“Sometimes we were surprised at how terrible something came out, but that wasn’t the point,” writes Viktor Timofeev about the work and subsequent text written by Jaakko Pallasvuo responding to their ‘Artificial Life and Death’ music video collaboration, premiering on AQNB today. Consisting of a time-lapse recording of remote drawing sessions Timofeev calls ‘exquisite corpse-like improvisations’, the piece’s eerily-timed choreography matches the haunting guitar delay and keyboard loops of the accompanying track. It’s released as part of Timofeev’s Exocursion album—out via fledgling Brussels and Rotterdam-based label Futura Resistenza on January 25—named after a portmanteau of the words ‘exo’ and ‘excursion’, and loosely translating to “a journey outside of oneself”.
“We both felt the need to be social, to collaborate, to draw,” explains Timofeev, who’s idea to produce a video for ‘Artificial Life and Death’ using ‘online whiteboard’ AWW App grew from the two artists’ long-running creative dialogue. “It was a year since we saw each other in person and had made any kind of work together,” he says about this latest iteration of their remote collaboration, which started during a catch-up in Rotterdam. “[We] began sketching in each other’s notebooks while talking, continuing each other’s lines without thinking, before swapping back and forth many times over.”
Beginning in March and running through to June, the piece was developed by the two artists from their respective locations during 2020’s various stages of COVID-19 lockdown—Timofeev at home in New York, Pallasvuo in Helsinki. “The Babel-like structure occasionally reveals a hole in its skeleton by shedding some layers as it ascends,” writes Timofeev, rather cryptically, expressing his deep and ongoing interest in systems and their disruption through metaphor. “This reminds me of moments in our collaborations when one of us uses an eraser to negate whatever we were both forming beforehand in order to move on—to give room to whatever might come next. Layers are ruthlessly merged and filled in; new ones added and the process continues with no end, growing and spiraling.”
As if to carry on the two artist’s ongoing correspondence over to the written word, Pallasvuo shared a typically insightful and poetic journal entry from an early December evening, contemplating art and language, communication and collaboration from a distance.
Dec 6, 2020, 6:34 PM
Art feels easy if it happens in the moment. Working on it can be a way to live in the now. In the evening I make a call to New York. Me and Viktor are drawing together on a virtual whiteboard meant for long distance corporate brainstorming. The drawing updates itself almost without delay, and the voice on the call transports itself through cables, or satellites, or whatever, from the other side of the world.
I’m already quiet and tired, it is almost night. In Viktor’s world it seems to always be afternoon. Without art we wouldn’t know each other. If we didn’t draw these drawings, we would probably not talk this often. The call alone would make the situation emptier and more difficult to sustain.
Drawing gives the situation a current; something else transmits. I usually don’t remember what we’ve drawn, but Viktor records the drawings and we start compiling an ever-longer whole out of the videos. An hour of drawing is compressed into a few minutes of video, but if we keep going for a year or two, even these dense timelapses will ultimately form a feature-length continuity.
I think of drawings when people talk of the superiority of language. While drawing and talking at the same time it feels like the conversation, the words exchanged, are the highest, narrowest level of the situation.
Part of one’s concentration stays on the ever-changing virtual drawing, its forming and destruction. I can see how Viktor’s cursor moves on the screen, from one place to another, changing what I’ve just articulated. Many things are happening at once. There is also the materiality of Viktor’s voice, and sounds from the environment, that mediate a faint sense of place.