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In Profile


 Da Contents H2

September 16 2015
In Profile: Zoe Scoglio, artist
Urszula Dawkins

RT PROFILER 11, 22 JULY 2015
July 22 2015
In Profile: Jason James, artist
Andrew Harper

In Profile: Nick Power, b*boy, choreographer

November 12 2014
In Profile: André Lawrence, emerging curator
Chris Reid

In Profile: Angus Cerini, writer, performer, director
John Bailey

In Profile: Julian Day, composer
Matthew Lorenzon

September 17 2014
In Profile: David Rosetzky, Gaps
Urszula Dawkins

In Profile: Matt Warren, mumble(speak), III - real and imagined scenarios Gail Priest
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RT PROFILER 5, 30 JULY, 2014
July 30 2014
In Profile: Lawrence English, Wilderness of Mirrors
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RT PROFILER 5, 30 JULY, 2014
July 30 2014
In profile: Natalie Abbott, Maximum
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July 2 2014
In Profile: Lily Hibberd, Twin Cinema: Four Devils and a Woman in Red
Urszula Dawkins

In Profile: Prying Eye, White Porcelain Doll
Kathryn Kelly

RT PROFILER 3, 21 MAY 2014
May 21 2014
In profile: AñA Wojak, 3 Decades
Jeanti St Clair

In Profile: Chris Bennie, Fern Studio Floor: a cosmology
Virginia Rigney

In Profile: Paper Cut Contemporary Performance Collective
Gail Priest

In Profile: Wyatt Moss-Wellington, Sanitary Apocalypse
Oliver Downes

March 26 2014
In Profile: Alison Bennett, Shifting Skin
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March 26 2014
In Profile: Chris Howlett, ARGARMENIA
Christy Dena

November 20 2013
In Profile: Rachael Dease
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In Profile: Sarah-Mace Dennis
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September 25 2013
In Profile: Keg de Souza
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In Profile: Miranda Wheen
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September 18 2013
In Profile: Michaela Davies
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In Profile: Pia van Gelder
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In Profile: Pia van Gelder

Gail Priest

Tetra Synth, 2013, Pia van Gelder & Stephen Jones Tetra Synth, 2013, Pia van Gelder & Stephen Jones
courtesy the artists
Pia van Gelder is the “Overlord”of the Sydney chapter of Dorkbot, a loose international network of “people doing strange things with electricity.” She is also incredibly active as a curator (co-director of the Moduluxx festival and the now-ended Serial Space), an educator and artist.

Van Gelder’s practice involves performance and installation works utilising what she describes as “media machines” which she hacks and reconfigures. She says “hacking or tinkering is a way to look for a new aesthetic…to explore or reveal the machine’s intrinsic visual or audio language, sometimes arriving at surprising results. But mostly I’m looking at how a machine can have its own form of expression [either through an] electronic aesthetic or the machine’s connection to the outside world and the people around it.” In her artist statement van Gelder talks of the pursuit of an “AV mysticism.”

Heirloom machines

Van Gelder is particularly interested in older technologies, which she refers to as heirloom machines. “This is a term Joyce Hinterding and I came up with when I was doing my masters. There are machines, like the video synthesiser for instance, that are historic and rare…a prize possession.” There’s an interestingly female flavour to the term—a small reclamation of machines from an assumed male custodianship.

Van Gelder has recently collaborated with Stephen Jones to recreate one of these machines. Based on Jones’ original 1996 designs for a video synthesiser, they have recreated the Tetrasynth. It’s a pyramidal object with one colour from the video spectrum—red/green/blue—assigned to each side. It allows users to play, manipulating the colours via generators and filters to create abstract video images. The work was commissioned by Campbelltown Art Centre for their exhibition Catching Light, part of ISEA 2013 (see realtimeTV and review).

Mountain Operated Synthesiser (MOS), 2013,  Mt Mehrapi, Pia van Gelder, Michael Candy, Andreas Siagian Mountain Operated Synthesiser (MOS), 2013, Mt Mehrapi, Pia van Gelder, Michael Candy, Andreas Siagian
courtesy the artists

While the term ‘geek’ offers the impression of lonely souls working in isolation, only communicating virtually, the contemporary use of the term ‘hacker’ infers a shift beyond software to actual object modification and is strongly associated with the idea of real-world communities. Hacker spaces are popping up all around the world where people come to share tinkering tips, tools and resources. Before this year, Van Gelder had not participated in many collaborative art processes (curating aside), but now she’s making up for this.

As well as the Tetrasynth project, she has also recently taken part in the Instrument Builders Project in which Australian and Indonesian artists came together at iCAN in Yogyakarta (see review). Van Gelder teamed up with Brisbane-based artist Michael Candy and Indonesian artist Andreas Siagian to create the Mountain Operated Synthesiser. Inspired by a solar-powered seismic monitoring station half way up Mt Mehrapi, an active volcano 28 kilometres north of Yogyakarta, the trio have created an instrument that is played by the mountain. It comprises three flags dug into the ground, each holding three oscillators. The flags have analogue senses sewn on or built into them, capturing wind and moisture levels and soil activity. This data then activates the oscillators creating a raucous sonification of the mountain’s conditions. It doesn’t sound very pretty but it’s a wonderfully integrated concept.

Gender issues

Hacking is an area of practice notoriously dominated by males and I asked Van Gelder how this affects her practice. “The Instrument Builders Project was a very good example—there were no other female practitioners on that bill of artists. (There was, of course, Kristi [Monfries] who was one of the curators.) And it came up in discussion from time to time. You have to recognise that imbalance and talk about it, but you also can’t let it get to you, even though it can feel quite isolating…If we don’t recognise that it’s a male dominated field then it becomes even more unappealing [for women]. But if you make a point of making space, making women feel recognised and comfortable, that’s a way of moving past it, just a little bit.”

What’s next

Van Gelder has already achieved a lot this year, but there’s still more to come. She’s one of five artists who have been commissioned to make works for the Tele-Visions festival celebrating the passing of analogue TV (part of Performance Space’s 30th birthday celebrations). For Tele-Visions Van Gelder will perform a series of experiments for live television broadcast involving participation from the audience in the studio. “It’s kind of like a cross between a global groove and a science show.” If only the Curiosity Show was still around today—Pia van Gelder would make the perfect host(ess)!

COMING UP: Pia van Gelder (represented by First Draft) will exhibiting at the inaugural Sydney Contemporary, Carriageworks, Sydney; 20-22 September 2013 ;

RealTime issue #116 Aug-Sept 2013 pg. web

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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