Artist Spotlight: Zach Bodtorf

This week’s StandardVision artist spotlight on the SVLA1 screen at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles features work by Zach Bodtorf. Bodtorf is the latest of many artists to be invited to take over a two week-long recurring 15-second spot to showcase their work to the public.

How did you get into making generative art?

I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember and have always been fascinated with synesthesia and the visual side of it all. Earlier this year, I was writing code to analyze dynamics in audio for my work as an audio mastering engineer when I sort of stumbled into a way of visualizing tiny fragments of sound. I honestly dropped everything to see how far I could develop the process.

Can you tell us a little bit about your process?

I code each piece by hand using Python. Once I import the audio data into a table, I’m usually looking at 10+ million data points. From there, I split it up into smaller micro-samples, usually about 5 milliseconds a piece. The samples are further manipulated and used at random to feed into a design framework that I develop. For example, in one series I’ve been working on, I trick meteorological wind plotting software to receive fragments of audio rather than wind data.

Have you found that certain genres of music are better than others for creating certain
patterns?

I actually tend to do most of my work with random pink noise, which is essentially the sound of static, though I’ve done some commissions recently where I actually use the data from a particular piece of music or sound. Once in a while, I’ll coax something out of it that just feels like it belongs with the music (though I might have to go through thousands of iterations before finding it). I’m a big fan of super dynamic music, so it has been fun to work with classical; I tend to gravitate towards Debussy and Ravel.

Are you influenced by any artists in particular (visual or otherwise)?

It is certainly always changing, but at the time that I stumbled into this process, I was becoming pretty obsessed with the minimalist, abstract paintings of Agnes Martin and listening to a ton of Alice Coltrane’s avant-garde jazz / spiritual music. I just think they opened some doors for me, creatively.

Do you have any future plans or next steps for your work? Would be really interesting to
see some of these move!

I’m in the early stages of a collaboration with an industrial engineer/artist friend of mine. The plan is to 3d print and work with lighting. In regards to making some of these move, I did a
collaboration with the fashion designer label Phlemuns and learned a lot throughout the process of getting some of these ‘glyphs’ interact and change with music. Perhaps we could put a microphone up on the #SVLA1 display and have something that responds to the sounds of the city…

You can catch Bodtorf’s work on the SVLA1 screen through November 11 as well as on his Instagram here.