new projects: how the wind plays with reeds, the movement of clouds or the surf. These are all phenomena that display both elements of chaos and forms of regularity, resulting in a sort of play or dance.

One of Joris Strijbos fascinations is the phenomenon of the flock that we see with birds. A large number of nearly similar individuals behave as a whole, as if there is a collective thought which is the driver in the total movement, a driving thought that is unseen and unpredictable but very clear in the visible results. Making such a flock or swarm was an important source of inspiration. He usually translates this into a ‘field’ of units, identical machines. Each unit is fixed to a specific spot and sometimes geometrically ordered. As a result, his work can resemble an artificial landscape in which significant movements occur. The swarm and the field are important arrangements for Strijbos. And the addition of a network model shows a way in which all of the units are connected to one another and can exchange information.

An important discovery was the realization that every event can ultimately be steered by an electric impulse and can also be translated into such an impulse. Consequently, these phenomena can be translated into one another. In the structures created, it is possible to let the units communicate with one another by means of electric signals, thus forming networks. Although the fields consist of separate units, they seem to react as one living being, and diverse elements such as wind, light, sound, and movement can be translated into one another. Machines can react to light by making movements or sound. And that sound or movement can, in turn, cause a change in the light. The units react as living beings to complex impulses. The observations can also be used to let the units communicate with one another by means of electricity, at first invisibly and later with an effect, etc. What we see are poetic installations of fields with identical units. The units react to their surroundings or to one another. Their behavior creates patterns that are bigger than the individual elements: gusts of wind, a swarm veering away, rising dust particles, that’s what they seem like. In addition to the well- considered placement of the elements in a space, these fields seem to react as a whole. Moreover, Strijbos’s installations reflect a sense of landscape. They are artificial landscapes that, in many cases, seem to react very actively to the elements and to one another. Like weather phenomena that are quickened or intensified. The separate elements resemble beacons, windmills, cranes or big, moving lamps. They could be artificial birds. Strijbos’s work has developed from models to monumental compositions, more than ‘life-sized’ robots in conversation with the landscape.

And this gives rise to a specific poetic language, to his own style. Joris Strijbos makes landscapes of robots that move collectively and conduct a dialogue with one another. The movements in this landscape seem to be steered by a hidden intelligence, a process that is related to life itself. The composition of identical elements, the gloom in the design, the lack of color all call to mind the work of the Zero movement of the 1960s. There too color played almost no role in comparison to the material, the repetition, the light and shadow. Installations, paintings and sculptures, stationary in time, with the only possible change coming from changing light.

The installations created by Joris Strijbos cover a variety of extremes:

  • The movements can be caused by external influences, as in Drifting Patterns, in which organ elements create sound because of the wind. The direct movement of the wind on the organ elements spontaneously produces a composition. This installation was created together with Jeroen Molenaar and Marco Broeders. Strijbos’s projects are sometimes so complex that they require close collaboration with other artists.

  • In other installations, movement is created by a pre-programmed composition defined in a computer program and expressed in a series of movements like in a piece of music. The resulting choreography brings the virtual wind of a computer program to life: Phase= Order, in which 96 screens react to a virtual wind.

  • A third possibility is one in which the units react to one another, thus continually creating new configurations. In Homeostase lights react to one another by searching for each other.

There are countless variations in such installations; some are the opposite of one another, others differ only slightly. For each one, Strijbos has to make fundamental decisions. Is the field steered by a computer? Or do the elements move independently of one another, causing a pattern to emerge from their behavior? Is there any external influence? If so, is it real or simulated?

Although the results may sometimes resemble one another, the construction is always fundamentally different. Simultaneously, phenomena arise that resemble real organic life. This is possible because of the balance between regularity and unpredictability. Living organisms have their own internal logic, and they react to a certain pattern unexpectedly and intentionally. In this sense, you can speak of ‘behavior’. The ‘life’ that Joris caims for can manifest itself in one installation in the separate components and, in another, in the whole as one living field. (Just like flocks of birds that seem to be directed by one will, even though the movement could be explained by how the birds react ‘autonomously’ to one another.)

Strijbos’s verbal comments are filled with cybernetic terminology. Although it seems that his studies are deliberately focused, there has been a very intuitive element in his development that plays with diverse principles. The combination of unfocused play and a vigorous gesture make his installations poetic. The forceful gesture is always accompanied by lightness, which makes the installations playful. At the same time though, his work can be seen as a research. In each installation Strijbos searches for a new approach so that the total movement is steered by a deeper process. From the internal programming of a machine to incidental external influences and from there to how the elements react to one another. This results in landscapes that time and again question the borders between the organic and the mechanical.

The installations seem to simulate living processes. It is noteworthy that there is no individuality or individual in these movements. The elements are not autonomous, but the field as a whole is not apparently steered by one will (one program). It is artificial life without an individual. Up to now, the fields or the separate elements cannot move through space. The movement they contain replicates and moves itself. The movement itself is the individual, not the fixed elements or the field as a whole. As a result of these limitations, we can more easily experience other ‘fields’ around us as ‘living’: fields of reeds, urban processes or a coral reef. In this way Joris Strijbos’s installations raise important questions about borders: the borders between life and death and the border between chaos and order.

Michael van Hoogenhuyze
Leiden, October 2015