STI - Ran Slavin

Interview with israeli video artist Ran Slavin

Photo by Yuri Gershberg

Floating between dream and reality, traveling through time and space - an exclusive interview with Ran Slavin.


In this exclusive interview Ran Slavin provides some interesting insights into his cinematic, surreal and abstract art.

Ran Slavin is an Israeli based multimedia artist, director and composer. His works occupy a space between dreams and reality, the archaic past and futurism, cold cyber/urban landscapes and human emotions, the rational and the subconscious. In his cinematic masterpiece, The Insomniac City Cycles, he analyzes the moving, evolving, living and multilayered organism of the city and its relation to our inner world, (sub)consciousness and identity. The city becomes an alien structure filled with inhabitants struggling for human contact. It is no wonder that Ran's art has been given such tags as ‘relation art’ or ‘urban surrealism’. In Ursulimum, another notable video work, Ran explores the ever evolving concept of history as it connects to the cultural landscape. Ran's works frequently transcend the ethereal mood, but in a particularly modern, almost futuristic way.

Similar qualities can be attributed to Ran's sonic works. His vivid abstract compositions float like elegant and diverse drone/ambient/field recording waves full of unexpected narrative turns. Having produced an excellent mix for the journal, Ran also gives us some interesting insights in this exclusive interview.

Silence is one of the most important components of sound construction. What does silence mean to you? Is it a blank canvass or a component of sound?

I love silence. I strive for silence. Silence is the utmost beauty. It is a signifier of concentration and purity. In that sense, I think it is both a component and a canvas.

Sound quality can be measured objectively, such as when tools are used to gauge the accuracy with which the device reproduces an original sound; or it can be measured subjectively, such as when human listeners respond to the sound or gauge, its perceived similarity to another sound. What do you think sound quality is and what does it consist of? How much attention do you pay to sound quality in your own music?

I think quality in sound is a very wide, open and subjective topic. There are many angles to it. Every form of sound has a certain quality in my perception. A destroyed sound and a well produced sound, for example. It's a wide spectrum and I can appreciate many forms. I think it's not about the quality in sound, but what you DO with sound.

For example, a delta blues track by Blind Willie Johnson or Robert Johnson is great despite and also because of the bad recording.

I tend to play with these parameters of "bad" and "good" in my own tracks. I usually fall in love with the "wrong" sound and go with it, so it's interesting for me to make a beautiful and compelling/touching track with grained "unsounds". The inner tensions there interest me.

Which part of your music is calculated/constructed and which is more influenced by emotions? What is more important in (your) music: the brain or the heart? How do they influence each other?

Usually, my music isn't calculated. It sort of happens sometimes, when it happens. That is to say, I don't plan it, so in my music I would say it's all heart or chance or both. It starts with the heart and the subconscious and then the brain comes in to shape and make order. So sometimes it is more raw and emotional, but usually it is under control. I don't make a lot of music, although I have 4 unreleased albums just sitting there and waiting to be published with material from my Mille Plateaux era, which hasn't grown old and I think sounds pretty cool, but I don't know what's going on with labels anymore, who would be interested etc. My next idea is to release them one after the other with only 3 month interval between each other. I feel like actually releasing then, not putting them out on bandcamp. Maybe digital releases.

Could you describe your creative process?

I might have a few sound files from God knows when on my machine and they make their way into some editing program or other. Then I will start to fiddle around, layer them and shape them slowly or quickly into tracks.

Or I record some guitar in 2009 and come back to those sounds in 2013 with an intent. Or I hear a track or sound I like and grab it for integration in my own composition. Sometimes soundtracks present themselves from shards of material that's floating around. I used to be a lot less ambient than I have been in recent years. My pro tools sessions used to look like very complicated, condensed, multichopped files.

Can you describe from beginning to end how the material – let’s say a new album – is made?

Showing Light was born very quickly, in one session. It happened like this: I was preparing a live show, arranging some files for possible live stuff and then something went off and a few files were playing at once that sounded altogether new and beautiful to me, some new combination between a few existing sound files, so I thought why not keep it? About 5 or 6 tracks unfolded this way and I just seized them in real time. I hardly needed to add anything to them later, I liked and preserved the original muffled low ends and kind of murky initial studio feel. I didn't want to "open" it or fix in mastering as well. This kind of thing happened to me many times before, when after the mastering and the music is printed and all, I suddenly hear the first edition of the track and love it and feel some "truth" was lost. The file before it was eq'd and mastered. So here I was aware of it and maintained the basics throughout.

Describe where the concept for you sound comes from, what influenced you, how you came up with the timbre, modulations or mood, how was it developed and expanded?

Most of my sounds come from some sort of mistake or misintention. A glitch in a broad sense. I rarely work methodically, coming up with a concept first and then setting about to do it. When I'm at work and I get carried away, when something makes me forget the time and the place, when something is beautiful to me, then it might feel like it's worth a print. When it comes together, music is like meditation. You need it on a chemical and biological scale, you are one with it. That's a good signifier for good music or any art, when you lose yourself.

What is the meaning behind the album's title Showing Light?

I'm glad you asked. Showing Light refers to 2 things. One is a spiritual level, you might say, but with some irony as well. To show light is like to show or produce something good and optimistic, that helps others like in religious phenomena, but the tracks sound far from light, they are actually quite dark. However, I do find a lot of hope in there. For me this LP is close to early blues and gospel in a personal and subjective way. It won't sound like that to you automatically at all, but it's there somewhere. This release is about hope in some way or other. I also wanted the cover to portray this direction and resemble early delta blues LP covers. A nice photo by my mate Yuval Robichek which was done in a snap and unintentionally, and further designed by Tuvia Kudashevich.

The second interpretation relates to my video work. Half of the tracks here found their way into my video works, and Showing Light refers to the physicality of what I do, when I make exhibitions. When I project a video work in exhibitions and live performances, I show light.

What are your immediate future plans?

I work on a series of new video materials daily. I wake up and sit in the studio working for about 10-12 hours daily, if I'm lucky not to be interrupted.

I'm taking part in an exhibition in Hannover at KunstHalle Faust with 2 video works and a live performance at the opening. Also live video performances in Tel Aviv at The Store and at Pasaz in September and October and a screening at the Uganda bar in Jerusalem.

Are you interested in technologies and their progress? What innovation of the past century has made the biggest impression on you? Maybe you have your personal vision of the world in a couple of years?

I am very much interested in technology to the extent of science fiction. Most of my visual work is about technology in this way or the other and touches on sci-fi. I think Apple made a huge change of course with Steve Jobs’ vision. He changed the way we live, work, and interact with each other. Personal computers are the biggest tools of our decade, I think, inarguably.

I'm interested in second life. This avatar social environment is quite fantastic and futuristic. These interactive virtual 3D environments are fun and could be taken to the next level somehow. Imagine a room, where all the walls are LED screens with whatever you want on them. Like a vision from the Cloud Atlas film. I'm a sucker for cyberpunk environments from back when I was 16 and saw Blade Runner for the first time.

As far as we know, for most of your life you’ve lived in Tel Aviv. Have you ever felt the need to move somewhere else, experience living in another country. How important is home, your own cultural space to you? How does it influence your music?

I grew up and lived in the USA, London and shortly in Singapore. All have influenced me. I love London and Europe, Asia and New York. But yes, for the most part it has been Tel Aviv and even Jerusalem.

I feel the need to move constantly and I love moving. I think its a basic instinct to move and be free to roam. The experience of many cultures is enriching and vital. Whenever I can, I will move. With Israel, my current location, I have a deeply ambivalent relationship. A political ambivalence and a humanistic one. I know so many mistakes were done and afflicted on an unnecessary scale in the way the State was formed. The "cultural space" needs to constantly be scrutinized and reevaluated, because democracy and human rights are constantly under threat and attack. So one needs to stay on guard. And I'm also constantly observing. And the middle eastern "neighborhood" is a very fragile barrel of dynamite. So my natural tendency and interest in ephemeral topics like ambient sound and science fiction might have a strong friction with reality.

Do you have a vision for a future film? What do you think cinema lacks nowadays in general?

Well, the main aspiration is to make my next movie. I'm constantly struggling to make it happen. I have two ideas for future films, which I am developing and a new strange mini series is under way.

Regarding the cinema, there are great movies coming out all the time. Headshot by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang is a really great film, also The Raid Redemption, Holy Motors, Yellow Sea, Invisible Waves, the Hit&Miss series, Breaking Bad, Big Bad Wolves and many many more.

Sculpture is the most popular form of visual art in Africa. What place does sculpture occupy in your life?

I love sculpture, but I don't make it anymore. I used to sculpt and make casts in the ‘90s with concrete wax and light. I'm interested in sculpture, but I'm all digital now and actually about non-material. I just think there are so many objects out in the world, so many things, I just don't feel the need to add any more. I'm going for reduction.

The Austrian Felix Baumgartner went to the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space and jumped down, exceeding the speed of sound. Are you interested in breaking records? If there would be no restricting factors, what record would you like to break?

Not influenced by record breaking. I don't think about it at all, but an influential record would be to be able to travel at the speed of light and to travel both forward and backward in time. Also to discover space loop holes, and some other livable sun systems. Discovering alternative life to the human system or expanding human systems into something else, challenging natural biology and the integration of human DNA and biology with technology.

What is the meaning of life?

I don't know. Feeling well, making films and video, traveling as much as possible, working hard, making amazing things, discovering, following your dreams.


01. Svarte Greiner - The Boat Was My Friend
02. Strië - Fragments Of The Past
03. G.H. - Ground (Modern Love)
04. Dale Cooper Quartet And The Dictaphones - Mon Tragique Chartreuse
05. Ran Slavin - Triggers Of Violence
06. Erik K Skodvin - Neither Dust
07. G.H. - Albedo
08. G.H. - Earth
09. Svarte Greiner - Baandspiller I Solnedgang
10. Stina Nordenstam - Come To Me
11. Strië - Crack in the Boards
12. Murcof featuring Erik Truffaz - Al Mediodia
13. Strië - Substraction
14. Ran Slavin - Unreleased
15. Ran Slavin - Unreleased

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An interdisciplinary journal, offering eclectic mixes and smart interviews with original artists and label owners as well as contemporary art reviews.

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