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Interview with Stuart Warren-Hill

10 October 2014 Jessica Johnston

"My work is completely experimental and some of it has never been done before so it doesn’t really fit into any boxes, it’s in a box of its own."

We caught up with Stuart Warren-Hill, pioneer of the audiovisual electro genre and founder of Hexstatic, to talk about his latest projects, his iconic A/V single Timber and how he plans to turn £1 into £1,000,000 in just over a year...

London Calling: Tell us about your current project The Orders of Magnitude Challenge?

Stuart Warren-Hill: Well it’s an experiment in exponential self-funding, I started with £1 and I’m currently creating and selling artworks that steadily increase in value. The aim is to complete the project in 20 steps and reach £1,000,000. I have just sold my 10th artwork for £1024 so I have managed to double up ten times so far.

Obviously early on, I only had a small budget so I went to charity shops for the first few pieces, but now its got to a level where I have a proper budget to fund my own ideas. The piece I just sold was an animating hologram that is the first of its kind, which I’m really proud of. It’s an idea that I hadn’t thought of until this project came about. Now I’m working on level 11, which is basically a more refined version of the hologram, on a bigger scale.

LC: How did the idea come about?

SWH: Two things inspired me to start this project; a few years ago there was a guy who wrote a blog about swapping stuff, he stared with a paper clip and then he kept swapping more things until eventually he ended up with a house. I thought that was a really cool idea.

Then I came across a famous story about the poor mathematician who invented chess. The Maharaja of India was so impressed with the game that he told the mathematician he could have anything in the kingdom he desired as a reward. So the man went away and later returned with a chessboard and asked that one grain of rice was placed on the first square, two on the second, 4 grains on the third square and so on doubled for each of the 64 squares. The Maharaja thought this would be easy and ordered his staff to go ahead, but as it turns out there was not enough rice in the entire world to fulfil the mathematician’s request. So then I thought, what would happen if I exchanged the rice for £1.

LC: You will also be showcasing your Holotronica project at the fair, tell us about that...

SWH: Holotronica is a next level 3D, audiovisual project that comes in the form of the world’s first 3D album on 3D Blue-Ray. It’s a crazy thing to do really, but someone had to do it.

LC: What experience do you want the viewers to have during your audiovisual performances?

SWH: Well it’s quite hard to define because it’s so unique and experimental, everyone will experience something different. For some it can be ambient and dancey and for others it can be hypnotic. It’s definitely immersive and people should be encouraged to sense the music in new ways. Its very niche so some people might not even get it at all.

LC: With all the advancements in technology, what do you think is next for the audiovisual experience?

SWH: The hologram projector doesn’t exist yet but I think it’s on the horizon over the next five years. The ‘Holy Grail’ is to have a hologram experience without 3d glasses, but it’s difficult to do on a large scale.

LC: When you are working on a project, what comes first the music or the video?

SWH: With Holotronica I have made the music first and then created three-dimensional sculptures that work with the sounds in the track. On other projects it varies, there is no format so I’m constantly changing my approach.

LC: One of your most iconic works is Timber, how did that come about?

SWH: I’m one of the co-founders of The Big Chill and I met Matt Black from Coldcut at the first Big Chill and then ended up working with Coldcut in their studio and at around the same time I started Hexstatic. I was into visualising sound and Matt showed me a video by some guys in America called EBN who pioneered video sampling back in the late 80’s early 90’s. I started chopping up nature films from bits of VHS that I could find and I did a piece called Natural Rhythm. We wanted to make something more environmental so I show the video to Green Peace, they love it and gave me lots of footage, which I then mixed together to create Timber.

LC: What are the biggest challenges you face when creating an audiovisual experience?

SWH: When I was making Timber back in the 90’s, the computers were very slow, so doing anything took a painfully long time.

LC: Throughout your career you have developed new technology for music and live visuals, what are some of your most recent creations?

SWH: I have invented a display system for my 3D hologram show, called Holo-Gauze. I think it’s a real game-changing product because it’s the only gauze screen in the world that can do this 3D effect. It’s much cheaper and easier to set up than any other hologram system. Its still early days but it’s really taking off right now.  

LC: Where do you fit into the music industry? How would you classify the genre of your work?

SWH: My work is completely experimental and some of it has never been done before so it doesn’t really fit into any boxes, it’s in a box of its own.

LC: The Holotronica project lends itself to different environments, what other formats do you see this experience being presented it?

SWH: My work crosses over the art and club culture, so I have played at festivals, clubs, museums and art galleries. I also travel with it a lot, I have just done a show in Moscow and India.

LC: So what’s next for Hexstatic?

SWH: I have kind of put Hexstatic to one side because I wanted to go solo. I started Hexstatic, it was my project but it got taken off into new directions that I wasn’t very happy about. It was a very difficult decision but I have decided to continue on my own. I can’t see anything happening with Hexstatic for a while but maybe we will come back using my new technology. We have already got a lot of content so we could actually do a five-hour extravaganza or something like that in the future... You never know.

Stuart Warren-Hill will be showcasing his work at the Kinetica Art Fair from 16th – 19th October. Tickets from £12, available here.

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