In 2011, Paris-based creative duo Noemi Schipfer and Takami Nakamoto came together to give life to NONOTAK, a creative studio project that has established them as one of the most exciting talents on the scene today. Blending technology and art into incredible audiovisual installations, NONOTAK’s constructions of light and sound are unfailingly mesmerising and dreamlike.
Schipfer, a visual artist, teams up with Nakamoto, who plays the part of artist, architect and musician, to manifest their multimedia expertise using an ethereal and hypnotic approach towards visuals, lights, music, silhouettes and special effects. Inspired by minimal architecture and optical art, their practise has won awards like the Art Directors Club of New York (ADC) Young Guns award in 2016, as well as being selected as part of Forbes 2016 30 Under 30 Europe for the Arts.
To unpack their immersive and dreamlike environments, we spoke to the duo on their first projects, their recent entry into the world of NFTs, and what they consider the most exciting part about design these days.
First of all, how has 2022 been for you guys so far?
We would say it has been weird. Maybe better from a work perspective, but everything seems weird after that extended pandemic period that is still going on. We are starting to see more festivals being more confident about booking shows again, but we still see a lot of uncertainty in artists, curators, and producers when it comes to going ahead and putting events together.
We also feel like a lot of distance has been created between people, countries, and cultures in general. Asia has been a hard place to reach, same for Oceania. Many of our shows in Asia are made remote or delayed. Europe feels more divided than before. It just feels like a huge change is being processed globally.
How did the two of you meet and ultimately decide to work together as NONOTAK?
Noemi: It was back when we graduated from architecture and illustration; we liked each other's approach to art and wanted to combine both of our approaches towards sound, space, and light, since Takami studied architecture and has been playing in a band as a guitar player, and I have been working on extremely kinetic visuals in 2D. After our first experimentations, we decided that we had so much to develop together as a creative, collaborative studio. That is how NONOTAK was born.
NONOTAK BASELINE, Credit: NONOTAK
What were your earliest individual memories of getting into design and sound?
Tak: My first conscious experimentation was back when I was five years old, when my mom wouldn’t buy me toys, [but instead] bought me tools and materials to make them myself. I think the first thing I tried to make was a wooden pistol, but I was so disappointed by the result as the plastic pistols looked more realistic, so I stopped trying to make it. At that age, everything you did yourself seemed disappointing compared to how adults performed. It could be music, drawing, singing, etc.
I think the first time I wrote a piece of music on piano was when I was eight years old. The dog we had at the house, Pazoo, used to sing to Beethoven or Bach so I gave [composing] a try and turns out he didn’t even react to it.
Do you remember the first-ever project you ever completed and how did it go?
Mapping Festival in Geneva 2013, 11 years ago. It was such a unique feeling to see the reaction of the audience. Felt like we were finally able to observe the audience's reaction, and get some distance away from the process of experimentation.
We remember how the piece resonated with people of all ages and I think it motivated us to do everything we could so we could continue bringing immersive experiences. We had been experimenting and researching for ourselves, but at that precise moment, we realised that sharing was the part that completed the piece.
NONOTAK SHIRO, Credit: Arnaud Deprez
Tell us more about your perspective on sound for every project. What role does it play in your work?
I think there is a pretty inseparable relationship between sound and light since both elements support each other. If we want to push some sound designs that are hard to understand or enjoy, visuals will help us express another dimension of the sound by being connected to it. I think developing such a close relationship between sound and light gives me, as a music producer, so much freedom compared to a project that is meant to be played on headphones only.
Has the pandemic affected or changed your perception of design and sound?
The pandemic and the way it was managed globally has changed my perception of society, of authority, and the power governments have over people’s physical and mental freedom and health. But not design and sound. Let’s leave the geopolitical stuff out of it! I think this whole era has been more pollution than catalyst for creativity. It has changed my perception of how lucky I am being able to create installations around the world in order to share immersive and daydreaming experiences in these uncertain times.
What do you want viewers to take away when they view a NONOTAK project?
I hope we will be able to change the audience’s perception of light in general. The power of light, how it could affect your feelings and the perception of a space. To realise how simple ideas about light can become an artistic expression, so they are able to see art everywhere there is light.
NONOTAK WOS, Credit: NONOTAK
Tell us a little about your entry into the NFT space.
Our entry into the NFT space is partly an experiment, but to be honest, we have been doing similar projects with [digital art platform] Sedition since almost 10 years ago by selling digital editions of our art. It just wasn’t called NFT, and the authentication of pieces is guaranteed by Sedition through a centralised system. But they are now moving into it as well, which makes sense to me since they have been a curated gallery for many years and have actual collectors, not financial speculators.
There is a lot of ongoing debate about NFT and blockchain technology—I personally think it is a good thing. In order to mint an NFT, buyers still need to set up a DeFi wallet and learn a bit about smart contracts and different available protocols out there. I think it is a good thing that people realise another financial system outside of central banks is possible, even if it is still in an early stage. The more you learn about blockchain and why it was created, the more you realise why today's financial system is so broken and why there is so much injustice around the world. Crypto is not necessary the answer, but I feel good when people start to adopt decentralised systems over centralised systems. Freedom is dangerous. Safety is … less free.
For now, I’m more interested in the technology than the art/speculative aspect of NFT and blockchain. The best way for the technology to be inconspicuously adopted by society is through the video gaming industry. Role-playing almost work almost exactly like NFT collections: through achievement and unlocking awards and so on.
I’m pretty excited about how this will evolve but also a bit scared that people would associate NFT with art more than the technology itself. In my personal opinion, art should be explored in real life, especially for NONOTAK since we use many elements from actual spaces and the materiality of light to express our creativity.
How do you think the NFT and metaverse community has benefited your work and the creative industry as a whole?
I think it didn’t really benefit our work. While real festivals that have been bringing real art to events are struggling at best and dying at worst, digital assets are being valued. I think it should be something that is an extra path for experimentation but not a transition to digital art.
NONOTAK Silhouettes, Credit: NONOTAK
What do you think is the most exciting part about design in the world today?
Capabilities. CNC, SLS, prototyping speed, and the designing tools that are available along with free educational content. Anyone who is interested in learning can do it freely and I think Covid is what really separated people who learn and people who just don’t want to. Covid was also an opportunity for us to learn a bunch of things in order to help us create our own freedom and reality.
Who are some of the artists you are most inspired by and why?
I love Jesus Soto and the GRAV movement. I consider ourselves as a continuity of that optical vision of art.
Lastly, what would you like to say to the future of NONOTAK?
NONOTAK Zero Point Two, Credit: NONOTAK
Cover Credit: Arnaud Deprez
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
When he isn’t making sure Sound of Life stories are published in a timely manner, Kevin enjoys wandering aimlessly in Kuala Lumpur city, going down the YouTube rabbit hole and discovering new music.