Hello Dirk. This is an important interview because it is rare to sit down with and be able to question the inner workings of a visual genius’s mind. What I’ve noticed first is that you seem unintimidated by the complex. Much of what you produce appears meticulous in scope and vast in detail. Please tell us about how you’ve come to embrace this fascinating style, and where your love for design began.
Many thanks, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. I think it all began in 1989 when my mother bought a Video8 camcorder which she actually never used cause I took it. A friendly takeover. In the first years, I saw the environment more through the viewfinder of the camera than in reality. I took it everywhere with me and used it to sketch ideas and making experiments. So it also happened that I got sometimes a red circle around the right eye. A gift from the viewfinder. The video camera was and still is a kind of pencil for me. And I also used to draw a lot which I am still doing today although I am working a lot of digital. It’s an important tool to sketch and storyboard.
These two passions the filming and the drawing prompted me to study Visual Communication at the Academy of Art and Design in Basel. I focused on interaction design and time-based media (video and animation). After my education, I worked as a graphic designer. I began to combine the field of graphic design with the field of the moving image and I also started to work on free projects in digital art as well.
In my projects, I often start with a collecting act. this can be anything (objects, drawings, photos, video sequences, renderings) depending on the project and the idea. When the collection has reached a certain size I start to experiment with the material and to create variants. This phase in the process can get very complex. Sometimes I have real problems to stop it because I’m so curious to explore more and more. Somehow I like it if a project gets complex and if it gets a certain life of its own. I am very fascinated by exploring and creating visual worlds.
To be called a genius seems itself a term overused, but artists who stand apart while pushing their craft to its boundaries in a way that seems effortless makes one worthy. Who to you are geniuses in your field? And do such distinctions initiate progress, or become burdens to live up to?
I think the most important thing is to stay with yourself, without paying too much attention to whether you are doing justice to others. Of course, it is not always easy to discover new things for yourself over and over again. Sometimes this happens and sometimes it doesn’t. If I am in a phase in which things are not going well, I try to concentrate even more on the work and to continue. For me, the works of the filmmaking pioneers Oskar Fischinger and Norman McLaren have an enormous power which is a wonderful inspiration.
What great masters have done with a brush and paint you do with technology. To master or strive to master software that contains myriad options necessarily requires time. What has been your relationship with technology from your youth, and what was one breakthrough moment in your understanding of the programs you utilize?
As I already mentioned I filmed a lot in my youth. A special moment was when I connected the camcorder to the TV to create analog feedback. This opened a whole world for me. I spent days in front of the TV to figure out how I can create different feedbacks by manipulating the parameters. It was a kind of experiment between control and coincidence, which is still today an important part of my work.
Please tell us about the many technologies you have used, such as photogrammetry, and if you have a favorite; and also how you became so comfortable adapting your talents to ever-changing methodologies and vehicles.
I am very curious about what kind of images I can create by using different technologies. That always drives me to experiment with new technologies. And I am looking for the painterly component in digital animation. I often use digital faults as a visual language. To provoke this, I try to use programs differently than they should be used. I also like to combine analog and digital elements. Both elements together have huge potential. The analog elements are often the soul of a work. They help to break the esthetics of the programs and give something individual to the work.
Due to the focus required to produce such flawless though complex films, how do you organize your projects, and what happens when something goes wrong?
It´s a gift when something goes wrong. Faults can help you to discover something new. Because a lot of my creations come direct out of the computer I can fix things till the end of a project. Of course, this is different if you film on a set for example.
The kinetic typography project you have recently completed with SHOWstudio was a marvel. How was it working with Nick, and was it at all difficult finding a meeting of the minds when you both contain such powers of creative knowing? If he simply trusted your eye and gave you ample freedoms, what have you found to be the best method when working with another in a team who has their own very clear goals and creative opinions?
Working with Nick was extremely pleasant and totally uncomplicated. I was completely free and I just let my ideas run free. In most cases, I put my ideas into an almost final form before I show it for the first time. So I can be sure that the work does have the impact that I want. This is a risk, but it also helps to show the idea clearly.
You strike me as both an explorer and inventor, one who invents his own worlds to explore them. How do you think creatives can reconnect with this love for the unknown and cultivate it as a way to discover original or novels techniques to express themselves?
I think staying curious, asking many questions, and looking closer at things and also at situations in everyday life is the best way to get inspiration. But all the inspiration doesn´t help if you don’t implement it in a work and experiment a lot. I also define free days where it is possible to create things without a direct goal at the beginning.
In my research, I have read that you are a lecturer. Do you find that reliance upon standard models and rules that don’t always evolve as quickly as technologies do create setbacks? If so, what advice would you give to the lovers of design on how to refashion the rules, or even break them, to allow creative evolution?
In my opinion, the best way to allow creative evolution is to connect traditional and contemporary developments. One does not work without the other. For the traditional side, it is important to be open to new ways of thinking and new technologies. New Developments should always take the tradition as a base to start from. Independent of new developments, the process of creation always stays the same. The most important thing is the idea and then you have to choose the best way to realize it.
All visuals with courtesy of Dirk Koy